It is a bit scary that I might be cut from the same Pharisaical cloth.
So here I stand with you, God. I want to see my nature become more and more like you so that your Word speaks more clearly to me. If my character is more and more like yours, then your Word would make more sense to me. It would speak more clearly to me. Your Spirit speaks to that which is within me, but my natural and sinful heart will not hear Your words as they are intended to speak. Only as I become more and more like you through increased obedience, your voice in your Word grow that much clearer. Teach me to hear you, and draw me closer to you that you would be all I ever needed.
O my God, help my heart forget myself so I can find rest from the weight of being my own little god. I am not as strong or important as I think or believe I am much of the time. I spend so much of my time, energy, and life trying to prove myself.
I have what A.W. Tozer calls 'the burden of pretense'. I want everyone to see my best while I hide my poverty at all costs. It is exhausting. I am a sinful man like every other, yes, but the exhausting part of it all is actually in the effort it takes to look other than and more than I actually am.
I do not have to expend much effort to be sinful or to admit with all of humanity that I am a sinful man. It is exhausting to uphold what I am not. It is exhausting to uphold my little god status. It is heart-breaking when people, as they inevitably must, attack the idol of self I have crafted. It is no wonder we find little peace when so much of our life and reality is spend in tireless and fruitless effort to be and appear more than we really are.
God, rescue me from this tireless effort. I am weary and heavy-laden with this burden. Lay upon me your yoke of meekness and peace. I am not as strong as I think I am or appear to be.
"I am your child. I quit trying to MAKE myself presentable to you and instead trust that I AM presentable to you despite all of the things that are just parts of a sinful nature around me. I move on in that passage and believe, 'if I confess my sin, you are faithful and just and will purify me and forgive me' because again, you only see your child here, and I need not be plagued by sin OR guilt. I mean is not guilt the actual issue here? Not sin. I mean sin is just inevitable, but what IS of choice by me is whether I will allow guilt to plague me and keep me from seeing myself as your child instead of seeing myself as this horrible person. You're so much quicker to forgive me than I am to forgive myself.
The question of just about any presentation of grace is the same Paul rhetorically poses, “So then should I just sin so that grace may increase? Of course not.” So what is the answer to anyone who DOES sin so that their grace may increase? What about those who will say, “I have a reason and excuse to sin. I can sin because PC said God doesn’t care what I’ve done. God will love me.” That picture is again the outstanding picture of grace that is my marriage.
I vowed to love Tonya and cherish her as a gift of God. I would be naïve to say I will always do these things without tripping up. There WILL be times I will not honor Tonya perfectly. There will be times I will not cherish her and hold her in the regard she should be held. There will be times she does not receive love from me as she needs and desires.
Now will she give up on me and divorce me? No! She will go on loving me even though I have hurt her. But that is not the deepest cut. The deepest cut comes from the fact that I will have broken an eternal covenant we set in place through spoken vows. Each time I do not love, honor and cherish her, I break a covenant. She still loves me anyway. I DON’T DESERVE THAT!!!
Now imagine you are good friends with Tonya or some other wife, and she comes continuously to you about her husband. Suppose she tells you how many times he has emotionally wrecked her with absolutely no regard. Suppose she tells you how many times he unabashedly destroys the promises he made to her. Suppose you knew these things. Are you inclined to say, “Well Tonya! That’s great! Now your grace may increase to him?”
I am compelled to realize how much grace Tonya really does show me. How much of an idiot I would be if I paid no mind of her grace and continually abused it! Sure she may always forgive me and love me, but in the end I'd only be abusive.
I see how much she forgives me and loves me despite my broken promises and I desire even more to love and serve her.
Such is God’s grace! Do I just abuse it or does his grace drive me to a realization of my disregard?
I love the Church but most congregations aren't all they're cracked up to be. But hey, I guess I'll never find that perfect church. It seems that every church I go to...I'm there. Bunch of sinners! Hmph! It seems every time I go to church, I'm just another one of the sinners..... Wait! Thats fantastic! I really do love the church. I really do love most congregations...bunch of sinners! GREAT!
Devastation OR Desperation will bring transformation…which one will I choose
Transformation prayers are repentant prayers. It is because of us that we are where we are in all this. Humility is our first step to transformation.
Why do we wait on God? It is NOT because he trying to catch up.
Transformation prayer is also unified prayer. Join hands in prayer with leaders, pastors and intercessors. After all, if we sin together, we should be in prayer together. Do not leave it to that prayer warrior you know to pick up the mess of your sins, but if we sin together, lets repent together.
I need a more concentrated sense of my sin. We need to understand our sin in a more detailed manner. Only through knowing our sin in its detail can we really experience grace and salvation to its fullest within us. Ozzie Chambers writes, "There is never any vague sense of sin [in the presence of God], but the concentration of sin in some personal particular."
This concentrated understanding of our sin is important because then there is real freedom in realizing what grace has saved you from. It is easy for us to claim we are sinners. OF course we are sinners! We all know that and can claim it very simply. We do not experience real grace in that though.
It is just as easy for us to claim we are sinners, but we have been saved. Yes, that is true, but that kind of understanding is not concentrated enough to really understand what grace really means. A more concentrated understanding of our sin allows us to feel and answer the real question:
"SAVED FROM WHAT??!!"
If we are only claiming the unconcentrated and ambiguous claim of being a sinner, we are no different than anyone else. In this manner, we only know grace and salvation as a concept, which does no one any good.
We have to break ourselves down and embrace our sin that we may sincerely embrace grace offered to all of us. When I begin to quit calling myself only a sinner, but a selfish man with too much desire to please myself through my time, my words and my actions, I can THEN feel a distinct sting of my sin. When I feel that distinct sin, I am able to realize what I am actually saved FROM! Salvation and grace become that much more real to me. With each sin exposed, the embrace of grace grows that much more sincere and real.
Ozzie writes, "The cleansing fire had to be applied where the sin had been concentrated." When we allow ourselves to concentrate our sin instead of leaving it vague and general, we begin to know real cleansing. In Isaiah 6, verse 5, Isaiah concentrates his sin. He does not say, "Woe is me! For I am a sinner." We all know he is a sinner. We all know ourselves to be sinners. No! Isaiah repents, "Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips." Isaiah concentrated his idea of his sin.
The Seraph touches the cleansing coal not to Isaiah's entire life either. He touches the cleansing coal to Isaiah's lips; the very concentrated part he had repented of.
When we can concentrate our sin into the detailed sins, we can answer the question,
"SAVED FROM WHAT?!"
I have always imagined it the incessant and irritating daily reminder of souls. We often picture a glorified splinter, which reminds Paul, daily, that he is to be weak that God may bestow true power. But there has to be much more to this thorn.
If it were only a glorified splinter, Paul would be a big baby to write in 2 Corinthians 12, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me." Come on, would a big splinter be worthy of such pleading?
In those times, "thorns" were used as a military device, and it was certainly much more than a splinter. It was much more like a big stake. They would pound these stakes (not much bigger than a thick tent stake...but sharper and more jagged) into the ground all over the place in an open area they were retreating through. This way, when the enemy came running through that field after them, they would be slowed down. Big stakes protruding from the ground would slow any army down.
Now re-imagine the thorn in the flesh. It takes on a little more intensity now. So why would Jesus want to give Paul a thorn? Well Paul was an amazing man who's testimony has been a root for the Christian faith. He wrote most of the New Testament. Now with accomplishments like that, can you imagine the arrogance he is capable of? But he wasn't arrogant. In fact, he was incredibly humble and vulnerable in his ministry. I think it is for this reason he was given a thorn that so tormented him.
His torment brought Paul to this kind of humility that reached millions. This thorn made him FEEL so weak that he could only depend on God. We know this thorn cut deep into Paul, but was never removed. It remained to continually bring Paul to brokenness and vulnerability, but it is this brokenness which forced Paul to rely so heavily on God. Not by our strength; but God's.
The Message calls "the thorn in the flesh" the "gift of hardship". I think it really can be anything for us. We do not know exactly what Paul's "thorn" actually was, but we know what it did. I think our "thorn" could be anything, as long as it does one thing...brings us to brokenness and vulnerability before a powerful God.
I wonder what my thorn...my gift of hardship may be. Peter Scazzero makes a list: "What might the 'gift of hardship' God has given you be? A child with special needs? A struggle with an addictive behavior that forces you to be vigilant every day and attend meetings regularly? Emotional fragileness with a tendency to depression, anxiety, severe isolation, or loneliness as a single person or widow? Scars on your soul from an abusive past? Childhood patterns...a physical disability? Cancer? Real temptations to anger, hate, resentments, bitterness, lust, pornography, or judgmental?"
The next time they met up he asked what God had told her. She replied, "God said, 'I forgot.'"
Hebrews 10:3 says "But in those [old] sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year."
All the the things we try to do for forgiveness only serve to remind us of sin God has forgotten. We cannot keep doing things to keep us locked up in shame and guilt.
In Jesus, God has forgotten all of our sin; past, present, and future.
I am soaking in the fact God has already forgotten all the sin I have not yet committed. The sins I will commit are already forgotten. (Heb. 10:17)
Grace will always be ridiculous to me.