In grace, He leads you where you didn’t plan to go in order to produce in you what you couldn’t achieve on your own. In these moments, He works to alter the values of your heart so that you let go of your little kingdom of one and give yourself to His kingdom of glory and grace. Paul David Tripp
It’s difficult to pinpoint when it began — the uprooting of self and replanting of God’s fullness.
We are all made up of unique upbringings, personalities, and passions, with an implanted desire for Someone Greater. Personally, it’s fascinating to encounter humans of all kinds, their stories, and how God helps them work out their salvation. If you asked me today what has colored my life most often, in various hues at different times, I would say fear of man.
Ed Welch helps clarify what fear of man entails:
“Fear” in the Biblical sense is a much broader word. It includes being afraid of someone, but it extends to holding someone in awe, being controlled or mastered by people, worshipping other people, putting your trust in people, or needing people… We exalt them and their perceived power above God. We worship them as ones who have God-like exposing gazes (shame-fear) or God-like ability to “fill” us with esteem, love, admiration, acceptance, respect, and other psychological desires (rejection-fear).
In my experience, living this [false] belief of ‘people are bigger than God’ bears fruit of anxiety and pride. Growing up in church weekly and attending a Christian school, it surfaced in the pressure of prioritizing appearances and managing perceptions. I was happy when feeling like I was doing great for God, but when I wasn’t, I felt terrible. So I strived to always be ‘good.’ By my teenage years, the belief system had grown deep roots: I knew what I should do, and as long as I continued, I would be good enough. Good enough for God, good enough for other people, good enough to believe I was strong, beautiful, or capable.
Gradually, my desire to be good enough grew bigger than my desire for God.
I just didn’t know it at the time.
Life became shoulds and shouldn’ts, and believing myself worthy became the foundation of my identity and my joy.
Maintaining approval, from God and others, became my measuring stick for godliness.
This sin is sneaky. It appears godly. It even feels like a right priority. But at its depths, at the very root, is an idol of self-sufficiency rooted in fear and pride. While having an interactive relationship with God, I carried burdens alone. I saw God as Father, believed He loved me, sought to know Him in the Bible, but deep down lived as if He expected me to earn my righteous standing before Him. I thought following Jesus meant sinning less often, striving for better, and keeping people happy. I spent more time anxiously paralyzed over how I was ‘doing’ at living for God than resting in His grace, and my eyes were more often on me, not Him.
Self said, “Why is this a problem? You have a good life. You do good things. What’s the big deal?” But Holy Spirit was enlightening,“Do you feel free? Do you believe God’s eternal approval and life in you, based on His resurrected Son? Can you see how destructive this idol is to your soul?”
As this realization sunk in, I all but weeped on and off for weeks. Truthfully, I didn’t know if I could change. The addiction to earn ran DEEP. His way felt unfamiliar – a complete letting go and trusting Another’s perfection to count for me? I wasn’t sure how to peel my fingers off the hard and fast grip I had on my desire to be good enough. I wasn’t even sure I knew what true Gospel freedom and stability felt like.
God graciously started pulling out weeds, replanting Gospel seeds, and reworking my heart’s soil. It wasn’t pleasant, but it was healing.
He brought me back to the basics: He’s Almighty God of the Universe, and created people for relationship. He’s holy, we’re inherently not. We could do nothing by our own ability to cross the gulf that was our sin to appear righteous in His eyes or live His abundant life.
I tearfully walked through the Gospels, following Jesus and trying to put myself there, His eyes finding mine on the gruesome final moments of His life, and the joy and wonder of the day He rose. Believing Jesus as Lord and Savior forever seals our identity as children of God, reconciling us to God. THE JOY.
Blessed be God, amidst so many causes of mourning in myself, it is still my duty and my privilege to rejoice in the Lord; in him I have righteousness and strength, pardon and peace. I have sinned — I sin continually — but Christ has died, and forever lives, as my Redeemer, Priest, Advocate, and King. And though my transgressions and my enemies, are very many and very prevalent, the Lord in whom I trust is more and mightier than all that is against me. John Newton
REALITY: God doesn’t ask me to be sufficient in sinlessness. His plan from the beginning of time was that Jesus be all-sufficient. His expectation isn’t for me to manufacture my own good standing before Him; He asks me to believe His Son’s sacrifice for me, and trust Jesus to be my goodness. Nothing can be added to His perfection and His completed work – it’s where we rest. This is a life of faith. A life of faith centers on God and His perfect, crucified, resurrected Son – not self.
Hallelujah. Thank you, Lord.
Faith unites us to Christ, and He becomes our foundation for obedience to God. Isaiah 33:6 says “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.”
The ascended Christ in heaven is the foundation of our hopes, the source of our sublimest joys, and the sufficient, the only sufficient, answer to all the suggestions by which guilt, fear, unbelief, and Satan, fight against our peace. Surrounded as we are with enemies and difficulties, we plead, against every accusation and threatening, that our Head is in heaven; we have an Advocate with the Father, a High Priest upon the throne, who, because he ever liveth to make intercession, is able to save to the uttermost [Heb. 7:25]. Tony Reinke, Newton on the Christian Life
There’s so much I could say, because I’m still in the middle of this.. camping out in the Bible, moving slowly, like a blind person being led by the perfect Helper, asking for new eyes to see… yielding my heart to Him for care and transformation, trusting His hand.
The old mindset is being dug out from its deepest point, and new faith is being planted: keep both eyes on God.
More to meditate on:
2 Corinthians 9:8
Romans 3 & 5
1 Corinthians 15:20-28
2 Corinthians 12:9
2 Corinthians 5:11-21