Tuesday, October 18

Ground Level God

Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? --Psalm 15:1

This past weekend my church had its annual Women's Retreat. For months I had been excited about the event and was filled with the anticipation of experiencing God on a larger-than-life level just as I had so many times when I had attended church camps and youth retreats when I was younger. As the weekend progressed, I realized that the "mountaintop experience" that I had expected was not what God had in mind for me.

The speaker's message was entitled "Amazing Grace: Surviving our Failure as Christians." She spoke about the fact that all of us, even those who are walking with God on a regular basis, still fall into patterns of what the Puritans called "besetting sins." Because we are human, descended from Adam, we live in a fallen state. Our besetting sins will continue to plague us for the duration of our life on earth. These are the sins we struggle with day in and day out despite continuous confession and repentance. It is the situation described by the apostle Paul when he said that his spirit was willing but his flesh was weak and the things he didn't want to do he still ended up doing.

As I contemplated the magnitude of my failure as a Christian and listed my besetting sins before the Lord during a time of personal reflection at the retreat, my heart sank. If I'm such a failure, then how can I ever hope to make progress toward spiritual maturity? How could I come to God if I'm so unworthy? Clearly I am not one who could dwell in His sanctuary or ascend His holy hill.

Fortunately, I do not have to come to God. He has come to me. He sent His Son, Jesus, in order that the gift of grace may be extended to me. I do not have to be on my best behavior or get all my spiritual ducks in a row before I am worthy of pursuing a relationship with God. The truth of the gospel is that God pursues me. While I was and am still a a sinner, Christ died for me.

Understanding my failure as a Christian is not a particularly savory topic, but it is vital as part of my spiritual growth. I am humbled to know that I serve a God who was willing to come down to ground level in order to save me. In the words of Robin Jones Gunn, "God loves us just as we are but He loves us too much to leave us that way." God's plan for me is not thrown off kilter by my flaws, rather, my besetting sins serve as a reminder that He is always working to the good of those who love Him.

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