Tag Archives: spiritual failure

What’s a preacher to do?

I have to stop here and ask a question: how is a preacher supposed to motivate his congregation to good works if he cannot use a performance-based system?  You see the problem?  If there is no punishment left for believers, no condemnation, and if there is no system of rewards for good performance, then why wouldn’t people just go out and do whatever they want?  Of course, that’s the question Paul relates in Romans 6:15.  People will just sin more if they understand that they are under grace.

So, preachers, you must teach your people how to walk in relationship with Jesus.  Yes, that is something very different from performance.  It isn’t about how they walk, but with whom they walk.  Those who walk with Jesus walk far from sin.  He is good and He leads us into good.  We can trust Him.  We cannot trust ourselves to walk right and all the good teaching won’t help.  Instead of learning to walk “uprightly,” we need to learn to walk with Him.  The “uprightly” part will happen.

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My Failure

Years ago I worked with a man who relished the opportunity to show me where I had failed.  At one point after I had worked hard, he sat down and spent a long time delineating my failures.  That’s what he called them.  He said that I had failed in this, failed in that, etc.  When he was done, I was discouraged and depressed.  All I could think about was leaving that situation, which I did very soon afterward.  The night before I left town, the church had a little party for us and this pastor spoke so highly of my accomplishments and character.  None of it meant anything to me.  Failure rang in my ears for a long time.

Is that what we will face in Heaven?  Will the Lord sit us down and point out our failures?  Even if He doesn’t call them sins, won’t we feel shame and guilt if He shows us times when we could have done something for Him but failed?  I really do understand the motivation that might provide for believers in this life, but it seems so inconsistent with the overwhelming message of love throughout the Scriptures. 

Listen: God is not surprised with our failure.  That’s why we need a Savior.  Through our days in this world we are learning that we no longer have to walk alone, in our own strength and wisdom.  We are learning.  That means that we aren’t at the end yet.  Three steps forward, two steps back; maybe even four steps back sometimes.  None of that matters.  What matters is that we learn to walk with Him.  Along the way we will fail.  And every time we have an opportunity to be thankful for the One who is greater than our failures.

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But…but…but…

I had a nice visit with a friend in the hospital the other day.  Somehow this topic of the judgment came up and he said that he was confident that we would not be judged for our sins, but that we would be judged for the missed opportunities and the lack of zeal in our hearts for serving the Lord.  In other words, we would be judged for actions after our salvation.

Now, he said that he didn’t mean sins; he believed that our future sins were washed away with our past sins.  What he meant was our works for the Lord.  Perhaps I should say our performance.  It fascinates me that it always seems to come back to our performance. 

Once we become Christians, according to this way of thinking, we become responsible to perform according to a certain set of standards.  Failure to do so will bring shame and regret, perhaps even condemnation.  Could you lose your salvation based on poor performance?  Some believe that.  At the minimum, we will be judged somehow, someday, for our poor performance.   After all, we all know that we have missed opportunities to stand up for the Lord and we have even continued to do things that He considers sinful.  So, some type of spiritual consequence seems reasonable—according to this type of thinking.

But if we believe that our sins are removed and there will never be any condemnation for us, as the Scripture says, then the negative side of our performance is a moot point.  The fact that I miss opportunities or that I continue to do sinful things certainly does not surprise the Lord.  He knows that I am learning to walk with Him, but my flesh continues to have a strong influence in my life.  God knows these things and He still accepts me.

And the fact that some of my works are stained by my fleshly input isn’t a surprise to God or to me.  In some ways the surprise is that some of my works are not stained in that way.  Amazingly, wondrously, the Lord does use me and does bring glory to Himself through me.  So, if some of my works are burned up in the fire, why would that be a disappointment to me?  That’s what I expect.  The only emotion I will feel is the joy of seeing that somehow He managed to do His work in, through, and with me. 

Will I regret not giving more?  Will I be ashamed that I didn’t witness more or serve more?  I really don’t think so.  It isn’t that I am “doing just fine.”  I know that the flesh is still active and still influential.  I also know that all the glory for any good in me belongs to Jesus.

So, I told my friend that there will only be joy in that day, according to my thinking and according to what I believe the Scripture teaches.  He had to stop and think and I hope that he continues to think.

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