"I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your Word. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law" Psalm 119:16,18 (NIV).
Can you relate to this? The idea starts with good intentions, "Tomorrow morning I'm getting up early to read my Bible and pray." But when you wake up, the day intrudes on your plan; your child is unexpectedly sick, the toilet is clogged, or the dog just threw up (all over your new carpet)! Your plan for devotions has failed, and you have a nagging sense of God's displeasure with you. Let me tell you, this is thinking like a Pharisee—having a will to please God, but making up your own rules to do it! God isn't sitting in Heaven tapping his fingers just waiting for you to fail. He's not whispering to the court of angels, "You see, I was right, look at her, she really is a failure."
It is vital to carve out time in our day to meditate on God's Word and pray. But we
don't do it to win God's approval. We do it to become more like our Master. In the same way that we need food for our bodies, we need spiritual food to survive.
Otherwise, we'll starve to death!
Many of the shoulds we place on ourselves set us up for failure in God's kingdom. Because when we think we can do anything to make God love us more, then we fall into the sinful belief that salvation is up to us, instead of God. It is comforting to remember that it is God's grace and mercy, not our own good behavior, that hold us in his favor (Ephesians 2:8).
From time to time, we are all Pharisees at heart. We add rules to our faith of how to please God, and not only expect ourselves to obey them, but oftentimes expect others to follow them too! Thankfully, we have a God who knows what we're really like and still loves us: "As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" Psalm 103:13-14 (NIV).
We love and obey God, because he first loved us. The next time you have a sense of God's displeasure, ask yourself if it's because you think you have failed to make him happy, or because of legitimate sin. Ultimately, though, if we believe God's mercy and grace is up to us, then that too is a sin that needs confessing. This is God's promise, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" 1 John 1:9 (NIV).
"Dear Lord, 'May your unfailing love rest upon us, even as we put our hope in you.' Amen" Psalm 33:22 (NIV).
Copyright 2012 Sarah A. Keith
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