I have spent most of my life from my teens until now struggling against addiction. I have been to several counselors. I have confided in Christian friends and pastors. I have fought with all the weapons I know – Scripture reading – prayer – community – and still the battle rages and the failures pile up.
My soul teams with angst and sorrow – I live in steady low-grade pain until the next failure – then despair, sorrow, emptiness, shame, depression, fear, sadness, loneliness wash over my soul in a great tidal wave. Some of you know what I mean. I look in the mirror in self-revulsion and say, “you are a great ass.” And worse… When I talk to people on this point they always want to comfort me with my goodness…but I know I am not good so it provides little comfort.
In this journey, I have at times felt the amazing depths and richness of God’s grace. I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. I do not feel fake towards God. I long to know Him. I long to serve Him well. I long for my life to reveal Him as the great treasure I know Him to be. But in my failure I wonder if I am just delusional. Do I even know Him at all? Do I serve to look good? Is my life the greatest hypocritical sham that ever was? Am I even a believer? How could a man like me be a child of God?
I know that God saves sinners. So I believe a man like me can be delivered – rescued – saved. But it seems that post-conversion there is to be a monumental life change. Still sinning, yes, but no longer messing around with the works of the flesh. Improvement. Progressive sanctification. Sin mortified. I know sin is sin and ugly in all its manifestations, but sometimes I wish I were just battling against Jerry Bridges “Respectable Sins.”
I don’t want to go another day in this condition. I want to be free. I know this life will always include a battle against sin – so I’m not asking for perfection. I asking for the grace of God to so empower me to see Him as superior to all other treasures – that I would delight in Jesus wholeheartedly – so that the entanglement of my heart with sin is overcome. This has not happened. I cannot overcome. I know “I” can’t do it, only he can. But why hasn’t he? Is it because I’m not His?
I’ve studied. I’ve read. I’ve pleaded. I’ve begged. I’ve tried to do what others have suggested. But at the end of the day, I think the root of my failure is I can’t believe the promises are for me. Yes God is. Yes God forgives horrible sinners. Yes God loves and restores and redeems messes like me. Yes God is able to remove sins as far as the east is from the west. But I cannot accept my unholiness. How can an infinitely Holy God accept me?
I “know” the answer. It is based on an alien righteousness. The righteousness found in Christ alone. A righteousness not based on my works, good or bad, at all. But that is justification. Sanctification is my identity as a son of God increasingly being reflected in my life. And I can’t see it. So what is the problem?
Here I am trying to untangle these decade’s old thoughts on a blog. Maybe someone with the answer to my problem will in God’s sovereignty stubble upon this and send me the answer. But based on what I can see the problem is I don’t really believe the promises of God apply to me. I believe they exist but the application to me is doubtful. And though this may sort of look like humility it is really pride, because what I’m really saying is again in the words of Jerry Bridges I’ve declared temporary bankruptcy. Yes, God saved me, but now it is on me to change and my standing with God is based on my performance for Him. And to the extent that my performance fails to measure up to my own standard (which is lower than God’s), I doubt his promises apply to me.
So I’m preaching to myself today. The Good News. The Gospel was not just for the moment I believed. The Good News is that Jesus has paid the debt for all my sin. He has removed them past, present and future as far as the east is from the west. He has clothed me with His own righteousness. He is not ashamed to call me His son. He has declared me righteous by His grace and has not only authored my faith but will bring it to completion. He has said that He loves me and His love is steadfast to the end. He is faithful in my unfaithfulness. I am free to come boldly to the Throne of Grace and he pours out His mercy and help in my time of need. What grace is this?
Lord increase my faith. Help me to see you and savor you as the all-surpassing treasure of my life. I confess my sin and repent of it. Turn me by your kindness to delight in you above it. Lord shape my life by your grace. In my brokenness and despair make your face shine. Then I will teach sinners your ways.