Acorns From Oakes

Seeing With Our Father's Eyes

The Struggle

    What’s that you say? We can’t rid ourselves of all sin?! Nor even of our sinful tendencies? I don’t like the sound of that. Is that the truth? Really? So what do you suggest Christians do in the light of this clear Biblical reality? (1 John 1:8ff)

   Isn’t it true that we’re capable of so many different responses to our own sin? Disappointment, bitterness, shock, anger, shame, guilt, wallowing, frustration, self-loathing, helplessness, trying to hide, rationalization, despair and on and on. But even after we have run the whole gamut of possible responses, we still have to face this terrible reality about our lives in a fallen world like this. We are never going to be sinless in this lifetime. There has only ever been One Who was. 

   So…are Christians kidding themselves? Are we simply denying the inevitable? If we can’t consistently claim new ground for Christ in our lives daily what are we doing?

   I have been young and now I am old. I can honestly tell you that if my 45 years as a Christian were to be plotted on an X and Y axes graph, it would not reveal a steady, unbroken, upward line toward Christ-likeness. No! It would be a mess of points placed all over all four quadrants. I’m not at all pleased about that, but I need to speak truly.

   So, tell me, am I self-deceived? Should I just quit trying? Or am I perhaps not trying hard enough? What would you say to a Christian who is so thoroughly disgusted by her/his own lack of progress in becoming more like their Master? (I’m wanting to hear from you, if you have the time to give this some thought-then I’d like to say more about our struggle.) What do you think?

   While you are thinking about this (and since I just can’t end, even temporarily on this sort of note), think of how He smiles on His children, through it all, and enables them to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory!

 

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6 thoughts on “The Struggle

  1. Who runs a race that they know they can’t run well? Who plays a game that they know they can’t win? Who walks a path that they know they can’t follow? People that trust their leader to keep His word. People who have been told by that leader that if they just participate … if they just try … they will be successful, they will win, they will reach their destination. Because the race we run, the game we play, the path we walk are not designed for us to complete perfectly. They’re designed to teach us about Him … to get us closer to Him … to help us develop trust in Him.

    If I was talking to someone that is struggling with this dilemma I would have to show them Jesus. The perfection to my imperfection … the promise to my doubt … the grace to my sin … the solution to my problem.
    I claim progress not perfection.

    It’s so hard to remember all of this though. We want to do better, but always feel like we are falling short. We look at that graph you talked about and see the lines going up and down all over the place and we want to quit. But we have to remember Jesus. He came to fix that graph so that when God looks at it … He sees a great graph that makes Him proud.

    SO WELL SAID, PAIGE. YOU AMAZE ME…YOU TEACH ME. THANK YOU. I AM PARTICULARLY INTRIGUED BY THE LINE YOU WROTE THAT SAID, “I claim progress, not perfection.” I THINK THAT IS CORRECT AND REALLY HITS A MARK. BUT, TALK TO ME FURTHER ABOUT WHAT YOU WOULD SAY TO A WEARY FELLOW-TRAVELER WHO FOR A GIVEN PERIOD OF TIME (HOW LONG, I COULDN’T SAY…WOULDN’T KNOW HOW TO SAY…BUT LONG ENOUGH TO GIVE HIM/HER REAL TROUBLE) FEELS THEY HAVE MADE NO PROGRESS. (I CAN’T WAIT TO HEAR YOUR INPUT ON THIS, SISTER, BECAUSE I KNOW IT WILL MAKE ME THINK OF MY MASTER.) GOD BLESS YOU, PAIGE.

  2. I know the truth of me … so it is no wonder that my heart condemns me; but I am grateful to be reminded that God is greater than my heart … that He who is in me is greater than he that is in the world.

    I cling to the hope that when I have made it eternally obvious that I cannot walk on water – my Lord and Savior will with His own power and grace get me back to the boat safely … even if I need more than a little lecture re. my “little faith” … even if the guys in the boat feel a need to mock me for being such a burden on Jesus and even them.

    YOU RIGHTLY REMIND US REGARDING OUR HEARTS’ CONDEMNATION THAT OUR HEARTS HAVE SUCH A STRONG CASE. EVERY TIME WE DO ANOTHER STUPID THING…EVERY TIME WE LOSE CONTROL…EVERY TIME WE STUBBORNLY REBEL…EVERY TIME WE JUST GIVE IN…IT LENDS MORE STRENGTH TO THE ARGUMENT OUR HEARTS MAKE. BUT WE KNOW, BY FAITH, THAT NO MATTER HOW STRONG, CONVINCING AND CONVICTING THE CASE OUR HEARTS MAKE…THE CROSS IS STRONGER AND ALWAYS WILL BE.
    AND, MY BROTHER, EVEN THOUGH YOU MAY HAVE MADE IT ETERNALLY OBVIOUS THAT YOU CANNOT WALK ON WATER, I THANK GOD FOR YOUR WILLINGNESS TO GET OUT OF THE BOAT…AND TRYING TO DO SO…ALL FOR HIS GLORY. IT DOES SCARE ME (THOUGH NOT ULTIMATELY) THAT THOSE WHO, BY HIS GRACE, CLIMB SO HIGH IN HIS SERVICE HAVE SUCH A LONG FALL WHEN THINGS GO TERRIBLY WRONG…AND WHEN THEY BREAK IN THIS FALL, WE ALL, WHO LOVE THEM SO MUCH, ARE BROKEN…AND THOUGH ALL THE KINGS HORSES AND ALL THE KING’S MEN CAN’T DO THE JOB…WE KNOW ONE WHO CAN CREATE ANEW. AND WHEN HE DOES THIS WONDROUS WORK OF GRACE, WHEN THE BROKEN ONE RISES FROM THE RUINS, WE, ALL OF US TOGETHER, CARRY THIS LOVELY VISION AROUND WITH US THE REST OF OUR LIVES. EVERY TIME WE GAZE UPON IT, AS WE OFTEN DO, OUR HEARTS BEGIN SINGING OUT HIS GLORY. AS I SING HIS GLORY NOW BECAUSE OF YOU. YOU? A BURDEN? NEVER…NOT NOW…NOT THEN…NOT EVER. NOT TO ME. NOT TO THE GREAT NUMBER OF THOSE WHOSE FAITH WAS AND IS STRENGTHENED BY YOUR WORK. THANKS, MY BROTHER, FOR TAKING THE TIME TO CHECK IN HERE. I COUNT IT AN HONOR.

  3. One thought that keeps me trying to please God even in the face of my obvious failures is the wonderful compassion of Jesus. Right after Peter denied Jesus for the third time, Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Peter wept bitterly. Now, bear with me, while I talk through this… it could be that Jesus scowled at Peter and that made him feel so deeply ashamed that he wept. But if I put myself in that place, I don’t think happened that way. If I were Peter, and Jesus looked at me angrily, I would get defensive. But if Jesus looked at me with compassion, understanding and love on His face, I would weep bitterly. Knowing that He loved me in spite of what I had just done….that would cause me to feel that sorrow that would lead to repentance…to feel hopeful that I had a chance to make it right with Him. Because Jesus can look at me with love and compassion even though I mess up in big ways, it gives me hope that I can finish this race. Jesus took Peter aside on the beach and reassured him that he had a place…encouraged him to keep on working!

    In Romans 8 Paul teaches us that there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ. Jesus freed me from the law of sin and death, and I now live under the law of the Spirit of life (that comes with some responsibility to try to live a worthy life) He knows I cannot live perfectly, so He died in my place. He saves me despite my inability to live without sinning! His grace is quite simply amazing.

    DEAR SHERRY,
    I WILL GLADLY BEAR WITH YOU WHILE YOU TALK THROUGH ANYTHING, ANYTIME, BECAUSE I KNOW THAT YOU WILL BE THINKING, SPEAKING AND WRITING GOOD SPIRITUAL STUFF. I AGREE WITH YOU ABOUT THAT TERRIBLE NIGHT WHEN THE EYES OF BETRAYING PETER MET THE EYES OF THE BETRAYED JESUS. KNOWING OUR LORD AS WE DO, IT WOULD BE JUST LIKE HIM TO HURT IN THAT MOMENT MUCH MORE FOR PETER THAN FOR HIMSELF…FOR HE WOULD KNOW ALL ABOUT THE TORTURE THAT PETER WOULD BE GOING THROUGH FOR THE NEXT FEW DAYS. AND HE HAD ALREADY DONE WHAT HE COULD TO FORTIFY PETER IN PRAYER. I BELIEVE WITH YOU THAT THE LORD’S LOOK (OF COMPASSION) INSPIRED THE DISCIPLE’S TEARS. AND IF OUR SAVIOR DIDN’T DEAL WITH US SINNERS COMPASSIONATELY, WHO AMONG US COULD STAND?
    AND THANK YOU FOR THE TIMELY REMINDER OF ROMANS 8:1F. OUR BLESSED SAVIOR DELIVERS US IN AND THROUGH OUR STRUGGLE AND NOT FROM OUR STRUGGLE. KNOWING THAT AND KNOWING HIM, WE MUST TRUST THAT HIS PURPOSES ARE RIGHT AND THAT THEY INVOLVE OUR BEST INTERESTS. AND SO, TO HONOR HIM, WE WILL STRUGGLE ON IN JOY, EVEN IF THROUGH PAIN. BUT LET’S ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER ALL WE CAN. GOD BLESS YOU, SHERRY…AND ALL YOURS.

  4. John on said:

    Doug,
    In a life as you describe (stop reading my journal!), I draw encouragement from the relationship I see between God and David. His struggle with the flesh and yet his dependence on His God gives me hope that my God doesn’t dislike or give up on me…Psalm 32…51…Romans 4: 6-7. Has anyone, outside of Jesus, really achieved a level of spiritual consistency that they or we would be happy and satisfied with???

    NO…I DON’T THINK SO. I THINK THE ONLY FORM OF SATISFACTION IN THIS AREA WOULD BE SELF-SATISFACTION AND THAT’S NOT AT ALL GOOD. I WANT TO MEET DAVID. I LOOK FORWARD TO IT. CAN YOU IMAGINE THE GULF ENCOMPASSED IN HIS FALL? FROM SWEET INTIMACY WITH HIS GOD TO MURDERER OF HIS TRUSTED BODYGUARD WHO WOULD NOT HAVE SHIRKED FROM GIVING HIS LIFE FOR HIS KING DAVID. HOW DOES ONE COME BACK AFTER THIS? WOULD SOMEONE TELL ME? YES…OF COURSE YOU COME BACK BROKEN (SHATTERED, REALLY), HUMBLED, FULL OF REGRET AND GODLY SORROW, READY TO FACE WHATEVER GOD BRINGS, AND ON AND ON. BUT REALLY…HOW DOES ONE COME BACK FROM THIS? IT’S NOT ONLY AMAZING GRACE…IT’S AMAZING GRACE EXTENDED TO DAVID IN SUCH A WAY THAT HE IS ABLE TO REACH OUT FOR IT AGAINST ALL HOPE. GOD BLESS GOD! IT’S AMAZING TRULY! IT FILL OUR SOULS WITH HOPE AND WITH AN UNDYING LOVE!

  5. Gail on said:

    You know I know I sin all the time but I always LOVE My GOD. I do not sin intentionally but I sin. I need others to know that I sin and God already knows. This helps people know that we will sin and not to be happy about it but come to grips with this is how it is living in this earthly body.
    I know that since I have been baptized and Jesus says I am his child and he will never leave me or forsake me even though I am not perfect in this world. For some reason I believe Him. And as I get older I don’t struggle with if I am good enough to get to Heaven. I leave it in hands of The God Who Loves Me (Us). I don’t mean we should deliberately set out to sin but we do sin, it is just the way we are. As we get older in being God’s child I hope we mature to do better in areas but if we don’t God says we are his CHILD and he will help us thru.

    You know Doug and I have talked about this, that God would not have sent his only Blessed Loving Son to give us the hope of Heaven. God wants us with Him eternally and he went thru this terrible Ordeal with Jesus to make it possible for us. He knew we could not keep ourselves free from sinning by ourselves. Oh, how he helped us to be with Him someday. I believe it and I hope and pray God will be pleased with me even though I am not sinless. All because of what Jesus did for us.

    We will never understand what Jesus did for us completely but I do understand more about how he died for my sins and my sins in the future and all people who are his children and making a feeble effort (compared to what Jesus Effort was)

    SIS,
    I HAVE ALWAYS APPRECIATED YOUR HEART FOR GOD AND FOR OTHERS, INCLUDING US, YOUR FAMILY, WHO OFTEN ARE UNDESERVING OF YOUR LOVE AND SACRIFICE. I’M GLAD YOU ARE NOT THE QUITTING KIND.
    YOU SAID, “I do not sin intentionally.” BUT WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT, ISNT’ IT TRUE THAT WE ALL ACTUALLY DO SIN INTENTIONALLY. I DON’T DENY THAT THERE ARE THINGS WE DO, THE SINFULNESS OF WHICH WE ARE NOT AWARE. BUT AREN’T MOST OF OUR SINS THINGS THAT WE KNOW FULL WELL TO BE WRONG, BUT WE FIND OURSELVES UNABLE OR UNWILLING (FOR WHATEVER REASONS) TO AVOID? I KNOW THAT’S TRUE OF ME ANYWAY (AND I AM NOT PROUD OF IT AT ALL). BUT EVEN OUR INTENTIONAL SINS ARE HANDLED BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS…PRAISE HIS BLESSED NAME. THAT’S THE GOOD NEWS. AND THIS IS NOT AT ALL TO ENCOURAGE OUR REBELLION, BUT TO COMFORT OUR HEARTS AND OFFER US SECURITY EVEN IN THE MIDST OF FIERCE SIN STRUGGLES THAT OFTEN SEEM TO US TO BE LOSING.
    YOU ALSO SAID OF JESUS’ PROMISE TO NEVER LEAVE OR FORSAKE US THAT “For some reason I believe Him.” I APPRECIATE THAT SO MUCH. WE MUST BELIEVE HIM, MUSTN’T WE? HE HAS PROVEN HIMSELF OVER AND OVER TO BE TRUSTWORTHY. AND IF WE DON’T BELIEVE HIM, TO WHOM SHALL WE GO? HE HAS THE WORDS OF LIFE. AND WHEN HE SAVED US, HE SAVE US TO THE UTTERMOST.
    YOU CAN LAY YOUR WEARY HEAD ON YOUR PILLOW EACH NIGHT, AFTER NO MATTER WHAT KIND OF DAY IT HAS BEEN, SECURE IN THE KNOWLEDGE THAT HE IS YOURS AND YOU ARE HIS AND NOTHING IS GOING TO SEPARATE YOU NOW FROM THE LOVE OF GOD WHICH IS IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD.
    I LOVE YOU, SIS.

  6. Doug … it’s hard to know what to say to someone like that. When I was in that position it didn’t matter what anyone said … what evidence there was, I could not see any progress … any good in my life. If someone said, “Well you helped this person.” My thought would be … “yeah, but my motive was only to get something for myself.” You know what I mean? I could counter every good thing with a bad thought or motive. A lot of that stemmed from self-pity. It was easier to stay in the pit where I was comfortable than to climb out and actually try to live a life.

    So first … I have to be in a place where I am willing to be honest … and trust Jesus to be greater than my heart. Until then I don’t know that any words from anyone will matter.

    Once I was willing to listen and really seeking some help then I was shown … I John 3:19-21. Our hearts are going to condemn us, but God is stronger … we need to listen to Him not ourselves. Be objective … not subjective. Once I’m letting Him be the voice of my heart … I can begin to see myself differently. I also have to remember that my thoughts may never change. I may think things that are not proper … but my actions can still be proper. I can act my way into right thinking if I really try. Each time that I make a step in that direction … it’s progress. Somedays just being glad that I woke up is progress over the day before. Look for the tiniest progress … I must start somewhere. Do one thing better today than I did yesterday.

    We don’t notice our progress nearly as quickly as others do because we are so hard on ourselves. So I must also be willing to trust what others say and not keep beating myself up.

    I was in the spot that this weary-traveler friend of yours was in. This is what helped me begin to get moving again. It’s not an easy road … and there will be slips … but progress can even be that I didn’t slip as far today as I did yesterday.

    THIS “WEARY-TRAVELER FRIEND” TO WHOM YOU REFERRED, PAIGE, WAS ACTUALLY ME.
    THE HONESTY OF YOUR WORDS…TAKING THE TIME TO GO DEEPER WHEN IT BECOMES CLEAR THAT STAYING ON THE SURFACE IS NOT HELPING WEARY SIN-STRUGGLERS; IN FACT, IT’S ACTUALLY HURTING THEM WHEN WE SPEAK GLIBLY (I DON’T MEAN THAT YOU DID THIS. YOU DID NOT. NOT AT ALL) OF THE WAY WE ARE TO GROW IN CHRIST (AND GROWTH IS TO BE TAUGHT AND ENCOURAGED, OF COURSE). I THINK MANY OF THE CHURCH HYMNS SEEM TO MAKE OUR CHRISTIAN LIVES SOUND LIKE ONE SMOOTH UPWARDLY PROGRESSING JOURNEY EVERY DAY. SONGS LIKE “SWEETER GETS THE JOURNEY EVERY DAY, SERVING JESUS REALLY PAYS, I GET HAPPY IN THIS HEAVENLY WAY, SWEETER GETS THE JOURNEY EVERY DAY,” SOMETIMES SEEM TO ALMOST COMMUNICATE A LIE. I KNOW THE SONG HAS A GREAT SPIRITUAL INTERPRETATION, BUT THE WORDS, ON A SURFACE LEVEL CAN MISLEAD STRUGGLERS INTO REASONING LIKE, “WELL THEN, WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME. I DON’T FEEL HAPPY. I’M NOT GETTING A RETURN ON MY FAITH LIKE OTHERS SEEM TO BE GETTING. WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?” I GUESS I’M JUST WANTING TO GET THE POINT THAT IT TAKES MORE UNDERSTANDING, TIME, THOUGHT AND PRAYER TO TRY TO BE OF REAL HELP TO HONEST STRUGGLERS. TO TELL SOMEONE, “DON’T WORRY,” ISN’T MUCH HELP IF YOU DON’T HELP THEM SEE WHY AND IF YOU DON’T EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WORRY THAT LEADS TO SIN AND WORRY THAT DOESN’T.
    AND PAIGE, WOULD YOU AGREE THAT IF WE HAVE CONCERN OVER OUR LACK OF SPIRITUAL PROGRESS, OUR CONCERN IS IN ITSELF A SIGN OF SPIRITUAL PROGRESS?
    WHAT YOU SHARED WAS VERY INSIGHTFUL. THANK YOU FOR WEIGHING IN AGAIN ON THIS MATTER. I KNOW THIS FOR SURE. IF I WAS IN THE MIDST OF SOME DIFFICULT STRUGGLE OR IF I KNEW SOMEONE ELSE IN THAT SITUATION, YOU WOULD BE THE KIND OF PERSON WHO COULD OFFER SENSITIVE AND SENSIBLE SPIRITUAL HELP. AND I KNOW WHO HAS BROUGHT YOU TO THAT IN YOUR JOURNEY, PRAISE HIS BLESSED NAME!

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