_ “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
Romans 3 v 23
To be human is to be less than perfect but it also so much more than that, it is to be fundamentally and permanently broken, it is to be wretched, pitiful and blind, it is to by default love self more than others and to want to be god rather than with God. When the Fall happened our relationship with God was shattered as we reached to be gods and since then we are fundamentally sinful, our very nature is sinful:
“the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
Ephesians 2 v 3
_ Yet even if we are Christian and we’ve been saved by grace because of faith in Jesus Christ it doesn’t make us unbroken, it doesn’t make us perfect, we will still sin. Paul writes about this with a refreshing honesty:
“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.”
Romans 7 v 21
This is the experience of the Christian, this is my experience and it is yours. And so the question remains: how do we live with our brokenness? On a day to day basis how do we cope with the fact that we are flawed and give way to a multitude of sin? How can we live with ourselves as we see our oh-so-slow progress towards being more like Christ? When we’ve failed once again picked ourselves up only to fail once more what can be said? As the burden of our brokenness feels too heavy to carry is there any hope? When we catch a glimpse of the holiness of God and cry out with Isaiah: ‘woe is me, for I am a sinful man’ how do we stop retreating into self pity, guilt and loathing?
Personally, I find a huge encouragement is to know that these feelings are perfectly normal, indeed, they are in many ways a good sign, for the closer we are to God the greater our sins appear to us. It is when we cannot see our sin that we should be afraid. But as I was saying, every Christian knows this intense frustration of wanting to be so much more than we find ourselves to be.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”
Romans 7 v 15
Paul, one of the greatest figures of the Christian faith speaks about this very issue and how he just couldn’t understand it. Often this is how I feel after sinning, how could I have been so stupid? How could I so easily despise God and his law? A quick run through of the Bible reveals the extent to which men and women of God are so utterly broken: Noah was a drunkard, Jacob was a cheater, Samson had anger management issues, Gideon was a coward, David was a murderer and adulterer, Jonah ran away from God, nine disciples fled from Christ and Peter denied him three time. And these are the heroes of the Christian faith. And don’t think that in last two thousand years of church history anything has changed, even the godliest of Christian men and women were, are and will be wretched sinners.
So as we face our brokenness then let us realize that God is the God of sinners. His people are elected out of his grace and not on our works. We are all sinners but such is human nature that we spend a lot of our time pretending to be perfect. I am particularly guilty of this, knowing myself to be wretched I put on the mask of having it sorted. Suffice to say I’m not - I’ve been struggling to answer this very question I’m dealing with for the last three months.
The Perfection That is Coming
Don’t get me wrong on this one: in this life we will be permanently sinful, broken and weak. Our bodies are subject to sin and death and for the rest of our live we will face the daily battle against our sinful nature and will face our ever present brokenness. This isn’t very encouraging but it throws into greater relief the wonderful truth that there is a day coming when Jesus will come again and when he does everything that is wrong will be righted. Our brokenness will be mended and holy perfection will be ours. What a joy it is to look beyond this life of sin and towards the life that awaits us when God calls us to himself. On that day we will be completely free from the reach of sin, no longer will we do the evil we do not want to do, we will always do the good we want to do and we will love God with all our heart, mind and strength. Oh, what a delight that will be!
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21 v 3 - 4
This one, if you like, is the biggy. When you’re desperate, wretched and feeling the weight of sin and guilt, when the cross seems empty, the sacrifice of Jesus incomplete and fellowship with God is but a memory then the only lasting solution is to look again at the cross. When you see yourself to be naught but weakness and folly, when your cold heart is stirred not by Christ, when knowledge of forgiveness grants no relief, when everything is out of place and nothing is right and something within your soul weeps then look at Jesus Christ again. When the gospel seems to have failed you then return to the gospel.
“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Romans 7 v 24 – 25
Do you not think that God knew what he was getting himself in for? Do you think that he loves you less? Do you think that he does not sympathise with your weakness? Does he not remember that you are but dust? Christ is the good shepherd, the good shepherd cares for his sheep and when they run away he goes to fetch it back and rejoices when he has brought it safely home. So when you have sinned again and feel your brokenness again then turn to God and know that he rejoices to take you back to him. The prayer that is pleasing to God is: “Have mercy on me a sinner.”
In the parable of the prodigal son the Father runs down the road to meet his son and that is our God, the God who runs to welcome sinners into his family. Even on our darkest day we are never beyond the reach of God’s grace.
And the reason I can sit here and say this is because God has demonstrated his love for us, he proclaimed it to all, he gave his Son, Jesus Christ, to be sin for us and to give us his sinlessness. Yes, we are broken, wretched sinners but Jesus took that brokenness, he took our sin and he gives us perfection. The Christian life is to become what we are: righteous.
Practically though this is easy to forget so next time your weakness becomes too much and your sin seems to heavy then turn to the Bible, it is written, after all, for our encouragement. Read Psalm 103, read an account of Christ’s death, read Ephesians 1 & 2, just pick a bit and read and find peace. Remember as well to talk about it, both to God in prayer and to your friends as well. You will find that they are just as wretched as you are!
I leave you with one final encouragement:
Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.
19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the LORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the LORD, my soul.