Here’s another gem from Don Carson’s book, Scandalous.
In this section Carson gives examples of two very different days that you might experience from time to time. One day is filled with frustration, disappointment and failure at home and at work. You’re late for work and when you get there you find people talking behind your back, your boss puts you under pressure, when someone asks you about Christianity you’re rude and unhelpful, the kids won’t behave, you can’t be civil with your wife when you’re disappointed with what she has prepared for dinner.
The day ends with a dry, guilt-ridden, and formulaic prayer.
The other example Carson gives is just about the perfect day. Everything goes well at home and at work and you feel a million dollars. You have a great quiet time with your wife, you are appreciated at work and get a raise, you meet that person who wanted to know about Christianity and this time answer their questions with wisdom and tact, the kids are delightful, mealtime is wonderful, and after dinner you have a heartfelt and intimate conversation with your wife.
This day ends with a prayer that is long, lavish, joyful, and laced through with a sense of peace — you feel justified.
I certainly recognize these patterns in my own life.
Here’s what Carson has to say with regard to the two end-of-day prayers:
On which of these two occasions have you fallen into the dreadful trap of paganism? God help us: the sad reality is that both approaches to God are abominations. How dare you approach the mercy-seat of God on the basis of the kind of day you had, as if that were the basis for our entrance into the presence of the sovereign and holy God? No wonder we cannot beat the Devil. This is works theology. It has nothing to do with grace and the exclusive sufficiency of Christ. Nothing.
Do you not understand that we overcome the accuser on the ground of the blood of Christ? Nothing more, nothing less. That is how we win. It is the only way we win. This is the only ground of our acceptance before God. That is why we can never get very far from the cross without distorting something fundamental, not only in doctrine but in elementary discipleship, faithful perseverance, obedience, and spiritual warfare against the enemy of our souls. If you drift far from the cross, you are done. You are defeated. We overcome the accuser of our brothers and sisters, we overcome our consciences, we overcome our bad tempers, we overcome our defeats, we overcome our lusts, we overcome our fears, we overcome our pettiness on the basis of the blood of the Lamb. We dare approach a holy God, praying in Jesus’ name, appealing to the blood of the Lamb.