Saturday, July 14, 2012


Romans 3:21-24 (NIV)
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

            I had one of those humbling experiences yesterday that makes you stop and reflect. For the past couple of years I have been teaching a half-hour orientation on Pastoral Care at our local hospital. This orientation takes place once a month and my time slot is always at 11:00AM. Yesterday I was busy working on my sermon for Sunday, knowing that I was scheduled to present that day. For some reason I thought I was supposed to be there at 11:30. I took my time getting over to the hospital and arrived at about 11:15, only to discover that the coordinator of the orientation was making my presentation. When I came in she welcomed me and I took over. I was embarrassed. I apologized to the class and to the coordinator. She was very gracious and told me to not be concerned. For the next hour or so, I beat myself up for my failure to fulfill my obligation.

            I recently finished reading a small book by Ruth Graham that talked about lessons she has learned from her father, Billy Graham. She related a story about Billy’s brain surgery. The surgery was dangerous and there was the possibility that he might not survive. Before he went into surgery, the many sins and failures of his life came flooding back into his mind. Then he remembered that he has been forgiven by Christ, and an overwhelming sense of peace settled over him.

            I thought about Billy Graham’s experience as I struggled with my own sense of failure. Then I grabbed onto the reality that I am flawed and forgiven.

            The Bible tells us that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. I am keenly aware of that in my life. Because God created me with a strong sense of responsibility, I have always taken failure of any kind seriously. When I have failed to live up to my obligations, I struggle with a strong sense of guilt and remorse.

            The good news is that Jesus has already taken care of my sins and my failures; past, present and future. I have been justified freely through the grace of God in Jesus Christ. As Romans 8:1 says, Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

            Here is the sticky part. I know that Christ has forgiven me, but I often have a hard time forgiving myself. I carry a burden of guilt that I do not need to carry. That doesn’t mean that I should take sin or failure lightly, or fail to take responsibility for my actions. But, I am not responsible to “pay the price” for my sins. Jesus has already done that on the cross. When I fail to accept what Christ has already done for me, I move back into a “works righteousness” kind of faith. I find myself trying to “make it up” to God. When I become aware of this mindset I need to stop, humble myself, and ask for God’s forgiveness.

                When I start beating myself up for some failure I need to remember that I am a new creation in Christ. Paul dramatically brings this point home in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
                Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

            I am fully aware that I am flawed in many ways. I am also forgiven; a new creation in Christ Jesus. I am a work in progress; striving to become more and more like Christ. When I do stumble and fall, I need to humble myself, receive Christ’s extravagant forgiveness and forgive myself. Only then can I fully experience the freedom that Christ has promised to me.

John 8:36 (NIV)
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

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