We’re often told that Christians shouldn’t beat themselves up for their sins and yet so many do it. Maybe that’s because the advice has been understated. Maybe we should go one step further to say that Christians mustn’t beat themselves up for their sins.
I’m reading Watchman Nee’s The Normal Christian Life for the umpteenth time. This quote reminded me today why this book is a classic:
What then of our attitude to Satan? This is important, for he accuses us not only before God but in our own conscience also. “You have sinned, and you keep on sinning. You are weak, and God can have nothing more to do with you.” This is his argument. And our temptation is to look within and in self-defense to try to find in ourselves, in our feelings or our behavior, some ground for believing that Satan is wrong. Alternatively we are tempted to admit our helplessness and, going to the other extreme, to yield to depression and despair. Thus, accusation becomes one of the greatest and most effective of Satan’s weapons. He points to our sins and seeks to charge us with them before God; and if we accept his accusations, we go down immediately.
Now the reason why we so readily accept his accusations is that we are still hoping to have some righteousness of our own. The ground of our expectation is wrong. Satan has succeeded in making us look in the wrong direction.
Our salvation lies in looking away to the Lord Jesus and in seeing that the blood of the Lamb has met the whole situation created by our sins and has answered it. That is the sure foundation on which we stand. Never should we try to answer Satan with our good conduct but always with the blood.
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Daniel LaRusso’s first three days of “karate training” are filled with menial chores around Miyagi’s oasis in the junkyard. Each chore must be carried out according specific instructions, “Wax on, right hand; wax off, left hand. Make big da circles. Breathe in the nose, out through the mouth.” The next day, “Paint the fence.” The one after, “Sand the floor.” Each time, the method is specific. Posture, style, breathing- they all matter. The master’s unorthodox style confuses Daniel but he has agreed to do whatever he is told without question. That agreement comes to an end when by the afternoon of the third day, Miyagi checks on Daniel on his way to go fishing. Daniel unleashes a string of expletives in Miyagi’s direction and impugns his master’s motives. Miyagi interrupts Daniel with the stern command, “Daniel san, show me ‘sand the floor’.” The master begins to throw a series of punches and kicks at Daniel who watches himself block each one. Daniel stands stunned as Miyagi bows. Through unquestioning obedience to his master, Daniel has unknowingly received his imprint.
The figure I discovered in the pages of Matthew’s gospel compelled me to emulation. I fantasized about wearing a white robe and teaching under a tree somewhere. But that’s not what the Master told me to do. He put the sponge of forgiveness in my hand. The next day he gave me the brush of mercy. On day three I found myself stooping to sand off the sun-scorched outer layer of my greedy heart.
After training this way for years, I made the startling discovery that I had actually begun to care about other people like I care about myself. How did he do it? It could not have come through standing over people preaching to them even though that is the activity I saw my Lord engaging in. I, selfish and immature as I am, had to take the route of unquestioning obedience.
Here are the Master’s words about his method of training:
39 He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.
41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.- Luke 6:39-42; 46-48 NIV
The question for Daniel and for all of us is not what am I accomplishing here but who am I becoming. When we receive the imprint of our Master, we will be ready for whatever gets thrown at us.