Like I said, I’m sick. Anyone who knows me knows that when I get sick, watch out for the most disgraceful wretch of a pitiful human being ever to grace the planet. Needless to say, I don’t “do sick well”.
Since I am *this* sick, I missed church this morning. I just didn’t feel up to it from all the medicines flowing through me and my general achyness that I have.
As I’m lying in the bed sniffling like a poor school kid who just had his skates stolen, I began to condemn myself. Ever so subtely, that inner condemnation that I know far too well began to sloooowly creep in. “Awe, c’mon Matt, you’re not that sick,” and “Isn’t He worthy enough for you to drag your pitiful carcass out of bed and into church to worship Him?”
Yeah, you reforming legalists out there know what I’m talking about and you know that voice too well.
It’s the voice of your filthy self righteous self telling you that the Lord is now looking down on you in displeasure. It’s you telling yourself that you blew it yet again and that now you need to beat yourself about the head with a clothes hangar for being such a wretch.
But hold your horses there chief. You’re forgetting something and if my hunch is correct, we legalsits tend to fall into this slough more than we would care to admit during the course of a day.
Winston Churchill, who suffered from a constant ongoing depression often referred to it as a “black dog”. It constantly hounded him and was incessantly digging its nails into his flesh. I read an article dealing with this depression of his and something jumped out at me that I saw as all to closely related to the forgiven man’s fight with his own leglsim and self righteousness:
“Black Dog” was Churchill’s name for his depression, and as is true with all metaphors, it speaks volumes. The nickname implies both familiarity and an attempt at mastery, because while that dog may sink his fangs into one’s person every now and then, he’s still, after all, only a dog, and he can be cajoled sometimes and locked up other times.
Get it? That black dog can be beaten back and locked up. But how? How do we, forgiven men and women, fight back that dog of legalism that so cunningly rears its ugly head to condemn us and rob our joy?
The gospel. It’s the gospel that we need to daily administer to ourselves as one gulps down that bitter medicine when they aren’t feeling well. To the self righteous, that beautiful gospel at times may be bitter to take down. To simply rely on the rightousness of another admits that I in my self am not. It’s a direct assault on the pride and frankly, it’s designed to do just that. To assault you right where you think you have it all together. “Filthy rags” are what you and I bring, we need to remember that at all times. We stand where we stand in a complete alien righteousness that is at times so bizarre and unbelievable to us, that we tend to disregard it and not believe it.
But we must pray “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!” You’re a sinner, but a forgiven sinner all the more. Sin boldly we must, but believe on the Lord Jesus 10 times as much.
When that dog creeps in, swallow that gospel and tell the father of lies and the accuser of the bretheren to stand behind you.
By His stripes, you are healed.