Decorating the house for Christmas is something our whole family looks forward to. We usually start first thing in the morning, bringing out the boxes of lights and ornaments and figurines, delighting over the sentimental treasures that will soon adorn our home. Christmas music plays as we string lights on a freshly cut tree. It’s typically a precious family time that we all treasure. But one year, in particular, someone put a damper on the fun.
I walked into the living room, where our four children were gathered, to find our 2-year-old son unwrapping a box of expensive, delicate ornaments we’d brought back from a special family vacation. I admonished him and put the box in a spot he couldn’t reach. Minutes later, I came back into the room to find the same box back on the floor, my then 2-year-old son about to pull the arm off his older brother’s beloved Captain Hook, and my 7-year-old daughter standing there watching! I wish I could say I responded calmly. But my annoyance and impatience turned to anger as I yelled out, “Who gave him the special ornaments?!” I grabbed the box from the floor and thrust it onto an even higher shelf, indignant at the seeming irresponsibility of my children.
Suddenly everything changed, and the joy went out of the room. My kids looked at me with tear-filled eyes, startled and ashamed by my anger. The happy Christmas music sounded very out of place.
Remorse instantly filled my heart. Within minutes I knew I needed to apologize to each of my children. It can be hard to say I’m sorry and seek forgiveness, especially for a sinful reaction to something that legitimately needed to be addressed. But my sin was still sin. So as Captain Hook looked on, both arms still fully attached, I swallowed my pride and asked the kids to forgive me for my outburst. “This is why Mom needs Jesus.”
Acknowledging our sin to others has a unique way of pointing us back to our Savior. When we humble ourselves by seeking Christ’s forgiveness, as well as the forgiveness of others, we’re owning our imperfection and looking to the only perfect one, the only one who can cleanse us and refresh our sin-saturated souls. Sin is a reminder that, try as we might, we’re completely unable to fulfill God’s commands perfectly. It’s the words of his law that point us to our need for grace.
Our Need for a Rescuer
In Exodus 20 we encounter one of the most famous passages in all of Scripture—the giving of the Ten Commandments. The Lord descends on Mount Sinai in fire and calls Moses to come meet with him. In typical fashion, he reminds the Israelites who he is before addressing how they should live. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2). Perhaps, before giving them rules for their daily lives, he wanted to invoke his authority and remind them of his power to deliver them from their oppressors. In these famous commandments God addresses idolatry, taking his name in vain, the Sabbath, honoring parents, murder, adultery, stealing, lying, and coveting. These commands, indeed all of God’s commands, are given to us for our own good and for his glory.
If everyone kept God’s laws, can you imagine what the world would be like? No shootings, divorce, adultery, complaining, coveting, or temper tantrums? But the truth of the matter is that in our sin-born state, none of us can keep the law. No matter how hard we try, we are bound to mess up. Romans 3:23 tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Other than Jesus Christ, there are no perfect people. Certainly as Believers in Christ we have the power to fight sin and temptation through the Holy Spirit who lives inside of us. But for as long as we live on this earth, we will never be without failure. And it is the commands of God that show us how miserably we fail, revealing to us our need for a Savior, a rescuer from sin.
Our True Righteousness and Hope
Our hope does not lie in ourselves or our performance. We cannot gain God’s blessing through obeying his commands, and we can’t do enough good deeds to earn forgiveness for even the smallest sin. As mothers, we can be tempted to find our righteousness in giving our children the picture-perfect childhood, filled with super-food meals and the best education possible. Somehow we falsely believe that if we can be the ideal Proverbs 31 wife and mother, we will earn favor with God. Yet our hope is solely in what Christ has already done, what he accomplished for us on the cross.
Our righteousness will never come from being good enough. It comes from Christ, who granted us new life in himself and placed trust in our hearts—trust in the one atoning death that covers all our sin. Second Corinthians 5:21 tells us, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Every day, each time we fail to keep God’s perfect commands, what glorious assurance we can have. For we know that our righteousness is not in anything that we do, but in Christ alone. When we fail, when we sin, amidst the remorse and regret, we can thank God for his commandments. For they reveal our imperfections and lead us to the cross, our only hope of ever being counted good enough.