This Thing On My Back


The beauty of the Good News of the crucified and risen Messiah is that it’s for bad people. People like the sexually immoral Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. People like the thief and traitor that Jesus called into the Kingdom and into ministry in Matthew 9 (Levi/Matthew). People like the man being fairly executed for his real crimes right next to Jesus’ cross who repented and believed just before dying.

This thing on my back is my imagined righteousness. Or in different light under a different moon it might look like excessive shame.

I alternate between periods of trying to furiously earn the respect and admiration of a God I wrongly believe is cold and distant and an intense loathing of myself for past sins (or even imagined sins).

Instead of following a Jesus who has freed me, I’m tripping over my own feet trying to impress a Jesus I think wants me to free myself before He’ll have anything to do with me.

You can be a minister of the Gospel and forget it. It works like this: 9:30 in the morning rolls around, and as you’re doing your normal workday tasks the ways that you’ve failed and the sins that you’ve committed leak into the back of your mind. And instead of proclaiming the Gospel of God’s grace to yourself, you try to prove that you can be better. You try to balance the scales. Today, you think, I’ll be better… That is the answer to my guilt and shame and failures. And so instead of putting your hope in the finished work of the Lion of Judah, you put your hope in your own abilities and good works. Instead of seeking peace in the unsearchable, unfathomable love of God in His wrath-absorbing Son, you look for peace in your own newly-charged resolve to be a better person.

It is a never-ending cycle of exhaustion and despair or of spiritual blindness and arrogance. If you and I think we can impress God or that ultimate hope or peace can come from our good works, we will not walk in the humility, love, joy, and worship of the healthy Christian. We’ll be self-absorbed, self-pitying, self-righteous, or self-loathing. And most of all self-deluded.

The beauty of the Gospel is that it’s good and that it’s true. It’s far more good than any righteousness we can eke out on our own, and it’s far more true than any transitory illusion we might have of our own ability to impress God and man.

This thing on my back? It’s of my own making. And it crumbles and falls to the ground when exposed to the Gospel. Like sin, it’s power is less than the Messiah’s.

Look over your shoulders and see if you have one like mine. If so, join me in turning from sin and trusting in the Son. Our shoulders are weak and burdened with depravity; His are holy and strong as steel.

We can’t carry the weight of our own sins; He can carry the world’s.


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