Respect and obedience - two things we struggle with so much. Why? Maybe it is because we haven't learned to respect ourselves well enough because we struggle so much with obedience! We think about obedience and we get all "down" on ourselves because we just don't "measure up" a great deal of the time. We set out to do one thing, but eventually we drift into doing something else totally different. This is the course of life - we make plans one way - but we drift from the plan, realizing differing results because of the "drift". I think if we maybe looked again at the instructions we are given in scripture, we might just realize where our "drift" has come from. Scripture tells us to respect and obey God - I don't see anything there about dealing with our guilt over our lack of perfect obedience. In fact, if we look elsewhere in scripture, God tells us he takes our "guilt" upon him - we don't have to bear it any longer. Seems to me the starting place for obedience in our lives is to rightly respect God in our lives - as the one who directs our course, having made a way for our failures to get fixed through grace. According to what scripture tells us, if we want to begin to live wisely, we start at the place of giving God the proper respect he deserves!
Respect and obey the Lord! This is the beginning of wisdom. To have understanding, you must know the Holy God. I am Wisdom. If you follow me, you will live a long time. (Proverbs 9:10-11 CEV)
Lest you think I am not into "respecting" oneself, let me assure you I am not advocating we don't respect our bodies, minds, or intelligence. Indeed, God created all of these, so we need to regard them with the respect he has for them - the amount of respect that sent his Son to the cross to die to redeem them! Most of our struggles with obedience begin in the understanding of the "how", "where", "when", "what", and "why" of our sin. We need understanding of "how" it is we are pulled off course, coupled with a knowledge of "what" it is which entices us to compromise. We also need to know the "when" of our compromise - for it might just be the moment of our weakest times that gives us the hardest struggles. We also need to know "where" we begin to turn away from the course we were on - because the subtlest of deviations will significantly alter the destination we achieve. Add these together and we usually get into the "why" of our sin or compromise. Usually we start with the "why" because guilt asks "why" first! We often cannot get at the "why" until we have understanding of the rest! To have understanding, we must know the Holy God - this is what we are told. "Knowing" is more than a casual acquaintance with him - it is a growing relationship!
This might just explain why we don't get to the bottom of our compromises in life - we don't really get to "know" God. If we were growing in our relationship with him, our understanding of the areas of struggle in our lives would become more evident to us - because he is wisdom and if we draw near to him, we get to know what he knows! The "drawing near" is really what it means to follow. We don't just "happen along" in this relationship with Jesus. We enter in, dig in, and we "get to know" him. To do so, we might have to discover what it is scripture declares about how he operates, what he values, where he works, what means he uses to accomplish his purposes, etc. The more we discover "about" him, the more we get to know how to related "to" him.
As I have grown in my own relationship with Jesus, I have come to some conclusions. God loves me just as I am. This was probably the hardest thing for me to actually take beyond "lip-service" and really accept as truth in my life. I was pretty much without any respect for myself because I was living under a pretty big load of guilt in my early years with Jesus. Although I believed he loved me intensely, I just didn't think he loved me "as is". That "as is" condition includes my present struggles with compromise and past sinful deeds. To love me enough to embrace me with all this baggage was just something I didn't think God really did. I am being honest here, my friends. Good girls go to heaven - bad girls have another destination. This is what my mind believed. My heart didn't believe I could ever be "good enough". Truth be told - I could never be "good enough" to get into heaven on my own. I needed to be embraced by God's love and the only way I was going to do that was to let go of what "goodness" I thought I could muster up on my own! God accepts each of us in our "as is" condition. He goes to great extremes to show us how much he respects each of us "as is" by giving his Son as the means by which we can exchange our "as is" for his!
The same is true for each of us. None of us is outside of God's love. We enter into obedience, not by our good deeds, but by bringing our "baggage" to God and then putting him in a right place in our lives. That place? The very center of our being. This means we go to him regardless of how "worthy" we feel - even with our imperfections and baggage. In giving him the center of our being, he enters in and brings wisdom and understanding beyond our capacity to comprehend without his help. In turn, we begin to see the "why" behind our sin and compromise. In time, we begin to learn "where" we can break the cycle and we find our compromises become less and less. We don't need to fully understand grace to appreciate it! We just need to be embraced by it and then allow it to do the work it is capable of doing! Just sayin!