As I’ve grown older I’ve come far more accepting of my mess. Not the physical one (I’m actually quite a tidy person) but the one in my heart and mind. We’ve all got some of it. One of the joys of Lent is intentionally spending time doing a spring-clean, self-examination in the presence of the Lord to identify areas of our life where sin and/or negative habits have taken up residence.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. "(Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV)
Do you struggle with recurring sins that invade you regularly? What about the idols in your life that consume too much of your waking hours and desires? I sure have both and I take a degree of comfort from the above verses as it validates that our sins cling to us. Our sinful nature isn’t likely to walk away without a fight, hence, the reason we keep grappling with a particular issue.
My typical response
Too often I’ve found my initial response is to tackle the issue myself so I’ll research it, get some reading material and/or participate in courses to help me combat it. Now in itself I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with getting assistance so as to help change a habit or whatever.
But in many respects if we’re only seeking human intervention, we’re bound to fail. Because what we end up doing is focus too much on the sin and ourselves.
On accepting Jesus as our Lord we might think the sin issue is now sorted. We’ve acknowledged our need for Jesus and responded affirmatively to the gospel. “Yes, the power of sin has been broken, but the presence of sin still remains inside us and is being progressively eradicated by God’s delivering grace.”1
But those pesky sins keep clinging to us. It’s sin’s nature to do that as the verse above implies. One voice keeps telling us what a failure we are because we can’t get this thing under control and so we keep working in our own strength to resolve it. We ask people to keep us accountable, to check in on us and help us. And a day doesn’t go by when we ask for forgiveness and even cry out to God: “Help me, please.”
Once again, age (dare I say maturity?) has taught me that engaging Jesus in the spring-cleaning process is essential. As uncomfortable as sitting in one’s mess can be, having our loving Maker sitting alongside us makes it a lot more bearable.
“No mere human has ever been able to conquer its (sin) power on its own.”2
It’s taken me a long time to learn this truism. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have moments of feeling “fainthearted.”
Allow Jesus to gently guide you to sort through your stuff. We can be tempted to run or hide. We don’t want Him to see our muck but I always find He’s so caring in these moments. He wants the best for us and often our muck has created a veil, it could be ever so slight, between us. “As painful as it is to be exposed at this level, awakening is evidence of God’s grace.”3
In “looking to Jesus” (see the Hebrews verse) He is clearing the veil and bringing us into closer union with Him.
"If repentance isn't a daily part of your life, how is grace a daily part of your life?" (Ann Voskamp)
In acknowledging that Jesus needs to be whom I turn to when I drop the ball is wonderfully re-assuring. In recognising my need for Jesus throughout every day has helped me appreciate how much I need His grace everyday.
May I encourage you to spend some time this week sitting with Jesus and reviewing aspects of your life: family, friendships, work, church, etc and ask Him to reveal anything that might be hindering your connection. And then repent.
Let’s celebrate the grace that Jesus makes available all day every day.
Notes: 1. “New Morning Mercies,” Paul David Tripp, Crossway Books 2014, March 18 Devotional 2. “Comforts from the Cross,” Elyse M. Fitzpatrick, Crossway Books, 2009, p48. 3. “Lent ‘ A Season of Returning,” Ruth Haley Barton, Transforming Resources, Week 3.