Monday, April 02, 2007

Psalm 51: No More If Only

It's so easy to slip into an "if only" lifestyle. I find myself slipping into it often. The "if only" possibilities are endless.
If only I'd been from a more stable family.
If only I'd had better friends as I was growing up.
If only my parents had sent me to better schools.
If only I'd been given better intellectual gifts.
If only that accident hadn't happen.
If only I'd had better physical health.
If only that degree program had been as good as advertised.
If only I'd been able to find a better job.
If only I didn't have to fight the traffic every day.
If only I'd been able to get married.
If only I hadn't gotten married so young.
If only I'd understood marriage more before I got married.
If only I had a more understanding spouse.
If only I'd come to know Christ earlier.
If only I'd found a good church when I was young.
If only I didn't have to struggle with my finances.
If only it was easier and more comfortable for me to communicate with others.
If only I could find a small group that I could be comfortable with.
If only I could have had children.
If only my children were more obedient.
If only I knew the Bible better.
If only that boss hadn't fired me.
If only I had a better place to live.
If only I could find some place where I feel like I really belong.
If only God seemed closer to me.
If only I didn't have to work so hard to make ends meet.
If only...

The seductive thing about our "if onlys" is that there is a bit of plausibility in all of them. We do live in a fallen world. We all face hardships of various kinds. We all have been sinned against in a variety of ways. None of us ever lived in ideal circumstances or in perfect relationships. The world is a broken place and we have all been touched in many ways by its brokenness. Yet, the "if only" lifestyle tends to say, "My biggest problem in life exist outside of me and not inside of me."

In Psalm 51 David says something very radical. It is counter-intuitive to a culture that tends to say that we all are the result of what our experience has made us. David says, "Surely I have been a sinner from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." David is saying that his greatest problem in all of life is not the result of what he has suffered in the situations and relationships of his life. Rather, David is saying that his biggest problem is internal and was there before he had any of these experiences! And David gives this deep and internal problem a name, sin. How humbling!

Think about it this way. It is the evil that is inside of you that either magnetizes you to the evil outside of you or causes you to deal with the evil outside of you in a way that is wrong. It is only when you begin to accept that your greatest problem in all of life is not what has happened or been done to you, that you begin to get excited about the rescuing grace of Jesus Christ. It is only when you begin to accept that your greatest need is something you came into the world with, that you will begin to hunger for the help that only God can give you. It is only then that you begin to hunger for more than changes of situation and relationship. It is only then that you begin to accept the most radical and personally liberating truth that you could ever conceive. What is that truth? It is that what you and I really need to be rescued from is us! We are the biggest danger to us. That is why God offers us the gorgeous promise of his grace which has the power to change us from the inside out.

Are you embracing that promise or are you still saying, "If only..."


At 11:09 AM, Blogger Marcus said...

Paul, I just wanted to express my gratefulness for your writings that bring me back to humble consideration of my true station in life as a dependant creature belonging to Christ. Your writings, frank and honest, gently breathe life because it breathes Christ-exalting (man humbling) Biblical truths into my slowly enlightening mind.

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