“When you’re upside-down, then you see it all
You’ve spent all your time pushing on a ‘pull’ door”- For King And Country
Sometimes it takes a defeat to learn victory.
If you grew up like I did- church boy, godly family, godly schools, godly friends, you know there’s a certain amount of confidence in your goodness. Oh sure, you’re born again (not like those other people who think going to church makes them Christians). Sure you nod your head along when you hear people talk about how other people go to hell because they thought being born in the church saves them.
If you grew up like I did, you developed a very sensitive conscience. You knew immediately when you’d done something wrong. You apologized immediately whether you were wrong or not. You knew not to retaliate when people offended you. You couldn’t hurt a fly. Even though you would fantasize about it anyway. And then ask God to forgive you.
If you grew up like I did, you probably didn’t realize how much of a pharisee you’d become. You believe that God’s law is innate; people who sleep around or kill other people or are gay or drink alcohol just choose to disobey God and want to live in immorality. You actually spend time with your righteous friends discussing how bad other people are. It’s not gossip – it’s spiritual strategy to reach the lost.
If you grew up like I did, your heart was always wondering what was so interesting about sin that made sinners like it. You would listen to sinners talking as you walked by a beer parlour. You would listen to what prostitutes were saying to each other as you walked righteously across the street from them and feel sorry for them because hell was sure for them.
If you grew up like me, your curiosity would rise to the point where you would be scared of yourself. You would pray about it but of course you couldn’t tell anyone because, God forbid that your righteous friends would think you’re backsliding. So you watched porn once and wanked off to it – big deal. Once does not make you a sinner. You slipped. You’re sliding, alright, but not backsliding. Tripping up is only a part of learning to walk, you say. But the little guilt makes you shorten your prayer time and morning devotion.
If you grew up like me, every altar call was a little frightening because you would surely remember something bad you’d done. You’d wish the preacher man would skip over the talk about little foxes, little sins, secret habits and then move to the big ones like fornication and abortion, reserved for the most wicked of sinners. And then the “do you want to rededicate your life to God” that’s bound to follow.
If you grew up like me, you’d sneak a peek to confirm how many people would self-identify as fornicators and ‘aborters’, murderers and witches. You’d wait until the preacher said something like “if you want to access the grace of God to stand to the end”. And of course every hand would shoot up.
If you grew up like me, you’d be afraid that one outburst of the Holy Spirit and all your secrets would spill. Maybe some prophetess in church. Or someone would walk into your room and catch you with a bottle/joint/needle/porno (pick your favourite secret sin). You’d tell yourself, “it’s under control, I can handle this, I just need to be more disciplined”. The slips and the falls would come faster and faster; your habit becomes stronger and stronger; you begin to wonder if you don’t actually have an evil spirit that forces you to do those things. After all the devil attacks people who love God and leave the unbelievers alone. You desperately want to tell someone, but you know that they are exactly like you; they will not spare the sword of judgment. They will make your problem everybody’s problem. They will avoid you like a sinner. So you dance with them, pray with them, sing with them but avoid evangelism because you feel a little uncomfortable. But you still know that you’re in charge of the situation because all things work together for Good.
Then one day, everything comes crashing down. Porn becomes sex. Cigarettes become getting so high you wake up in strange places. Alcohol sips become a drunken streak downtown. But this time, none of the voices yelling “this is wrong” is enough to stop you. You’ve actually managed to shut down your conscience and just do what has been on your mind all the time.
You’re devastated. You had little faults but THIS? This is too big. This is serious. You’ve actually gone and become a sinner. For the first time it becomes too clear what you’ve been doing to yourself and God. You realize how reckless you’d been. You realize how everything could have gone bad. You were never in charge. You were always falling. If only you’d had the courage to speak up before now! If only…
But you can’t go back in time. You can’t undo what you’ve done. You don’t feel praying would change anything. Not when you’ve sinned. You can’t even feel God close. The gospel songs that used to comfort you just terrify you. You avoid your righteous friends for the weeks because if they look at you they will just KNOW that you’re now a sinner.
You wonder- is there any hope for me?
While you wallow in your guilt and shame and regret and hangovers and amnesia, it occurs to you that you were never standing by your own power. You were spending a grace that you received freely, a grace that someone DIED to give you. You’re flat on your face, back to the floor, beaten, fallen, at the lowest point over. You’re crushed, you’re defeated. Now you know you’re no different from the people in the beer parlours, the druggies on the street, the young players that pick up chicks every night; the politicians that steal money, the assassins that kill people.
You are just who they are without Christ. A sinner.
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.“- Ephesians 2:8
Humbled, you turn back to the God you so casually betrayed. All the verses you’ve read and recited and made into songs come rushing back. Oh wretched man that I am; who will save me from this? the good things I need to do, I don’t do them; the bad things I DO’NT want to do, I do those! All have sinned and come short of the Glory of God; The wages of sin is death; He who defiles the temple of God, God will destroy; wine is for mockers.
Then you remember the verses that told you what is so great about being a Christian- that NOW is the acceptable time to repent. Not tomorrow, not next week, not when the guilt has faded. NOW. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most (hebrews 4:16).
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! “ Romans 5:6-10
You work through the guilt and the pain and the shame and the regret and you ask the God who forgives when you ask- to do it one more time. This time, you understand exactly that He’s the one who keeps you righteous; not your strength, not your morality, not your discipline. His Grace makes your puny efforts useful. You learnt this not through some nice bible study with greek, latin and hebrew words; not through a song or a mount zion movie but through your personal fall and rise. Like David, the man after God’s heart. Like Peter, Jesus’ personal person. Like Peter, who wrote this.
Sometimes it takes a defeat to learn victory.
All images sourced from Google Images