Thursday, January 3, 2013


We can be very odd.

We feel incompetent, for whatever reason. Pastors feel incompetent because they feel like their sheep aren't listening, parents because their kids don't come out right, students because they get bad grades, or don't understand the material, all of us at various times have probably felt like incompetent Christians because we haven't read the Bible much, or haven't been praying, or for various other reasons, all of which boil down to: I should be better than this. Which is true. We all have places where we ought to be doing better. And all these feelings of incompetence are quite normal.

Those are also all covered by Romans 3:23 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Yes, there are things we ought to be doing, look at the law! Yet we are continually falling short of that law, and even the lower laws we set for ourselves, those which we feel more comfortable with, we still break them so often. But Romans 3:23 is followed by verse 24, which tells us that those who we just read about: those who have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, "are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."

Where things get strange is a certain Christian response. We feel incompetent, then we feel guilty because we know that God loves us even as we are, and we shouldn't be worrying about this because he has it all under control.

Well, we don't need to feel guilty about that either. I realize most of us who react in that way already know that, which probably results in something like an infinite regression of guilt (feeling guilty for feeling guilty for feeling guilty...). So let's look at why we should not feel guilty. It is the same promise that make us feel guilty for feeling incompetent in the first place, but we have misunderstood them.

God has everything under control. This does not just mean that he has ordained everything according to his good pleasure. What it means that he has even ordained everything according to his good pleasure in which we stand. When we fail, which we will so long as we are in this world, we can no longer call ourselves failures if we are in Christ, for Christ succeeded ultimately. Yes, we should grow in godliness. But we should not be frustrated by the slowness of our growth, but rather excited by the fact that we should grow at all. Apart from Christ, we deserve to be burned, but because of his free gift of grace we are granted life in Christ Jesus, that we might grow into the likeness of Christ Jesus. And God has ordained that we should each grow at the rate and in the ways that we do and will and have, and he has ordained this for our good and his glory.

Our growth in godliness ought not, then, be fueled by a law-like list of rules, rather, it must be fueled by the Spirit of God working to reveal Christ in us, and by our desire to be like Christ. His goodness is contagious, and beautiful, and sweet, so that we should love to seek him and to be like him. And we ought not feel guilty when we find that we do not love him as we ought, but rather pray that God would grant us a greater vision of himself by his Spirit that we might love him more as he deserves.

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