For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
“Those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him.” More than anything else in my life the one thing I have wanted for as long as I can remember is to live for Jesus. That said, I have failed miserably. I have never lived up to that expectation.
No telling how many times I have recommitted my life to Christ or asked for forgiveness of my sins. As a child I would lay upon my bed unable to sleep because I was worried that my life wasn’t right before God. Somebody told me way back then that “the age of accountability” was 11, and by my 10th birthday I was so overcome with worry that there were nights when I could not sleep at all. I recall thinking I only had one year to get my life right. Then when I reached the age of 11, I failed my Lutheran catechism class, the only one in my group to do so. My pastor tried to console me by telling me that “you can’t grade faith.” But that familiar feeling that I had failed God remained.
These feelings of falling short of the mark have followed me all the days of my life. I remember tearful confessions through high school and my Navy years. Such feelings of spiritual inadequacy continued into my professional radio career eventually leading me to conclude that God wanted me in the ministry. So I studied theology, became a Southern Baptist pastor, and served churches for about 15 years. The result was even more feelings of not measuring up.
I saw a movie recently about the life of Martin Luther and I was fascinated by his spiritual pilgrimage. He described a period of his life as one of spiritual despair in which he devoted himself to fasting, long hours in prayer, and frequent confession. But all of those spiritual exercises didn’t satisfy his desire for pleasing God. In Luther’s years of spiritual struggling, I could see myself and readily identified with his constant striving yet, no matter how hard he tried, continually failing to live up to God’s expectations.
Even when I awoke this morning, my spiritual shortcomings were on my mind. And then I read the focus scripture, “those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him.” In reality the bar is set higher than any of us can reach. Denying self and living for Jesus is beyond our mortal capability. Although a worthy goal no matter how hard we try, we will always need — God’s grace.
When Jesus announced to Peter that he was about to deny him Peter said, “no way.” He was willing to fight to the death for his Lord. But we all know what happened. Peter did exactly what Jesus said he would do and then wept bitterly. Later, while walking with the risen Lord, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Peter responded, “You know that I love you.” Indeed Jesus knew Peter loved Him. Regardless of the depth of our love for the Lord there will be times when we fall short of the mark.
In those moments when I am confronted with my spiritual inadequacies, I have learned that His grace is sufficient for all my needs. He died for my failings and there is no limit to the number of times He will grant forgiveness for my sins.
I’ll never be as good as I want to be for Him and neither will you. But when we are going through those feelings of spiritual inadequacy, we should accept His forgiveness, forgive ourselves, and move on.
For more on this topic, check out this article: How to Please God Right Now
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 2 (April – June) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.