I thought you might think better of me this way…

Time for a major confession here; no more hiding: I try to maintain like I’m not selfish…EVER! (I know, how believable, right?) But, the problem is that I believe that this is a facade that others should be able to easily equate with the real me. I don’t feel like I can deal with the truth if it were to be universally acknowledged.

I struggle, trying to always be ahead of where I really am spiritually. I don’t like thinking I’m a sinner–that is so just…ugh! Who wants to believe that about themselves? Certainly not anyone who has any pride. (Ding! Ding! That would be me.) The truth is that I have not yet gotten to the place where I do not want my image to be a prominent part of my life in Christ. I cannot seem to let it go.

I like the idea of being linked with Christ, but in my heart I do not yet understand all that such a union must entail. I do not have a strong enough concept of Christ. I perceive that I must be always seeing Him in light of me rather than having it the other way around. I believe I’ve it here before that I see myself as the measure of all things, if I’m truly honest.

So the question then becomes, if I see myself as the one the universe revolves around and hinges on, how can I possibly have the capacity for being unselfish? Surely, God who is truly the embodiment of these things, does yet remain unselfish though He does have the right to absolute rule over His universe. But, as one who has a heart-problem that projects myself into His place of infinite prerogative, I cannot maintain sinlessness in attempting an unauthorized copy of His deity.

So the fact that I can say I appreciate God for who He is, is largely influenced by the fact that His identity is something I covet for myself. I want His image to cover me, but in the wrong way. I anticipate how He will make me look good–almost like I favor Him as my ticket to achieving a spiritual make-over. I love Him for me, not Him.

But, if this is not how God intends for us to love Him, how can you and I move beyond living heart-lives similar to what I’ve described above? Is there hope for us and, if so, what does that look like? How can God invade our hearts to the point that our hearts look more like His than the ones we started with? Where does the transformation come from?

I think the secret is found woven into the very questions we’re posing. The necessary ingredient to spiritual transformation is not expecting it to come from us. We broach the journey with the assumption that we are going to be worked on far more than we will ever be purely working out.

We trust that God will be the miracle-worker here. Whatever He asks of us we will do, but nothing that comes about will be recognized as purely our effort. There is so much more going on here than we can see; therefore, we cannot possibly be leading the project at any time. Our change is in God’s hands.

Because all that needs to change us must be God’s project, we do not relate the facts about us to the case first. We sidestep everything that there is to be known about us and choose to boast with God only in the Person of Jesus Christ. If we want to stay where we are in our selfishness, we need not reach out for God at all. But if we want to take on the character of Christ in its place, then surely we can do no less than set our focus Him.

In fact, we must seek Him for the power to lay aside every other enticing focus of our affections and interest. We want self to lose all of its governing power over us. But this victory is truly only as valuable as the internal territory that God gains by the fight. If we become selfless but do not become godly, there is no credit to the Savior. He wants the end to show that He was the One who brought, not just change, but redemption. Selfishness is wrong and distasteful because of the corruption that it is of God’s original design for us. We don’t just need to become less self-intensive but to be redirected to become beings of glory-giving to our God. Does this sound like it might be the offensive strategy we need against the self that seeks to use all our hearts for one who is not one with the Father, Son or Holy Spirit?

Will you stop thinking of yourself!!

I’m having a hard time not obsessing over myself right now. I did something wrong and I want to make amends for it. I want to somehow cancel it out. I really want, more than anything, to forget it happened. I talked to God about it before I went to bed. He knew my heart–how I was sorry and wanted Him to change my heart that I might not sin in this way again. But He also knew the fears that I had regarding the future of my relationship with the person I sinned against. He knew I needed peace–to be reminded of the gospel–before I could ever move on and experience renewed growth.

He told me All is right with you, meaning that He has already forgiven my sins at the cross and there claimed the power to give me the victory over them. He was instructing me to let go of the guilt I was vainly using to scourge myself. The truth that I most needed right then–and He provided–is that Christ is the only one who can reconcile my defiled deeds. I, the defiled and defiling one, can never truly make amends for my offenses to Him or other people. He had to make amends on my behalf.

I think, as liberating as that is, it’s a hard truth to accept. How can it really not be more about me? I wonder. I’m grateful that God’s intervention would offer me hope, but in some ways I’m unwilling to fully receive it. If I do, I’m saying that my actions–even my misdemeanors–are not final; they are not complete. God’s actions can still trump them. My pride finds that irreconcilable with my Elaine-centered theology. The real problem is that I don’t want my theology to be changed so that I can better agree with the truth of God’s Word. I want the two of them to sort of coexist. I don’t want to let go of my truth to accept God’s truth.

What I’m really saying here is that I will live with the discomfort that my theology occasionally gives me when it is challenged by God’s theology. I will stick with it to the end because it gives me a sense of power that I cannot deny. In fact, I know that God’s theology does not offer me the same power. Yes, it calls me a person of dignity and free will, but it does not apply to my fleshly longings for me-centric power. Rather, the power it recognizes in me ultimately affirms God and His sovereign power over me. What power I do have comes from Him. While there is some glory in what God has given me, I don’t like not being left on top. I want to be revered as the sole hinge on which the universe swings.

I’ve been realizing, as I think this through, that from God’s end, my chief sin is not the actions I committed against that person yesterday, but the inclination of my spirit towards Him that He is exposing today. My resistance of His dominant glory is the real part of me that needs to be changed. This is the area that He draws my attention to because this is the area of my heart that I least want to acknowledge. More than a wrong action, it convicts me of sin in a way that identifies my whole person in the wrong. I may want Him to change my behavior, but I really don’t want Him to have anything to do with this part of me. Therefore, I want Him to be lenient–that is, agreeably tolerant of the sin He would address in my heart. I want Him to make allowance for the fact that this is just the way I am.

I guess this is a prime example of how sin is not neutral and we cannot be neutral about it either. If I am to agree with God that my sin needs to go, I must agree with Him all the way. I cannot just say with my lips a confession that amounts to Oh I’m such a sinner. Yes, isn’t it terrible? If bemoaning my sin is only as far as I get in the adjustment process, then I must make every effort to cease bemoaning what I’ve seen of my sin, in order to act rightly about it. I must acknowledge it and confess it. I must thank God for the forgiveness He granted at the cross and ask for the grace to live worthy of such a gift. I must see in myself the root of selfishness that wants all attention focused on me, even if it is negative. I must not let this turn spirituality into a mockery of the Savior who bought the pardon for my sin. Then I must use my will to set my thoughts on Christ and exalt Him and His glories instead of setting my thoughts on myself and exalting in the glories I have relative to self.

Only by thinking of Christ first will I be able to turn from thinking of myself. It is when He becomes the constant object of my thoughts that I do not sin in the way I focus. When I am directionally righteous, the actions I take follow. Therefore, God, have all of me while I endeavor to have all of You. I don’t want to stop at passively being pulled in to thinking of my errors or my victories again and again. Humility does not have its completion in studying the damages report of my latest sin; rather, it is summed up when I confess my sin and then turn from it to You, the only One I trust to deliver me from it. Then I exalt You because I know Your power has always been greater than both my sin and my righteousness. That is when my thoughts are in the right place.

 

Just in case you’re feeling the victim of a stupid day, I’m qualified to keep you company

I did something really stupid today. I paid too much attention to what other people might think of what I wanted to do. Because of this I curtailed my actions to what I supposed was expected of me and I changed plans. Truly, my plan–my wish–never had a chance. It was sabotaged from the beginning due to my inbred inclination to serve others perception of me. What a mistake! I could have enjoyed myself so much if I hadn’t allowed my idol of human opinion to derail my desire.

The thing that you have to know is that what I wanted to do was good. In fact, in regard to general morality, it was neutral. I wasn’t afraid to do it because it was bad or because it would prove to be beneficial to me in only a weak degree, but because I lacked the courage to back up my decision if someone should call it into question. But even worse, to me, was the prospect of silent evaluations being made of me which I could not contest because they would never be openly voiced.

Now, to some of you, these fears I’m sharing with you may sound outlandish, or at the very least, strongly self-centered. While others of you will know exactly the grounds on which I base these bits of thought-clutter. But, regardless of what you might think, I tell you these things because I want help and I know that help doesn’t meander in the dark where I’ve been hiding. I know that my thoughts are wrong and I want to confess that this is so. I want the chance to relearn other thoughts that will take their place. And, if you find yourself in a similar place, I want you, also, to leave the haunts of broken thinking in pursuit of a pure mind.

Can a pure mind fix itself on what it cannot be sure is true? I never thought of this as a point of application for Philippians 4:8, but maybe I just never looked at the words closely enough; that is, I never saw my heart and mind set as the backdrop to them.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure…think about these things.”

Choosing to make the thoughts of others–what they think of me–the forefront of my thinking earlier was disastrous for many reasons. Most of them can be summed up with the fact that they made it impossible for me to be obedient to this verse. In fact, that preoccupation forced me to cast far from me the counsel God gives me through it.

Consider this with me:

  • If I am anticipating others’ judgments of me, I am judging others; not on their behavior–which displays some level of truth about them–but based on what I am willing to be believe them capable of in terms of sin against me. By so doing, I am living outside the limits of the truth. I am, essentially, choosing to believe a lie (an unproven truth) about others even while I am afraid that they will believe lies about me. I am not constraining my thoughts to whatever is true.
  • If I am focusing my thoughts on the worst possible things that another person or a group of people could do to me (in the form of thoughts or actions) I surely cannot call my thoughts honorable. I try to maintain my honor by stripping others of theirs. I do it in advance so as to eliminate as much risk of humiliation as possible. This thinking actually dishonors me as it reveals an anxiety-ridden mind that does not honor God with trust. I cannot fix my mind on whatever is honorable while at the same time ruminating over all that is potentially dishonorable. There is only so much room in my brain. God designed it to hold nothing more than whatever is honorable.
  • If I am wrapped up in imagining whatever impure thoughts people could possibly have of me, I will find it impossible to cultivate a pure thought-life. For one thing, I am not thinking pure thoughts of others. For another, I am not removing from my mind the garbage of doubt, distrust and ambiguity. I am letting confusion fester in my brain and lead me to places I don’t want to go. As I work to appear pure, my prideful motives work against real purity being cultivated within me. I chose a counterfeit purity that does not obey God’s instruction to feast my mind on whatever is pure.

Come, friend, let’s get up and begin to exercise the kind of thinking that is true, honorable and pure. And, if we look stupid while we’re doing it, at least it won’t be because we made ourselves victims of god-less thinking!

 

The hardest sinners I find to love

This post started out with the title The sinners I find it hardest to love. But, as I thought more about what my greatest frustration with others is, I found that I fail to understand how to love what is hard. For example, how do you love someone who is more like stone than pliable personality? Even more simply, what does one do with such an individual? When someone is like a stone–harsh and unmoving with a “set” quality to their character–how am I supposed to give and receive life while I am with them? I have spent many hours puzzling over this in the course of my life, and the only thing I’ve decided so far is that it impossible–from my viewpoint, anyway.

The hardest part in trying to learn how to love them is not their sin–in itself–but their commitment to it. Their heart is hard and unable to be molded. I resent their comfort with themselves; the lack of acknowledgment they show towards their own need for change. Often, they are the first one to tell you that you need to change. On the one hand, I agree with them. Yes, I do need to change. It is a given. But, please, whatever you do, don’t use my need to change as an excuse for you to not regard change as a necessity for yourself.

An unwillingness to change or be challenged seems like a kind of death to me. People who live out such a commitment seem to breathe out the death that they allow to stay shut up inside. It’s a fearful cycle. And I so often wish I had the liberty of removing them from it. I think, Why wouldn’t you want to be the best you can be? Why wouldn’t you want to mend your broken ways? I don’t fully understand the unwillingness to acknowledge personal brokenness. That seems so childish to me. Grow up and face the truth, I think; don’t you see that you’re caging yourself up because you don’t?

But no one heeds my internally voiced suggestions. Naturally, this aggravates me exceedingly. Don’t they know I want what is best for them? How can they be so blind to what is needed in their life? It is evident to me, as I write this, that in all these detours, I am trying in vain to take on the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those around me. I think He is somehow to weak and if I take on the job their could be powerfully positive developments. Clearly God needs my help.

But maybe I’m just as blind as the people with whom I’m angry. Maybe the reason for my disgruntled attitude is a problem that is deeper and more personal than I think. Could it be that I’m trying to control more than God has given me power over? If so, this could only be because I was making an idol of the contributions others make to my life–I am lifting them above God and thinking that’s okay.

Has my thinking become an expression of self-exoneration? My actions–even when they are solely at the heart level–reveal my propensity to play the God-puppet in the production of my life. I have commandeered His part so that I can be sure it is acted-out right. But this makes me wonder if I quench the Holy Spirit in myself when I try to play Him for others.

Am I condemning God with my beliefs? If I diminish the usefulness of His ministry to others, I cannot properly be reverencing His presence and activity in my own heart. I must choose whether I will see Him as sovereign in all parts of life or in none.

When I think about what I’m not satisfied with around me–even when it comes to spiritual things–am I putting my own comfort become God’s Lordship? If I think God has to earn the title of Lord, then I have automatically usurped His reign. I think He must prove Himself to me and I do not even see the error in this.

The last question that comes to mind invites me to recognize my ignorance about myself and the graciousness of God to put me in situations that reveal this in ways that move me to action: Do I need to change more than I thought? Perhaps God has not revealed to me all the hardness of my own heart, yet, and I need to encounter the hardness of others hearts to be able to recognize the inflexibility in my own.

I haven’t solved the love problem yet–that is, how I will love others that I currently don’t–but maybe me being able to love others is not the central problem. Maybe God’s love completely permeating me is the problem. Perhaps my greatest concern daily should be that my own heart is being made ever-more tender toward God. Maybe seeing the hardness of others hearts should be a reality check for me–

Lord, I can easily see their hardness toward You, but please show me my own hardness toward You that I can’t see. I know I’m not as tender as You want me to be; I’ve come a long way, but I’m not as far as You dream for me. So please, remove some more of the obstacles in my heart to the change You yet intend for me. I may just find that I’m harder in places than I thought I was–and I need just as much Holy-Spirit softener to act upon me as the person I can’t stand right now!

 

Trying to love, trying to hate and letting Jesus get in between

I’ve been thinking about a certain type of people today. Let me see if you recognize them as similar to some of the individuals you have in your life. First, there is the person whom you take a strong disliking to, but later discover that the person you thought they were wasn’t quite capturing their essence. You had to change your view of them based on reality. These make for precarious interactions with a happy ending. I like those. I imagine you do too. But, I’m sorry to say they don’t offer the only ending to the story that begins with you and I not liking someone. Oh, not by a long shot!

There are other people who try our patience and appall our senses with their words and deeds who do not turn out to be someone different the person we calculated them to be upon our first impression. No, they turn out to be exactly who we thought. Sometimes worse. It gives one a knot in the stomach, or the heart, just to see them fall so far short of who we’d like them to be. Oh, it can be agony! I speak as one with experience–too much experience if you ask me.

Now, you may be wondering–as I sometimes do when I can’t get over my disappointment and anger–do I have expectations of people that are just too high? Do I want them only to make me feel comfortable? Do I think people were created only to make me find pleasure in them? I wish I could say that I don’t–that this is in no way typical of me—but to be truthful (both to me and to you) I would have to acknowledge that I do think this way, believe these things. I think it is so ingrained in me that I cannot see it objectively–instead I see it as something else.

Truly, I want it to be something else. I want to blame it on their sin. But, if I was really only guilty of righteous anger wouldn’t I want to lovingly root it out of them rather than pontificating what they were doing wrong? Wouldn’t I have endless patience–a patience that waits on God to do His work, seeing that without it my neighbor is just as much a beggar for holiness as I am? Wouldn’t I…the list could go on and on. Frankly, I get tired of it. It’s almost as frustrating as the list “why can’t she…?” and “how can he…?” In a very real, spiritual sense neither one of them is going anywhere…except around and around the same ground that cannot be changed by human striving alone (even if it is together).

It is ground that shows me my futility. The futility of all things–great and small–that are so far from the beauty and harmony that God meant them to display. But the problem I wrestle with is greater than this outwardly visible depravity. The fullest picture shows more than that. I am trying to wrestle all of these things back into the form of what they should be. I think just by trying, I can accomplish this. All by myself. But my goal is just as futile as what I’m trying to change around me.

I forget that God made me and everything around me to display His love and creative order. We are not to create order and beauty but witness to One that is. I don’t have to be obsessed with whether I or someone else is innately beautiful–my chief concern is whether they are accurately reflecting, as much as is possible for Post-Fall humans, the wonder of God’s character. And to the degree that I’m grieved over their weakness in reflecting Christ, I should not try to fix what’s wrong with the reflectors. Jesus came to do that. But, I often forget that He came to do it a very different way than I would have.

He came to fractured sinners with His love, not analyze how capable they were of loving Him. He came to save men and women who couldn’t save themselves. He came to do a service we could never repay or return ample thanksgiving for. He came with the goal of love…He blows my goals of supposed righteousness and people beautification right out of the water!

He shows me that reflectors only produce the Light of the One they reflect when they have been cleaned by the very light that filters through them. This is a dirty job, and a slow one too. I wouldn’t chose it–I think if I were the Light of the world, I would avoid people-reflectors all together. But, Jesus doesn’t. He has all the time in eternity to make us into the Jesus-exhibitors that He wants us to be. If only I’d learn to be as unhurried about others’ progress as He is. If only I’d see His grace as the the only redeeming element in the story of every man and woman’s return to God–even, (yes, especially) my own.

What about when I need a break from God?

For some of you, your first thought upon reading the title above is utter shock: “That’s unbiblical!” you cry out. You’re so afraid of ending up guilty of such an infraction that you deny that such a phenomenon could even exist among the race of humans–except, possibly, with the exception of the fiercely pagan (which you make it your business not to know).

For others of you, you read the title of this post with relieved expectation: “Finally, someone is acknowledging that mankind at times finds themselves in such a state.” If you’re in this place, you may want to get out of it, but you also may not. If you are honest, you probably want to get to the heart of what’s going on inside of you before you would ever want to move on. You may have many people around you who are coaxing you to pull yourself out of this “slump”–whether they attempt this by anxious persuasion or caustic maneuvering.

But what are your reasons for needing a break from God? And, may I ask you, what are the characteristics of the God you must escape? How do you see Him? How do you see Him seeing you? These are things that must be considered if the relief your heart needs is ever to be found.

I’m not telling you your feelings and needs are wrong, and I don’t believe God is either. I’m challenging you to let these feelings and needs lead you to a deeper level of revelation than you’ve ever plumbed. Find out what you’re running from and what you’re trying to run to. What is the source of your chains and what holds the power of your release? These are powerful questions that hold out to you the potential of freedom.

These questions will serve your heart well. They do not deny the condition of your heart; rather, they seek to diagnosis your heart in the deepest way possible so that it may be aligned with its most ideal treatment. The ultimate treatment is not something you can do for yourself, but you can certainly do some work to get yourself in a place of contracting with God for this work to be accomplished in you.

Not everyone understands the heart well–even people who claim to know God like they invented Him. But if you want to truly understand your heart, go to God and invite Him to reveal what He sees inside you. Expect His tenderness to train you in paths you haven’t gone. Understand that though He does not protect you from recognizing obscene realities of sin within you, He will cause you to rejoice in seeing that your shame He has fully taken upon Himself. He assumed the weight and penalty of your shame so that you might go free. But He didn’t do this so that you could then walk away from Him.

He did this so that you would have every reason to walk toward Him. And not just walk, but run into His arms–knowing and being convinced of how much you’re wanted there. This realization is the only thing that will be able to call off your break from God. More than that, it is the only thing that can resolve the arguments that anchored you in your retreat.

To demonstrate how much He cares about resolution when it comes to what’s going on in your heart, God has already done three things for you:

The first thing He did was that He took care of your ultimate problem. He set at ease the enmity between you and Him and opened Himself up to you. He saw your fault in the problems that exist between you and He and assumed the debt you racked up. Where you were wrong and had to make things right (but couldn’t), He made things right.

The second thing He did was call you to come look at what He did and understand why He did it. A lot of problems we have with God would be cleared up if we would just look at the cross and take the time to ask Him “Why?” He died so that love could be the answer.

The third thing He did was invite you to embrace the implications of that answer. If God loves you, why aren’t you taking advantage of it? No, don’t use this as an opportunity to scorn Him and get the upper hand when it really counts. Doing this will only make the gift you were meant to enjoy non receivable, even a curse. Instead, delve into this love-gift. Discover in it’s depths (no, I’m sorry but you won’t find this from a distance or by hovering on the surface of it) the most steadfast and true love you will ever find. Come rest in the one place where your performance is no longer counted against you–for good or bad. Hide yourself–find your covering–in the place where One performance forever seals you in the arms of your Father and Heart-Lifter.

For all your arguments and struggles, God entreats you to  argue with Him. He does not want your heart to be burdened and beat up any longer. The cross shows us that He is serious. Christ’s whole heart became blistered and bruised by your very pain. Everything that is wrong with your life and you He came to know intimately. He insists, now, that you come near and not retreat from Him because He wants to sort things out with you. He does not want you to isolate yourself with your problems; He came to Calvary so that fellowship could be restored between you–even to the extent that your problems would become His.

God removed every reason that sin and shame had to keep you apart from Him and invites you to hash out what remains–showing you that all these things together are not as strong as His love for you. He will provide the means for conquering them if you will ask Him to. God does not call you to dismiss parts of yourself to be able to fellowship with Him. Instead, He insists that you bring everything that composes who you are to Him. He promises you that seeing yourself in the pure light of who He is will remove all the blemishes of your heart; all the misconceptions, anger and frustration.

This does not mean, for now, that you will never experience these things again, but that they will no longer rule you. They will never keep you from fellowship with Him. Rather, the weaknesses in you will cause you to find greater comfort in His strength. And you will learn to let go with joy because what He holds out to you is far more important than anything that would keep you from receiving His gifts. “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” ( Isaiah 1:17-19).

The relationship between your shame and His sacrifice is the only thing with the power to not just draw you “back”–to the less rebellious place you were before–but call you Home (to God) for the first time. This is grace: What you’ve been looking for so long to find. This is fearlessness in facing the truth because the Truth already faced down the reasons for your fear.

He arrested the development of your eternity-defining struggle against Him so He could call you home to mercy and not what you deserved; to life and not the death that awaited you from a wrath-appointing God; to peace and not the enmity you’ve always known to be the chief characteristic of your relationship with God. So, ask God to give you a break from your troubles–if that’s the request that burdens you the most. Ask Him to give you a break from all the things that make you hate Him or misunderstand what He’s doing (or done) in your life. But, above all, ask Him to teach you the blessed opposite of taking a break from Him. He will teach you–oh, most eagerly!

The most uncomfortable topic-introduction I’ve ever given:

They say farting (or “tooting”) freely and often is a sign of excellent good health. If you talk to the right people, they’ll tell you that you should let the gas escape to give bodily relief–this is a waste-product of your completed the digestion cycle. If you’re uncomfortable with this subject, you’re not alone. I don’t think I would be comfortable with it even if I was a biologist deeply engrossed in this field. I just don’t favor open discussion of all kinds. I think there are limits.

But the reason I bring this up is because I think the discomfort we feel about this topic is a good correlation to the discomfort we feel regarding confession of our sins to one another. We often know the contamination (of sin) is there, and even that it has been known to escape into the open at times, but we are still  do our best to keep very private the details of our struggles. Somehow, we think that if we don’t speak of it, no one will notice that we really are worthy of the title “sinner.” (Choke!)

I think this is not only a shame, but it is wrong. This is not how God has called us to live. He wants us to show forth His grace as we live lives that showcase our weaknesses and need of grace so that grace can be seen for the blessing that it really is. If our lives hold back the evidence of grace’s necessity, how can grace truly shine against the backdrop of our lives?

Yes, sharing the concrete truth about our sin can be unpleasant and embarrassing, but does this change the fact that it is for the good of our spiritual health? The reality is that if sin is in us, it will come out. Confession is not helping more sin to come out, but acknowledging that sin is already coming out. We are admitting that we are the reason that sin comes out and we need help–a solution to deal with what’s inside.

We are often tempted to keep the most unpleasant factors of who we are to ourselves. If we can’t always hold them in, we make sure they are only exposed in absolute privacy. But, while this may be a good-manners policy regarding gas, in the case of spiritual health it is a no-no.

God cannot deal with our sin in the manner He wants if we keep holding ourselves aloof from the help He provides. Because He has already taken care of the penalty that we faced for our sin, we can and must now deal with the roots of our sin that we may be turned in the whole scope of our being toward the God who has saved us and called us to be representatives of His righteousness, peace and grace.

If we do not have peace about owning-up to our sin and the dependence on God that it makes evident in us, than it may well be that we do not yet understand God’s righteousness or grace. They are the very qualities that empower us to fellowship with others free of facades and carefully-planned frameworks for conversation. If God’s righteousness covers us, than we do not have to worry about what our righteousness says about us. If His grace boasts that we are His children, adopted into His sacrificial death, then any boast of identity besides this must be laid to rest.

It’s really quite simple. Let’s not complicate it. It may be uncomfortable to do so, but we must take advantage of grace. Coming closer to God is not necessarily comfortable, but it is ever so good! Shame is a quality that Satan tries to use against us. But instead of cowering before it, we should rejoice that it no longer holds us back from fellowship. Seeing our shame should only remind us of how glorious our Savior is who took our shame upon Himself. He did not bury our shame, but transformed into something that would make us wonder at the love He has for us–how deeply He was willing to enter into our identity and make it bow before His own.

Who gets the blame?…God, do You think You could take it this time?

Who gets the blame when we have a problem between us and God? Can we ever charge Him with error? Can we ever threaten Him to shape up and learn to treat us better? Can we ever respond to one of His corrections with a defense that condemns Him to a puddle of shame?

Do we have that kind of power? Can we really be God’s self-appointed pollsters? Can we really tell Him how to be God? Can we really pretend that we have the authority to bring Him under our scrutiny and insist what He must be to please us?

Brothers and sisters, we cannot keep this up! We must leave it all behind. Proper relationship with God demands it. We don’t need words to tell God what He ought to be, we must obtain words to weep for the way we are; to ask Him and plead with Him to make us what we ought to be.

That is the way we must live out the relationship with God that Christ procured for us through death and shame. We don’t tell God what is wrong with Him, He tells us what is wrong with us. He tells us how we are right with Him now because the covenant between us is not dependent on us–it is sealed with Christ’s blood. He tells us that we are kept in relationship with Him because of His blood. He teaches us to honor our relationship with Him by bringing all honor to His blood. It is the only thing of significance we own in this life. May we not abuse it or forget why we have it.

 

Don’t judge me to be something that you already got the prize for!

Have you ever been called jealous or greedy or snobby by someone you thought had a doctorate degree in that same sin? Have you ever felt misrepresented, mistreated, misunderstood? Have you ever felt like you couldn’t let the offense go because the other person hadn’t changed his or her mind about you?

Have you ever felt caught in a web of deceit; maligned by the inappropriate judgments of another? Have you ever felt like your life and well-being actually hinged on how others thought of you?

I have. I do. I will. It’s a regular theme with me. I really have little idea how to live my life any other way. I think I can actually win at this game. After all, I’m a winner, it’s just other people who are deluded. And even that will prove to be only a temporary problem when they finally get acquainted with the real me.

Yeah, I know, what a hope! How little, you must wonder, would I have to think about if I didn’t have this to occupy my mind? I realize it’s an addiction, but I’m not ready to give it up so long as I am dependent on it serving the purpose it does in my heart.

I must want more than self-clarification; I must want more than pride maintenance and self-edification. I need a make-over of the heart. But I can’t be the one to do it. If I do it, I will draw attention away from my sin and accentuate my spiritual “look” with a slathering of cheap hues of righteousness.

I need a deeper job than that. I need righteousness to bloom on the inside of me so that it can work it’s way out. I need the hand of my make-up Artist to have His way with me. I need to consent to more than a few touch-ups; I need complete reconstruction. I need God’s evaluation to be the only authority on my look. I need to keep my mouth shut and disregard what others have to say–except it has a hint for me of God’s evaluation.

Whatever request He makes of me I must gladly attend. What other reason could He have for making such requests but that He wants to make His work complete? If His honor is wrapped up in what He’s doing in me, can’t I trust that He will do a good job with me?

Just as a petal is one part in the whole of a flower, so are we in the Body of Christ

At its fullest bloom, a flower’s petals still overlap. It is part of the construction of the plant as long as the bloom lingers. It’s part of the beauty of it’s form. It’s what makes a flower more than just a petal. It’s what make us fascinated and filled with wonder when we observe the bond that’s in place before us.

Why isn’t it like this with us, Body of Christ? Why do we resist overlapping like this and coming together for the beauty of the whole? Why are we more concerned with how we look (as a single petal) than how Christ looks (as the entire flower)?

Don’t we remember that we are supposed to be lost in the whole? That if we are at our best, we should each be pressing in to the center, not sticking out from the rest, trying to get attention for our part in making the flower what it is. We should be glorying in the larger thing of which we’re only a part. We should recognize that our life comes from the whole, the whole does not receive its life from us. If a single petal falls, the flower does not fall apart–it must be designed that way. May we treasure our part in belonging to the bud. May we see what a privilege it is and how un-useful we would be apart from it!