Bible Verses That Haunt Me
There are parts of the Bible I don’t like to read. No, it’s not the boring genealogies. Or the staccato proverbs. These parts are different. They don’t put me to sleep but awaken within my conscience a beast I prefer to let slumber. The more I read them, the more he growls. Bares his teeth. Roars. And soon this beast with a head of guilt, claws of doubt, and a body of shame begins an all-out attack upon the peace of heart I have so tried to nurture.
When I hear Paul say, “I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” (Eph 4:1) all I hear are the catcalls of the demons who have recorded, in excruciating detail, the manifold ways I have lived in a manner unworthy of the name Christian.
When I hear Paul say, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ,” (Phil 1:27) all I see are the major and minor events in my life in which I gave the unbelieving world opportunity to ridicule the church as a horde of hypocrites who don’t practice what they preach.
When I hear the apostle say that his prayer is that I “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God,” (Col 1:10) I slam the Bible shut, shove it back on the shelf, and say, “I give up. Worthy of the Lord? Fully pleasing to him? Every good work?” Each phrase invites the beast within me to rake his claws over my soul.
And I could go on. I could quote verse upon verse from the Bible that demands worthiness from me. That tells me to be the man God wants me to be. That calls me to an obedience I have not attained, to a holiness I have not acquired, to a bar I can never jump over.
These parts of the Bible are bad news for a bad man who’s lived a bad life. Maybe all I need to do is try harder? I’ve done that. Maybe all I need to do is live a more disciplined life? I’ve tried that too. Maybe I just need to work harder, pray harder, push myself more to be holy, worthy, good the way God that wants me to be? Listen, I’ve done that. And eventually I fall flat on my face. Every. Single. Time.
I am no good at being good.
In the din of shrill voices that accuse me there is one that sounds different. It’s a voice that gradually increases in volume until it shouts down all the others. It beckons me away from all the verses that make demands of me.
It asks nothing of me.
And gives everything.
It says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Rom 8:1). And before I can begin to dispute with it, to list out all the reasons I stand condemned, it puts a finger to my lips and says, “There is therefore now no condemnation.” And as I begin to object, “But look at all I’ve done,” it repeats, “There is therefore now no condemnation, no condemnation, absolutely no condemnation.”
The dying words of Jesus were not, “Make it worth it,” but “It is finished.” My sins are finished. My guilt is finished. My unworthiness, the beast within me, the accusing demons—all are finished.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those—for me, for you, for all of us unworthy ones—who are in Christ Jesus.
Other Bible verses haunt me. This one chases away those ghosts of guilt. My whole life hangs upon it, for my whole life hangs upon the one who looked down from the cross not to say, “Earn this,” but, “It is finished, all for you.”
What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who welcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!