“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
I hadn’t been walking in the footsteps of Jesus more than a just a few days when something remarkable happened to me to straighten my course. I remember sitting in my living room with Bible in hand. Of course my Bible was in hand—at that point I carried it everywhere and read it almost constantly. I was in terrible emotional pain. Having made a mess of my life on my own I was now ready to do things God’s way. Every minute was a search to know what that might be.
So there I was pouring out my heart yet again and focusing on anything God might want to say. And a revelation was opened up to me that I would need to remember often for my remaining days on earth. Suddenly I knew (with a knowing that was deeper than the deepest sea) that I wasn’t going to be able to walk the Christian walk successfully. No way. It wasn’t in me. Though I wanted to with all my heart, I was going to fail quite badly.
Yet equally deeply I knew that it didn’t matter because Christ was going to do it for me. Strangely, inexplicably, after my life was over, he was going to give me the credit as if I had done the work myself. It was the most perfect kind of freedom. At that point I didn’t know the scripture, “’Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.’” (Matthew 11:29-30) But at that moment its fullness was deeply rooted in me.
You would think that such a profound revelation would insure I would never in my future face any struggle with guilt about falling short. (I’m not talking about the “good” kind of guilt that convicts of sin so we can repent and be restored.) Not true. Why? Because the fallen condition of human beings—me included, is sadly like a big guilt magnet. We are as drawn to it as moths to porch lights. Then feeling guilty draws us into “work” mode—trying to deserve what we have been given. How exhausting.
That’s probably why Paul had to deal with the issue so early on with the Galatians. Even after experiencing the gift of grace through Jesus Christ they reverted to trying to work their way to heaven—to deserve their salvation. But Paul reminds them, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3)
I have found with myself that the closer I live in the revelation God graciously gave me early on the more relaxed I am, like the light burden Jesus speaks of. I’ll go like that for a good while and then trying, failing and inevitable guilt creeps back in again. Finally I say to myself: “Hey wait a minute! What happened to knowing that Christ was going to do all the heavy lifting and give me the credit in the end as if I had done it myself?” Back to square one.
Maybe you need to return to square one right now. If you are a normal garden variety Christian you struggle with guilt and condemnation about how little progress you have made in your walk with Jesus since the last time you checked. As if you should definitely be farther along. Okay. If it were all up to you that’s probably true. But whose life is it anyway? Did you lay yours in his hands? Then he’s got it under control and he’ll be in charge of progress, thank you very much.
Though guilt may crouch at our door we don’t have to open it. Think about the revelation the Lord gave me and if you struggle in this area, take it as your own. In Christ we are meant to live guilt free. We are meant to live with an exhilarating freedom knowing that, “HE who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”