I got a ticket recently, my first in nearly 40 years. I never even noticed that stop sign and blew right through it. My stomach still turns when I think about it.
I immediately started beating up on myself.
Yes, everyone makes mistakes and accidents happen. Yes, pretty much every adult driver out there gets a ticket at least once every twenty years or so.
I hold myself to a higher standard than that. I’m a good driver, a careful driver, and getting that ticket, even being pulled over, sent me over the edge into flaming self-hatred.
I’m not even kidding here. I tend to expect a lot out of myself in most things, and if I blow it in pretty much any area I’m going to hate on myself worse than anyone else will ever hate on me.
I asked God’s forgiveness right away, but I absolutely, infuriatingly, could not forgive myself. I continued the self-abuse until I had a Come-to-Jesus meeting with God. The brief conversation went something like this.
God: What would I tell you if you were beating up on someone else the way you’re beating up on yourself?
Me: Tammy, that’s sin.
God: Tammy, the rules don’t change just because it’s you. Girl, that’s sin.
He’s told me this before, in various ways, but this time it hit almost like a glass of cold water in the face. Refusing to forgive myself is as wrong as refusing to forgive anyone else, and every bit as destructive.
It wasn’t easy to do. It took work on my part, but I stepped up and did it. I still hate the fact that I blew it, but at least that gut-churning self-hatred is gone.
We cannot afford to walk around in unforgiveness, my friends – towards anyone.
There is a line in a song we sing in church: “We bow down. We lay our crowns at the feet of Jesus.”
We sing this song in the present tense, and I recently realized the importance of doing this very thing. We may not wear literal crowns today, but most of us have areas in which we feel we rule, parts of our lives in which we take pride (often rightfully so), places where our “hat” is a crown.
When we lay everything else at Jesus’ feet–our burdens, our brokenness, our sickness, our pain–we should lay these crowns at His feet as well. In doing this, in submitting one’s whole life to Him, you see those strong places strengthened even more; also, when you recognize that no matter how much you “rule” in an area it is He who reigns supreme, you steer clear of the sin of pride.
It is far better to lay one’s crown down that to have it removed as a result of sin.
It is interesting, how we expect people to be perfect. Non-Christians despise Christians because of their imperfections. Christians leave churches because of other Christians’ weaknesses. We cannot seem to get past the fact that man, even Christian man, makes mistakes – sometimes horrible mistakes. Why? Where did we get this idea that Christians are perfect? That any man is even capable of perfection?
Look closely at well-known Bible stories and you quickly discover just how imperfect our heroes really were. Moses, my personal favorite, had such a temper that it caused him to first flee Egypt and then lose the right to enter the Promised Land. Abraham walked in fear where his wife was concerned and practiced deceit as a result. So did Isaac. Jacob deceived his own father. David gave in to base lust, then murdered a man. Solomon… Wow.
From our earliest days, man has been imperfect. This is exactly why we needed a Savior, the Perfect Lamb. Having accepted His sacrifice, His great love that takes me – imperfect as I am – and makes me His own, I do not have the right to hold other Christians’ imperfections again them.
As was true in the past, it is true today. Nobody’s perfect.
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering…
This astounds me every time I think about it. I cannot imagine sending one of my sons out to intentionally sacrifice his life for one who is good. I have friends and family whose children are in the military and I feel for them when their children are sent to hot zones where they might end up giving their lives. Yet God sent His only (at the time) son to this earth fully intending that He would sacrifice Himself, and not for a world of good and worthy people. God sent Jesus to give His life for a whole world of sinners…people who were bad beyond human comprehension. And not only did God send this Son out, but the Son willingly came! When I think about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, I realize just how fully human He was. He was sent “in the likeness of sinful man,” but He was not sinful man because there was no sin in Him…yet He wasman. He fought all the temptations and fears I fight. At that final hour He even reached a place where He would have had God choose a different path for Him. What is the difference between me and the man He was at that time? What made the difference? Truly, I see one thing standing out above the rest. He knew WhoHe was.
This is usually the key for me too. If I can just reach that place…if I can only come to truly know – to KNOW – who I am in Christ Jesus, everything will be different. I feel like it’s a thing I’ve been reaching towards, that I fight desperately to grasp. It’s this elusive something that is out there that I know if I can only get my hands on it my life will change so dramatically I won’t recognize myself.
Way back in my AOL days, a lady once emailed me asking if I would be willing to be her mentor as a Christian. I was honored, obviously, but also somewhat unprepared since I’d never been asked that question before. Not knowing what else to do, I answered honestly that I would count it an honor, but the very best advice I could give anyone is to truly accept Jesus as their Savior and LORD – giving Him full control of their life.
Her reply made me sad. She said she wasn’t ready to let anyone else be in control of her life, that she wanted to continue controlling it herself. Looking back, I realize I understand a tiny bit of what Jesus must have felt when talking to the rich young ruler.
We toss the phrase “Lord and Savior” around like it’s nothing, but in fact it is everything – and in my opinion we say the words out of order. First, we accept Jesus as Savior. Until we’ve done that, acknowledging that He has literally purchased us from our slaveholder (sin), we cannot submit to and serve Him as Lord. It’s simply not possible.
But then, to know Him as Lord, we must understand what a Lord is. Modern day life doesn’t help us in this area; we have to look back. In past times your Lord was, quite literally, your ruler. His word was supreme in your life and you owed pretty much everything to him. You owed him all loyalty, all fealty, and a certain percentage of everything you produced on the land he provided for you. Yes, he told you what to do and you did it…or else.
But here is the part most people don’t grasp. He also, if he was a good Lord, took responsibility for you, took care of you. In telling you what to do, he was looking ahead, figuring out what it would take for you to prosper, and setting you up for that prosperity. He understood that for his realm to do well you had to do well, and he did all he could to ensure you did – if he was a good lord, which our Lord obviously is.
My life became EASIER when I moved past merely accepting Jesus as my Savior and into submitting to Him as my Lord. It’s all on Him now. He’s the one responsible for telling me which direction to take; all I have to do is listen and obey. Proverbs 3:5-6 is one of my favorite Scriptures: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” There it is in a nutshell.
I readily admit that I’m a recovering control freak. Those who have fought this battle know what I’m saying when I confess that learning to let God have control was HARD, and I still don’t get it right anywhere near often enough. Even so, it is literally the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done and, though I’d not lie and say life has been easy ever since, I can honestly say I have MORE freedom, MORE joy, and MORE peace than I ever had while trying to run things myself.
What about the lady who emailed me on AOL? Well, I did hear from her again a year or so later, and she seemed an entirely different person. She wanted me to know that she had finally accepted Jesus as her Lord… and had discovered the true freedom and peace I’d promised.
The people refused to enter the pleasant land, for they wouldn’t believe his promise to care for them.
Okay, this is beyond my ability to understand. They were standing on sand – in the desert – looking at Canaan. It was bad enough that they didn’t just believe and obey God, following where He led. Even worse, they could not accept the beauty and bounty of the place He had called them to and chose to stay in the desert instead.
The desert! They chose to stay in the barren, dry places where there was only enough food and water for their massive numbers because God took care of them! They chose a life of wandering with no home, trekking through the desert (where God had to take care of them) instead of trusting Him and moving on over into the lush bounty of Canaan – which He had already told them would be theirs. Why?
I think the bottom line is that we humans tend to prefer the challenges we know. The challenges Israel faced in the desert were so familiar, and God’s care through those challenges so consistent, that they were (and I use the word in a skewed fashion) comfortable. In truth, I think they took God’s care in the desert so for granted that they hardly recognized it anymore. Stepping over into Canaan, though, would have meant trusting God to care for them in new areas and…oh…
Until then, God had done everything for them, or had Moses or specific others do it. They knew, though, that in Canaan they would be called upon to do something – to take up arms and fight for the ground God had promised them. They were like baby Christians who don’t want to grow up! Or, I suppose, it is rather the other way around – today’s perpetually babyish Christians are very much like these children of God.
When someone first turns his life over to God, He takes total care of them as if they were literal babies – answering every prayer instantly (like a parent responding to a baby’s cry) and often in astoundingly miraculous ways, but then God requires them to grow up – to start using and exercising their faith – to DO something…to take up arms and fight for the ground He has promised them. The funny thing is that God usually ends up fighting the battles for us after we take up arms to fight (just as He did for Israel once they actually crossed on over into Canaan); He just wants us to get up off our blessed assurance and move. But too many refuse. They aren’t willing to take up arms and step forward into His promises, trusting Him to take care of them through everything. No, they would rather stay in babyhood where they don’t have to do anything (but also can’t own or be anything); they would rather stay in the desert.
I’ve seen myself in Israel before, but until meditating on this passage I had never really seen their walk as a parallel to my spiritual walk; yet it is. What they did as a nation I may (or may not) do as a Christian – gaining or losing ground accordingly. Help me, Lord, to keep moving forward!
Reading on into verses 34-39 you see the consequences of Israel’s refusal to grow up. They thought they would be just fine if they stayed in babyhood, in the desert, but because they first disobeyed God’s call to move forward and then, when they did move, moved on their own terms…
When we disobey God in any way we are in sin, and unconfessed sin always has consequences. In their case, it became greater sin. (v. 34-39) “Israel failed to destroy the nations in the land, as the lord had told them to. Instead, they mingled among the pagans and adopted their evil customs. They worshipped their idols, and this led to their downfall. They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons. They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters. By sacrificing them to the idols of Canaan, they polluted the land with murder. They defiled themselves by their evil deeds, and their love of idols was adultery in the lord’s sight.”
It’s true; there is no such thing as standing still with God. We must continually move forward. It is also true that genuine obedience is doing what God says, when God says, how God says and all God says. Israel did finally cross over into Canaan, but even then they failed to do all God said – destroy the nations of the land. They let some remain and, because they did, they “fell” into horrible sin and later paid an unimagined price for that sin. God has great mercy, but (v. 43) “Again and again he delivered them, but they continued to rebel against him, and they were finally destroyed by their sin.”
God was still merciful, and did deliver them in the end, but how different would it have been if they had obeyed Him, and fully, the first time? Where, for instance, would Israel be today? Where would I be today if I had always obeyed Him, and fully, the first time?