Do you feel like a spiritual failure? I suppose those feelings find their way into many different kinds of people. Perhaps you have really messed up with your family. On Sunday your spouse (or former spouse) is going to have your kids packed up and ready for church in the morning while you will be nowhere to be found. Of course, it wasn’t always like that, but it’s been that way for far too long.
Maybe you are regular in church but you know your heart is not fully engaged. How can it be when you are a slave to pornography? Instead of declaring war on this enemy of your soul, you have surrendered more and more of your heart to its allure. On the outside, you look fine, but inside you are so riddled with guilt you don’t know which way is up.
You may be the nicest person in your neighborhood, but if you are not motivated by a true love for God in your words, attitudes, and actions, you are spiritually empty. God is never pleased with morality without obedience to his greatest commandment of all. It is actually spiritual treason to try to live a good life on your own terms.
Unlike the other examples mentioned, perhaps you are the guy that is head over heels in love with your sins. You may have enough sense to even know that the things you are doing are real sins against God, but honestly, you don’t care anymore—you want your lifestyle more than you want Jesus.
Drugs have your heart. They make the pain go away––for a while. The lies keep others from knowing the truth––or at least all of the truth. Sex with others is more exciting than sex with your spouse. Cheating people out of their money means a better lifestyle for you.
If any of these descriptions match up with your profile you qualify as a spiritual failure.
In one remarkable way, it is a very good thing to wake up to that reality. Only those who know that they are sick will go to the doctor.
How many stories have you heard about people filled with treatable cancer or other diseases that could have been cured if they would have only known about the disease in time? The same is true about being a spiritual failure.
Tax men in Bible times were considered bad news. You remember Zacchaeus? He was that wee little man hated by all of Israel in a big way. Tax men in the ancient world sold out to the ruling Romans to tax their own people, paying themselves the overflow of their overcharges. Another such Bible bad guy was Levi.
The Bible doesn’t detail much about their initial encounter, but apparently Jesus went up to the terrible tax booth and met the hated tax man Levi (also known as Matthew). It was one of those accounts where we just hear Jesus give the brief “Follow me,” and then see the guy leave everything and follow Jesus.
It is good to think about the situation, though. Levi wasn’t just leaving his nets for his parents to pass on to other fishermen, like Peter and John did; he was leaving a lucrative tax franchise. He was walking away from a lifestyle of lots of dirty money and lots of filthy friends. He was compelled to follow Jesus.
Immediately, he wanted to share the joy of his spiritual fresh start with his needy friends. So he threw a party and invited them to come and spend time with Jesus. Levi likely had a big house, and on this occasion, it was probably loaded with good foods and drinks and a not so spiritual crowd. Can you imagine the kinds of questions that were asked of Jesus?
There were other questions also being asked about Jesus nearby. Just outside the party of spiritual failures, the Pharisees firing accusatory questions at Jesus’ disciples: “Why does he eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Sharing a meal means sharing a meaningful connection, especially in cultures like the Bible’s. Jesus wasn’t just sharing fast food either—this was a feast. Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees stuffed all of their questions back down their throats, but it should fill your heart with a dawning hope. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:30-31).
Spiritual failures who know they are spiritual failures are like sick people who know they are sick. They are the ones who go to the doctor for treatment. Jesus is the physician specializing in the cure of souls. If you are a spiritual failure, you are in a good place to see your need for Jesus.
Look again at what he said. He said he came to call sinners to repentance. He doesn’t reject you. He is not repulsed by your lifestyle. He is not trying to beat you down with guilt. You are already guilty, and you know it. Jesus is calling you to repent, to turn from your sins to him. He wants to deal with your guilt by forgiving you of its cause.
Although Jesus died on the cross, rose from the dead, and returned to heaven a very long time ago, he is still the same as when he walked on the earth. He is still here through the Holy Spirit. He still is issuing his loving calls to spiritual failures like you.
Take full advantage of the fact that you can see your condition, and come to Christ. Tell him what he already knows. Ask him to forgive you. Ask him to change you. He will do it.
God punished Jesus on the cross in the place of sinners, so that he could offer you this free forgiveness. He raised Jesus from the dead in part to prove to people like you that he can do everything that he claims. Let the dawning of hope turn to the bright sunshine of faith. What do you have to lose?
By John Crotts