Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Rayola Kelley

In a world that seems to be coming more insane in its perversion, and more unrealistic in its philosophies, once in awhile a bit of fresh air of truth breaks through the darkness. Truth of this nature causes the insanity to stop for a second, and the philosophies that inspire such lunacy, with their many platitudes, to appear ridiculous and unrealistic.

This happened on a program I was recently watching. It was dealing with people who supposedly could not forgive themselves. One woman had accidentally killed her grandson when she backed over him with her car. Another woman, who also had been instrumental in the death of three of her children, due to a car accident, was there to share how she emotionally survived such an ordeal with this grieving grandmother. As the audience waited to hear how the woman finally forgave herself for an error that cost her dearly, she admitted to the grieving grandmother that she could not really forgive herself. Rather, she accepted the fact that she was human. This wise woman pointed out that as humans we err, make bad judgment calls, and mistakes. Once in awhile these flaws or limitations can prove to be tragic.

This wise woman was correct in her evaluation. After working with people for years, I continually discover the core of the problem in dealing with this type of tragedy is not the terrible accidents or mishaps that occur, but that people have a hard time facing the fact that they are human. Being human means that we are limited, we will fail, and yes we can be very wrong in our conclusions and actions. The other part of the harsh reality of our humanness is that we do not want to face our human flaws. These flaws are not necessarily unacceptable to God, but they are to us. In order to be realistic and wise about the issues that plague our humanity, we must come to terms with our attitude about being human.

Back in 2002, we published my book “Battle for the Soul.” The subtitle of the book is“Man’s Quest for Godhood.” Now, this title may seem almost blasphemous, but the reality is that we humans have a hard time accepting our humanness. In our unwillingness to accept who we are, we endeavor to create a reality that ultimately will leave us disillusioned with our lives. In our reality we strive to be perfect in all we do and say, so we never have to face the embarrassment of being wrong. We want to control our reality and somehow become the center of our world. We want to come out on top. In essence, we want to be God of our worlds.

Such attempts set us up for failure in our humanity, in the end, are simply cover ups that keep us from facing the limitations, flaws and the failures of our humanness. Many people cannot accept the fact that they can be wrong or do something that would be foolish, embarrassing and destructive.

The question is why do we have a hard time facing ourselves? It comes down to our inner person. The one constant reality that most people run from or refuse to face is the affect that sin has upon our humanity. Because of one man’s sin, all of creation now groans under the terrible reality of a fallen state that is utterly flawed in so many ways. Sin has clearly marred our potential. In fact, we have become lost, and as a result, we do all we can to avoid facing the terrible reality of its affects and consequences upon our lives.

The workings of sin upon our lives are often what keep us from facing our humanness. Due to sin, we are full of pride that refuses to be wrong, and selfishness, which insists on its own way and reality. Because of this disposition we have a hard time accepting any real discrepancy in our character, or ways. Besides trying to avoid facing our human flaws, we struggle with the world around us as to why it refuses to submit to our selfishness. After all, we are so right in our conclusions and ways.

As we consider the end result of our humanness, we will try to figure out how to get around it, as well as change the odds of being discovered as miserable hypocrites. Some individuals have covered up their human plight with religion or good deeds. They try to adopt some form of religion to reform themselves enough to hopefully cover up the fact that there is no life in any of it, and that death ultimately marks it. There are those who do all kinds of good deeds to cover up the insecurities that lurk behind them, but ultimately their motives are eventually exposed to be self-serving and untrustworthy.

Others people play games of control and manipulation. These games can include acting innocent, ignorant, insulted, or too fragile to face reality. I know of people who want to remain innocent in their sins, ignorant to the wickedness of their ways, act as if you are unjust if you dare pop their bubble with the truth, and appear as if too fragile to face it. However, all such attempts are games that find their inspiration in pride that refuses to be made accountable. After all, once a person is made accountable, he or she will have to take the necessary responsibility to change it.

People also try to cover up their humanness and fallen state with worldly wisdom with all of its platitudes, good causes that make them look good, images that appease others’ pride, and intimidation that will make them appear in control.

The harsh reality is that we need to be saved from the bondage that occurs from being human in a fallen state. Instead of seeking deliverance from our present state, we devise ways around dealing with the hopelessness and despair of it. We run from facing the fact that we will make wrong judgments that will bring us face-to-face with our humanity. We hide the issue of sin behind justification so we do not have to see how far away from the mark we are in our attitudes, decisions and actions. We try to cover up our inabilities by trying to right what we cannot right. The end result is hopelessness.

Let us now consider some of the ways that humanity, with all of its platitudes, tries to deal with the hard issues of life.

Forgive yourself: The idea of forgiving yourself is a popular theme, but it turns out to be a terrible, unrealistic platitude to those who are tormented by some grave error. The idea of forgiving yourself is a platitude because it sounds good, but it is not possible. Forgiveness has to do with pardon which results in reconciliation. The one offended can only pardon the person who has done a disservice to him or her. For example, our sin will offend God in some way. Therefore, we seek His forgiveness to be restored back in a relationship with Him. Clearly, the grandmother on this TV program could not seek forgiveness from her grandson, and the parents of the child already had forgiven her.

However, as you listened to the grandmother, she was not seeking forgiveness, but resolution as to how she could change the terrible reality that haunted her night and day. She had made a terrible mistake that robbed her of something more precious than words. Sadly, this is true for many situations. We want to change our reality, rather than accept the devastation that plagues each of us because we live in a fallen world due to sin. Since we are bent on insisting on resolving it according to our requirements, we either cannot or will not seek the one that has been offended or the means to be healed. We would prefer to punish ourselves because it appears noble, as if we are paying the necessary penitence to somehow make it right.

Guilt: This brings us to guilt. People have a terrible time with guilt. Guilt can lead to two arenas: conviction or condemnation. The Holy Spirit convicts, while the ways of the flesh and the world operate in condemnation.  This grandmother did not murder her grandson; rather, she accidentally killed him. In the Old Testament this grandmother would not be required to seek a pardon from her victim or God. Rather, she would be allowed and encouraged to seek a refuge city. For the Christian, as well as all tormented souls who are struggling with guilt, Christ is our place of refuge where we can find healing for our guilty conscience. Whether that healing comes through forgiveness for sin, or resolution that comes through accepting reality for what it is, healing comes when we fling ourselves on Christ as the only solution to an unclean conscience. Clearly, this is the only antidote for guilt.

This grandmother was not operating from conviction, but from condemnation. She clearly could not believe she deserved healing or reconciliation; therefore, she had passed this sentence upon herself. She had condemned herself to pay the terrible punishment for her error. Sadly, her self-inflicted punishment will never silence her own condemnation as long as she lives. After all, she lives in a state of condemnation where there is no hope. As a result of her condemnation, she is making another terrible error. Her reality, no matter how cruel, remains what it is, and all her punishment will never bring the child back. Meanwhile, she is robbing herself of the life she could have with others.

Shame: As you study guilt, you will realize it is covering up shame. People are ashamed that they are human. Failure of this type always happens to the next guy. The reality is that it can happen to anybody. Most people are compassionate towards those who have such a terrible lot befall them. It would be easy for most of us to stand on the sideline with others debating and cheering her on to let go of her guilt. Yet, how many of us, if we were in her position, would be in the same state? This grandmother is ashamed that she made a terrible error. She is ashamed of the fact that she is human. Therefore, she stands guilty for being human. This is the real crux behind most guilt. If we are ashamed of our humanness, then we will be found guilty whenever our humanity is exposed in failure.

Shame will drive us crazy with the “ifs” of a situation. After all, if we had considered all the angles of a matter, we would have avoided facing the harsh reality of our state. In such situations we should be an exception, not the rule. This grandmother can continue to go over all the “ifs” of the situation a million times, but it will never change the tragic reality of what happened. Since the reality will never change, the only conclusion is that she must let go of the shame. How do you let shame go when the despair is so deep? You accept the reality of the flaw, the terrible judgment call, or the error. You accept you are human, and that along the way you are going to blow it like others before you, because none of us are exempt from being human.

This brings us to the cross of Christ. The cross reminds each of us that we stand on equal ground when it comes to our fallen state. We stand on this equal ground because we are human and we are in great need of forgiveness, healing and resolution. After all, sin has made us fall short in being right and getting it right causing us to wallow in guilt. It has exposed our weaknesses, causing us to be ashamed. It has robbed us of any hope that there is deliverance from such shame. Whether we sin or fail, we need a refuge place to find forgiveness and resolution. However, by faith we must seek this refuge place.

How many of you are dealing with some form of guilt, lack, or resolution over a past or present incident? How many of you are drowning in the “ifs” of life? When was the last time you accepted your humanness in the midst of sin, failure and guilt? It is vital we accept our human state so we can recognize that we have need of our Creator’s intervention. Whether we need to be saved from sin, guilt or unresolved issues, Jesus is the place of refuge where one can find forgiveness, healing and restoration.

Next month, I will be talking about how we cover up the failures of our humanness with worldly philosophies. These philosophies sound wise, but they have no life to them. They may sound good on paper, but they are unrealistic in changing the terrain of a matter. Sadly, even Christians hide behind these worldly platitudes because they sound wise, but to those who are experiencing the fallout of a tragic matter, they seem indifferent and cruel.