Have you ever been to a party and found out you were being socially awkward? Did you feel like you were trying too hard and forcing conversation and you imagined the other person was like, “Please, just stop talking before you hurt yourself”? Did you think to yourself, “Wow. Did I really just say that? What the heck?” and find that you couldn’t make yourself stop?
Have you ever felt like you were forcing a friendship or other relationship instead of letting God guide it in His own way? Did you feel that even you knew that God’s plan for the relationship was better that you couldn’t stop trying to take control?
Have you ever felt like no matter how you jumped through all the religious hoops, you never could pray enough or evangelize enough or worship loud enough to meet the exacting standards?
Then you probably know what the tax-collector felt when he prayed, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner.”
Note: He didn’t say that he was a sinner, one among many, but the sinner. Not just someone who messes up, but isn’t as bad as others, but the chief of sinners. That’s from the Greek.
Guess what? When you can pray that prayer and mean it, you are truly set free.
You are set free from trying to earn God’s approval, as well as the approval of others. You find that approval is already yours through the finished work of Jesus Christ. You find that you are good enough, because God says you are good enough.
If you’ve ever gone through a season where you can see your own brokenness, then you know that sometimes the only words you can find to pray are “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.”
God says that He is close to the cries of the broken-hearted, those who know they don’t have what it takes in and of themselves. His strength is still made complete when we confess that we are weak and not only confess, but boast in that very weakness.
May that be your prayer today. “God, be merciful to me, the sinner.”
And go to fellowshipnashville.org to check out the sermon on which most of this was based. It’s amazing.