Broken Hearted Boldness

sad teenage boy with head in hands I had coffee with a friend recently and as we sipped, the conversation veered to a vulnerable place.  With trusting rather than guarded hearts, we began to talk about times when life became emotionally flat rather than joyous.  When life began to feel more like going through the motions than “purpose driven”.  Both of us confessed that these times of dullness came when we sensed that we had “failed” the Lord in some area. Or they came when we were satisfied to describe our sin rather than to be broken heartedly repentant of it. It is a struggling–defeated place to live.

With that conversation still swirling in my mind, I found so much help this morning when in my quiet time I read the following words from John Piper’s sermon “How to Deal with the Guilt of Sexual Failure for the Glory of Christ and His Global Cause”.

The sense of failure that I struggle with is not of a sexual kind… and that phrase was included so that you would not be distracted from the real help that is in this teaching on how to deal with failure of any kind!

“Listen to these amazing words. Mark them. Memorize them. Use them whenever Satan tempts you to throw away your life on trifles because that’s all you’re good for.

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication. (Micah 7:8-9)

This is what victory looks like the morning after failure. Meditate on it long and hard when I am gone. Learn to take your theology and speak like this to the devil or anyone else who tells you that Christ is not capable of using you mightily for his global cause. Here is what you say:

“Rejoice not over me, O my enemy.” You make merry over my failure? You think you will draw me into your deception? Think again.

“When I fall, I shall rise.” Yes, I have fallen. And I hate what I have done. I grieve at the dishonor I have brought on my king. But hear this, O my enemy, I will rise. I will rise.

“When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.” Yes, I am sitting in darkness. I feel miserable. I feel guilty. I am guilty. But that is not all that is true about me and my God. The same God who makes my darkness is a sustaining light to me in this very darkness. He will not forsake me.

“I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me.” O yes, my enemy, this much truth you say, I have sinned. I am bearing the indignation of the Lord. But that is where your truth stops and my theology begins: He—the very one who is indignant with me—he will plead my cause. You say he is against me and that I have no future with him because of my failure. That’s what Job’s friends said. That is a lie. And you are a liar. My God, whose Son’s life is my righteousness and whose Son’s death is my punishment, will execute judgment for me. For me! FOR me! And not against me.

“He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication.” This misery that I now feel because of my failure, I will bear as long as my dear God ordains. And this I know for sure—as sure as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is my punishment and my righteousness—God will bring me out to the light, and I will look upon his righteousness, my Lord and my God.

John Piper, “How to Deal with the Guilt of Sexual Failure for the Glory of Christ and His Global Cause”,  Passion 07’ Conference, January 4, 2007

Agassi and Atonement

andre Last week I watched the 60 Minutes interview with Andre Agassi and rather than being shocked by his admissions of meth use, of not wanting to marry Brooke Shields or hating to play tennis professionally — I was heart sick saddened. Seriously, who can be “shocked” by anything a celebrity says anymore after all we have heard from the likes of Monica Lewinsky, Mackenzie Phillips, Jodie Sweetin, Brittany Spear’s Mother, Valerie Bertinelli, Marsha Brady, Anne Heche and even Barbara Walters?

There has been such endless vulgar “true” confession monologue in the public arena that we are all immune to being shocked.  What saddened me with Andre was that here was one more celebrity who thinks that they can find “atonement” by spilling their guts to the public. The truth is that now all their muck has been spilled on everyone else and rather than finding atonement we all now share in the filth of those confessions.

Here are Agassi’s own words:

WSJ: One of the themes of the book is that you didn’t want the limelight. You’ve settled into a life outside of tennis. Why put yourself in the spotlight again?

Mr. Agassi: I think one is always tempted to take the easy road and I certainly understood the cost that this would come with because I understood my process. I knew I couldn’t just go halfway up this road. But anything worthwhile in life comes with work and risk. This was part atonement, as well. I had something that most people don’t get, which is a second chance at my life. Everyday has been a form of atonement. And this book is that.

Jim Chairusmi, Wall Street Journal, November 14, 2009

imageThe word atonement means “to effect reconciliation” more specifically it references a broken union that needs to be restored or an ideal union that needs to be realized.  In reading Hebrews this morning I was struck by how the Scripture clarifies that the broken union that needs reconciling is not between me and my fellow man but first me and the God who created me.

I was also struck with the truth that atonement is not something that we can do for ourselves. These words if trusted would end Andre’s futile conscience cleansing effort of seeing every day as another day that he has to work for atonement.

In Christ, this once for all work has already been done!  His completed work is the trophy of life.

14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance–now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. ..
28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
   Hebrews 9:14-15, 28 (NIV)