gospel, law

Serve the Lord with Guilt

I wonder sometimes. Out of the million choices and decisions I must face, what if I make the wrong one? I worry sometimes. Am I serving God? Or am I serving myself? Are my constant failures proof that my faith isn’t strong enough? Am I in danger of losing the grace, mercy, and love of Christ?

The car radio paused on a local Christian station today. A voice behind the dashboard shouted answers to these very questions before I even knew what was happening. Mindlessly, driving down the freeway, listening to a plea to serve the Lord.

“If you believe in Jesus, you must put him above everything. He is Lord of all. But if you are struggling in your walk, fighting to know what the will of the Lord is for your life, you must work on this. It might be hard, but you will be blessed.”

I wonder. Do I put Jesus above everything? I worry. Do I act like He is Lord of all? I struggle. Will I still receive His gifts of mercy if I can’t be faithful? I am disappointed in what I’ve done, and what I still can’t get right. So, what do I do? It might be hard, that voice said. Just do these things, and be blessed by serving the Lord.

“Jesus was tempted, but he did not give in. Do this. Jesus healed the sick and fed the poor. Do this. Jesus calmed a storm by the power of His word. Do this. Jesus forgave the undeserving. Do this. Follow His example. Walk in His path. Do this, and serve the Lord.”

I’m not the only one who wonders, I’m sure. Christians everywhere are burdened to serve the Lord. But today I worry. I feel His demands tighten around my neck, directing me to be a better servant: a loving mother, a patient mentor, a humble conqueror. I should beat myself back when my eyes are unfocused and my hands unworthy. I am too often reduced to disgust and shame, and I need to do something about this. So the radio answered, just serve the Lord.

But what if I can’t? Do I dare to ask? What if I give in to temptation? What if I don’t heal or feed? What if I can’t forgive? What if I don’t harness the power of God’s Word? “Serve the Lord, or else…” Or else what? “Serve the Lord, or else you don’t really believe.” “Do this, or else you will not receive his blessings.” “Serve the Lord, or else you will be the enemy of God.” “Do this, or else you will die an eternal death.” “Serve the Lord with guilt.”

The voice just kept going: more to do, more to say, more to fail, more to regret. Reminding me, gently, to rededicate and repurpose. But as much as I pray, as hard as I try, I wonder. Did I pray enough? I worry. Did I really try this time? I drove on trapped in the guilt of not serving my Lord.

So what is this all about? Serving the Lord. I wonder. I worry. That I really am not cut out for this.

Serving the Lord, Jesus hung dead on a wooden cross of shame, displayed for generations of sinners to see. Serving the Lord, slaughtered for sins he never did, reversing the failures from the beginning of time. Jesus hid my guilt. Jesus bled out my neglect. Jesus silenced the radio’s screams to serve the Lord.

I need Christ: He perfectly served the Lord, for my sake. Let me hear Christ, who calls me a new creation. He overcame temptation, and I am free from the devil’s lie. He healed the sick and fed the poor, this is me. While I am still a sinner, Christ died for the ungodly. He brought in the outcasts, and I am in.

I don’t wonder. I’m not worried. I serve the Lord and struggle as a terrible sinner who can’t follow the right path. I serve the Lord even though my heart still desires evil. I serve the Lord at the same time that my faith isn’t strong enough. Because it isn’t my faithful action and work that serves the Lord. Rather, Christ’s faithful action and work knelt down to serve me.

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