Friday, March 09, 2007

Mercy Me: Psalm 51 and Everyday Life

It was one of those moments you want to take back. It was one of those times when you go where your desires and emotions are leading you. It was one of those situations when you know you should stop or walk away but feel you can't. And it was one of those moments when afterward you are confronted with the sin that still lives inside of you. Yes, it was one of those moments.

It wasn't a big deal in one way. Just a small conversation that had turned a bit ugly. It wasn't a dramatic life-altering moment. It was in the privacy of my home with one of my family members. But maybe that's the point. Perhaps it's very important because that's where I live everyday. You see, you and I don't live in a series of big, dramatic moments. We don't careen from big decision to big decision. We all live in an endless series of little moments. The character of a life isn't set in ten big moments. The character of a life is set in 10,000 little moments of everyday life. It's the themes of struggles that emerge from those little moments that reveal what's really going on in our hearts.

So, I knew I couldn't back away from this little moment. I knew I had to own my sin. The minute I thought this, an inner struggle began. "I wasn't the only one at fault. If he hadn't said what he said, I wouldn't have become angry. I was actually pretty patient for much of the conversation." These were some of the arguments I was giving myself.

Isn't this interesting. Rather than appealing to the mercy of the Lord in the face of my sin, what I actually do instead is function as my own defense lawyer and present a list of arguments for my own righteousness. The theology behind the defense is that my greatest problem is outside of me, not inside of me. In so arguing, I'm telling myself that I don't really need to be rescued by the Lord's mercy. No, I'm telling myself that what I need to be rescued from is that sinner in the room who caused me to respond as I did.

Here's the point. Before you can ever make a clean and unamended confession of your sin, you have to first begin by confessing your righteousness. It's not just your sin that separates you from God, your righteousness does as well. Because, when you are convinced you are righteous, you don't seek the forgiving, rescuing, and restoring mercy that can only be found in Jesus Christ.

What's actually true is that when I come to the Lord after I've blown it, I've only one argument to make. It's not the argument of the difficulty of the environment that I am in. It's not the argument of the difficult people that I'm near. It's not the argument of good intentions that were thwarted in some way. No, I only have one argument. It's right there in the first verse of Psalm 51, as David confesses his sin with Bathsheba. I come to the Lord with only one appeal; his mercy. I've no other defense. I've no other standing. I've no other hope. I can't escape the reality of my biggest problem; me! So I appeal to the one thing in my life that's sure and will never fail. I appeal to the one thing that guaranteed not only my acceptance with God, but the hope of new beginnings and fresh starts. I appeal on the basis of the greatest gift I ever have or ever will be given. I leave the courtroom of my own defense, I come out of hiding and I admit who I am. But I'm not afraid, because I've been personally and eternally blessed. Because of what Jesus has done, God looks on me with mercy. It's my only appeal, it's the source of my hope, it's my life. Mercy, mercy me!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Head Bowed and Hand Open

I wake up everyday with a plan. I know exactly what I want to accomplish, how I want to accomplish it, and when I hope to complete it. I think ahead about the things I need to accomplish and how they need to be approached. I envision the end when I'm in the middle of the process. I naturally think schedules and deadlines and assign myself completion points because it helps me to work more efficiently. I like being busy and I don't mind the pressure of being responsible for what seems more than I can do. I go to bed rehearsing what needs to be done and I wake up with the list corrected and in better order. I don't mind getting up early and staying up late. I wake up every day with an agenda. There's never a day when I don't have a plan.

Now, you're probably thinking, "Paul's poor wife! This man is obsessed!" I am committed to responsible living and I don't think responsible people have a lot of free time. But there's a problem with all of this. I do make a really good pseudo-sovereign. You know, I love me and have a wonderful plan for my life. And I can struggle with the sovereign God who I claim to serve, but who's not signed on to do anything he can to make my plan work. Here's where our agendas tend to conflict. While I'm investing my energies to make sure my work is complete, he's exercising his grace to make sure I'm complete. While I'm working toward success, he's working towards my holiness. While I'm committed to a disciplined and orderly day, he's committed to use whatever's needed to advance his work in and through me.

But it's not even that simple or obvious. The reason it's so easy for me to be snookered by my own self-sovereignty is that the bulk of what I'm doing is work for the kingdom. I tell myself that it's all about God, his kingdom, and his glory. You see, the problem with the kingdom of self is that it's a costume kingdom. It so deftly masquerades as the kingdom of God. So, self- aggrandizing plans for success masquerade as godly discipline. Impatience with others masquerades as a leader's zeal for the kingdom of God. Holding too firmly onto personal plans masquerades as godly focus. It's quite easy to think you're serving God when you're actually serving yourself. It's quite easy to confuse your plan with God's plan. It's quite easy to praise the fact that God is in charge while living as if you are. It's quite possible to thinking you're building his kingdom when actually you're using his building materials to erect your own little kingdom. It's quite possible to do all of this because the kingdom of self so easily morphs into the shape of the kingdom of God.

This is why we need more than a system of redemption. This is why we need more than theology and rules. This is why we need more than a set of wisdom principles. This is why we need a Redeemer. What we need to be rescued from the most is us! We need to be freed from our hold on us. We need to be freed from our desire to dominate us. We need to be liberated from imprisonment to our agenda for us. We need a Redeemer because our greatest struggle in life exists inside of us and not outside of us.

So once more today I confess to my allegiance to me. Once more I confess to my desire for self-sovereignty. Once more I pry open my hands and let go of the tight grip I have on my life. Once more I entrust my day, my schedule, my plans, my life into the hands of the One who is sovereign. Once more I rest in his power, wisdom, grace, faithfulness, and love. Sure, I keep planning, but with the hope that each day I'll do it more and more with my head bowed before his glory and my hand open to his will.