What Are Your Spiritual Self-Expectations?
by M. Joshua
This past Sunday,
I was asked to provide the message for our Church family. The results were… different. I asked everybody to anonymously share the struggles in their relationship with God. For some, it was questions about God’s existence. For others, it was more of a struggle with concepts in the Bible. And for others, it was just real conflicts in prayer life.
One theme kept coming up, however: our own failings in our relationship with God – and how we often aren’t where we think we need to be. It was a good thing that I had a back-up sermon just in case nobody had any questions (yeah, fat chance!). This message worked really well with a lot of the questions, so I ended up sharing a good bit of it. Here’s a good place to share the write-up I prepared:
God’s Expectations of Us
…he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
So what does that verse mean? That you’re a pile of dirt? That is, since the Bible says you’re made from dust, is God indifferent towards us like, “Meh, you’re a pile of dirt! Whatever.”
Clearly, God’s just giving us grace for being a bunch of dirty screwballs. Right?
So like, stop being so hard on yourself! And realize that God loves you and doesn’t want you to be in despair and self-condemnation.
Honestly, most of that self-condemnation is about 8 quadrillion times worse than the actual sin anyway. That’s because it’s a spiky bear-trap that snaps on our leg and doesn’t let us free. We start acting like a rabid pit bull in a snare.
The problem we have with our own darkness and sin is how it makes us look. We feel like a bag of dirty butt-holes when our sin gets exposed. So we wallow in our dirty butt-holeness. But God is saying:
“Hey! You’re allowed to make mistakes. I may be only person who knows how honking huge the whole universe is (because I made it), but I became a human so I could be destroyed, humiliated and executed because I wanted to show you how much I love you. And I kicked sin’s butt into oblivion so you didn’t have to deal with it. Stop walking in self-condemnation. I became your shame. I became your sin. And I destroyed it. I destroyed it way before you were even formed. So stop feeling like a dirty buttonhole! You’re not that way anymore! You’re free from all that stuff. Start living like it!”
Okay, maybe that’s not exactly what this verse says exactly. And maybe I added some New Testament to that OT verse. And maybe there’s a lot of my personality added in there as I try to speak for God.
But seriously, how do you treat yourself?
When you feel like you messed up? What do you do? What are your expectations for yourself? How fast do you expect to grow as a Christian? Are you a Level 3 New Christian when you feel like you should be a Level 17 Big Sister in Christ? Or are you a Level 25 Backsliding Christian when you feel like you should be a Level 65 Church Leader?
Let’s just take that “should be” right here. Right here. This is “what you should be” right here in my hands. See it? SMASH! Jesus destroys that expectations!
Let’s look at God’s expectations. Cool? Remember that bit about him “Remembering that we’re but dust?”
Well, that verse by itself is kinda out of context. It’s a part of a song. Yeah, David’s song. We don’t really have the music notes that go with it. And we don’t’ sing the song in Hebrew. So it loses a lot of it’s original nuance as a song. But it’s a good song, so we try to do what we can with it. Like I said, it’s by David. And it’s one of his many special Prophetic songs. We call them Psalms. We mixed it in with a lot of other special songs and ordered them. So this is the 103rd.
And please forgive me for not singing this song. I’m gonna interrupt myself a lot too. Because there’s a lot of bits in here that make this song extra special specifically for our church family. Cool? Giddyup.
“Let all that I am praise the Lord;
with my whole heart,
I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.”
(As you can see, this is a praise song. Starting with a posture of whole-hearted worship. And it’s a reminder of all the good things that God does for us).
“He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.
He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies. ”
“He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagles’!”
(Do you feel like God fills your life with good things? With youth and vitality? Are you letting him? Inviting him to do these things in your life? He wants to do this stuff)
“The Lord gives righteousness and justice
to all who are treated unfairly.
He revealed his character to Moses
and his deeds to the people of Israel.
“The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.”
(This is key. Check it out.)
“He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us,
as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear (aka Revere) him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. “
(Oh, hey! This is where that part is in the Bible! So yeah, East can’t touch West. So that means that like the whole forgiveness thing? It’s pretty honking permanent. So let yourself think about that for a moment: He has removed our sins as far from us as possible. So should we beat ourselves up or walk as forgiven children?)
“The Lord is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear (Revere) him.
For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust.”
(Ah! Here’s that verse!)
“Our days on earth are like grass;
like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
The wind blows, and we are gone—
as though we had never been here.
(Well that is a little depressing and kinda makes life sound meaningless. Why does this song say that?)
“But the love of the Lord remains forever
with those who fear him.”
(Oh! It’s a contrast so our lives in all their awesomeness and glory are itty-bitty dwarf hamsters compared to how over-archingly huge his love is for us!)
“His salvation extends to the children’s children
of those who are faithful to his covenant,
of those who obey his commandments!”
(Ah, so it’s not like we can go out and behave like hellions and just think we’re “forgiven?” Salvation is intrinsically tied to obeying his commandments? Hmm…)
“The Lord has made the heavens his throne;
from there he rules over everything.”
(This is where the song turns into a Heavenly rock concert)
“Praise the Lord, you angels,
you mighty ones who carry out his plans,
listening for each of his commands.
Yes, praise the Lord,
you armies of angels who serve him and do his will!
Praise the Lord, everything he has created,
everything in all his kingdom. Let all that I am praise the Lord.”
So there you have it folks, Davids song, “Bless The Lord, O My Soul” (as it’s possibly better-known, instead of “Psalm 103″). At this point, I didn’t really have a clear conclusion to this sermon and was planning on just letting the Holy Spirit lead me on where it might go. Yeah, I know. I know. That’s kinda lazy. But since I didn’t have a clear ending, I’ll just do a fun bloggy thing and end with a pertinent question:
What are your expectations for your relationship with God?