Tuesday, July 18, 2017

An Early Morning Exercise in Justification by Faith

Why is it that we often feel most anxious or guilty or defeated or depressed or blah first thing in the morning?

I wonder if, sometimes, it’s because all we have in the morning is yesterday’s mistakes.

            “Why did I say that?!”
            “I can’t believe I did that!”
            “I can’t believe I gave in to that temptation…again.”
            “I can’t believe I spent that much time scrolling Instagram last night.”
            “That was a waste of money.”
            “I wish I wouldn’t have watched that show.”
“Ugh! I forgot to ______, again.”
“Haven’t got to that yet, or that, or that…or that…or that…or that!”
“I just can’t seem to keep up at work.”
            “The finances are still a mess.”
            “The house is still a mess.”
            “My life is still a mess.”
            “(fill in your failure de jour)”

Yesterday’s failures and folly crowd around us at the foot of the bed, or just outside the shower. And crowding in just behind them are the failures and procrastinations from the last 3-6 months. A great crowd of witnesses to your worthlessness.

We wake up and the weights and sins and burdens are right there waiting to pile on. And we don’t yet have today’s activity yet to help shake them off, or counterbalance them. (Is jumping into the spin class of anxiety an attempt to feel like we’re “doing something about it”?)

If this crowd doesn’t disperse for you until the busyness and productivity of the day gets going, then that’s just the problem.

Our early morning burdens can be a set up for the soul twisting effects of self-justification. We contort ourselves to get a glimpse of our “good side” in the mirror of our self-reflection. We bend over backwards to shift the blame. We scramble to leave our guilt and regrets in the dust. Or, we beat ourselves up and hope the self-flagellation salves our guilty conscience. We have so much to prove, so much to lose. No wonder we’re so tired and weary.

Perhaps these burdensome early morning moments are ordained by God to teach you the gospel. Perhaps a big part of our problem is that we don’t face our first moments like Christians. We face them like everyone else who is trying their best to shake off and outrun and fight off their burdens and failures.

But it’s not our battle to fight.

Our early morning burdens are a set-up to strengthen us by means of justification by faith. Believing the gospel is the early morning exercise routine we all need, every morning.

What if we woke up and worked on tuning our hearts to believe, and then sing, this gospel grace? (Don’t let the familiarity of the words dull you to their power.)

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save me from its guilt and power.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All could never sin erase,
Thou must save, and save by grace.

Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress,
Helpless, look to Thee for grace:
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

What might happen if you read (sung?) those lyrics and then Matthew 11:28-30 and Lamentations 3:21-25 first thing every morning for a month?

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Lamentations 3:21-25 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

Your God and Savior says that his mercies are new every morning. He doesn’t say that his favor is available to the high achievers and winners.

Our hands that are empty of activity in the early am (even if they are full of failures and regrets and burdens), can remind us that “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” That’s how we began this race of faith when we woke from our spiritual stupor and saw the glory of Jesus, our rest-giving redeemer. That’s how we make progress in the race as we wake each morning in need of fresh mercy. And that’s how we will faithfully finish the course, eyes fixed on the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. 

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