I have said throughout this series that we cannot release guilt if we cannot embrace the godly sorrow that brings us to repentance. This godly sorrow is one part a deep reverence for (or fear of) God, and one part a deep appreciation of His kindness.
Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance.” The Worldwide English version puts it this way: “Or do you not respect him for being kind, very patient, and for waiting a long time? Do you not know that God is kind, and he wants to lead you away from doing wrong things? The Holman Christian Standard Bible reads: “Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” Finally, The Message reads: “God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.”
Clearly God’s kindness is intended to draw us into a relationship with him – one where those who are weak can find strength; where those in the chains of sin can find freedom; where those ravaged by guilt can find forgiveness. Those of us who realize the depth of our sin can praise God for his patience, tolerance and kindness. While addiction may be hard to overcome and certainly only overcome by God’s amazing grace, there is another roadblock that keeps some from repentance: it is perfectionism.
Jesus once encountered a young religious man. He ran up to Jesus, knelt and asked: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” To others, Jesus claimed to be God. Not here. To this man who wanted to justify himself, our Lord and Savior refused to be called “good.” He read the man’s heart: he knew it was the man who was seeking to be called good. Jesus would have none of this.
Jesus continued, “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” Wanting to ensure that he is covering all the bases in order to get into heaven by his own goodness, the man asks this clarifying question: “Which ones?” Jesus lists several and the man responds, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”
The scriptures say that Jesus “looked at him and loved him.” He then replied, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Kind and loving? Yes. Soft? Never.
The Message captures the rich young man’s reaction: “The man’s face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.” Perfectionism is starting to sound alot like addiction, isn’t it? Put another way, I suppose there is an addiction in even the most godly people this side of heaven.
Some may protest: but where is the grace in this encounter? Where is gentle Jesus? The disciples are wondering the same thing: they ask Jesus, “Who has any chance at all?” Jesus responds, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it.” The prescription for those who struggle with perfection turns out to be identical to the prescription for those who struggle with addiction: give up, surrender, let go, and let God.
The rich young man walked away with a deep soul hunger left un-quenched, not unlike how we feel when we refuse “the way out” in order to hold on to our addictions. The addictions of Sinner are nearly identical to the self-righteousness of Pharisee – and his possessions! There’s no way we’re giving up until we have to…
For both, part of the heaviness of heart is the guilt that remains. We cannot receive peace unless we exchange our baggage for God’s presence. The baggage may be sin – or it may be bags of stuff; or it may be rags of our own righteous deeds. Whatever your issue is – you are not alone. As I often say, the distance between the sexually immoral and the religiously self-assured is not really that far: “there is none righteous, no not one.”
Yet to all of us, Jesus pleads: “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest for your soul.” God promises, “I will be found by you.” Are you tired of running and gunning, hiding and holding onto? Are you exhausted from stuffing down the guilt? Pushing it down, trying to play like it does not exist? If so, then today might just be your day…your day to let go and “let God do it.”
Click Part 8 to continue this series.
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