- Psalm 27:4 ESV
In the midst of your sin you feel some mix of discouragement, failure, frustration, and sadness. It is at this point that you have a critical choice to make: WHO will you look at?
There are only two options: Look at yourself, or look at Jesus. Who you choose to look at it will be what you talk about, what you think about, what you speak to yourself, what you feel, and in a deeper way it reveals who you trust and love.
Here's what those two options look like:
- Look at Yourself: You are very aware of what you should DO and how you have NOT done it well. You have failed. You rehash what you did wrong, how it happened, what led up to it, what you should do now (confess, repent, talk with others, read the Word, pray, maybe read a book to learn more about your struggle), and what you can do in the future to do better next time you're tempted. You are focused on the FIGHT part.
- Look at Jesus: You are very aware of what Christ has DONE and how we has accomplished it well. He has succeeded! It is finished! You meditate on His glorious salvation, how it happened in the cross, the great love of the Father that caused Him to send His Son to die in your place. You praise Jesus and thank Him for His forgiveness, for His cleansing of you, and for His never-failing love. You think of how He promises to never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), and continue His good work in you until completion (Philippians 1:6) so you are confident of His help next time you're tempted. You're focused on the GOSPEL part.
The main point of this blog is that the Gospel part MUST come before the fight part. "Remember the Gospel. Keep Fighting." If you invert these, or skip the gospel, you aren’t thinking biblically, and you are inevitably going to fail and be ever more discouraged as you discover that your strength is insufficient to fight. You NEED Jesus! You can’t do this! So for every look at yourself take 2 or 3 or a HUNDRED looks at CHRIST. Instead of looking at yourself and saying "Oh man, I’m so bad, I need to change, look at how I did the same dumb sin again, I’m such an idiot!" instead look at JESUS and say "Oh man, look how much He loves me!! Look at how He has set me free, look at the forgiveness and wrath-absorbing sacrifice He made! Look at how He loves me faithfully even though I've sinned for the billionth time! Look at how He loved me and gave Himself for me while I was still a sinner (Galatians 2:20), look at how wise and loving and gracious and kind and steadfast HE is! Despite how wicked I am! What GRACE!! WOOO HOO!!!!"
Three practical applications for further consideration:
- Look at Jesus More Deeply: Make it a normal part of your life to often read about Jesus and the Cross, learn about Him, and look at Him. Fill your mind with images of Jesus, truth about Jesus, and diligently cultivate your love for Jesus. Some books that could help: The Glory of Christ by John Owen, and The Cross-Centered Life by CJ Mahaney. And don't neglect regular reading of the Scriptures, particularly the historical narrative accounts of Jesus' life, teaching, death, and resurrection.
- Be Prepared For Emergencies: Have songs, articles, favorite verses, and sticky notes at the ready to remind you NOT of what you have to DO, but of what Christ has already DONE! These are especially helpful during "emergencies" when you are tempted, or especially when you have recently failed and Satan is pummeling you with guilt and shame. Some suggestions: Consider this popular YouTube clip Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus by Jefferson Bethke, or How He Loves Us by David Crowder with sermon selections from Matt Chandler and John Piper. Maybe right now pick a favorite verse about what Jesus has DONE and write it on some sticky notes. Put them on your bathroom mirror, your desk, the fridge.
- Help Others Look at Jesus: When a brother or sister in Christ confesses sin to you, and you can see that she is deeply discouraged, how should you counsel and encourage her? Not first with a list of questions to see what she did wrong, and then another list of relevant suggestions for resources and strategies to do better the next time around. Rather, give to her FIRST the life-giving and all-satisfying GOSPEL. Remind her of the love of Christ!! Remind her that there is no condemnation for those in Christ. Remind her that she doesn't need to do ANY work to gain God’s favor, it is ALL of grace. Remind her that God is FILLED with steadfast love, covenant faithfulness, mercy, and LOVE for her. Keep beating this joyful truth into her mind and heart and soul until she wells up in thankfulness and gratitude to her marvelous Savior!
Looking at Jesus,
The Relentless Fight