Lent 2017: You Are Mine: Day 43

Sin and Redemption

by

Today's Text: Isaiah 58:1-14, Isaiah 59:1-21, Matthew 21:12-22

Text: Isaiah 58:1-14, Isaiah 59:1-21, Matthew 21:12-22

I never had a rebellious phase.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been a “good girl,” running my life on the straight and narrow, delighted to follow the rules. I loved to please my parents, my teachers, and my coaches because I was devoted to maintaining my pristine reputation.

Due to my well-practiced, people-pleasing ways, Christianity came easily to me. Religion offered one more list of boxes to check, all affirming my goodness. The only problem with all this box-checking is that as much as I honored God’s law, I did not understand His grace. I understood it on a head level, but not on a personal one. Not in my heart. I couldn’t grasp the urgency of it, or my deep need to be rescued by a Savior. Because, if I was really being honest, I didn’t think I needed rescuing. I was doing Christianity pretty well on my own.

That’s the beautiful irony of my story. While I lived my good Christian life of following the rules and doing all the right things, I only proved the depth of my brokenness. The truth was, my rule following was my rebellion. It was my own attempt to justify myself. As Tim Keller once suggested in his book The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith, my rebellion wasn’t against God’s law but against God’s grace.

We witness this same kind of brokenness in Isaiah 58. Although the Israelites engage in the godly discipline of fasting, it only reveals their sin all the more, to which the prophet had this to say:

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high” (vv. 3-4).

According to Old Testament scholar John Oswalt, the Israelites were fasting for the wrong reason. They were not doing it to “express gratitude and submission to God” but were instead doing it “for the very same reasons the pagans do, to manipulate God to act in their favor” (Oswalt 625). This manipulation is why the Israelites are confused at God’s silence: “Why have we fasted, and you have not seen it?” (Isaiah 58:3). They thought they had done everything right. They thought fasting was a guarantee of divine favor. Why wasn’t God holding up His end of the deal?

In response to their entitlement, God had this response:

“Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1).

In short, God was not the one who broke His word. The Israelites’ “good deeds” point right back to their sin. They are unable to keep His commandments, try as they might. Thankfully, as Oswalt explains, “God will come and do for his people what neither they nor anyone else can do for them” (Oswalt 636).

The truth is, we all go through a rebellious phase. Some of us rebel against the rules and some of us rebel against the rescue, but the end result is the same: separation from God. Our only hope is to name and to confess our rebellion, in whatever form it takes. Because no matter how good and well-behaved we are, our arms are most definitely too short to save ourselves.

“The Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,”
declares the Lord.
- Isaiah 59:20

SRT-LENT2017-Instagram43s

Sharon Hodde Miller is a writer, speaker, pastor’s wife, and mom of two boys. She is a regular contributor to Christianity Today and recently completed her Ph.D, which focused on cultivating the gifts of women in the church.

  • Michelle C.

    I resonate so much with this devo. Still working on this. God, forgive my rebellion against Your grace.

  • Cassandra Stone

    Wow, just wow. I can’t even express to you how my heart dropped when I read that my rebellion is against the grace and the rescue. This spoke to me deeply

  • Rhonda Bohart

    Thanks for this lesson. It took me right back to my Asbury days and Oswalt’s class.
    I am that girl trying to rescue myself by being “good”. Let his grace wash over me.

  • Thank you, Sharon! Your devotional taught me much! I never thought about “rebelling against the rescue.” I appreciate your faithfulness in writing for She Reads Truth.

  • Keri McCue

    “They thought they had done everything right. They thought fasting was a guarantee of divine favor.” Oh man, how often do I do things just to be doing the “right thing” instead out of love for my Father! This was so convicting for me today!!

    http://www.littlelightonahill.com

  • As I journaled the devo today I kept saying yes, yes, that’s me… for so long I’ve questioned why I don’t grasp God’s grace. but this. my rebellion is against God’s grace. Now I ask, how do I overcome it? Just acknowledge it and ask for forgiveness? I feel like I need more of a heart change than that…

    • Mary

      So your instinct is you need a list of things for you to do…so you can be forgiven, be a better Christian? As a good girl, rule keeping, list making Christian myself, I offer you this: I needed to realize that I was not good, not pleasing to God, not close to Him. When I honestly saw me and my righteousness of filthy rags, I was devastated, almost a physical feeling of being punched in the gut. From that point of being totally wrecked, I ‘just acknowledged it and asked for forgiveness’. Because I really knew how much I needed Him, My relationship grew in a real and honest way, because I finally did grasp Gods grace

  • Sharon Miller, well said!!! This was me as well. Up until May of 2016, when God showed me an illustration of His grace and I surrendered to Him. I am 44, and lived a life of rule keeping and thinking I was pleasing God. In pride and in self-righteousness I wallowed, unknowingly. I thank God for His absolute goodness and love in revealing to me what was broken in me and needed His healing touch. He is good, always and forever. Thank you again, Sharon, for your testimony.

  • I never thought I’d be thankful for my “bad girl” days, but they showed me how big my God was when he met me right were I was. It helps me to see the good in broken people and know that He will met them in their darkest days. There is light, we need only seek it out and He will always show up. Our preacher said once, ” God hates righteousness, just as much as my sin.” It has stayed with me in the moments I doubt why he rescued me, the moments I thought I was too far from Him.

  • Well you just described me to a T. The good rule following, box checking girl. And I was so proud of me. Couldn’t have understood grace if it hit me over the head like a 2×4. Goodness I was judgmental. I absolutely cringe at the thought of me and my younger days. But God. He’s so good and so faithful. I had a period of time where I had many disappointments-all of them God ordained to let me know He is God and I am not. It was not pretty but it was for my good. Thank you for this I today. I need This reminder still that I need grace for myself and to give others often.

  • Mary-Stewart

    It is as if I wrote the first portion myself! I needed to read these Words today

  • Stephanie Volkmer

    whoa, the phrase “rebel against rules, rebel against rescue” struck me hard. I’m a good girl with some bad girl tenancies, and I understand both of those statements. I have a hard time accepting that God forgives completely and 100% without conditions, without limitations, without jumping through hoops, everything I’ve done is completely forgiven, and that is so hard for me to accept. I want to try and prove that God’s forgiveness is worthy to be used on me (silly I know) but doesn’t stop me from trying to be the gold star, knows all the answers, good girl. So grateful that He looks at me and laughs about my pathetic attempts to prove that His forgiveness was worthy…He is good to me, far better then I deserve.

  • Diane Huntsman

    Whether you’re the good girl or the bad girl (me) understanding the need for Him is key.. good behaving girls need Jesus just as much as bad behaving girls do.. often bad girls turned good is the recipe for legalism.. my story anyways.. I had to make up for all that bad by being oh so good! Being good for any other reason than pure love for God ends up breeding a “You owe me” mentality.. God I’ve been so good so You in turn have to give me the desires of my heart because You owe me.. we have a deal, I’m good, You bless me.. behaving good or living the righteous life must flow out of a heart of love and gratitude with no expectation of anything in return.. simply put, You died for me, I’ll live for You.. living right is an endless thank You to Jesus.. and I can’t live right, nor can you, without His empowering.. have a wonderful Monday behaving good in His sweet might! xo

  • CLIFFORD MOORE

    I love the phrase “rebel against rescue.” A majority of clients that come to me for counseling or therapy have issues surrounding performance based worth. This kind of reliance on performance for my value pervades our culture and makes it hard for us to submit to rescuing. Sadly, it is the heart of grace and the truly transforming part of the gospel that makes the difference between relationship and religion. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • “The truth is, we all go through a rebellious phase. Some of us rebel against the rules and some of us rebel against the rescue, but the end result is the same: separation from God. Our only hope is to name and to confess our rebellion, in whatever form it takes. Because no matter how good and well-behaved we are, our arms are most definitely too short to save ourselves.” Amen!

  • This morning before I opened up the devotional part of today’s study, I said a quick prayer just asking God to connect something with me today. I have been feeling a desperate need to feel connected and understood. And then I read the opening lines and knew God had answered that prayer. I love rules and box-checking and feeling like I know all of the right things to do and say. But the more I “do” and “know,” the further I feel from the Lord. And to be honest, I’m still trying to figure out how to serve and study His Word in response to His grace instead of a desire to check a box or do the “right thing.” So now I’m praying that God will teach me a new way to know Him, to rest in His grace and to serve and seek Him out of a place of love instead of pride and duty.

  • Jenn in GA

    I hadn’t thought before about pursuing goodness in my own strength as a form of rebellion against the grace of God!! Wow. Thank you, Sharon, for this insight.

  • Need to give up all my doubts and fears to Jesus. I need to stop controlling and start trusting. If you could all please pray for me, I’ve told this before, but I’ve suffered from concussion related dizziness for almost 5 years now. The main thing now is that the dizziness comes back after a change in schedule/stay up late/travel. We went to another center, and they seemed to know what I need, but my original health provider people would need to pay for it, since they don’t have the professional that I need within their system. So we needed to get approval for it, but found out this morning that it wasn’t approved. One of the doctors sent us an email saying (again, I’ve heard this before) that she thinks it’s fear of school and that I should see someone for it(who I’ve already seen and she said that I don’t have anything). It just can be so frustrating when doctor’s say this and I start thinking whether I’m self-inflicting the dizziness. But then I remember all the tests/doctors/PT that have said that I have a legit problem! Annoying. Anyway, I think I just need to really start doing my PT exercises EVERYDAY again, since that has been what has helped before. Thankfully the dizziness has been totally gone for my senior year, except for the times I get sick with a cold/travel/etc. guess I just need go keep trusting trusting trusting in the Lord. prayers appreciated! Love you all :)

    • Candy

      Hi Sarah- I’m a nurse. Have they checked out your ears for the cause of the dizziness? When you mentioned that you had dizziness when you get a cold it made me think. God bless you and keep you sweetheart.

      • Sarah D.

        Hi! Yes, I have actually had three VNG tests and they were all normal. From my understanding from everyone we’ve talked to, it seems like a brain/neurotransmitters and eyes related thing. It’s still weird on what triggers the dizziness, but it’s usually been if I have an altered schedule/traveling/get a fever/cold. Thank you so much! :)

    • She Reads Truth

      Sweet Sarah, continuing to pray for you in this. Asking the Lord for healing and provision! Thank you for the updates. So grateful for you!

      – Stormye

  • Caroline http://www.in-due-time.com Harries

    I admire your openness as I know so many can relate to this very thing! Thank you for the reminder that it’s not about religion, it’s about relationship

    http://www.in-due-time.com

  • I tried posting but it said that the comment is awaiting moderation…but I just wanted to ask for prayers please. We thought we found a place where my ongoing dizziness could be helped again, but we didn’t get approved. My neurologist keeps saying its a fear of school and that I should see someone to help me with that. But I’ve had so many people/doctors/tests that have said that I have a legit health problem. Guess I just have to keep trusting trusting in the Lord. Prayers appreciated. Love you all!

    • Terri

      You can probably appeal the decision if it’s your insurance that denied coverage. I had to do that once and we were able to get them to approve the procedure. We had to really put up a fight (arguing vehemently) over the phone, but it worked. Praying that this will all work out and you get the help you need.

      • Sarah D.

        Yes! We’ve done it before, so I think that’s what my mom and dad are doing now. Thank you! ❤️

      • Sarah D.

        so thankful for my parents and all that they have done and do to help me with this too! Appeals are never fun…

        • Terri

          It’s wonderful having people in your corner! I do hope you can get this resolved. Praying for you this afternoon.

      • Lauren Brooks

        Sara,
        My parents had to fight during an appeals process when my dad’s insurance dropped him in the middle of treatments. I remember how difficult that was. Praying for you and your parents– praying for peace, wisdom, and patience… favor with physicians and with the insurance companies… and all the right words to say! Praying against all fear and anxiety! <3

  • Pam Seipp

    Speaking the truth and admitting rebellion in the devotion also hit home with me. Earlier in my life I would read the Bible every day to “say” I read the Bible every day. Much like above, I could check it off or mark it off my list. Today, I continue to read and study, but pray for God to give me some learning from everything so that I might share with others.

  • Alecia Huval

    “To manipulate God to act in our favor.” Those words hit so hard today. Yes, so many times without really knowing – I’ve done this. So many times I’ve said, “see, God! I did my part, where are you?!” I’m so not deserving, but that’s where God’s grace comes in. I hope each of you ladies have a wonder Easter week.

  • Cecelia Enns Schulz

    Today’s reading reminded me of the song, I Will Exalt You by Amanda Cook (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=aEJAN_0mJqs). Without your presence there’s no meaning.
    I, too, can relate to forgetting I am saved by grace and seek to live a legalistic life by checking all the right boxes. It’s easier that way. I know what is required of me and also what God should do in response. The beauty of Christianity is the grace extended to us all. Lord! Don’t let me live like grace isn’t enough for me. Let me live from the place of KNOWING without your PRESENCE I’m not living, my life means nothing. Let me live my life in response to you, live my days hearing your voice, seeking your face, and knowing your truth – without your saving grace, without you, I am incapble of living a holy life. You command me to be holy as your are holy and that is possible only in your presence, with your power poured out in and on me.

  • Today’s Word and the devotional hit home with this good girl, box checking people pleaser. LORD help me.

  • Thank you Lord for this conviction today. This week leading up to Easter Sunday and also to my baptism it has been on my heart to name and confess my sins. At first I struggled with this. For the most part I have been people- pleasing, well behaved,rule abiding and environment controlling. I have been blinded to my own arrogance- believing I can do things on my own, making plans apart from God. But my arm is most definitely short and I desperately need God’s Grace. I want to completely surrender myself to God’s will and His Word. Father direct the course of my life, I need you!

    • cj8of8

      And… the angels and chorus of heaven are rejoicing as you take that dip! Oh sweet sister! God has a plan for your life and I’m praising Him for you! May you be clothed in brilliant colors as you emerge from those waters a child of the King!

    • Emily B.

      You have so much to celebrate! I pray that God will make you even more aware of His joy this week.

  • Caitlin Lindman

    “The truth is, we all go through a rebellious phase. Some of us rebel against the rules and some of us rebel against the rescue, but the end result is the same: separation from God. Our only hope is to name and to confess our rebellion, in whatever form it takes. Because no matter how good and well-behaved we are, our arms are most definitely too short to save ourselves.” I really saw myself in today’s reading, but these thoughts are so helpful!

  • learning to float

    Really helpful thoughts, thanks from another “good girl” who sometimes struggles with the concept of sin.

  • “Some of us rebel against the rules and some of us rebel against the rescue, but the end result is the same: separation from God.”

    Just before coming to Christ there was a time I royally disappointed everyone in my life by my choices and the outcomes of them. I was devastated by what I’d done and it wasn’t until I met Christ that I overcame that devastation but I still got it wrong. I was so desperate to not disappoint anyone else moving forward, to make up for my past, that I made sure I did everything I could to be “good”. And while I was loving Jesus and my life, I was still missing the mark. I got a lot of things “right”, I worked hard at being the “right” kind of person and compassion for others came very naturally to me, too much, in fact. But I was so busy running to keep my image of perfection that I had no idea I was leaving Jesus behind to do it. It was like He and I sitting in a valley together, enjoying the peace around us, feeling a warm breeze on our faces, looking up to a pristine sky, wildflowers all around us, just “being” together and every time something came up, or someone needed help, I’d quickly excuse myself from that beauty, leaving Him there, to run and “fix” whatever I could, whenever I could, when all He wanted me to do was sit with Him and breathe in Peace and Grace. He could handle everything I was trying to fix and in truth I was only making it more of a mess most times. ALL I needed to do was be with Christ, the rest would come. I was so busy being so thankful that I never wanted to disappoint anyone again but the reality was that I was disappointing the very person that saved me, not by my behaving badly but instead by my not accepting all He had to offer. I had hidden guilt and it was making my feet run. All I needed to do was sit with Jesus and hand it over. Eventually, He was kind enough to stop me in my tracks and show me my running and I am so incredibly grateful He did because the best part of relationship with Him is in the resting, it is in enjoying Him, it is in the view from wherever He is. God is good and He loves me even when I am not … that is freedom, that is peace, that is love.

    • Tricia C

      Thank you for this ~ B ~. I often find myself doing this. Trying to fix all myself when He already has a plan and has it all worked out.

    • Terri

      Thank you for sharing this with us. Your words resonated with me today. But isn’t it wonderful that we don’t have to fast “right,” pray “right,” or do anything else “right” to try to please our Savior? “In Him, you also, when you heard the word of truth, the good news of your salvation, and [as a result] believed in Him, were stamped with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit [the One promised by Christ] as owned and protected [by God].” Ephesians 1:13 (AMP) Praise God!

    • She Reads Truth

      What a great reminder and image for us all. Thank you so much for sharing, Betsy. Always grateful for your words!

      – Stormye

    • Emily B.

      The image of simply resting and being with Jesus is so lovely. Thank you for these words!

  • I remember a blog post on Lent by Ann Voskamp. She talked about fasting during Lent and how so many of us miss the point because we give up something for selfish reasons i.e sugar-to lose weight, social media-to free up our own time etc. BUT this is not the purpose! We are not to be focused on our own selfish gain during this season of Lent. We don’t give up for the sake of giving up or to learn self-control or to lose weight but we give up and focus that need on the only one who can provide. We become desperate for Him to fulfill in us what we need. She said when we mess up, because we will, then that is where we see our sin. She described the feeling of that deep down, bone chilling, soul heavy conviction that will turn us to the forgiver of our sin. <—–THIS! I think about this every time I read about fasting.

    The Israelites missed the purpose. I miss the purpose but I pray the Lord will give me that deep down, bone chilling, soul heavy conviction that will point me to the forgiver of my sin and to the lover of my soul.

  • “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?”
    What a beautiful picture of a heart-response to God. When we grasp our need for grace & desire to follow his laws, we cannot help but be drawn into his compassion for other people. We begin to have eyes like his and seek to glorify him by doing justice in his name.

    • Elle

      This really stood out to me as well. I’ve made a conscious attempt to set myself up to actually do more to help people once lent is over and have a volunteer orientation coming up this week for a senior adult group. It’s not enough to say we love God, unless we also try to work to bring God’s peace and love to people! It’s so easy to fall into the trap of just focusing on your own righteousness and fasting rather than being service to others. I will struggle with this all my days.

  • Today kept hitting home for me. I have a six-day old son and my prayer for him is that he will grow into a strong, kind man of God, one who loves Jesus and has that evident in his life. The verse about God preparing praise from the lips of nursing babes and Isaiah 59:21 about God’s words not departing from the mouths of Jacob’s descendants really got me. I’m thankful that God makes these promises and I’m claiming them for Nate.

    • Lana

      Praying the same for baby Nate. Sending you both so much love!

    • She Reads Truth

      Praying for you and your sweet Nate and the man that the Lord will raise him up to be! Grateful for you, Meg!

      – Stormye

  • I’ve had the fasting and prayer come up far too often in the last three days and now this devotion. A dear friend preached on fasting and prayer yesterday that was so spot on for where I have truly been less than consistent and more self-serving. Then Sharon’s words of the fact I rebel in the rescue was just so true and right at the heart of it. Thankful for conviction and reminders of my Israelite ways that often get cloaked in checked boxes.

  • This is me to a tee…for years I didn’t understand God’s grace, yet I was (and still am) a rule follower and a “good girl”. I now understand God’s grace and thank Him regularly for extending it to me. I need to remember to extend that to others regularly too, which is a challenge for me.

    • Sheri

      Karen, I could have written this very thing from the beginning rule following good girl part all the way to the fact that I still struggle to remember to extend grace to others. This was such a great devotion and reminder this morning!

  • Listening to a clip of Lisa Harper over the weekend she shared that before she gets out of bed she says out loud the name of Jesus. I did just that this morning and was overwhelmed by his love and grace. While reading today’s devotional God spoke to me about the fig tree and the mountain. He told his disciples that they too could tell the tree to wither AND move the mountain. It’s may seem easier to let things, relationships, goals, dreams die but it’s a whole other thing to make them move. He was reminding me that he doesn’t just take the bad things and removes them but he adds power and progress (movement) to the great things. He challenged and reminded me that the power to do both were already given to us, let’s use it to impact our world for His glory. What do we need to tell to wither away today? What do we need to tell to move? Have a blessed Monday sisters!

    • Gail

      Such good points !! Thanks Jennifer

    • Eriana

      I never thought of the fig tree/mountain example in that way! It does take a lot of faith to let something die that you desperately want to hold onto. It’s also difficult sometimes to trust in God’s faithfulness as He plans and sets up something else. Faith is certainly be trusting God’s faithfulness when things change, but it’s also strength to let go and cling to him.

  • This hit home for me today. As a “good girl” myself, it is so easy to think that you’re doing a pretty good job and rebel against the rescue…I never thought of it that way before! Lord, help me to look to you in my daily actions rather than my own selfish ways. Help me to see your face and the grace that I am so in need of.

  • Churchmouse

    I don’t fast often. In fact, I fast seldom. I do pray. Long and often. Just as the Israelites had reduced their fasting for their own purpose, so I can do that with my prayers. The Israelites’ fasting became manipulation instead of submission. My praying too easily can become the same. Father, forgive me. I have rebelled even while on my knees.

    • She Reads Truth

      Wow, thank you churchmouse. I don’t know that I would have made that connection otherwise. So thoughtful.

      – Stormye

  • MamaCrazy

    The strongest opponent you will ever wrestle is not the devil. It is yourself.. We must turn to and rely on God by confession, repentance, and forgiveness. This reading was a good reminder for me today that I’m nothing without God. Paying more attention to the little things that seem mundane yet are the most important, like my patience with my children and husband, my words, my ability to forgive and guide my little girls as well as myself to see God in everything and to always always be grateful for what he gives me!

  • Nikki Mock

    Seeing so much of myself in this illustration. I need to remember that every day I am called to pick up my cross and follow Him.

  • Sarah Joy

    Thank you for spending time on the Isaiah chapters. I appreciate how you wove them into your story!

    I can relate to the people pleasing, box checking Christian life. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for giving me some conviction this morning.

  • This story resonates so much with my own. I struggle to remember how depraved and in need of grace I am, until I make a mistake, at which point I am unable to stop thinking about it and I let it rule me. Forgive me, Father, for thinking I can do things on my own without you. Forgive me for choosing to live in guilt rather than grace. Help me to bask in the beauty of the cross and to accept your extraordinary love. Jesus you are wonderful. Amen

    • Jess

      This is so similar to my life as well. Thank you for your words. I pray I will no longer rebel against God’s grace.

    • Mary

      I too see myself in this. I make a mistake or say something that I feel may have offended someone and I go over it and over it. I begin to obsess about it. I live in the guilt and not in the grace. Satan’s way of keeping me distracted.
      Thank you Father for always extending grace. Thank you for meeting me in my need. Thank you for these women who show me I am not alone in my feelings. Thank you Rachel for sharing.

    • Lexi

      Wow you nailed it! ❤️

    • Cecilia

      Amen!

  • Grace.God’s riches at Chriist’s expense.What a mighty God .What a wonderful Saviour.
    Greetings dear sisters from England,have a blessed day

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