A holy hush settled over the entire room. The soft and tender tones of women singing out their sincere love and longing for Jesus filled the atmosphere. It was a taste–just a tiny taste–of heaven on earth.
Then it happened.
(Oh why does it always happen?)
“If you’re struggling with SIN don’t let anything keep you from Jesus. He’s here, he’s ready to forgive you. But you need to confess–to him and to each other–you need to get your heart right. So find someone to confess to tonight. Tell someone your struggle. We don’t want anyone to miss what God is doing.”
Oh, those weren’t the exact words. But they’re close enough. I could recite them a hundred different ways. I’m sure you could too.
Because we’ve all heard them SO many times.
The theme is always the same. We’re sinners who need to do some serious soul- searching–and endure some deep soul cleansing–if we really want to have more of God.
It all sounds so spiritual. It sounds so scriptural. Sometimes it even sounds loving–as if the speaker really has our best interests at heart. And usually they are convinced they do. They absolutely mean it for good …
But the enemy doesn’t.
Here’s the deal, you can make all those arguments–and they’re really compelling arguments–because there is truth in those statements. If there wasn’t, we’d all immediately reject such “exhortations” and go right back to worship. Instead there is just enough truth to draw us — to woo us — over and over again — into the enemy’s web. We’re drawn into hell’s no-win lair and before we know it, once again, we’re drawn out of worship — out of a focus on his wonder — and into a never-ending self-examination …
Of our wretchedness.
I’m sick of it. Been completely over it for years. And I refuse to buy the lie or play along any longer.
I refuse to buy the lie that his sacrifice wasn’t enough. The lie that somehow — I need to respond just right — feel just right — act just right — confess just right — pray just right — examine my heart just right —
To draw nearer to him.
And I refuse to stand by silently and watch helplessly as others — sincere lovers of Jesus — who are sincerely doing their best to walk in his ways — get pulled into the abyss of self-examination — the abyss of self-effort —
The abyss of self-focus.
Although, on occasion, there may be those for whom that type of exhortation is encouraging and helpful–it’s rarely the ones who are walking in darkness who get “convicted” by those statements. Instead, it’s usually the tender ones. The sincere ones. The ones who are doing their very best to love him but never seem to get it quite right (and really, who does?) . The ones who want to be pleasing to him but still struggle sometimes (and really, who doesn’t?). But now, instead of leading them to him –you’ve just drawn their gaze away from him and onto the mess in their heart (and really, who doesn’t have some messy places in their heart?).
What part of “It is FINISHED” is so hard for us to accept?
He paid for our sin–all of it. He already made a way into the HOLY place–the place where he dwells. He’s made a way into his presence. We’re invited to come boldly before his throne …
Before the throne of grace.
We’re transformed in his presence. “And we, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory” (2.Cor.3:18).
It’s not self-focus and confession of our wretchedness that transforms us — it’s God-focus and confession of his wonder that draws us to the throne of grace — to the place of acceptance and love — just as we are.
And the knowledge that we’re loved — truly loved, no matter how much we do or do not change — is what truly frees us from the shackles of this world. It’s what truly draws us closer.
Intimacy with God has never been and will never be based on performance. It is his kindness and his mercy that brings us to repentance. He knows when, where, and how to reveal the things that hinder us. And drawing a group of people who are desperately hungry for him out of his presence and into a focus on their own failures is NOT usually how he does it.
If your gaze has been wooed away from wonder–I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry. It’s not his heart. It’s not his doing. He loves you. He desires you. Right here, right now, even if you NEVER get it right.
If you’ve been pulled away from him and lured into a focus on your own wretchedness — whether by your own guilt and misunderstanding of his character — or by the well-meaning but misguided spiritual counsel of others — don’t buy the lie for another second! Look up. Look to him. Right here, right now–just as you are. Gaze upon his glory. Behold his beauty. You’re worthy because he says you’re worthy. Fix your eyes on Jesus — the ONLY Author and Perfecter of your faith — the One who already paid for ALL your wretchedness so that now, and forever …
Your heart will always be filled with wonder.
Because he already thinks you’re pretty wonderful. Just as you are. (Really, he does.)