In my devotional this morning, I read these words:
Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the LORD commanded him. Then all the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do." (Exodus 19:7-8)
It made me stop and consider all of the times I’ve said the same thing… after how many poignant sermons, powerful worship nights or refreshing quiet times with the Lord have I fervently felt the power of His spirit and said, “All that the Lord has spoken, I will do”? In those moments, I have the purest and most sincere intentions, and yet, inevitably, I soon find myself back in the flesh, struggling against sin and the lies of this world.
Confession: I struggle with needing the approval of others to feel satisfied with who I am. I tend to feel happiest when I am needed, appreciated, wanted and useful. Since Christ called me, I have felt the battle between seeking the pleasure of man and seeking the pleasure of God. I am familiar with the temptation to measure my worth according to distorted standards of value. And I am unfortunately intimate with the sense of failure that comes from the constant realization that I just don’t measure up, the despite the desperate need I may feel to be outwardly approved of by the people around me, I always, always fall short. I find myself trapped in legalistic thinking, running down lists of “shoulds” that, while originating from Biblical truth, fail to capture the real spirit of what Jesus desires for His children. It is this constant struggle with sin that made my devotion this morning so perfect:
The promises of the old covenant of law depend upon the performance of man. "You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them" (Leviticus 18:5). The better promises of the new covenant of grace depend upon the performance of God. "I will make a new covenant…I will put My law in their minds"(Jeremiah 31:31, 33).
When man attempts to live under the law (thereby needing to perform up to God's standards by human resources), he typically tries to live by his promises to God. Israel was a vivid example of this futile tendency. "All that the LORD has spoken we will do." This well-intended promise to God was consistently broken. Moses' words are a stinging indictment of the vanity of basing life with God on our promises to Him. "You have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you" (Deuteronomy 9:24).
It is a simple truth, that I have been rebellious against the Lord from day one. The sin of my flesh actively rebels against the Spirit of God within me. And yet, it takes some real heart-work to accept that even though I belong to Jesus, this is still a reality in my life. As long as I am in this world, I will experience the war between Spirit and flesh. And the Type-A, control-freak, perfectionist in me immediately tries to make it an effort of my own will and strength, a goal to be achieved. It’s no wonder I find myself discouraged and disheartened when I live like that. These words were perhaps the most meaningful to me this morning:
The desire to obey God resides appropriately within the hearts of His children. However, we must find a better way to obedience than relying upon our promises to God. That better way is the path of grace, which offers a life based upon God's promises to man. "I will give you a new heart and [I will] put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and [I will] give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and [I will] cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them" (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
We are to live in dependence upon the promises of God to us (instead of relying upon our promises to Him). Living by God's promises produces a growing confidence in the Lord, a confidence that results from His unique character. "God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?" (Numbers 23:19). Man may make promises to God, but, eventually, he will fail. God is not like man. God is true to His word. He will not lie, nor will He change His mind. Whatever He says, He will do! We can fully rely upon the promises of God that we find in His word.*
Thank you, Jesus, for being infallible, faithful, wise and gentle with me, your weak and misguided child. Thank you for reminding me of your power and sovereignty, and the grace with which you deal with me in this life. Let this truth you have written on my mind be ever-present and close during these seasons of wilting devotion and temporal perspective. Forgive my efforts to take control, to “do” Christianity as a way to earn approval. Help me to rest in YOUR love and YOUR promises…
*Devotion from Day by Day By Grace by Bob Hoekstra.