Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Hypocrite in Me

Psalm 103:14
“For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.”

Standing with fellow believers and singing a song of praise to the Lord on Sunday morning, I was crushed by the thought that I fight a daily battle with a hypocrite. That hypocrite is me in the flesh. I can sing out those wonderful words and nod my head with the pastor’s sermon and be challenged and moved by his exposition of the Word. I love being with other believers. I love hearing the voices raised in praise of our glorious Savior. I love hearing the Word preached. If I have to miss a Sunday for some reason, I miss it deeply and feel a real sense of loss. But I also know the me that lives here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and that me isn’t always so shiny. In fact, that me can become quite grimy at times.

I want so much to apply the teaching I am challenged by and to grow in grace continually. This is my desire. To know Jesus, really know Him and to be so enthralled with His glory that this will be what I talk about and will inform how I live.

But standing there Sunday, I was struggling with the insidious thought that maybe I was just putting on a show. Did I act like I loved Jesus last week? Was my speech seasoned with His grace? When I disciplined my children, did I do it only for their good, or did I allow my frustration to dictate the punishment? Were my words building others up or tearing them down? Did I open my mouth and tell anyone about Jesus? Was I as bold about living for Him as I am in singing this song right now? Do I care more about what the people sitting around me see this morning than the life I live before the face of God, who sees me every moment, not just during Sunday morning worship? Wouldn’t it be great to come in here on Sunday and sing these songs with an absolutely clear conscience, knowing I had lived it 24/7 last week?

On Thursday, we had an incredible Bible study, one that left me trembling with the immensity, the awesomeness of our God and Savior and with a sense that my perception of Him is often far, far too small. I left that meeting asking God to help me to keep in perspective the awe I was sensing for Him at that moment, to change me from the inside out and help me to remember, really remember how great, how awesome our God truly is during the 24/7 moments of life.

And when put to the test last night, I failed. Not miserably, but I did fail. A husband out of town on Army business, an accident in the yard and a small bloody forehead, and my awesome thoughts came crashing down and I gave in to the flesh, and I really wish I could say the, “Oh, God,” that I was crying out as I ran for my daughter was me crying from the depths of my soul to our great God and trusting His control in the situation of the moment. And maybe part of it was, but to be genuinely honest in my heart of hearts I know that I was really in full panic mode. A long evening in the emergency room and the reassurance that it was not nearly as deep a cut as I had feared and some application of dermaplast, avoiding the need for stitches, and I thank God for His mercy, thank Him for the peace He gave deep in my heart as I sat with Boo waiting and waiting for the doctor to come and fix her up, and for the calm Boo displayed as we waited and waited, and beg God to forgive me for the guilt I heaped upon an already extremely remorseful big brother whose childish judgment, coupled with my neglectful inattention for a moment led to the accident. How I regret the way I pushed my son aside in my panic yesterday and didn’t reassure him as he needed and how I said things that heaped guilt rather than helped the situation. He knew what he’d done was wrong and had resulted in his precious little sister being hurt, something he would never have done intentionally, not for the world. He needed grace, and got it eventually when we got the situation under control and my adrenaline stopped pumping, and later when I begged his forgiveness for making him feel so much worse than he already did. Boo will have a small scar but it will heal, and I very much hope her brother won’t have too much of a scar from the words I said and, somehow more importantly, didn’t say that he desperately needed at that moment.

Three children, nine years of being parents to boys, and never a trip to the ER. It took our third, our girl, to initiate us to the emergency room. Not the boys, go figure. I told you she keeps me on my toes. I was caught flat-footed yesterday and not paying close enough attention.

Aren’t you glad we serve a God who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in mercy – a God who does not shove us aside and heap up our guilt – so very different from us? Aren’t you awed by the fact that He has not dealt with us according to our sins nor punished us according to our iniquities? Are you ever just undone at the thought of His patience with us, that He remembers that we are dust? Aren’t you overwhelmed by His grace, that the punishment our sin deserves was paid in full by Jesus’ blood shed on the cross? Isn’t it incredible to think that in Christ, our sins have been taken away as far as the east is from the west? Aren’t you just so profoundly grateful that He accepts our praise because our filthy rags have been taken away and we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ? Because I am clothed in the righteousness of Christ, when I was standing there Sunday morning, He did hear my praise. And because I belong to Christ, He did strengthen me yesterday, even when I felt panic rising. Amazing, amazing grace. Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus!

I have been shown such mercy, such grace! Fill me, Holy Spirit, teach me to live a life worthy of the calling You have placed on my life. Help me to walk in the spirit, not the flesh. In the heat of the moment, let me remember how great You are and help me to trust You, even and especially at the point of temptation, even and especially when my natural tendency is to dive into panic mode. Let the direction of my life be ever toward Your glory. Help me, Savior, I pray to open my mouth and share the wonderful gospel You have so lavishly given to those who would believe. I am silent too often. Help me to live in such a way that I can sing Your praise in the assembly of the saved with a clear conscience and a very, very grateful heart.

My son was just reading over my shoulder as I typed this and asked me what a hypocrite is. I told him it is someone who says one thing and acts another way. I told him sometimes, though I believe and say that I love God, I think I don’t always live like I love God. You know what he said? He said, “You are showing it when you regret it, Mom.” I think that is very insightful for a nine-year-old. The Pharisees we have been reading about in Matthew 23 were blind to their hypocrisy. By God's grace, I am very aware of mine, and I want to change. Therein lies the difference, I think. Repentance and trusting Christ to continue to prune away those things that are not consistent with our confession. This, too, is a gift of His amazing grace.


Elle said...

So very sorry to hear of Boo's accident. I know of what you speak--battling the flesh, the old man, the hypocrite--that wants her own way over God's way. I've been struggling with these similar things. And growing in humility and conviction as I consider not only the condescension of God towards me for both salvation and sanctification. He is merciful beyond our understanding. Thanks for this post.

Lisa writes... said...

The hypocrite resides in me too. Again you put to words what I too experience, wondering if my faith is only pretense. I pray my heart will be tender to the conviction of the Spirit, quit to regret and repent. Praise God for His grace and mercy!