Recently I’ve been memorizing Psalm 25, and as the verses have tumbled over my lips and into my heart, one phrase has resonated again and again:
“Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in His ways.” (verse 8, emphasis added)
I am so quick to assume that I have to have it all together before coming to the Lord – that He won’t be satisfied with me until I clean up my act.
But that is so not the character of God. As I talked with a friend tonight, she reminded me of this beauty – that God is not surprised by my failures. He knows I am frail and that I stumble easily.
But because He is good and upright, He instructs me in His ways. He pulls me up to stand on my feet again when I’ve fallen – like a good Father, He doesn’t let me stay wallowing in my sin.
And as I’ve come to realize this truth, my eyes have been opened to all the ways that He is instructing my heart – through words of a sermon at church. Through words of a friend, encouraging me. Through studying the book of John and uncovering the character of God more and more. Through the gracious ways He brings Scripture back to mind throughout the day.
The beauty of Him instructing my heart is not that I don’t sin anymore. It’s that when I do sin, I’m learning not to panic and run and hide myself for shame. I’m learning to recognize sin when it happens, confess it to God, and replace the lies with His truth.
Truth such as verse 3 of Psalm 25 – “No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame.”
I know I’ve read those words many times in my life, but they sank in for the first time last April when I felt myself struggling against thought battles that I felt I would never win. Reading those words was like water rushing over a thirsty soul. I know for a fact that my hope is in Christ. And if that is a fact, then He promises that I will never be put to shame. He won’t let me.
The psalmist was fierce about keeping his eyes fixed on God in the midst of his struggle – he said that his “hope is in you all day long.” Not – his hope was in himself and his logical abilities to solve problems. Or his hope was in the battle just moving on some day.
No. He knew that the only way out of the mess and the danger and the affliction was through casting his soul up to God – God who promised to remember him.
If I truly want God to instruct my wayward heart, I know I have to be just as fierce about turning my eyes onto Him – through pressing these words into my mind and soul every day. The battle doesn’t stop when I get tired of fighting it. No, in fact, the battle gets more intense as soon as I let my guard down.
But Christ is my shield and my defender. He teaches me from His word so faithfully even when I fail miserably. He is gentle with His rebuke and so incredibly lavish with His love.
When I’m over here beating myself up, telling myself why I’m not worthy of love, Christ points my eyes back to the cross and reminds me that He took care of all my miserable, woeful mess-ups. He knew they would happen and that’s why He died on the cross. He knew I couldn’t pay the price. So He did.
And this is Him instructing me. This is Gospel grace diffused into the sinner’s heart on a daily basis. This is a hymn of thanksgiving for rescuing me when I least deserved it.
There is so much I still need to learn, and some days I feel like I’m at primary school, learning the basics all over again. But thank the Lord for His patience! When I think of the patience I have to have with my students at times, I’m amazed at the hundredfold amount of patience God has with us sinners.
But He continues to patiently instruct us because He is good. It is in His character to lovingly guide us in the path of truth and righteousness for He saved us to transform us into His character.
It’s not my job to do the transforming. It’s my job to submit to His work in my life and trust that He will make me a new creation in His perfect timing.
And part of that submitting is meditating on these words and believing the truth of them. God’s Word never fails. The minute I start believing something else is the minute that I start to reject the instruction my sinful heart so badly needs.
May I humbly learn to keep it close to my heart and apply it to my thinking and my actions.