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Flawed but Forgiven

March 3, 2006

Have you ever not done something because you already felt defeated by the sin in your life, and therefore a failure? So you took on the “why bother” attitude. I sure have. As a member of our churches’ worship team, as just one example, I especially can have an attitude where competition, pride, and perfectionism seem to reign supreme. Although I’m surrounded by those much more skilled than myself, this doesn’t seem to humble me. There have been times I’ve just felt like giving up. “I’ll never change, never get better,” I’ve told myself. “I should just quit now.”

During those times, I forget my role is actually service, not spotlight. Like so many areas in my life, I look to my performance to gage “how good I am.” Whether it’s music or the spiritual disciplines, I feel good about my performance when everything is going well. But in reality, I thank God when my performance isn’t so stellar. That’s when I see my sin more clearly through failure and I realize I need God’s active power to work in my life. But seeing my sin more clearly can also lead to paralyzing condemnation.

This is where John Piper’s book, The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God’s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin comes in. What I love about Piper’s biographical sketches is that he applies the lessons learned in other’s lives to our own. The last chapter of this book, “Four Lessons from the Lives of Flawed Saints,” was especially powerful. I hope it’ll be just as powerful for you, to persevere through sin. To have a healthy and balanced perspective is our goal; to not be consumed inwardly by our sin, but to not be flippant and non-chalant about it either. He shares the following points:

1. Do not be paralyzed by your weaknesses and flaws

Piper calls for us to not resign ourselves to our weaknesses, or compare ourselves to others, which can be so crippling. Instead of being daunted by our sin, we need to have what Piper calls “gutsy guilt:”

“Oh, let us learn the secret of gutsy guilt from the steadfastness of sinful saints who were not paralyzed by their imperfections. God has a great work for everyone to do. Do it will all your might—yes, even with all your flaws and all your sins. And in obedience of this faith, magnify the glory of his grace, and do not grow weary in doing good.”

What an encouraging and rousing call that is! Indeed, God has great work for everyone of us to do. We may not see it as such when we’re changing diapers or crunching numbers in Excel at work. But each of us has a job that is divinely given to us for this day. Let us not forget he gives strength to do his work.

2. In the battle against sin and surrender, learn the secret of sovereign joy

Piper reminds us that, “the quest for holiness is the quest for satisfaction in God,” which means that to become holy, we must desire God more than the various sins that seek our affections. This is what propels us in the sanctification process. So when I see sinful patterns in my life, I know that’s a clue that I’m finding some satisfaction in something other than God. Instead, I need to continually seek to find ultimate satisfaction in him.

3. Supernatural change comes from seeing Christ in his sacred Word

To see real change happen, we must continue to dig into God’s Word. “We must learn from Luther that the Word became flesh, and the Word became Greek sentences. We behold the glory of the incarnate Word through the grammar of the written Word. Sacred study is a way of seeing, especially when combined with prayer.” I love that, and it’s so true. I couldn’t say it any better.

I found these points encouraging and thought provoking, and I hope you did too. But the most encouraging thing for me to remember is—just like these sinful saints before me—though flawed, I’m ultimately forgiven by the very one I’ve ultimately sinned against. And this Sunday, once again, I’ll have the opportunity to put aside the desire for perfection and to worship my Forgiver with abandon.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 3, 2006 3:27 pm

    I love Piper’s Swan Series. The biographies are so readable, and surprisingly applicable spiritually speaking. Thanks for reminding me about this one…it had a huge impact on my life when I first read it, but I forgot almost everything you referred to (my brain holds nothing these days). I think I’ll dig it back out again. Also, thank you for your humility to show use how it relates to your life, and consequently, the life of each one who reads your blog.

  2. March 3, 2006 3:32 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. I have not actually read this book, but you have intrigued me.
    It is such a great reminder, to know that our Savior IS perfect and gives us hope, and his death on the cross allows us to come humbly before him!

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