Characteristic of the lifestyle of a Christian is imperfect pursuance of Christ. The propensity to sin is present in us all. At times that can be frustrating. Our desire to trust and rely on God gets drowned out when uncertainty comes our way. We purpose in our heart to be more consistent in godly habits but find ourselves leaning back toward familiar behaviors. Life can bring big events that sway our hearts, but other times monotony and routine can give way to complacence. We fail to be ever vigilant as commanded in 1 Peter 5:8. We also, as Paul states in Romans 7:15, fail to simply do what we know we should. It is more noticeable when the struggles are greater and the falls are harder, but the tension is ever-present. It is hard to live a life of total surrender. While we are being transformed into the image of Christ, no one will see the completion of that transformation here and now.
I used to believe that I was alone in my stumbling and faltering. Analyzing others and their daily journeys of sanctification left me feeling like a subpar Christian. Others would say they were struggling with patience or forgiveness; things I deemed small sins or imperfections. All the while I knew the deep dark secrets of my own heart. The battle I faced with lust seemed so much dirtier. My constant struggle with an eating disorder seemed so much darker. I felt out of place among those I saw as holier than myself. I clung to the life and Biblical account of King David. I desperately wanted to believe if an adulterous murder could be called a man after God’s heart, maybe I could be accepted as well. My heart was bogged down by comparison and couldn’t quite embrace that truth.
There is no easy way out that snare, but the Bible offers a remedy. It calls us out and beckons us to come clean. From the very first sin committed the response to sin has been to hide and cover-up. In Genesis 3:8 the Scripture tells us of Adam’s and Eve’s actions after disobeying God. “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” We might use deflection or withdrawal to cover ourselves, but the desire to draw our wrongdoings inward, shielding them from the sight of God and others exists nonetheless. Proverbs 28:13 gives us the following wisdom, “whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” The trap of striving for righteousness, comparing ourselves with others, and fearing rejection grips tightly. It threatens to rip away pieces of our identity if we try to escape. Who we appear to be might be lost and our reputations might be tainted. The lies we use to cover up our secrets and sins will have to fall away and we will be exposed for who we really are. Surrendering to God includes laying down our identity and picking up Christ’s. It includes abandoning our striving to walk out the Word in perfection. We can’t. In our inability, in our stumbling, and in our faltering, rests the potency and power of Christ’s sacrifice. We must ask ourselves whether we hate our sin or hate the revelation of it. Are we willing to reveal it and live in the consistent and humble knowledge that there is nothing good in us except Christ? David declares, in Psalm 16:2, “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’”
“In our inability, in our stumbling, and in our faltering, rests the potency and power of Christ’s sacrifice.”
Our imperfections and broken surrender become less discouraging when we realize that even if our “big ticket” sins are gone, we are still sinful and wicked. God’s grace isn’t to pacify our shame but to eradicate our pride and bring us to the foot of the Cross. It points to His perfection; it doesn’t produce ours, at least not in this lifetime. There will be transformation and victories over sin- both small and large; God promises it. However, the Bible doesn’t say God’s love is shown in His willingness to put up with us as we get our acts together. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” He loves us knowing we will never fully get it together.
This call to live in the grace of God is not one that ignores the condition of our hearts. It should lead us to the place where we are so enamored with God’s love we don’t fear seeing our own wickedness and to submit it to Him. It’s a place where hating our sin no longer means hating ourselves. As upside-down as it seems, through the humility of embracing our imperfections, we can find perfect surrender. “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance,” Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 6:12. Don’t let condemnation shift your focus from God’s love and power to transform you to your inability to overcome your weaknesses. Allow conviction lift you up and be the catalyst to confess your sins. An admission that you are struggling to accept or apply Truth is the first step toward freedom. Acknowledging that your fight against sin is still raging is the beginning of an acknowledgment that you still need Christ. You haven’t and won’t outgrow the need for His sacrifice. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16 ).”