How often do you disappoint yourself? Be honest with yourself. Be honest.
You don’t do as well on a test as you would have liked. You misplay a ground ball on the ball field. You say the wrong thing at the wrong time. You unintentionally hurt someone.
I want to remind you of a beautiful truth. If you’re in Jesus, if you’re saved, there’s two words I want to remind you of:
It’s so easy when I disappoint myself to think: “Well, there I go again. I failed. I failed God, I failed myself. I failed my friends. I failed everyone.”
It’s very likely I did fail in some way. But it’s so easy in those moments to translate “I failed” to “I’m a failure.” It’s so easy to make our identity wrapped up in what we do, actions we take, often because that’s what the world says we should find it in. For instance, more often than not…
- If you get paid to be an engineer, you are classified as an engineer.
- If you have kids, you’re classified as a parent.
- If you get consistent good grades, you’re classified as a good student
- If you can’t hit a free throw in basketball, you’re classified as a bad free throw shooter.
It’s so easy for me, in those moments where I see my failure, to classify myself as a failure. See what happened there? I translated my action into my identity. I do this way too often. Whether it’s sin in my heart, in my life, in the classroom, in the social world, I make my action my identity.
There’s two problems with how I approach this.
1. I forget the grace that’s already been given to me.
When we Christians begin to identify ourselves as failures, we are ignoring perhaps the most important thing we’ve been given: the grace of God. The grace of God means that, when we run away from God and pursue sin or we slip up accidentally, He still welcomes us back with open arms.
Perhaps the most beautiful picture of this is given in the story of the Prodigal Son, found in Luke 15:11-24. Basically: the youngest of two sons takes his inheritance from his father early and goes off on his own, doing whatever he wants. Eventually, he gets broke and is eating pig slops, if he gets lucky. Desperate, he returns home to see if he could be a servant for his father. The father sees the son returning while he is still on the road nearing the home and runs out and embraces him, accepting him back fully as a son and throwing a big party in his honor.
When I translate my action of failure into my identity as a failure, I ignore the fact that God opens His arms wide-open to me, wanting to cherish and love me in spite of my sin. God ransomed me by the blood of Jesus! He spilled the blood of His Son on the cross so that I wouldn’t disqualify myself from spending eternity with Him, instead making a way so that I could! Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
If I’m in Jesus, I’m forgiven and I am no longer condemned. My sin is no longer held against me.
2. I make my own identity, ignoring the one God has picked out for me.
The second issue is that I try to define myself. Not a good idea.
When I see my sin, here’s what I say about myself: “Man, you stink. You’re a failure. You can’t do anything right. You’re awful.”
Here’s what God says about me: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:1-3).
I am God’s child. That has so many implications that I could probably go on forever, but the basis is this: God loves me anyways. In spite of my sins, my mistakes, my slip-ups, my failures, God loves me still.
Even when I struggle to love myself, God loves me and wants better for me. That’s the identity He has picked out for me.
Now, this is no excuse for me to just sin and sin and sin and remember grace and grace more and more in light of that sin. “By no means” should we take advantage of grace in our lives, Paul says in Romans 6. Grace saves me to sanctification: “…how much more will the blood of Christ…purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14). If we’re in Christ, we’re called to a higher standard: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1).
But when you fail, remember the truths of God’s word: you’re forgiven and loved.
And that’s who you are. You’re a Christian who fails. I am. Every day I am!
But first and foremost, I’m a child of God who’s been covered by the blood of Jesus. If you’re a Christian, you are too.