Bible Verses That Haunt Me

hauntedThere 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.
Requires nothing.
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!

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19 thoughts on “Bible Verses That Haunt Me

  1. Greg Comp on said:

    Well done, though good and faithful servant!!! Just what I needed to hear and be reminded of!!! Thank you and praise God!!

  2. Roger Rench on said:

    So what do you think is the purpose for that verse and others that call upon us to live a life that honors God? If we are evil, our good works mean nothing, and we can’t be good enough for God no matter how hard we try, then why does so much of the New Testament deal with sanctification, which requires our cooperation with the Holy Spirit?

    • Hi Roger. The law was given, indeed, written upon our hearts, in order that we might know how God would have us live. Thus all the “shoulds” and “musts” in the Bible. But divine demands do not equal human potential. God can tell us we must have only one of Him, live honorable lives, be righteous in thought and word and deed, but that does not mean we have either the inclination or potential to fulfill them. Imperative does not equal indicative. The law is there to show us the right way and to show us how we have not gone the right way. It reveals our flaws, indeed, like a microscope, it enhances them. In so doing, it reveals our deep need for grace, for the Good News of a good God who has kept the law for us, suffered the penalty for our breaking of it, and even continues to fulfill the law for us while in us. Inasmuch as I keep the law, it is not I who am keeping the law, but Christ within me who is keeping it. Or, to say it differently, the new man in me, recreated in the image of Christ, and bearing within him Christ himself, keeps the law. But I am two men: I am the old man and the new man in one person. I am simultaneously saint and sinner. And as long as I am still sinner, the law will always accuse me. Thus, when I read any “must” or “should” passage, any verse requiring anything of me, I hear still hear the accusations of the law for part of me is still flawed and sinful. Who shall rescue me from this body of sin and death? Who shall rescue me from the law? Only Christ, in whom there is no condemnation.

  3. Danny Hendricks on said:

    Very well said!!

  4. These truths are a great freedom and comfort to us!

    One must be careful, however, not to forget Luther’s error, who wanted to leave out the book of James. “Sola Fida” is not what the early or ancient church believed. It can also degenerate, if not carefully watched, to what Bonhoeffer called “Cheap Grace.” Or what have I heard, its not faith + works, its “faith that works.”

    I see it, and I think the early church saw this issue as a matter of synergy between God and myself. God does the saving, God reaches out, but I also must cooperate. No, we will never be worthy. God alone makes us worthy by our faith and trust in Christ.

    Ephesian 2:8 which tells us that “by grace you have been saved, through faith,” goes on to say in in verse 10- “We are created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Not “dead works” but “living works.”

    Somehow, at the day of Judgement, we will be asked very specifically, about our “works.” Did we feed the poor, visit the sick, etc.

    I see the faith/works concept as parallel truths, both non-negotiable. Its somewhat of a mystery, but I do see both truths in scripture, although Grace and Mercy always triumphs. Thankfully, He is the judge, and my job is only to be faithful.

    All that said, Thank God, he removes our sins, all of them, as far as the east is from the west.

    I LOVE this blog. It is such a huge blessing to me. Thank you for your honesty, transparency, and very thoughtful messages.

  5. Pingback: Uh, Yeah . . . Me, Too! « Been There, Done That

  6. Dustin on said:

    A true understanding of grace will produce a fruit filled maturing walk with Christ not by your works but by his guidance threw the Holy Spirit don’t place your OWN actions with the work of the Spirit you have bean sealed for eternity when you fully understand what Christ did at the cross you will never be able to live the way you did or want to!!

  7. Karen Janssen on said:

    !!!!.Every. Single. Time.!!!!!

  8. I’m with you on all that. Thank God there is counter-balance: “…no condemnation…” And on the subject of “worth” I love C.S. Lewis’ proclamation that Jesus was the only one who had enough worth to do what He did. But that’s probably a whole other writing. Nice piece Chad. Thanks!

  9. jamesbradfordpate on said:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

  10. Sam Pakan on said:

    And I thought those verses bothered only me! Praise be to God who through our Lord Jesus Christ set me free from the law of sin and death. Amen.

  11. Levi Willms on said:

    Chad,
    Why do you feel so condemned? Are you in Christ Jesus? Then there is no condemnation in Paul’s exhortation to follow Christ in obedience. God’s Grace is with you every step of the way. Your sins are covered for all past sins and all in the future. If you truly recognize that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, then why does that feeling creep in? Yes, momentarily it will always creep in for it is the result of our sin, but we are called to repent, confess, recieve God’s forgiveness and go on following. This is what Paul writes about in the whole chapter 8 of Romans. Don’t pull it out of context. Paul says we are out from under the oppressive nature of the Law and in the freedom of following God through the Spirit. I’m sorry but it seems like you are falling into the problem Paul speaks of in verse 6 & 7 of chapter 8. Maybe look at 11. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus and his power is in you. Rest in His grace always, and follow the Spirit in obedience, then repent when the flesh gets in the way. There is no reason for God’s Word to ever haunt you if you are really resting in the promise of Romans 7:24-8:1. That is why we can like Paul openly share our failures and God’s grace and at the same time strive towards that which God is making us to be. Do you cut Philippians 3:12-16 out of your Bible as well. I pray that you reach the maturity that Paul speaks of, where the Law is no longer the enemy to the Gospel. You are no longer under it in Christ Jesus. We lean on the Spirit at work in us. Please start giving people the full Gospel in your articles, not this lesser thing of Jesus came so I don’t ever have to feel bad or obey God stuff. When Jesus said “It is finished,” he actually had to go through some reall bad stuff because of sin and He did the whole thing out of complete obedience to the Father. That covers you and me who have lives filled with sin and full of disobedience. I’m no longer under that condemnation because of Jesus. I can confess sin and recieve forgiveness. I can stumble along following Jesus and listening to His commands knowing He has covered all my sin. He didn’t just die and rise again because people feel guilty, it was to bring us from death to life.

    • Levi, I think you are trying to relay the same message as Chad, though in a more didactic way. Personally I prefer Chad’s approach as he seems to be more willing to throw himself into the mix.

    • Levi, I do not wish to engage in a debate with you. You have every right to disagree with me, but I fear that our differences in our understanding of the Gospel are so great that a back-and-forth on this blog would be of no benefit. I do not write to convince people to change their way of thinking to my own, but to encourage and uplift them by the grace of God in Christ. So, if I do not respond to your comments, please understand that this is reason for my silence.

  12. Chad, I wish there was a ‘love’ button. I would check it twice!!!

  13. Cary Schwarz on said:

    I could have written this Chad. Thanks for this.

  14. Jessica on said:

    I will say this briefly. I am deeply disturbed by the manor in which you engage with questions. I am also disturbed by your cavalier comments on sin, but that is another topic. I understand that you are no longer a pastor, but above reproach no longer applies? Taking to Facebook to bash people is petty and immature. This also applies to your condemnation for other pastors and their communion policy. Is this our best? Is this what our seminaries, pastors, and lay leaders encourage?

  15. Nathan on said:

    “…the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles…” 1 Pt. 4.3

    My flesh will never learn this.

    Thanks be to God He gives me His Own pure flesh to forgive my sins.

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