I struggled one morning to make my morning appointment with God. I stumbled out of bed to my rocking chair and sat half-awake staring at my Bible thinking, “I don’t really want to read this.” My heart felt hard and my faith was lacking. As a result, I was feeling weary. The intimacy and comfort I longed to have with God was not there. I prayed and confessed my lack of enthusiasm to the Lord and asked Him to revive my heart.
As I began reading Romans 8, this truth penetrated my heart, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” (vv. 14-16). God lovingly showed me in that moment I had slipped back into living as a slave and not a son, dominated by fear and condemnation instead of acceptance and grace.
You see, I am a recovering perfectionist, a performer, a worker, and I had slipped back into my old way of trying to “fix” my sin. I had been struggling for several days with the conviction of a situation I had not handled in a Christ-like way and also of several other sins I felt the Holy Spirit revealing to me. Instead of turning to Jesus and confessing my sin and weakness and asking Him to change my heart and help me walk forward in repentance, I had been trying to justify my actions to God and figure out a way to “fix” the problems. The result… I felt defeated, exhausted, and distant from the Lord. My way was clearly not working.
While there was a part of me that was so relieved by the reminder that I am nurtured and cared for as God’s child, my pride was wounded at having to confess my dependency and need for God as my Father. Shouldn’t I be inching closer to being an “adult” Christian, more mature in my walk, able to handle these sins that so easily entangle me? The enemy was whispering, “You’re a failure. You’ll always keep messing up.”
I was confronted with the realization that I was still a disobedient child and a dumb sheep, when I was wanting to be growing as a disciple.
Then the Lord reminded me of a passage in Isaiah 53:7 that describes Jesus as a lamb, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” If Jesus lived His life as a humble sheep, why should I expect to live any differently? Jesus also modeled so beautifully the life of a son/child with His Heavenly Father. He talked about how He did nothing of His own accord (John 5:19), but only what was the will of His Father (John 6:38).
It is evident that my theology needed adjustment. I will always be a sheep and a child even as I grow in maturity as an apprentice/learner and as a disciple. Dependency on Jesus does not mean immaturity or failure. In fact, it is how we walk by the Spirit.
The “try harder” mentality must be kicked to the curb. We will never attain righteousness by trying or working in our own strength. That does not mean we do not apply effort or earnestly seek the Lord, but we must rest in the promise of Philippians 2:12-13: “ Therefore, my beloved…. work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Friends, it is God alone who can work faith and repentance in our hearts as we trust in Him. The difference may seem like a nuance in your mind, mere semantics, but I can assure you in reality it is not. It is the difference between walking in freedom and victory over sin and feeling burdened and overwhelmed.
If the difference is still not clear to you, cry out to Him and ask Him to reveal these truths to your heart. He will show you where you are still performing and rule-keeping instead of walking by His grace and confessing your sin. I loved this quote from the Sonship Study: “What a joy to know our needs are a window to God, not an obstacle that makes him disgusted with us.”
Let us cling to the truth in Hebrews 4:15-16: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Written by Angie Thomas