Last week I wrote about our identity as children of grace and the good news that holds. But remember, good news is only good if there's bad news to preface it.
On the off chance that you haven't noticed already – or, more likely, that you haven't considered it recently – here's the bad news: there's a conflict between what the Bible has to say about you and what you would like to think is true about you.
I want to think that my greatest, deepest, most abiding problem exists outside of me: my spouse, children, neighbors, government, boss, traffic, social media. The list could go on and on.
The Bible tells us something very different. Even though our world is fallen and the people we interact with are broken, our biggest problem is moral, not environmental.
There's probably no better description of our internal, moral problem than what David says in Psalm 51:
"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin."
What does it look like to have an identity of a sinner? David reveals three ways:
1. Transgression of the Rebellious
To transgress is to know where the boundaries are and willingly step over them. There are moments when you and I know what God's law says, but because we're only focused on selfish comfort and convenience, we willingly ignore it.
2. Iniquity of the Soiled
Not every act is high-handed rebellious against God's wise authority, so David employs this second word. Iniquity is moral uncleanness, produced by indwelling sin. It has less to do with our motivations and more to do with a moral infection that corrupts everything we desire, think, say and do.
3. Sin of the Weak
If iniquity is moral uncleanness, then sin is moral weakness. It has left us weak, foolish and incapable of consistently obeying God. Even if we were to always desire what is right, we wouldn't have the power to follow through. Because of sin, we consistently fall short of God's standards, despite our best intentions and efforts.
How discouraging! Transgression, iniquity and sin are three realities that we have to deal with every day. Yet while it's critical to understand and admit these realities, we cannot dwell on them. The weight of it will defeat and discourage you, which is exactly what the enemy wants.
Instead, we must pair the bad news of our identity as a sinner with the good news of our identity as child of grace. Our need is deep and pervasive, but our potential is expansive.
By the transformational power of his grace, God unilaterally reaches into the muck of this fallen world, through the presence of his Son, and radically transforms his children from what we are (sinners) into what we are becoming by his power (Christ-like).
There's only one word I can think of that summarizes what grace is, and John Newton already took it: AMAZING!
- What did you blame yesterday that was ultimately a moral problem, not environmental?
- Think of one reason why you would transgress. What appears so pleasurable or convenient (initially) that would allow you to willingly ignore God's law?
- How has God proven that the boundaries of his law are the safest place for you to live within? Think of specific examples.
- How did iniquity and sin reveal themselves in your life recently? Despite your best intentions and efforts, where did you fall short?
- Are you allowing your identity as a sinner to consume your thoughts and emotions? How can you take advantage of your expansive potential as a child of grace today? Be specific in your application.