"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things"
Weakness with watchfulness will stand, when strength with over much confidence will fail. But, our failings, whilst we fight them, in the course of sanctification should not weaken our peace that stems from our justification, and assurance of salvation.
The good news means we can stop lying to ourselves. The sweet sound of amazing grace saves us from the necessity of self-deception. It keeps us from denying that though Christ was victorious, the battle with lust, greed, and prise still rages within us. As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry, and resentful with those closest to me. When I go to church I can leave my white hat at home and admit that I have failed. God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don't need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness.
Do you know the story about the young man who wanted, more than anything in the world, to be a lion trainer? He read books on lion training, he talked to lion trainers, and every chance he got he visited the zoo to look at the lions. Then one night he decided to test hi knowledge. After the zoo closed, he climbed over the fence and into the lions section of the zoo. The next morning the found some bones, bits and pieces of clothing, and a torn up book on lion training. Many a person's experience with the Lion of Judah's not dissimilar. They get about as far as they can with the book. Then they get tired of knowing a lot about the Lion. They want know the Lion. When you don't have something or you're faking it and you meet the "real thing," it can be devastating.
The Pharisees elevated obedience to the letter of the Law to an absurd level of perfectionism, abusing it to judge and condemn others while applauding their own self-righteousness. They concealed from people the Spirit of the Law, the God who provided the Law. The legalism of the Pharisees is an expression of bibliolatry, a rigid adherence to the letter of Scriptures, devoid of the presence of the Spirit, which makes a virtual idol of the Scriptures. Our God is not the Bible, but its living Author: "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life."
Jesus was continually offending the religious professionals of his day because he broke their rules and moved outside the lines of convention. He forgave the transgressors and criticised the "obedient." You see, the condition of our hearts is more important to Jesus than how well we play by the rules. This frustrates the moralists no end, because their primary concern is moral rule-keeping. It's so much easier to point the finger of blame when we can keep the score on behaviour. It is far more difficult to judge, and be judged by, the health of the inner life. But "the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart" 1Samuel 16:7).
I have really sinned this time. Will God ever hear my prayers again. Will he ever use me again?
Of course God will hear your prayers. After you sinned, he didn't say, "Oh, my heavens! Look at my child. He screwed it up again. I had such hopes for him." You didn't surprise God with anything you did. It isn't falling into the mud, but staying there, that is the problem. So go to him. He isn't angry.
We go to God to get saved and to get loved. To many Christians get saved and leave before they get loved. That is why so many Christians are narrow, critical, and judgmental. They should have stayed until they got loved. God doesn't need you. He does fine without your help. I suspect that he won't use you for a while, but that isn't because he is angry with you. He wants you to just let him love you for a while. When you have enough love to give to somebody else, he'll send you back into the field. And one other thing, God mostly uses wounded healers. As painful as your sin is right now, it is the stuff that God will use to build a monument to his glory. Not only that, you will find great power in your wound.
The Bible will tell you who God is, what he thinks, and what he requires. If, for instance, you believe God is a monster, you have gotten that from some other place than the Bible. If your prayer causes you to become angry, critical, and judgmental of others who don't always see things the way you see them, you need to go back to the God revealed in the Bible. If you, from your prayers, find no hope, no love, and no understanding, then you aren't praying to the God of the Bible.
We must wait for God, long, meekly, in the wind and the wet, in the thunder and the lightning, in the cold and the dark. Wait, and he will come. He never comes to those who do not wait. When he comes, go with him, but go slowly, fall a little behind; when he quickens his pace, be sure of it before you quicken yours. But when he slackens, slacken at once and do not be slow only, but silent, very silent, for he is God.
What does it mean to be free in Christ? It means we are free from the rules we thought bound us to God. It means we are free from the manipulation other Christians use to make us like them, free from having to fit into the world's mould, free to be different. We are free from the slavery of religion and from the fear of rejection, alienation, and guilt. We are free from the fear of death. We are free from masks, free from the sham and pretence; free to doubt, free to risk, free to question. It means we are free to live every moment. But most of all, we are free to follow Christ, not because we have to but because we want to.
Christianity misdefined. Many define the Christian religion as a moral standard. Christianity is what makes me good, pure, kind, and compassionate. If that's your definition of Christianity, then you would do better with a behaviouristic psychologist. And if that's how we define Christianity, we'd better get another one, because the one we have right now isn't working too well. Have you ever been around Christians who are, from all outward appearances, just about, perfect? Well, I have and I don't like them at all. As a matter of fact, when I'm around Christians like that I always feel judged. I want to say, "why don't you go out and get drunk or something?" I, of course, would never say anything like that...but I want to. I spend a lot of time in any study with people who are as as perfect as people can get this side of heaven, and I want to let you in on a secret, most of them as so frightened and hurting that I want to cry for them. They think that if they can just get it right, then God will notice and be pleased with them, and they will finally have peace. They are often like the rich man, who thought he would find meaning in his riches only to discover that, as Mark Twain put it, "he had paid too much for his whistle."