Recently I lay in bed in the early morning, watching the sun barely make its presence known through the slits of my bedroom blinds. I rested comfortably in between my thick, soft sheets, reluctant to get up and begin the day. I also felt concerned for one of my kids, and wanted to ask the Lord to give her what she needed that day: comfort, security, encouragement. So I started a conversation with God by saying, “Lord, I know I have no right to ask you for this…”
Pause. Why did I say that? My own words pulled me up short. I’d like to report that I said those words because I knew that I had nothing to claim apart from Jesus, no right to approach God’s throne with any request apart from my faith in him. I wish I could say that I was simply putting zero confidence in my flesh (Philippians 3:3), humbling myself before God in my bedroom in that early morning light.
But, unfortunately, that was not the case.
You see, that morning found me feeling guilty. Guilty that I had not been waking early to meet with God. Guilty that the sun was beating me in rising and readying itself for the day. It had been a tough winter, both seasonally and spiritually. And I felt guilty for not “doing my part” spiritually. For not being disciplined with my early morning devotions.
So what I was really saying was something like this, “Lord, I know I have no right to ask you for this, because I’ve been lazy and undisciplined. I haven’t risen early to meet with you and spend time in your Word. I haven’t done my part. But I’m worried about my daughter, so I’d like to ask you to help her today anyway.”
Red flags should be waving in your face right now. They were in mine. No right to ask God for something because I hadn’t been disciplined in my devotions?? Let’s look at the flip side of that statement to see the real ugliness lurking beneath it. If I had been exercising discipline and rising early to meet with God I might have said, “Good morning, Lord. I’ve been doing my part, have you noticed? Good. Because of my impressive effort, I know I have every right to ask you for help today. In fact, because I’ve been doing my part, I can now fully expect you to do yours.”
See it now? Pure, unadulterated confidence in the flesh. The very thing Paul said to throw in the rubbish bin in his letter to the Philippians. But somehow I began to rummage through the trash, believing that my efforts at spiritual discipline earn me favor with God. (And that my lack of spiritual discipline puts me out of favor.) It was as if God pulled back the sheet that winter morning and exposed the works-based, earn-your-own righteousness that I was attempting to cover myself with. I lay there shivering in the cold realization that my own claim to righteousness amounted to no more than cheap, threadbare bed sheets. Useless. Fit for garbage.
As I lay there, heart exposed, I slowly began to realize again, by the grace of God, that there is nothing I can do to earn his favor. That job has already been accomplished by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Only Jesus can give me the access to God I so desperately need.
Jesus Christ our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. Ephesians 3:11b-12.
For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2.18
The gospel. I believe it, but often I don’t live by it. I fool myself into thinking that my spiritual life is about earning, working, and bargaining rather than receiving, resting, and trusting. I’m an adopted child! It’s done! Official! I can ask God for help simply because he is my Father and I belong to him.
So the next time you see the early morning light peeking through your blinds, remember this: you are loved. Not because of your habits or disciplines but because of your unalterable status as a cherished child. Also, remind yourself that you are covered. Not by a righteousness of your own inventing (or by your bed sheets, no matter what the thread count!), but by Jesus. He is the one who covers you, protects you, clothing you in his righteousness. Jesus opens the door to God’s throne room and invites you to go in. So go on in! Go ahead and ask.
Your Father is waiting. And he’s listening. That’s just what he does.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
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