God Never Abandons You
It can be painful to be an honest Christian. Telling others the truth in life at all times is difficult, by itself. It is a constant struggle to not massage the facts to suit your narrative or get your own way. Being like George Washington is hard enough but integrity with others is not all that is involved, though. It is not the part that so often gets you in trouble in your walk with God. It can be even more excruciating to be truthful with yourself. When you judge yourself before God, if you do it honestly, it is an ugly sight. We all fail miserably every single day we walk this earth compared to the wonderful standard God set out for us.
You know you should witness more, but you don’t.
You know you should be kinder, but you aren’t.
You know you shouldn’t look at this or watch that, yet you do.
The list can go on for miles if you assess yourself with detached exactness. It is a dangerous one. It is so to make it all about you. It is tempting to be dragged down by guilt, shame, and your own failure. It seems right to let the blackness of sin define you at times. You feel like God has had just about enough of your nonsense and is done with you!
This is where being consistently honest is so important in your life. The Gospel freed you from that list of charges. Jesus never sees you the way you see you, if you are in Him. Your standing before God is based entirely on Jesus and His Cross – that is wonderful news. It means:
You are washed clean. You are a new creation in Christ. You are not bound by your sins, despair or guilt. Your entire Christian life is based on God’s free gift not your effort.
Your freedom is based on God and His power alone. It is why the word “Gospel” means good news.
Freed from Shame
Are you trapped in the sin and willpower cycle? You don’t have to be. Jesus paid for your guilt, remember?
This is the constant prison of self many people get stuck in when struggling with sin. It is when you feel tempted to sin and muster every bit of willpower you have determined not to fail. Since this determination is based on your own flesh, you eventually fall into sin and then are crushed by terrible guilt.
“Not again, I thought I was better than this! I am such a loser/waste/failure, God must be so disappointed!“, you cry in anguish.
The pain is real. The desire to please God is truthful. Yet, you fell for a terrible trap that is so common for all of us. You used flesh to fight your flesh and are now reaping more flesh. Galatians 6:
For the one sowing to his own flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction.
The work of the flesh does not stop with the sin. The self-condemnation and self-focus that comes in the aftermath of sin is just as destructively fleshly. It feels like there is no way to get it clean. “You will be a sinner forever”, Satan whispers to us repeatedly, “God can never take you back”. You feel hopeless and lost based on your perception of you and your failure. It is accurate to some extent. Sin is bad and you did fail. Yet, the focus on you – self and flesh – distracts from the point of your life: Jesus and His Cross!
John Bunyan in his classic A Pilgrim’s Progress depicts this snare. The plot involves a Christian’s walk through this life to heaven. There are many hazards along the way, including the Swamp of Despondency. This is a disgusting, fetid body of water, rotting vegetation, and mud that traps anyone who steps into it. The Christian is shown a straight path in the book that leads directly from destruction to heaven. Yet, this simple plan is not enough for him. When he feels justified, he steps off this path to follow his own plans. He knows better than God’s clear direction and, in one case, walks straight into the middle of a fetid swamp.
Does this decision sound familiar? Yeah, me too. This has been the way of man since Adam and Eve.
Christian choses his own way and suffers the consequences. He is stuck in the middle of a vile mixture of filth and decay. He realizes it was his fault. He becomes despondent as a result. This huge weight drags him down.
This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond: for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.
Bunyan’s writing can be challenging, but do you see the problem? Christian is stuck in filth. He realizes it was his fault. He is aware of his sinful nature. He honestly understands there is nothing he can do about it. This leads to despair, hopelessness, and more sin. The flesh cannot fix the flesh. That is where God comes in:
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25
God sent help for Christian to pull him out of his despondency. God sent Jesus to save you from any and all sins you trap yourself in. He is the Great Shepherd. He will not leave you or forsake you.
God Never Abandons His Sheep
You may honestly be in the middle of a swamp of vile sin. You might be totally lost at the moment. Your judgment of yourself may be accurate at the moment that you are totally off the rails. Yet, if you are in Christ, this is not how God defines you. You are His child. You are His beloved son or daughter. You are not defiled and lost eternally. God never leaves His child struggling to stay above water in a putrid swamp of our sin. It can feels like this, but it is not our judgment that matters. It is God’s. He is the ultimate judge.
He finds you righteous because of Jesus, not because of you. You are valuable because He loves you. God paid too high a price for His sheep to let them drown. Jesus gave His life on the Cross to ensure this would never be so. You think you are trash, God calls you redeemed. You think you are worthless, He gave His Son for you.
You think you are covered by filth. He knows you are washed clean by Jesus.
God Defines Us as Christians
No matter where you are today. No matter how far out in the swamp you are at this moment, remember that you are not who you think you are. You are not defined by your view of your sin. You are who God says you are – and thank the Lord every day for this truth.
God loves you because He is just that great – not because you are. That is good news, if you are honest…
Here is how God defines you:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.