For years I lived with shame that I couldn’t understand. Growing up, I was constantly pushed to “do better” in most everything I did. Not much changed when I was gloriously saved in 2004. I always felt pressured to do more and more, try harder, and whatever other way you wanted to say it. When people told me something I could do better, I took it as them saying that I was simply not good enough.
Don’t get me wrong, I could take correction, most of the time, but there were times that I simply couldn’t. It hurt to be told I needed improvement. I just heard the same message, “You’re not good enough.” It hurt like crazy. The closer someone was to me, the more it hurt. I wanted to be better, to measure up. I constantly was examining my faults and flaws to try and be the best I could be. Then when people told me something was lacking in my life, the hurt was even worse. Even my measures to improve just weren’t enough.
And that was the problem. I had to be good enough. The prophet Isaiah lamented, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:6) The problem was not that I couldn’t measure up; it was the fact I was even trying to measure up! When the Apostle Paul was tormented with a thorn in his flesh, he asked the Lord three times to take it away. I love what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
In a world of “try harder” and “do better,” Christ was calling me to die to that. In my Sunday school class two Sundays ago, we talked about the try harder attitude. We have this mentality that we have to be awesome to do for God’s Kingdom, but that simply isn’t true. God is awesome and that is good enough. I don’t have to rock the world for Jesus, because Jesus rocks the world. He will use me in His power. As Paul told Timothy, “…God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Think about it, who made us alive in Christ? Was it our effort? Did we make a way for us? No way! Read Ephesians 2:1-6 and you’ll have your answer. God did all the work!
Does that mean that we can’t fail? Of course not! In 1 John 1:8 we find that, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Paul, in his famous letter to the Roman church writes: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” –Romans 7:18-21
I think we often live in Romans 7. We feel stuck in our sin. When we fall short, we feel condemned. It hurts so much to fail our God (or ourselves or others) and Satan loves to accuse us when we slip up (Revelation 12:10). We really need to move on over to Romans 8:1. Check it out. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” The therefore is Romans 7:25, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” We truly have victory in Jesus. We have a body of sin, sure, but we have a Spirit in Christ and life! Man, even when we do mess up, we have Jesus who is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness, all we need to is confess them and repent! (Acts 3:19; 1 John 1:10)
There is even more freedom than that. I don’t have to do the work of making myself better. God does that work. If 1 John 1:10 isn’t clear enough. Check out what Titus 2:11-14 says: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
The grace of God does all that work for you! What great freedom I have been given from my past of shame! I don’t have to be good enough, He already is! It is true what Jesus said in John 8:32 and 8:36: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free… If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
I know that I will have slip ups now and then, but I’m free. I don’t have to measure up to anything, because I only need to abide in Christ and let Him work through me, for He is the vine, we are the branches. (John 15:1-8)
(Submitted by Nathan Janes, a graduate from the New Life Program at City Union Mission)