There’s a gap between what I know to be true and what I do. I know that I should not be anxious, the Bible reminds me of this command so many times. Yet, when someone I love is finding life difficult or when something is going wrong, I worry. Even though I can call so many different bible verses to mind about why I should not be anxious, when something is hard for someone else, I am anxious. I also know that procrastination is a sin. I believe that every moment is a gift from God and that I live and walk in his presence and am called to do everything to His glory. Yet whenever I am faced with a challenging task or something that is out of my comfort zone I will procrastinate.
Perhaps this gap looks a little different for you. You know that God is your only comfort, that Jesus is the Lord and Saviour of your life. However, when something becomes difficult or you experience pain and suffering, you turn to food, sex, drugs, entertainment or shopping for your comfort. They rule as idols in your life, even though you know to serve no other gods. Or maybe you are angry, dissatisfied or despondent about events in your life. You believe in God’s providence; you say that everything works out for good and that God only gives us what is best for us, but you like to think that maybe this current situation God got it wrong.
We know that we are completely dependent on God for everything and that we cannot do anything in our own strength. However, when times get difficult, when we are faced with illness or loss, when there is a sticky sin in our lives, we think that we can fix it. We just need to pray more, or we need to value ourselves more, we just need to stop trying to control everything. We buy into the lies Satan is feeding us through pop-psychology and self-help propaganda and act out of the belief that we are able to make ourselves better.
Why is this so? As reformed believers we are blessed with a rich history and solid theology. Many of us in the FRC have been immersed in scripture and the confessions from a young age. So why is there such a gap between our beliefs and our actions?
James 1:22-25 teaches us:
be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
When we read this passage, it is easy to think of ourselves as the doer. We read the words or hear a sermon preached on the text and think we’re doing okay; we’ve got it together. We could probably think of someone we know who really needs to hear those words but we ourselves are pretty good. The truth is we are far from okay. We are deceiving ourselves, just as the text says. More often, we are the hearers who forget what we are like as soon as we leave the mirror.
When James wrote his letter, mirrors were made from metal and not all of them polished or of a quality metal, so the reflection people saw was often cloudy. A murky image is easy to forget. It’s easier to be constantly looking at others, analysing the specks in their eyes while we remain oblivious to the log in our own[i]. We easily look to others and criticise their beliefs and actions rather than holding the mirror up to our own lives. In our arrogance we deceive ourselves, thinking that we are okay. That the problem is not in us, it’s everywhere else, in society, our family and friends, in our church or even other churches. We like to think that we are not responsible.
The truth is the very opposite. We are broken people. Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick.”Often, we find ourselves in the middle of hardship, pain, turmoil or struggles and it seems that the voice of truth is drowned out. Our obstinacy amplifies the voices of doubt, mistrust, and we rebel against God, just like the Israelites in the desert. We complain and wish for what we once had while in slavery to sin. We do not trust in God’s promises. Our fickle hearts turn so quickly, and idols fill the gap where God should be.
So, what can bridge this gap? If our knowledge cannot, if our theology cannot, if our utmost efforts cannot bring us any closer, what does close the difference? Nothing we do can bring this difference any closer, we may work hard, and it looks like we are doing well for a time, but then we crash and burn, plagued by guilt and shame. We need to look outside of ourselves to Christ.
Therefore, we can sing:
When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because a sinless Saviour died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me[ii]
Do you trust this to be true for you?
Do you trust Christ and his promises for those you love? Do you trust him for the difficult situations you find yourself in? Do you trust him and his promises when you are lonely and want to reach for food? When you are overwhelmed and want to escape with drugs or sex? Do you trust the renewal of the Holy Spirit in fighting those sticky sins in your life?
Do you trust Christ and his promises in EVERYTHING?
Camille de Vos – Trellis Counselling
[i] Luke 6:41-42 (ESV)
[ii] Hymn – Before the Throne of God above written by Charitie Bancroft and Vikki Cook