I've seen there are two ditches on the sides of the path of our Christian walk. I'm sure there are other ditches on this path, but this blog is about two ditches on a particular stretch of this road.
The Two Sides
On the one side, we have a sincere desire to do something for God. We tell Him all the time,
"I want to do something for You, I want to please You" etc. When its extreme, it's almost like a state of panic because we never feel we're "doing" enough for the Lord. We may work ourselves almost to our death doing things for Him, but never feeling like we got it right. We repent for all of our sin and failures again and again.
On the other side, we start out in love with the Lord and also have a strong desire to please Him. We begin our walk with Him and have "successes." We pray for people and our prayers our answered. We tell people about the Lord and they listen. Things go well and we grow, bearing fruit for His kingdom. We feel good about it, but after a while we feel too good about it. We begin to take pride in all that we are accomplishing for Him. We feel special. We think that because we are holy enough, pure enough, dedicated enough, etc all these good things are happening. We secretly (or maybe openly) think we are somehow responsible for our success and therefore better than our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Both of these attitudes are honorable things to a certain degree. On the one hand, we need to be the Lord's bondservant and work to build His kingdom. Its not wrong to get excited about that and rejoice over the good things that happen. There are times of sacrifice involved in our work for Him and as we prove ourselves faithful to the Lord He honors that. But if we begin to take credit away from the Lord and become prideful, then we have fallen into the ditch. On the other hand, we also need to repent when we sin and fail Him in any way. This repentance needs to be sincere and heartfelt and not taken lightly. However, if we get too hung up on our failures it can paralyze us and we fall in the ditch on the other side. Both of these ditches are ruts we need His grace to get us out of. Both reveal that we fall short in our faith in Him and how well we know Him.
Lack of Faith? Don't Know Him?
On the one side, if I'm always repenting, I lack faith in the blood of Jesus to forgive sin. Especially if I'm repenting for the same thing over and over again. What do I think--that the blood of Jesus isn't powerful enough, isn't pure enough, to forgive my sin? That's a slap in the face to Him. His blood is holy enough to forgive the sin of the entire world. All people of all times in all places. Do I think that I can't be forgiven? That I'm somehow that special? That my sin is too "strong" for the blood of Jesus? That is a lack of faith in the purity and power of His blood.
If I always feel like I have to be doing something for Him, and that I shouldn't really enjoy it all that much or have time to relax with my family--then I don't really know Him. Maybe I'm doing so much because I don't know what He's gifted me to do. I don't know how to focus on what I need to. I don't know how to prioritize. I don't know how to say no. I don't know that He wants me to rest and enjoy sometimes--take a Sabbath. I am a part of His family and I need "family time" with Him. Jesus said if I believe in Him, then His Father would become my Father. Do I not believe Him? Do I think He lied? Do I think God is a Father who ignores His children?
On the other side, if I'm patting myself on the back because I've "figured out" how to have a successful ministry and I think I've come to the place where I can't fall or fail, then I've fallen into the ditch. Both of these attitudes trip us up and get us stuck in a rut--a ditch on either side of our walk with the Lord.
Focus on Self
I've fallen into the failure ditch even after having a vision once of being before the throne of God with Jesus washing my sin away. I could feel His pain at having to turn His back to the Father in order to wash my sin away. But He did it anyway, with love. I felt full of shame at having made Him do this, and yet He kept washing. I wanted to say stop for I could feel His pain and felt so guilty. But then He washed my guilt and shame away too, and brought me into the love that He and the Father shared. It was beautiful. It was liberating. Yet at times, the self-centered feelings of my inadequacies and failures have driven me to that ditch. And my stubbornness at thinking that if I just did more or worked harder that I would be in the right place with Him drove me to the ditch too. In both cases, the focus is on me.
The enemy doesn't care if you're wrapped up in repentance or hard work for God. Both can be equally useful for his purposes. He doesn't just try to get you to sin. He knows he will paralyze you if he can keep your focus on yourself. It's when you start knowing who you are in Christ, what His promises are, and the power of His blood, that you become dangerous to him. If you're always failing or always achieving then your focus will be on you rather than the Lord.
What to do?
Get still before your heavenly Father and meditate on how much He loves you. You are his child. He has forgiven you of your sin. If you believe in Jesus and have asked Him to forgive you of your sin, He has.
but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7You don't need to keep trying to work for it, trust in the blood of Jesus. Meditate on the finished work of Jesus Christ. Your heavenly Father loves you! You may have had an imperfect earthly father (who hasn't?) which has made it hard for you to imagine a loving heavenly Father, but your heavenly Father loves you with a perfect love. You are His child. You don't need to earn or work your way into the family. Your place has been made through your faith in Jesus Christ. It was there since the foundation of the earth, but your faith has activated it. And if you sin, then repent. If you've become arrogant and self-centered, repent, but move on from there and get back on the path of His grace.
You can walk confidently through your day knowing your heavenly Father loves you and you are His child without becoming arrogant about it. When you do, then your life will reflect His glory, His life, and His love. Now you can be joyfully about His business while productive for the kingdom, truly bearing fruit and helping other people to come to the same place!