I hate dental visits. In fact, dentists frighten me (no offense to any dentists), and are ranked number three on my frightening people list, just behind car salesman and mimes (don’t ask). A trip to the dentist’s office is a trip into the land of pain. First they jab your teeth with their little pick axe. Then they go in with their high-powered roto-tiller toothbrush, determined to turn your grimy yellows into pearly whites. Finally they whip out the dental floss, invading every nook and cranny of your mouth with that ghastly piece of string, causing small trickles of blood to flow between your teeth. And of course your mouth is hanging open during this whole process, yet you can’t swallow, resulting in large pools of spit collecting in the back of your throat.
But the worst part is the interrogation that takes place after the cleaning. They always ask if you floss regularly (I believe the ADA recommends flossing between 16 and 18 times a day), which we don’t. I floss approximately three times per year, and it’s always after I eat corn on the cob. At no other point will you see floss enter my mouth. And so we walk away from the dental office feeling like a complete dental failure. We’ve failed to meet the standard set by our dentist.
Unfortunately there are many times when I bring my dentist mentality into my relationship with God. As a Christian, I must live by God’s standards. I seek to read my Bible and pray on a regular basis. I fight to kill the sinful desires that are within my heart. I make every effort to love and serve my wife. I try to be humble and teachable.
But the painful truth is, I fail to keep God’s standards. In fact, I’m not even close. Instead of rising early to read my Bible, I decide to sleep and extra 30 minutes. Instead of serving my wife, I serve myself. Instead of pursuing humility, I give in to pride and arrogance. I don’t just miss the mark, I completely miss the target.
When I fail to meet God’s standard, I feel condemned. I feel like God is just barely tolerating me, like He’s cold towards me, like He doesn’t particularly like me anymore. This condemnation weighs me down, stealing my joy and robbing me of my peace.
It’s in these moments that I need to speak the truth of the gospel to myself. I need to grab my soul by the ears and remind it of 1 Timothy 1:15, which says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” I can’t allow myself to wallow in condemnation and discouragement. I must fight for faith in the truth that Christ Jesus died for all my sins, and that God delights in me because of the cross. I must speak this truth to myself, and thank God for this truth, and rejoice in this truth until my heart believes every word of it. The gospel is the antidote to condemnation.
Do you experience condemnation when you fail to meet God’s standards? If so, you need to preach the gospel to yourself. Preach it until you believe it with both your head and your heart. Don’t allow condemnation to rule you. Fight the good fight of faith by believing the gospel.