Yesterday I spent the majority of the day working with a homeless alcoholic we shall call Adam (fictitious name). Spending time with him, trying to get him into some shelter or hostel was not only eye-opening from the point of view of how others live, but enlightening concerning the underlying problems of the soul.
Adam has many surface problems that need to be addressed, and often they are of his own making, and we need to consider these issues, particularly finding a place to live, since he has burnt many bridges.
However, underlying all the surface problems are feelings of anger, bitterness, rejection, guilt, loneliness and distrust of others. He would admit of himself, “I am destitute”, and yet when I take him into a charity shop to get some clean clothes, I am amazed at how picky he is – even more picky than I am – but that is because he is concerned about his image. He craves respectability. He wants to look fashionable, to be accepted, to be a role model. He has high standards for himself, but then hates himself when he cannot get anywhere near those standards.
You see, his biggest problem is that he is king of his own life. Self is in control and self is a tyrant. This is the problem with most people in society, but the majority of people are able to hide it beneath good manners and respectability. I find Matthew a great example because we can see the rampant power of self laid bare before us.
Self is only interested in its own glory and pleasure – nothing else. There is no thought of others, of their glory or their pleasure. Adam told me he had met a girl the other day but was lamenting the state of his clothes etc and said “she didn’t see me in all my glory”. Although he is down and out, he is still consumed with thoughts of what he should be. Self rules and lays down exacting standards. It demands respectability and reputation, and promises glory and praise from others.
This leads us (and let’s examine our own lives now) to feel stressed and anxious as we strive to reach the standard, and then when we do fail and mess up, for we all do, we feel the weight of guilt and worthlessness. Or perhaps we do reach the standard, but what happens then? That’s then not good enough. Self demands more. The bar is raised and so the circle repeats itself.
And we haven’t even spoken about what happens when someone or something impinges on our perceived rights, or sullies our reputation? War breaks out! We react in anger, frustration, or even violence. We get snarky and thoughts of revenge eat away at us, leaving us bitter.
This is what life is like living under the tyrant SELF.
What’s the answer? Self must abdicate for a ruler who is gracious, kind and forgiving. A ruler who offers liberty and love. That ruler is Jesus Christ.
When we come into His Kingdom, we come open and honest, acknowledging how rotten we are, how many times we have failed, how sinful we have been. We do not boast in it, but recognise it all for what it is – wicked and shameful – and we bow in repentance. It is amazing how liberating confession is in itself. We are no longer trying to hide our failures. We are no longer worried about maintaining a certain reputation. For in the kingdom of Christ, everyone comes in the same way, as sinners, and no one can boast.
Often it is the fear of rejection, that makes us hide our failings and hinders any confession. Let me assure you that the wonderful thing about Jesus Christ is that his love is unconditional. He never rejects any – “him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out”. No matter how wicked and worthless we are, He will love us just the same. How can I be so sure? Because He has already demonstrated the fullness of His love by dying on the cross, bearing the punishment of our sin in full, and rising from the dead, a living Saviour. And so, because the price has been paid, not only does Christ accept us for who we are in our sins, but is able to ‘cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ and grant us complete pardon and forgiveness, liberating us from guilt.
Further, Christ raises us up, and gives us a dignified and respectable standing in His presence, and in our lives, as ‘sons of God’. Not only does he give us a dignity we don’t have to work for, but he gives us a glory that we don’t deserve.
So in summary, under SELF, we are made to strive for acceptance, dignity, glory, with all the negativity that comes with failure. Or we give up striving for these things, confess we are failures, turn to CHRIST, and He gives us fully and freely the acceptance, dignity and glory we have been craving all along.
Which is the better option? If you have never come to Christ, come today, and enjoy all the blessings of salvation.