So goes the cry for help, first seen on American television in the late 1980’s in infomercials for a product called Life Call (now called Life Alert). The original commercial and the woman who played “Mrs. Fletcher”, who first spoke the tag line in the commercials, have gone on to be cultural icons.
The genius of the product is a little box with a button that hangs by a chain around the neck of an elderly person. When in peril, through injury from accident or illness, they need only press the button hanging around their neck, and speak into the air. At that time, an in house receiver, which is connected to a call center, transmits their cry for help to the dispatcher who can help them.
Life Alert claims to save 44,800 per year or at least one person every 11 minutes from a catastrophic outcome.
Recently, I was reminded of Life Alert, in a time of spiritual difficulty, when I felt the weight of my old man of sin against my faith and life for Christ. In my heart, I felt the despair of an overwhelming spiritual struggle, because of an angry and sinful outburst, contrary to the Christ life we are called to walk in.
No matter how I prayed or what I did to make it right, it felt as though I could not get up. In my heart I felt condemned and spiritually my mind was screaming “Help me Jesus, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”
Perhaps, you think me melodramatic, but I am sure many of you have felt this way at times as you walk with Jesus. What do we do when we truly have a moment where our old man gets the best of us and without thinking we snap in a carnal pattern of behavior, which reflects poorly on the Lord Jesus Christ and reveals a weakness in our Christian character? How do we mitigate the fall out?
It is important to understand that these falls do not arise from a heart that desires to sin, but in and among those who truly desire to walk in the righteousness of Christ. Let us consider the real potential we have to fall to sin, even when walking in the light, with potential to walk in the righteousness of Christ.
1 John 1:7-10 (NKJV) But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Let us dismiss a harmful default explanation of verse 8 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”. This does not mean that we sin all the time or that we are allowed to exhibit a continual practice of sin as a believer. In context, this means that those who walk in the light with Christ and in fellowship with other believers, will at times miss the mark of righteousness and sin. The good part is the promise that if we confess our sin, it is forgiven, our account cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
In addition to the benefit of forgiveness (considering our relationship to God), we understand that the promise guarantees us being cleansed of the sin pattern, which is part of sanctification. Although this is wonderful truth, we must admit that to fall down and sin, whether in a spontaneous inconsistent outburst or in some consistent and revealed weakness in our character, is grievous to our soul. Despite knowing the promise, in those times we can feel like, “we’ve fallen and we can’t get up”.
To be clear, this is not to encourage us to sin and then flippantly confess, “I repent”, without godly sorry, which is necessary for true repentance unto sanctification. We are called to live holy and walk in the righteousness of Christ, which ought not be in dispute. My intention is to encourage those who love the Lord with all their heart, but have fallen in such a way, that makes them feel they are damaged goods.
In order to do this we must understand that painful falls, where sin reveals character yet to be touched by the Holy Spirit, are at times a necessary and painful part of the process of sanctification. Without these falls, we would seldom grow deeper than a profession of faith and a superficial relationship to God, a mile wide and a inch deep. Great trial comes upon those who sincerely love the Lord, who desire to be nearer to Him; intent on living with all their being to glorify Jesus Christ.
A.W. Tozer, in what he termed the “paradox of the Christian life” explained that our desire to be near to God, who is holiness personified, is a paradox for the Christian. The reason for this, is that the closer we get to the Lord of Life and glory, the more He reveals that in us which not yet practically sanctified. In other words, to be closer to Him means He must reveal the areas of our sinful character, that most hinder our relationship to Him; that the Holy Spirit may cleanse us from those carnalities.
In this paradox, we understand the adversary of our soul, the Devil, walks about, looking for someone to devour (I Peter 5:8). His attacks make up a portion of the trials we face, that we are to rejoice in, which will galvanize our faith and purify us of existing patterns of sin (I Peter 1:6-7). In order to partake in this process we must recognize how our own emotions and feelings work against our godly desire to be transformed for the purpose of glorifying Christ.
In Hebrews 12:1-17 we find almost the entire chapter devoted to those who are in spiritual trial, under the loving discipline of God; and in danger of running from Him rather than dealing with their damaged emotions and carnal sensibilities.
Hebrews 12:12-17 (NKJV) Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
In light of this passage, we must understand that the potential exists for sincere Christians to fall away (Hebrews 6:4-6; Revelation 2:1-8). This is the paradox of the Christians life: To have the Holy Spirit empowering, leading and working in us, but miss seeing the damaged emotions and remnants of the old man, which can lead to us drifting away from the God we love.
Even if we know the promise of God to forgive us and cleanse us from unrighteousness, we must admit that the aftermath of having blown it can be like being caught in a tornado of terror and emotional upset, where we feel “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up“. So what can we do?
REMEMBER THE GRACE OF GOD BY WHICH YOU ARE SAVED
When falling down, remember that you and I were never saved by keeping ourselves up right. We were saved by the grace of God, in the cross of Jesus Christ, because we could never fulfill the law of God. This grace is received by repentance and faith. Should we be in this state of grace, we still grieve at our sin and confess it, but hold to His promise and move on. If you are like me, you may get stuck looking back at the fall and forget the promise. Don’t, but remember…
1 John 3:18-21 (NKJV) My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.
CONFESS YOU ARE STRUGGLING TO SEE AND NEED CHARACTER WORK
One of the things we tend to do when falling down is to declare “I do not understand why I can’t stop” or “Why can’t I overcome this emotion or sinful proclivity“. In asking questions we often miss the point that we are struggling to see.
2 Peter 1:5-11 (NKJV) But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
It is very important we understand that even mature Christians can fall to old habits, haunts and sins. When we are in that place, it may be that sanctification has been hindered in some way. We could begin to take stock of what we are missing, but it is far more important confess to God, we are shortsighted and struggling to see the why. In this confession we ask that the Lord to reveal what wee are lacking in the way of Christ’s character and what must be removed by Him. Remember He is the one who reveals.
Psalms 139:23-24 (NKJV) Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.
It is important at this stage to remember that we are to confess our faults to one another and pray for one another to be healed, for the effective and fervent prayers of the righteous avail much (James 5:16). We need not suffer in silence, when we can confide in the brethren and have accountability and reinforced strength, in seeking to overcome. Call on the brethren to assist you.
REMEMBER HE IS THE ONE WHO WILL PICK YOU UP
This is so very important. When we fall and sin, we try and try to get up on our own. Like the Galatians, whom Paul rebuked, we begin, being saved by grace (in the Spirit), only to fall attempting to get up and be perfected by carnal strength (Galatians 3:2-3). In order to get up, our Life Alert is not a button, but a path to the Father opened up by Christ Himself, where we can go boldly before the throne of grace, finding mercy, grace and empowerment, in time of need (Hebrews 4:15). Let us remember who saved Peter, when he sunk, attempting to walk with Jesus.
Matthew 14:28-32 (NKJV) And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
When we remember daily, that apart from Him we can do nothing, we hold to the truth that He is always keeping us upright; especially when we are falling to our old man carnalities. It is often in these falls, that He reveals the truth that it is Him alone that enables us to get back again; because He is always with us and ready when we cry out “Lord Jesus help me! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up“.
Let us rejoice, for if we call on Him, He will never let us fall to where we can’t get up.