Self-Control

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I’m a sinner. God doesn’t like sinners. So why does he like me?

This question is hard to wrap my head around. It continues to perplex me, even after 15 years of following Christ. How can God show so much love to a people who by nature don’t love him.

I started out this year with the intention of finally reading the complete Bible. I had my Bible App plan all picked out and ready to go. I even got past Leviticus which was a challenge. Yet, midway through March I stopped doing my daily quiet time and fell out of reading all together.  I hate that feeling. I hate knowing I am getting away from something I was succeeding in. I hate losing self control, especially when I know I am putting distance between myself and the Father.

I continued to let my study slip away, and buried my guilt under excuses of business. After all I teach at a Christian school. I am a youth leader at my church. I am involved in children’s ministry there as well. Surely all of that combined adds up to me spending time with God everyday. Right?

The answer is, of course, no. I continued to sink farther down a path of not seeking the Lord. I kept telling myself that my excuses were valid, until at last I didn’t have the energy to continue that lie anymore. Finally I cried out to the Father. I told him my self control had failed him. His response shocked me, and I am still reeling from it even now.

God revealed to me that I have been living my life by legalism. I can’t believe this. There was a time when I knew less about the Bible where I totally lived my life by checking boxes, but as I’ve grown I’ve learned that living this way is a sin of pride. I know better, and I thought I was avoiding it, yet here I am just now realizing that I’ve tried to stuff Jesus into a checkbox I need to graduate.

I’ve always been good at checking boxes. In college my advertising degree program was filled with classes that were really just box checking. Have this project done by this time with these certain characteristics done. I graduated with honors, because I am good at doing exactly what is needed. Somewhere along the line this became how I practiced religion.

I’m not sure how I got to this point. God revealed to me tonight that the reason I didn’t stick with my Bible plan is because I was checking boxes. I was treating the assigned reading as my required quiet time.

“I’ve got to read two chapters of Leviticus, half a chapter of Mark, and a psalm before today is over with so that I meet my God quota.”

Typing that just now hurt because I am just now realizing how true it was. Its stretches beyond just my study of His word. I also treat my sin legalistically.

I have this mindset that if I can go a certain amount of time without committing a sin it will make God happy. In my stupidity I believed that there was a way I could make something up to God. If you had asked me if I thought I could earn my salvation I would have of course said “NO!”, yet that is how I have been treating my relationship with God.

Unknowingly I’ve been letting my lack of self-control in my life dictate the type of relationship I have with the Lord. I let the loathing of my failures keep me from coming to God because I think I don’t have enough figured out yet to talk to him. In reality I am suppose to talk to him BECAUSE I have nothing figured out.

The whole point of the Gospel is that He came to us. I can’t go to him. There wasn’t a way for that to happen. I have to accept that He came to me, carried me away, and saved me from my old self. I am not in the ground anymore, and I can’t live like I am still dead.

I want to know Jesus. I want to know the man who is real. He is living inside me. He saved my life. I want to pursue him in earnest, and accept that my failings will never keep me from His mighty hands. He finished the sin problem 2000 years ago. Why am I still letting it control me?

I will learn to bask in his love, and take comfort in him. I will learn to spend time with him everyday, not because it will meet a quiet time quota, but because it will make my heart happy to spend time with the one who loves me most. I will learn to treat this religion as a relationship and apply the things I know to my life.

Forget self-control; I want to lap up as much of the Gospel as I can.

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