Last week we looked at the expectations God has for us, the expectations we should have for ourselves, and how we should stand out (in a good way). But God’s expectations are incredibly hard. He desires perfection. And only the craziest fool would stand up before God and say, “I’ve met what you expect.” None of us are perfect. Most of us are far from it. Even the Apostle Paul wrote this to the Romans:
For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. – Romans 7:14-15, NASB
This is coming from Paul, writer of most of the New Testament. This is the same guy who wasn’t afraid to go before the emperor in Rome and share his faith, though he knew it would lead to his death. This is the same guy who should have died at least twice that we know of, yet Christ preserved his life. And he said that he caught himself doing the very things he hated. In other words, Paul sinned. Paul didn’t live up to the perfection that is expected of us as believers. This makes it pretty clear that we’re not going to do it right all the time. We’re going to fail. That’s not an excuse, but it is a fact that we have to face up to. And the reason I say it’s not an excuse is it is very easy for us to say, “Well, I couldn’t be perfect, but I’m good enough. After all, Christ died for my sins, whether I sin a little or sin a lot.” Now, we might not be so explicit with our words, but that’s the attitude inside of our hearts. We must guard against that attitude. It makes all the difference.
See, the big test isn’t whether or not we can be perfect. We can’t be. The big test is how we respond when we realize we’ve failed. When sin is upon us, what choices do we make? We can choose to keep on sinning, ignoring the state we’re in, or even escalating the sin. That’s one option. Or we can get right before God, be ready to accept His discipline, and acknowledge that we have failed, and then we move on, walking again by God’s side. That’s the second option. I suppose there is a third option, where we get all down about our sin and we don’t move on. But that’s not what God wants, so that’s similar enough to the first case, I’ll lump it in with it. After all, we haven’t learned from our sin, as we continue sinning, just in a different manner. An example of that first case is with Cain. God made sure Cain knew what was going on and why He was displeased with Cain. He gave Cain a choice to redeem himself. Cain chose to kill his brother instead.
Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
– Genesis 4:6-8, NASB
Obviously there is no brokenness and repentance here. Cain just escalated the issue by ignoring God’s warning and committing more sin. This is the perfect example of how not to respond when we fail. A better example was shown by David.
Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD ” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die.” – 2 Samuel 12:13-14, NASB
David admitted his sin. And he accepted the punishment delivered by God. He attempted to persuade God to save the child, but God would not be moved on this one. Once the child had died, David got up and began walking with God again. He knew he couldn’t bring back the child. And he knew dwelling on all that had happened and not moving forward was just going to make things worse. So David began to “live” again. He faced up to his failure. He confessed it. He dealt with the consequences. And then he willingly chose to get back in step with God.
Examples like this one show why God called David a man after His own heart. David did some mighty deeds because of his faith. But David also committed some great evils. He failed God just like we fail God. The key is how David responded. He always turned back to God. That’s how we’re to deal with the situation when we realize we’ve failed God. Maybe we can’t undo our failure. Maybe it’s going to be very painful for us or those that we love. That’s the price of sin. And while it will weigh heavy on our heart, ignoring the issue doesn’t do any good. So we must confess our sin, face up to God, take the punishment, and begin to walk with Him again. That’s what a man after God’s own heart did. And that’s what we, who proclaim to follow Jesus with our whole hearts, should do also.