Believers desire to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord because they’ve been saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. They strive to be fully pleasing to Him and bear fruit in every good work. We pray for one another to increase in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:9-10). While good works do not save us (Ephesians 2:8-9), true faith will demonstrate itself through works, or it is a dead faith (James 2:14-17). Ephesians 2:10, “We were created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared for us beforehand that we should walk in them.” Our works bring our Heavenly Father glory (Matthew 5:16) because we were created to bring Him glory (Isaiah 43:7). Despite this biblical knowledge, my sinful nature fights: “What if I mess up? What if I do something wrong? What if I say something wrong? What if I write something wrong?” This ungodly fear may sound like humility, but it’s not. It’s pride. All fear, except the fear of God, is the opposite of trusting God. At the root of all ungodly fear is pride, which must be repented, confessing it as a sin, turning from it, and to Christ alone (1 John 1:9-2:2). But how do we do that? How can I fight the ungodly fear of messing up?

1. Realize God is Sovereign

Daniel 2:20-22 says, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to Whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.” God is sovereign, but it’s one thing to say He is sovereign and another to believe He is sovereign in the daily stuff of life. Believing God is sovereign means we will apply biblical truth to the everyday stuff of our lives.

My narrow-minded, prideful sin nature makes it easier for me to trust in God’s sovereignty over the world than to trust in His sovereignty over the consequences of my individual choices and their impact on the lives of the people around me. But truly believing He is sovereign starts with setting aside my false sense of control and recognizing that the free will He has given me is worked into the bigger picture of His omnipotent sovereignty. It means knowing that no matter what happens, God will use it to make His children more like Jesus.

Romans 8:28-29, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” Knowing the One who created us means we also know the One wrote our entire story. Psalms 139:16 says, “In Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them” (NASB95). God has already written our stories, and for believers, every story has a happy culminating with being with Christ forever.

2. Understand Christ Is Our Righteousness

In the book of Jeremiah, The Lord reveals Himself as Jehovah Tsidkenu—The Lord is our Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6). To be declared righteous means to be declared right before God; it means to be justified (“Righteousness – Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words”). We are not righteous in and of ourselves (Romans 3:10). We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but Christ became to us who are in Him, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). Paul wrote that for our sake, God made Jesus to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Christ is our righteousness—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe (Romans 3:22). We cannot earn justification through our works; justification comes through faith in Christ Jesus alone (Galatians 2:15-16). And, just as we did not earn it through our merit, we also cannot lose it through our failures (Hebrews 7:25, Romans 8:1). Our standing with God is based on the righteousness of Christ and not on any righteousness of our own, so we are completely secure in Christ– because of Christ (Romans 8:31-39). We are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith (Romans 3:24-25). Nothing can shake us from the position we hold before God because it is held through Christ, our righteousness.

3. Know Christ Bore Our Punishment

Have you ever heard someone say, “I want to take my punishment so I can have a clear conscience before God?” They are trying to reconcile themselves by taking their punishment. The truth is, bearing their punishment is getting what they deserve, but it does not wash them clean. We cannot reconcile ourselves to God (Ephesians 2:8-9). God does not desire sacrifices or offerings made by us (Hebrews 10:5). This is why Jesus came as the God-Man so we could be sanctified through the offering of Jesus Christ once and for all (Hebrews 10:10). Christ offered Himself as a single sacrifice for sins, for by His single offering He perfected for all time us who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:12,14). Only through faith in Jesus, the perfect, spotless Lamb sacrificed for us, can our hearts be clean from an evil conscience (Hebrews 10:22).

When we put our faith in Jesus, we acknowledge that we cannot wash ourselves clean through our sacrifices any more than we can save ourselves through our merits (Romans 3). You could suffer an ocean of tears. Because you are a sinner, you could bleed your body dry and never come any closer to reconciling yourself before God. Our sin has so utterly separated us from the holiness of God that no amount of serving our time, paying our debt, or taking our punishment would ever be adequate to reconcile us to God (Romans 3:23-25). But Christ bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. Only through the death of the perfect Lamb can we be brought into right standing before God. That perfect Lamb was pierced for our transgressions, and He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). It is by His wounds that we have been healed (1 Peter 2:24). We need a Savior.

4. Believe Christ Is Our Advocate

When we sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One, who is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:1-2). So, Christ is our righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), Christ bore our punishment (Isaiah 53:5), and Christ is our advocate. Jesus actively intercedes for us at the right hand of God (1 John 2:1-2, Hebrews 7:25). He appears in the presence of God on our behalf (Hebrews 9:24). He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him since He always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).

I want to pause here to reiterate what I’m confident you already know. And that is that these thrilling truths do not give us a license to sin. We cannot throw our hands in the air and make whatever choices we want, all in the name of ‘God is sovereign, Christ is my righteousness, and He bore my punishment.’ Paul wrote, “What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!  How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2) Romans 6:13-14, “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” These truths do not remove our responsibility to put off sin and put on Christ (Ephesians 4:22-24, Romans 13:14).

5. Obey Through Christ

I have an extremely cautious personality. If a line is drawn in the sand and I’m told not to cross it, I tend to stand ten (or ten thousand) feet away from the line, so I don’t accidentally sneeze and trip over it. This isn’t bad in and of itself, but when I’m weak, it can turn into the sin of failing to do what God has told me to do because I’m scared, I might mess up. Jesus told a parable in Matthew 25:26-30:

26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

God has given every believer good works to do (Ephesians 2:10) and being afraid of messing up is not an excuse for slothfulness. It is not an excuse to run and bury what He has given you. So, applying all these truths means that when the fear comes saying, “What if I mess up?” I can say, “I might mess up, but I know I am secure because I know Christ is my righteousness, Christ bore my punishment, and Christ is my advocate. Therefore, I choose to obey through Christ.”

In Summary:

I’m going to mess up. It’s a Bible-proven fact. So are you but be encouraged!

God is sovereign:

Romans 8:28-29, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.”

Christ is our righteousness:

Titus 3:4-7, “When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Christ bore our punishment: 

1 Peter 2:24, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds, you have been healed.”

You obey through Christ:

Philippians 2:12-13, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

So, fellow believers, do not be afraid. Christ, your Advocate and High Priest, is interceding for you. Let your light shine before others so they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:17). I am praying for you.

References

*All Bible quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise stated.

* Vine, W. “Righteousness – Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.” Blue Letter Bible. 24 June 1996. Web. 6 July 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/dictionary/viewtopic.cfm>.

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