When you think of it, we are – all of us – failures. In the end, our hopes, plans and schemes will mean nothing. We will all eventually die, and we will be forgotten.

Sounds depressing, doesn’t it?  Hear me out; there’s more to this than meets the eye, and before you walk away in disgust we need to examine the implications and the wonderful result.

First, though, let’s finish developing the initial thought.

We can’t even behave ourselves in a consistent manner. Our attempts at virtue often seem half-hearted, and the history of the human race is a litany of war, greed, rapacity, unthankfulness. Granted, there is much good in humanity as well, but the most generous assessment would still suggest radical imperfection. The picture is of something made good, but somehow bent out of shape. We have failed.

How do we know our own imperfection? Our consciences speak to it, and if that isn’t enough, it is spelled out in the Ten Commandments and acknowledged by most other belief systems. It just states the facts, sets the boundaries; it’s a yardstick we can measure our behaviour against. It defines goodness. And when we compare how we live to this law, we come up short. We don’t always do right for the simple reason that we choose not to. “Nobody’s perfect”: well, yes. We really aren’t. But we need to understand what that actually means to us.

Some people will take great offense at this. Why? The only thing I can think of is our own pride and insecurity. Maybe we are afraid people – or God – won’t love us as much if we are flawed; or perhaps it interferes with our own agenda. We don’t want to admit we are failures; the old life of pride dies very hard.

But we need to embrace our failure – to drink it to the dregs. God truly loves us just as we are. To think we have to live up to a certain standard before He will love us demonstrates a gross misunderstanding of God’s love. Do we really think He loves the same way we do? The God who is Love is infinitely bigger than that; His love is not based on someone else’s behaviour, but just is what it is.

Understanding our failure is the gate to entering a real relationship with God. The first prerequisite to accepting forgiveness is realizing that we in fact need forgiving; and we can’t do that until we admit we’ve blown it, big time. We have failed to keep God’s moral law, failed to act always in love, failed to obey God. In Galatians the Apostle Paul tells us that the Law was our “schoolmaster to bring us to Christ”. It shines a light on our shortcomings; it shows our need. Until we have gotten that straight, there is no moving forward; you have to realize you are sick before you can submit to the Doctor’s treatment.

God loves us, but (and this is the wonderful part) is set on remaking us. New, happy, radiant creations that reflect His own boundless love and energy; more truly ourselves because we are His. And to get there, we have to die: we have to submit to failure, then to the death of our plans and selfishness, of our pride and our own inflated ideas of fame and importance. This is a process that will continue for the rest of our lives – a continual repenting, re-dying as God slowly remakes us into sons and daughters. We must lay our egos at the foot of the cross; we mustn’t shrink from our own inadequacies.

Some folks seem to think that  once a person prays the Sinner’s Prayer that the issue is settled, and they can relax: now they’re “in the club”, and they can get back to living their own lives however they want. Such thought represents a serious error. I believe that this represents only the beginning; an all-important first step, but in fact just the first of a lifetime of repentings and reassertions of His Lordship in our lives. We will always need His grace and support;and if we’re serious about our relationship to God (and so try to live to please Him), we quickly become aware of our own inadequacies. That’s fine: to know our failure is to be constantly looking to Him for our justification rather than our own goodness.

We move on.

The Gospel – Good News – is an entirely positive thing. Having faced our failings, we enter into a new life: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new”. We’re not to dwell on past failures, because a preoccupation with ourselves and what we’ve done is just inverted pride: a person who thinking about or telling everyone how awful he is remains self-centred. We now look to God for supply, and can forget about ourselves. We’ve tried to be self-sufficient, and failed: we now look elsewhere for nourishment.

And really, this comes as an immense relief. We don’t have to worry any more about how successful we are, or what we did on our own, or how we compare to others, or especially what we’ve done wrong. Confessed and repented of, our failures are now water under the bridge. I can forget about me, and look rather to the Source – while keeping in mind the tremendous price that was paid to make this possible.

Is that really such a hard thing? Now we don’t need to judge others, because we are as they are: we’ve ALL failed.  It also means there is hope for all of us, because it is on account of this failing nature that our Lord came in the first place. Remember, you can’t earn God’s love. God doesn’t love us because we’re good boys and girls; He loves, and we are valued as precious because He IS love: and that is what defines our value. To have failed doesn’t mean we’re worthless; we are the most valuable, loved, precious things in the universe. But our own experience demonstrates we just can’t cut it on our own. We’re incomplete – without Him.

This doesn’t for a second mean we should turn a blind eye to problems, either in ourselves or when we see a fellow-traveller stumble. We must still encourage one another to live a life pleasing to God, but not as their judges; rather as friends on the same journey, urging one another over the same obstacles we struggled with, sharing their burdens, praying, encouraging, loving. Nor should we always reject the exhortations of others to us as a judgement upon ourselves; sometimes, people will point out faults out because they care. If we get our backs up, we can be sure it’s our pride that’s behind our reaction. And that pride must die if we are to be His. We need to accept one another, flaws, failures and all while cheering them on as they train to be more like Jesus.

We all have our hot buttons, and nobody likes having their own shortcomings pointed out. All we can pray for is to have listening ears and hope we will be mature enough to receive such things in the right spirit; and to give our counsellor the benefit of the doubt when it comes to second-guessing their motives when they take us to the woodshed.

Perhaps all this is to get us to the end of ourselves. To not trust in my own goodness: it begins when I first admit I blew it and need of God’s mercy through Christ, but that’s just the beginning. All of life after that is a realization – proven by hard experience – of my need to be coming back again and again for grace an mercy.

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