Many days I feel haunted by failure. No amount of effort, discipline, Bible study or prayer can keep me from an unnecessarily sharp word to my wife or son, or withholding forgiveness on a slight I should have surrendered long ago. The establishment of sinful habits seems impregnable.

Many days I feel haunted by failure. No amount of effort, discipline, Bible study or prayer can keep me from an unnecessarily sharp word to my wife or son, or withholding forgiveness on a slight I should have surrendered long ago. The establishment of sinful habits seems impregnable.


When I am feeling the weight of my sinful nature, I want to hide from God, and return to his presence after I have cleaned up my act. I can certainly understand the reaction of Adam and Eve when God came looking for them after their defiance in the Garden of Eden. I have no right to face God.


Scripture always has a way of turning my own reasoning upside down, and the tendency to flee God’s presence under sinful duress is no exception. The first message is reiteration of the fact that I never have a right to face God. If divine justice were meted out according to His unchanging nature, I would be dead on arrival. In His presence, even “the mountains melt like wax.” This does not apply selectively to seemingly good days and bad days, but to all days.


The next message is Jesus’ first statement of the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I had always thought of these words as directed to the physically poor, but they also encompass an attitude of emotional poverty before God. And the reward of the kingdom of heaven is a gift beyond all our earthly dreams.


David echoes this point in the Psalms when he states “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” David had been confronted by the prophet Nathan over his infidelity with Bathsheba and betrayal of a faithful soldier, and was praying to God for pardon. His actions had curried no divine favors and all he had to offer was a broken life. Yet he returned to God’s presence.


In light of scripture, the days when I am not ashamed to approach God are the very ones that merit hesitation. There is nothing wrong with striving for righteousness - indeed we are instructed to do so - but this should not replace the recognition of our absolute poverty before the lord of heaven and earth.


While the attitude of a “broken and contrite heart” sounds like a downer, it can actually be liberating. It allows for full acceptance of and appreciation for Christ’s work on the cross. It puts us in a right relationship with God each day of our lives. It allows for a greater appreciation of the friends and strangers we encounter. The awareness of sin and failure is the starting point for a life that is worthy of the Lord.


Robert Mann is managing editor of eChristianNews.com and can be contacted at rmann@echristiannews.com.