My mom wrote, “for 1991” in the margin of her Bible, next to these verses she’d underlined:
…Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me… May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:12-14)
Mom lived these verses about as well as anyone I’ve ever known. But it wasn’t so much the verses she’d underlined that stood out to me. I’ve sat here for a while considering the words she chose not to underline in verse 13. Those words are what speak to me today:
Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
I do not claim to know why my mother didn’t underline this phrase, so I won’t pretend to speak for her. I knew Mom as a humble, less-than-confident servant of the Lord she loved. Did she feel unworthy to even suggest that she could be blameless or innocent, even if God had declared she was that and more through the blood of His Son? I don’t know. I only know she didn’t underline that phrase in 1991.
It occurs to me that it’s fairly easy to recognize someone struggling with pride. They tend to brag, they draw attention to themselves, they are critical of others in order to show themselves superior.
It’s not as easy to recognize someone struggling with guilt, regret, or feeling undeserving of God’s grace. They tend to serve God quietly, maybe self-sacrificially, and avoid recognition or praise But they struggle in the depths of their souls, often with a smile on their faces.
Let me share two things God has laid on my heart concerning this. 1) If you feel unworthy of God’s grace, you are right. You don’t deserve it. You are a sinner and what you deserve is hell. That is true for all of us. In fact, grace wouldn’t be grace if we deserved it.
But do not misunderstand, Jesus died for you and me while we were sinners. You do not deserve His forgiveness, but He deserves for you to accept it anyway. He willingly paid what you couldn’t pay. And being blameless and innocent is His gift for you if you would just receive it. We need to stop trying to feel worthy, and instead rejoice in the reality of God’s grace to we who are anything but worthy.
2) Because if we don’t, if we continue allowing ourselves to feel shame or guilt, or if we allow our unworthiness define us, we run the risk of having a works-based faith. We want to feel like we deserve God’s grace so we teach Sunday School, we visit people in hospitals, we fix food for shut-ins, we read our Bibles every day, we don’t drink or smoke or gossip. And we think that somehow living like that will make God love us more, or forgive us more, or maybe it’ll just help us feel good about ourselves.
We need to keep reminding ourselves that nothing – nothing- we do can make God love us more. He died once for you. It is finished, He said. You can’t earn what has already been bought.
Again, I don’t know why Mom didn’t underline this part of verse 13. But if you are struggling with guilt for sins already forgiven, or if you find it hard to accept what Jesus freely offers, understand those thoughts and feelings don’t come from God. They are the arrows of the enemy.
My prayer is that you will rejoice in the cross today, allow God to cover those sins He died for, accept His grace without hesitation. And with boldness, live your life as one who has been declared blameless and innocent.
Because through Jesus’ blood that is exactly what you are.