“The one consistency of my Christian experience is inconsistency. The desire to be consistent in the Christian walk is inherent to the new nature of the believer. However, my own vulnerability toward spiritual failure is inescapable.”
These words were written in my spiritual journal early in 1990. I read them now and feel sorry for that sincere pastor. My heart was in the right place, but my head was filled with legalism. My journal continues:
“The holy desire for consistent consecration gives way under the weight of the old nature. The flame of spiritual desire flickers with determination against the cold winds of carnality until finally a damp blast snuffs it out. In the days that follow, my soul sits enveloped by darkness.
In the midst of all the negative emotions, there is a restlessness, a yearning to be restored to fellowship with God. The desire to confess and be restored is real, but voices whisper from the darkness, pointing out the frequency of my failure and the folly of forgiveness for one who is so given to inconsistency.”
Do you want to know what my failure was that prompted this journal entry? Sounds like it might have been adultery, or stealing money from the church, or even killing a church member (a thought that had crossed my mind a few times during my years as a pastor). No, the failure was none of those. My sin? I hadn’t been doing my daily Bible reading. So I saw myself as a sorry excuse for a Christian and a hypocrite as a pastor.
I review those words written almost twenty years ago and I want to shout back to myself in the past, “Steve! Relax! Your Father isn’t upset with you! Stop setting a standard higher for yourself than Almighty God sets for you. Jesus is the standard and you have Him! The issue isn’t about how well you perform or don’t perform. The bottom line is this: YOUR FATHER LOVES YOU UNCONDITIONALLY!
Steve, that sense of broken fellowship in your mind is your deal, not God’s. His lovingkindness is everlasting. Nothing will change that, not even neglecting to read your Bible. That old nature you think squelches your holy desire? That isn’t your old nature! The old nature is dead. It’s only your flesh and the power of indwelling sin “messing with your mind.” Affirm the truth! Christ is your life, no matter what you do or don’t do.”
Thankfully, the man I was in those days was coming to brokenness. He would eventually learn that his Christian walk didn’t revolve around how well he did certain things. The Christian life revolves around Jesus. Nothing else – just Jesus.
Are you stuck in the place I was during those days? If so, relax. The Christian life isn’t about you. It never has been. It’s about Jesus. He will accomplish in you what He wants to do in the way He wants to do it and when He wants to do it. So quit trying to be God. The uniform doesn’t fit you well. God loves you just like you are. He loves you so much that He may let you struggle until there’s no energy left in you to struggle. Then you’ll be in a position to hear Him lovingly say, “I never asked you to knock yourself out for Me. I only asked you to receive my love. Now, rest here in My arms.”
Ironically, it was when I learned to give up and simply rest in His arms that I began to want to read my Bible and do all the other things associated with a Christian lifestyle. It’s not a matter of self discipline that wins the battle with inconsistency. Consistency happens miraculously by His grace. You can’t make it happen. So just rest in His arms and enjoy your grace walk.