When is the last time you felt discouraged or defeated in your Christian life? Everyone experiences defeat, but the Bible presents a benefit for your failures that most Christians are completely unaware of.
The average Christian blows it in some way, and they feel the perception of God’s anger. They feel the perception of their guilt. They promise God their best, make oaths never to act out in certain ways, and try to cover their shame with good works. Do you know what? Your good works can NEVER cover your sins. It can never take away your shame, failure, or guilt. There is only one thing that can cover your sins. 1 Peter 4:8
And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins."
That word ‘love’ is the Greek word ‘agape’. Agape is the love of God – it is never the love of mankind. We can produce philia love – or friendship love – but only God is the author of agape love. The principle here is that we are to be fervent in our expression of agape love. Love that we have first received from God. The Bible says that the agape love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Agape is the gift of God’s love, invested into each person who is born into faith through Christ.
God’s agape love covered all our sins; therefore, we are to be fervent to take the agape poured into our heart, and extend it toward others in the faith. Just as agape covered our sins; if we are fervent in expressing agape toward each other, their sins will become irrelevant to you. Why do churches fight and Christians become divided? If there is war within the church, agape is being suppressed. If you are expressing agape toward another and building your relationship upon the knowledge of agape that unites you, division becomes impossible.
A few years ago, conflict began to emerge in a group of believers I was part of. One individual had a difficult personality, and it rubbed others the wrong way. There was no intentional wrongs being done, but he just came across abrasive and forward in his approach. I confess that I also did not like this man, but I felt the Spirit convicting me of the fact I was not expressing love. After some internal prompting, I decided to resolve my feelings of conflict. Though I didn’t like his personality, I knew for certain he was a Christian, and since we both are in God’s circle of agape love, I knew I had no choice but to practice what I preached or become disobedient to God.
I invited him for coffee with only one goal – to find common ground so we could experience unity in the Spirit. Over time I discovered that as the foundation of our relationship solidified, the things that bugged me about him became irrelevant. I didn’t even try to stop being annoyed, nor did I try to change him. As agape ran its course, the petty things faded from view and I stopped noticing them.
In the past, I was unable to relate to Christians from other denominations and those who held beliefs I didn’t agree with. Non-essential doctrines and differences became dividing lines. The differences were the focus and not agape. Errors in their beliefs were the focus, and not agape. I’ve seen my previous attitude throughout many churches. Many times I’ve heard, “If you don’t believe our way, you aren’t welcomed here.” Or, “If you believe that, you don’t belong in this church.” Is this the message of Christ?
Certainly there are essential Christian truths that can’t be compromised. There may be doctrines and beliefs in other Christians we sincerely believe are wrong. But an interesting thing happened when I left the rejection mindset and began to view people as God views them – at least as much as humanly possible to see them as God does. When I meet a fellow believer from a different background, and I start building a relationship based on agape, a friendship develops and I am able to honestly discuss differences without conflict. Two friends searching the scriptures and hashing out what is true and what is based on assumptions is very edifying. Two friends discussing differences makes for great discussions. Two opposing denominational trenches does not. I have been able to share my insights with people who I could never have influenced in the old sectarianism mindset. And I’ve had my own assumptions challenged and discovered insights I would never have discovered.
This is what is meant by fervent love. Fervent is the Greek word ektenes, which means to stretch out toward someone or to do something without ceasing. Fervent love is to extend agape toward someone and refuse to abandon agape love until we are established in each other’s lives. It is to extend agape into the life of someone so the faults that would have offended us are covered. Just as your sins were covered by God’s love, your fellow Christian’s sins and failures are covered by that same agape love. If agape is the focus, everything else will be fade under its covering.
It’s when we don’t recognize our own weaknesses that we hold others to a standard we also fall short of. I can see your weaknesses with perfect vision – if that is my focus. But I can scarcely get a glimpse of the depths of my own weaknesses. The great irony is that the weaknesses we do see discourage us, but they pale in comparison to those we cannot see.
There is one fault that alienates us from God. Self-righteousness. Look at James 4:5-8
5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously?"
6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Let’s take note of a few things here. It does not say that God resists the sinner. Many people say that they minister like Jesus did. Most churches would claim they are following Jesus’ lead, but this is far from the truth. How many sinners did Jesus condemn? We have no record of a single time. The woman in adultery was not condemned. In fact, Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. God and sin no more.” The woman Jesus met at the well had been divorced five times and was now shacking up with someone who wasn’t her husband. No condemnation. Zacchaeus was a corrupt tax collector who admitted he had used the Roman system to pilfer others for his own wealth. No condemnation. He dined with drunkards and prostitutes, drawing the condemnation of the religious leaders, but never did He condemn them. Instead, Jesus called Himself the physician who was healing those in need.
Yet Jesus did condemn some. Consider these quotes from Jesus:
“You are of your father the devil.”
“You will receive the greater damnation.”
“You brood of vipers. How can you escape the condemnation of hell?”
“Inside you are full of rotten bones and all uncleanness.”
“When you influence people, you make them twice the child of hell as yourselves.”
“In your heart, you are full of extortion and self-indulgence.”
Harsh words, no doubt. But who was the target of these words of condemnation? The prostitute and sinner? No. These words are the condemnation of those who held the highest achievement of religion. These are the religious leaders who dedicated themselves to the study of the Bible and were looked upon as the pinnacle of moral excellence by the culture they led.
You see, God is not calling you to achieve moral excellence. He is not calling you to measure up to His standard of righteousness, good works, or religious effort. God is not even asking you to overcome your sins. No, the call is to humble yourself, submit to Him, and He will lift you up. Then once you are upheld by the strength of God’s power, Satan can do nothing but flee. And the call is not to resist sin, but to resist the temptation of the devil. And the most powerful tool in the devil’s arsenal is your self-righteousness. Once you put your eyes on yourself, you are no longer looking to Christ, are no longer submitting to God, and are no longer humbling yourselves. Once your faith is based on your power and your abilities, you are now outside of God’s power and God opposes the proud. The proud says, “I have made myself righteous. I am good for you, God. I can become righteous for you. I can resist Satan with my own will.” Consider the words of Ephesians 6:10
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
Finally. This word speaks volumes. When you finally grasp the truth of the gospel, it’s all about being strong in the Lord and not in yourself. The truth is that once you fail, you are closer to God’s power than when you think you are succeeding. This principle is taught well in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
What is the thorn in your flesh? Is it lust? Anger? Greed? A physical infirmity? Your weakness is a gift of God. Strange words? It is true. The sins you think are driving you away from God are driving you to His power. Religion – even Christian religion – blinds us to this vital truth. We are told to try harder. We are taught that if we can get sin out of our lives, God will accept us. We are taught that if we do enough righteous acts, God will be pleased with us. It’s a lie. It is your humility that pleases God. Humility leads us to faith, and faith unveils the power of God in our lives.
When Paul came to the end of himself, he prayed in desperation. He thought that if he could just get the thorn out of his life, he could achieve spiritual success. God allowed him to struggle, pray, struggle, and pray again, and again. Once Paul reached the end of himself, God revealed this basic truth, “Your weakness weans you off yourself and drives you to My power.” Once Paul understood this truth, everything changed. Instead of saying, “God make me strong,” or “God get me out of this,” he started looking at his weaknesses as the unveiling of God’s power. Then instead of saying, “If only I could get rid of this,” he embraced it. No, he gloried in it. He rejoiced in the weakness.
This word is for you as well. What is the weakness defeating you? It may be delivered by a messenger of Satan, but instead of defeating you, God uses it to unveil His power in you. Your sins drive you out of self-righteousness and into faith in His righteousness. Then His righteousness drives sin out of your life. This is a gift of God, for God is not allowing you to be robbed of His glory. When you can glory, you are missing out on the glory of God intended for you. God uses your failures to reveal His power in you. Then the more you understand you are weak, and you are trusting in His strength, glory is inevitable.
Be strong in the Lord – not be strong for the Lord.
Let’s look at another amazing passage – 2 Corinthians 13:4
For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.
It’s all about Christ. You are weak in Him that the power of God may be strong in you. This is the common theme throughout the Bible. When Hebrews 11 goes through the examples of faith, it adds this important truth in Hebrews 11:32-34
32 And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets:
33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
In weakness, these icons of faith were made strong. Everything they accomplished, they did so in human weakness so the power of God could rest upon them. God doesn’t pick the most valiant conquerors. God picks the weak so He can be their valiant strength. When God raised up Gideon to lead Israel out of the oppression of the Median kingdom, this young man was hiding in a vat in order to thresh wheat. He was afraid of the bands of raiders that would steal their food if he did it openly. The nation was in desperate poverty, and God picked an unknown young man, hiding from the raiders, and an angel was sent to proclaim God’s call. The angel began his words with, “Hail, valiant warrior.” Valiant warrior? This lad, who had never fought a battle and was afraid of his enemies was called a valiant warrior?
God was looking at what He would accomplish through Gideon’s strength, and God was calling the reality of what was not yet revealed as though it were an accomplished fact. In God’s will, it was already an accomplished work, and Gideon was being called into the victory God had already declared.
Let’s conclude with two passages that explains how God’s invitation is not limited to our weakness. Not only that, but God reveals His greatest works in those who are incapable of accomplishing the work. Let’s look at Romans 4:16-25
16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
17 (as it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations ") in the presence of Him whom he believed– God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;
18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, "So shall your descendants be."
19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.
20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,
21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.
22 And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness."
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him,
24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,
25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
Just as God did in Gideon’s life, so He did with Abraham, and so it is with you. God looks at your life and calls those things that are not as though they were. This was not only written for Abraham, but it is for you. And you, by faith, agree with God’s declaration and it is accounted to you for righteousness apart from your own works. Are you fully convinced in God’s declaration of you? Or are you looking at your weaknesses and declaring these as your trust. Or are you looking at your accomplishments and your own righteous acts, thus nullifying the promise of God. It is by grace that the power might be in God and not you.
Let’s end with one last passage, 1 Corinthians 1:27-31
27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;
28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,
29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.
30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God– and righteousness and sanctification and redemption–
31 that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the LORD."
Why does God choose the weak things and the foolishness of the gospel to accomplish His work? Why does God do His work in ways the world can’t understand? And in ways the church doesn’t even understand? Because no flesh will glory in God’s presence. God chooses our weakness to reveal to us God’s power. You are a possessor of God’s power. God doesn’t choose you for your abilities, talents, or status. If God is going to use these, the flesh must first be made weak and our confidence in ourselves must be stripped away.
More times than not, God picks those who lack human ability, and He uses their weakness to do His amazing work so we will stand back and say, “Wow. It’s all about Christ.” Until we understand this truth, we limit the power of God in our lives. Though God can use those who don’t understand this, the things these ministers in this limited faith are accomplishing pales in comparison to what God desires to reveal. How much greater would we experience God’s power if we stopped looking out ourselves and started trusting in Him. Even when we see our failure, it is an invitation to rest in the power of God.
God rewards you for faith in Him, and though it is His work, God rewards you as though it were your works. It’s the amazing love of God. God wants you to inherit all He has, and all He asks is for you to be humble and trust in Him instead of yourself.
Eddie Snipes 2014
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