The following is an excerpt from Dane Ortland’s book “Gentle and Lowly.” I don’t think I could say it better, so I’ll let the book speak for itself. Speaking as a struggling Christian, he writes –
Fallen, anxious sinners are limitless in their capacity to perceive reasons for Jesus to cast them out. We are factories of fresh resistances to Christ’s love. Even when we run out of tangible reasons to be cast out, such as specific sins or failures, we tend to retain a vague sense that, given enough time, Jesus will finally grow tired of us and hold us at arm’s length. Bunyan [referring to John Bunyan’s writing Come and Welcome to Jesus] understands us. He knows we tend to deflect Christ’s assurances.
“No, wait” – we say, cautiously approaching Jesus – “you don’t understand. I’ve really messed up, in all kinds of ways.”Dane Ortland, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers, Crossway, Wheaton, Illinois, 2020, pp 63-64.
I know, he responds.
“You know most of it, sure. Certainly more than what others see. But there’s perversity down inside me that is hidden from everyone.
I know it all.
“Well – the things is, it isn’t just my past. It’s my present too.”
“But I don’t know if I can break free of this any time soon.”
That’s the only kind of person I’m here to help.
“The burden is heavy – and heavier all the time.”
Then let me carry it.
“It’s too much to bear.”
Not for me.
“You don’t get it. My offenses aren’t directed toward others. They’re against you.”
Then I am the one most suited to forgive them.
“But the more of the ugliness in me you discover, the sooner you’ll get fed up with me.”
Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
He concludes chapter 6 in this way –
For those united to him, the heart of Jesus is not a rental; it is your new permanent residence. You are not a tenant; you are a child, His heart is not a ticking time bomb; his heart is the green pastures and still waters of endless reassurances of his presence and comfort, whatever our present spiritual accomplishments. It is who he is.Ibid, p 66.
If you struggle with sin and struggle with believing God could love you, then perhaps your faith is in yourself rather than a faithful God. Paul wrote to the young Timothy, “…if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)
Your performance fluctuates. There are days when you walk more closely with the Lord and days you feel you are far, far from Him. The reality is, He has never moved. His love does not rise or fall with the tides of your obedience. He is the constant we need in our lives but are perhaps desperately afraid to truly desire. The is the rock upon which we can stand. He is the calm in the midst of our turbulent lives. Even if everyone else forsakes you, there is one who “sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37)
When we fail, when we fall, our tendency is to follow our ancient ancestors Adam and Eve into the bushes where we foolishly believe we can hide our sin and ourselves from God, when our response should be the exact opposite. We should RUN TO God bringing with us our sin and remorse. He was not shocked at your behavior. He was not stunned by the words that came from your mouth. He was not surprised at all by the thoughts running through your mind. He was grieved over the sin, but He has dealt with that on Calvary’s cross. What He wants is not to banish you but to embrace you, to correct you, to discipline you, to bring you back in line with His will for you, and to walk with you in this journey of life.
My fellow believers, let us leave the bushes. Even more, let us abandon the notion that our God is ready to push us away like some fickle friend. He is the father who waits longingly for the prodigal to return, his eyes fixed on the very same roadway that child took when he left home with pockets full of money and a heart full of pride and self-sufficiency. Though we have hidden ourselves behind a thick, steel door, Jesus stands at that door and knocks. Is not today the day we should move from the darkness of our guilt and self-pity and open ourselves up to the embrace of Him who died for those very sins?
[Photo by Gadiel Lazcano on Unsplash]