It was one of those moments you want to take back. It was one of those times when you go where your desires and emotions are leading you. It was one of those situations when you know you should stop or walk away but feel you can’t. And it was one of those moments when afterward you are confronted with the sin that still lives inside of you. Yes, it was one of those moments.
It wasn’t a big deal in one way. Just a small conversation that had turned a bit ugly. It wasn’t a dramatic life-altering moment. It was in the privacy of my home with one of my family members. But maybe that’s the point. Perhaps it’s very important because that’s where I live every day. You see, you and I don’t live in a series of big, dramatic moments. We don’t careen from big decision to big decision.
We all live in an endless series of little moments. The character of a life isn’t set in ten big moments. The character of a life is set in 10,000 little moments of everyday life. It’s the themes of struggles that emerge from those little moments that reveal what’s really going on in our hearts.
So I knew I couldn’t back away from this little moment. I knew I had to own my sin. The minute I thought this, an inner struggle began. “I wasn’t the only one at fault. If he hadn’t said what he said, I wouldn’t have become angry. I was actually pretty patient for much of the conversation.” These were some of the arguments I was giving myself.
Isn’t this interesting? Rather than appealing to the mercy of the Lord in the face of my sin, what I actually do instead is function as my own defense lawyer and present a list of arguments for my own righteousness. The theology behind the defense is that my greatest problem is outside of me, not inside of me. In so arguing, I’m telling myself that I don’t really need to be rescued by the Lord’s mercy. No, I’m telling myself that what I need to be rescued from is that sinner in the room who caused me to respond as I did.
Here’s the point. Before you can ever make a clean and unamended confession of your sin, you have to first begin by confessing your righteousness. It’s not just your sin that separates you from God; your righteousness does as well. Because when you’re convinced you are righteous, you don’t seek the forgiving, rescuing, and restoring mercy that can only be found in Jesus Christ.
What’s actually true is that when I come to the Lord after I’ve blown it, I’ve only one argument to make. It’s not the argument of the difficulty of the environment that I’m in. It’s not the argument of the difficult people that I’m near. It’s not the argument of good intentions that were thwarted in some way. No, I only have one argument.
I come to the Lord with only one appeal; his mercy. I’ve no other defense. I’ve no other standing. I’ve no other hope. I can’t escape the reality of my biggest problem; me! So I appeal to the one thing in my life that’s sure and will never fail. I appeal to the one thing that guaranteed not only my acceptance with God, but the hope of new beginnings and fresh starts. I appeal on the basis of the greatest gift I ever have or ever will be given. I leave the courtroom of my own defense, I come out of hiding and I admit who I am.
But I’m not afraid, because I’ve been personally and eternally blessed. Because of what Jesus has done God looks on me with mercy. It’s my only appeal, it’s the source of my hope, and it’s my life. Mercy, mercy me!
Paul David Tripp