I have bad habits, in this case: setting unrealistic and idealistic goals, failing to meet those goals, and then feeling like a failure; or setting realistic and reachable goals, failing to meet those goals, and then feeling like a failure; or (less often) setting goals, achieving or exceeding them, and feeling awesome about myself.
A good example is getting up early for quiet time. On Tuesday, I set my alarm for 6:00 a.m., intending to get up, get ready, and get spiritual. I got up at 6:50, got ready, and surfed the internet instead of spending time with the Lord. The previous Thursday, I got up on time (6:15 a.m. or so), got ready, made coffee, spent time with the Lord, and felt great.
I need the gospel in both cases.
On Tuesday, I felt like an unspiritual, chubby loser and felt unworthy to come into God’s presence — all because I slept an extra 45 minutes and had a rushed morning. The previous Thursday, I felt like a spiritual athlete — like I was really pressing on toward the goal. There is something dangerous in the way I was viewing my performance in both cases, though. In both cases I was operating as though my performance was the basis of my standing with God. I was treating my success or failure to meet my goals as the merit or demerit of my communion with God.
That’s dangerous, and sinful.
I need to remind myself of the gospel:
1. I need to remind myself when I fail to achieve a standard I set for myself that I am accepted on Christ’s merits and not my own. I should not, of course, use that as an excuse. But I am being wrongheaded (and sinfully so) if I am ashamed to come into God’s presence based on whether or not I got up when I wanted to.
2. The other side of the coin is that I cannot view my achievements and success as a basis for God’s favor. That is self-righteousness.
The only basis for my approach to God and standing before him is Christ. I need to remind myself of this, and remind myself of it all the time.