forgiveness

All posts tagged forgiveness

Because He First Loved Me

Published June 18, 2017 by Dawn

I had a very humbling experience the other day. I was lying in bed the other morning It was really early … like, the birds weren’t even up yet. I laid there hoping for the best in terms of falling back to sleep and eventually slipped into a nap. I had this dream that the Lord was looking for me, searching deeper and deeper into the depths of this really dark pit. He finally made it to the bottom, still faithfully calling out my name. There at the bottom, he lifted up this thick covering and there I was, hiding underneath it. I looked up at him with fire in my eyes and venom on my tongue as I hissed, “I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.”

I was a little kid who had lost a game of hide and seek. The Lord searched until he found me, and to my shame, when he finally found me, I was insolent and hateful. I had the sensation that this dream was a picture of Jesus. He was searching out the deepness of my heart, looking for me. I was humbled to hear myself whisper such a horrendous thing to my Lord. His gentle love in that moment humbled me greatly as I heard the Spirit whisper, “…because he first loved me.”

Being transparent seems easy for me, but I have to admit that this one was hard to even delve into for myself, much less admit it out loud for the world to know. I’ve prided myself for years … Is it okay if I get really transparent here? I might not have admitted this out loud to anyone before, but the truth is that me not being who I once was is a huge deal (to me). I took pride in it for years. Being redeemed, being transformed … I took pride in that. You will say to me, “That’s not Christ-like.” I know, friend. I know. I couldn’t help myself. I know that person, and I know myself now. I know the pit I came out of and I felt the weight of escaping it (though now I know I didn’t feel hardly anything compared to what Christ carried for me), but I felt it and the memories made me very proud to be where I am now. Are you hearing the echoes of pride as you read this? Is it turning you off? I am so sorry. I just want you to know what happened to me the other morning and to understand, you have to understand where I was at. I was proud. Of myself.

I have spent the last 8 years of my life in the arms of Christ. I have patiently bore the suffering for His name and His purpose in my life. I have not created my own way and called it good. I have remained as faithful as I can to His Will. Don’t abandon reading now … I know what this sounds like, but bear with me. I have, through all of this, nurtured this pride that somehow, I have attained “good enough” because I have strived for holiness, wrestled with flesh and maintained a firm hold on my own righteousness.

Yes, I credited God with my mouth. I thanked Jesus from my heart. What he did for me on that cross was amazing: buying me from the clutches of sin so I could pursue holiness. And each step forward, I patted myself on the back. That’s why Christ uncovered me. Because all this time, I have given credit to myself for something I could never have done on my own. There, in the secret place of my heart, I watched in horror as my child-like self hissed “I hate you” to the one who sought me, found me and pulled me out. What is there to be proud of when you know yourself like this?

That wasn’t the worst part, though. That wasn’t what did me in. Here’s what did it: He looked at me tenderly in that moment and I could see it on His face. He loved me in that moment.

Something happened. I broke. Jesus, hearing my rebellious heart hate Him, looked me in the eye with such compassion and reached for me anyway.

I don’t think I’ve ever fully understood the cross until this moment. I have spent endless hours reading the Word of God, drinking in the love story of He and Us, but the truth of it never hit me as powerfully until this moment, when His compassion destroyed my pride. I can’t even love Him without Him first loving me.  To me, that would be the easy part compared to some of the things I have been through. If I can’t even do that one thing without His help, how can I claim credit for anything?

I can’t.

Not only do I know now who I am without Him, I know fully what I am capable of. Without Him, I can do nothing. Without Him, I have done nothing. Without Him, I’m full of wickedness and a lover of darkness. I only have light because of Christ. I only walk in light and share light because of Jesus. Paul bids me to “take care lest ye fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12) and now I know just how far I am capable of falling. I am also humbly aware of just how much Jesus has done for me, in spite of myself. Not only am I ashamed of my pride, I am ashamed of my propensities outside of Christ. I thought I had a hold of righteousness, but it turns out I am fully capable of making the devil blush.

I’m in awe of Him. I am in awe of a God who can know this about me and still love me fiercely. He is all-knowing, all-powerful and I am so unworthy. Who could blame God for dealing harshly with someone like me? But that’s the incredible thing: He doesn’t.

He loves me.

Not just me, though. You too, friend. You too.

 

Dear Lord,

Your love is so incomprehensible. I can’t fathom the depths of your mercy. I am so humbled and grateful. Please continue to heal me and lighten what’s dark and forgive me. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for your compassions that don’t fail. I love you … now, even from the depths of my heart, I can honestly say I love you. Thank you for your patience on my behalf. You are so good.

 

My Abortion Story

Published November 3, 2016 by Dawn

It was cold outside. I don’t remember what day or month, just that it was cold. I called my dad from school to ask him to come get me because I had been sick all day and it hadn’t let up. Nauseous. On the edge of vomit all day long. I just wanted to get home before it erupted. He took me home and I slept until the next morning. I awoke as nauseous as the day before. My sister and I talked about it in whispers while we got dressed … Could I be pregnant? Was this morning sickness? By the time we were ready to go, I was green. My mom agreed to let me stay home and my sister agreed to come get me later to go to the health department.

Our plans exploded around lunchtime and I found myself waiting on my mom instead. She drove me to the Health Department in silence. I was dying inside. When the test confirmed it, we were both pretty devastated. I didn’t see my life flash before my eyes. I watched it slowly go down the drain as this new reality set in.

My dad called me a whore when I told him.

I was devastated. I felt ruined. I felt the shame of every grown-up in my life. I felt the daggers of embarrassment cutting me to pieces through the eyes of everyone around me. Someone told me to face the facts, and then, in case I wasn’t aware of all of them, told me all the statistics about teen pregnancies and teenage mothers so I would know what was coming.

Hardship. Hardship was coming.

My mom said to me one day, “Why don’t you take some time and really think about your options. You can put this baby up for adoption. Or you can abort it.”

I know she was holding her breath in that moment. I squeaked in a panic, “Mom, please tell me that’s not an option. That can’t be an option.” She exhaled. “Well, I was hoping it’s not, but I wanted you to know you had options.”

But she hadn’t named them all. See, suicide is also an option. I didn’t want to kill an unborn baby, but myself? I could do that.

My life was an endless agony for the next few months. I was sick all the time, getting fatter, hating everyone, enduring their judgment and my own condemnation. Left alone to deal with it by the guy who fathered the child. It was hell.

I was going to end it. After having the baby, I was going to kill myself. I had a plan and a note. I had the resolve. I had an end in sight. The last month of pregnancy was the most hopeful month. I was ready to end it all.

I almost didn’t make it through delivery. It didn’t matter. I remember lying in the hospital room looking around while people talked and laughed, euphoric about the baby we were about to have. I was hurting so bad. Physically, but more so emotionally. My heart was breaking. Someone save me!

Someone did. It was the sweetest voice I had ever heard. Her tiny cry as they lifted her out through the incision reached into the depths of my broken soul and called forth a will I didn’t know was there. In one instant, I wanted to live for no other reason but to know and hear that voice.

And I did live on; so did my baby. But nine months later, the cycle started again. Another pregnancy he didn’t want. Another baby I wasn’t sure if I could deal with. More shame. More embarrassment. More statistical bullets shooting through any hope for my future.

I had him too. I endured it. I said this was about my abortion … I didn’t have one. I had a baby. I had two … before my high school graduation. I have lived on HUD, welfare, TANF, and I have raised two babies on my own for thirteen years. I know it’s hard. I know the shame is damning and I know about the nights you cry yourself to sleep because you are alone with thoughts nobody should be thinking. I know about the stigma and rejection. I know about the battles. I have lived them; so have my babies. We’ve all three survived.

I’m telling you this through tears. I understand not all pregnancies are planned. Some are even tragically the fault of another. But understand this: on the other side of that pain is a beautiful child who has the chance to live if only you will give it. She may grow up to love cheer and hate waking up in the morning. He may grow up with a weird obsession for cleanliness that makes housekeeping bearable. They may grow up to be the best thing that ever happened to you if you just get through this. The shame will subside. The pain will subside. The hardships make you stronger until you bust through those stereotypes and statistics and make something of yourself. Getting out from under the pressure and chaos and rejection are possible. The situations that grow you aren’t always preferable, maybe, but victory is possible. Your unwanted pregnancy is possible.

Just wanted you to know that. I love you, sister, and I pray for you and your baby every day. The world will tell you otherwise but most of them have never lived it. I have. You can do this. You’re strong enough. It doesn’t matter who fathered your baby or even if they help you raise the child. God gave that precious child to you. That baby may end up being the best gift you’ve ever received and God himself can and will help. Trust me. Trust yourself. Trust God.

 

Discipline

Published August 10, 2016 by Dawn

I had to will myself to write this afternoon. I didn’t want to. Because I am writing on my daughter’s computer because I no longer have one. I am trying not to allow this great disappointment to crush me. I am doing my best to forgive and move on, doing what I know I need to do and feel compelled to do in any way possible after my computer was murdered in Florida by my own son.

 

My son had a meltdown in Florida. Several hours worth of one. This time, I did not give in. I am beginning to see how manipulated I can be by his emotional storms, and this time, I wasn’t having any of it. So when he picked up my computer and acted like he was going to throw it on the ground, I didn’t even flinch. I told him I didn’t care if he threw it on the ground, I still wasn’t caving.

 

Unfortunately, my son doesn’t have a bluff. He gets that from me. He unrepentedly slammed my computer on the ground. In that moment, I lost so much more than a piece of technological convenience. I lost weeks worth of writing I hadn’t uploaded to my onedrive. It hurt so bad. On the inside. My outward demeanor was placid. Hours later, after the tantrum was over and he was lying in bed sick to his stomach because of his behavior, he asked me to forgive him. In my house, it’s what you do. Not just saying “I’m sorry,” but seeking forgiveness. And the only proper response to someone seeking forgiveness is to do exactly what Jesus would do. Forgive immediately. I did that. The consequences of his actions are still hurting me, even though he’s moved on. And I love that he’s not carrying a burden over it. I love that my son is free, even if his actions have caused a wide ripple I have to deal with.

 

But of course, there are consequences. He is forgiven, but he will be working to pay off a new computer. I will not hold this sin over his head, but I will require him to work off the cost of a new computer, and when he asks for something, I will remind him that my number one financial need after we pay our bills and eat is a new computer. Not because I don’t like my son, but because I want him to understand the far-reaching impact his decisions have before more meaningful decisions arise in his life.

 

I’m beginning to understand discipline in the context of a loving relationship. The world would have us believe that discipline is bad. That it’s damaging. I have to disagree.

 

I’ve never been a strong disciplinarian. I’m a single mom and I live by the motto, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” I have always struggled to care enough, after work and all the chores afterward at home, to address my kids’ need for discipline. I waited for things to blow over and went on with life. That’s how I ended up where I am now. My daughter governs herself well, due to her strong relationship with her daddy God. My son, on the other hand, has seen my lack of authority and has become a master at manipulating me. It took years for me to recognize how played I am.

 

This whole issue of discipline was something of a summer learning experience between the Lord and I. Because “the Lord disciplines those he loves.” I love my son. He’s one of the greatest treasures I’ve ever received. As I began to recognize the paths he seems drawn to, and petitioning God daily, “Please, Lord, don’t let my son turn out a fool!” God drew my attention back to myself in relation to who my son is becoming. “What are you doing to draw him back to safety? What needs to change and what can you do to affect that change?”

 

Shortly after this prayer, I found myself outside cleaning up the yard to mow. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a black and brown bullet zoom past my house and realized my dog had gotten out. I have spent so many hours and tears trying to keep this dog in the yard and right when I have things figured out, someone leaves the gate open! I had to stop what I was doing, grab his leash and go get him. So afterward, I found the kid responsible for this diversion and told him he’d be finishing up the yard cleaning while I started mowing. Expecting him to do what I said quickly because his dad was on the way, I was surprised to get mostly done with the yard before I realized he cleaned up only until I couldn’t see him anymore then he hightailed it inside and grabbed his things. He was long gone before I got to his unfinished mess.

 

Exasperated, I looked up to God and whispered through clenched teeth, “How do I discipline effectively?”

 

Are you prepared for this? I mean, really? Because what I felt led to do was so opposed to how I imagine someone might have handled this. You see, I called my son and asked him why he didn’t finish. He told me he didn’t see anything else. There was an entire tree branch in the yard!

 

I put it in his bed.

 

I knew he’d see it there, and I knew he’d have to move it. Most importantly, I wanted him to understand how inconvenient that tree branch was to me after he left. I wanted him to feel that inconvenience and begin to think about how his actions effected me. So I picked up the tree branch, and all the other little chitlin lying around and deposited it all on his silky brown sheet.

 

While picking up all the stuff he “didn’t see,” I gathered some rather messy, dry, leafy twigs to go with it all but the Lord stopped me. He asked, “Do you want to discipline or destroy him?” And I knew exactly what He meant. The mess that would have made in my son’s bed would have broken him. I didn’t want to do that.

 

The point of all of this is that God often disciplines us in order to steer us in positive directions. He doesn’t shield us from adversity or the consequences of our actions, even if we desperately wish He would. He’s a good father. He wants us to be happy, but he also wants us to mature. To think about others. To think about how our actions shape our lives and the lives of those around us. He does this because He loves us. He loves us enough to let us be uncomfortable sometimes, and enough to let us face the life we are creating in hopes that we will make a change. He uses this discipline to teach us self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit. A fruit, you see, grows from the seed that is planted. So the Spirit, planted in us is capable of bearing this fruit, but we have to allow God to water and prune it. Both of those things can be momentarily uncomfortable for a seed.

 

But know this: God does not want to destroy us by His discipline. He wants to teach us. And when we ask for forgiveness for our moments of rashness, His response is immediate forgiveness. He loves us. He doesn’t want to burden us. He simply wants to train us to be wise, not foolish. Discipline is a beautiful thing. After three months of faithfully disciplining my son, I am beginning to see a wiser young man in the place of that foolish child.

Grace

Published July 16, 2016 by Dawn

I’ve been wrestling again with the message of righteousness. I see mine. It’s filthy rags. And I feel so unworthy. So incapable. So unholy. I’ve struggled to approach God lately. I know I’m a beggar in the court of the King. Completely out of place. I have nothing to offer him, but I need something from him so desperately. I need cleansed. I need healed. But I’ve been cowering because I’m afraid He’ll be disgusted by me.

Then … He notices me and begins to coax me out of hiding. He woos me with love and gentleness, and I’m so eager for it, I run to Him, forgetting my rags and filth. I wrap my arms around Him and cry into His neck, forgetting for a moment that I’m unworthy. But then it hits me. I don’t belong here.

I start to stutter my apologies. I push away from His embrace. He holds me even still and looks into my eyes. “But God, can’t you see me? I am so unholy. I am so utterly sinful and vile. I don’t deserve to be here.”

Then Jesus, who’s been sitting there at the right hand of God this whole time, comes over and lays a gentle hand on my trembling shoulder. He hands me a robe that’s shimmering and bright. Wear this, he says. I bought it for you.

I’m trembling more as I step out of my filth and put on this beautiful robe. “It’s too much!” I say, unable to take my eyes from it. With tears streaming down my face, I hastily work to take it off. “Don’t you know what I’ve done?”

Jesus looks at me tenderly as I tug at my rags trying to cover myself with them again. Finally, I give up and stand there, sobbing in my nakedness. He hands me the robe again. Don’t you know what I’ve done?

 

*****

 

I’m often guilty of vascillating between self-righteousness and self-loathing. Neither are healthy, but it’s the pendulum I find myself on quite a bit. I either compare myself to others and build a pedestal, or compare myself to God and dig a hole to hide in. Neither are His perfect and pleasing will.

Lately, I’ve been comparing myself to God’s standards of righteousness, and getting stuck on how short I’ve fallen of what I believe God wants from me. I’ve been desperate for Him, but unable to come into His presence because I can see myself, and I don’t like what I see.

Little did I know that this is what the Bible says happens. Romans 3:20 tells us that through the law, we become conscious of our sins. We read the law and realize how desperately far we are from being able to please God. We become aware of our sins. We see our filthy rags. This makes the law good. Because what happens after we become conscious of our sin? Repentance.

God woos us out of our groveling pit and we come before Him knowing how unworthy we are. We repent of our sin and receive grace. We find that instead of being condemned, we are forgiven. Jesus hands us that robe and we put on his righteousness. He bought it for us. It cost him so much, but He made that purchase because he’s crazy about us.

This is the full Gospel, and it’s good. We’re not, but He is. Grace is not a card. It’s a robe. A robe of righteousness we can’t attain on our own.

Dear Shepherd, Go and Feed My Sheep

Published July 7, 2016 by Dawn

“When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’

“Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’

“The people remained at a distance while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:18-21).

I live in the heart of America. Or maybe it’s America’s waistline. I don’t know … it’s called the Bible Belt. Waistline it is …

There’s a church on every corner where I come from. Many towns around here have more churches than bars, banks or schools. I even been to several places that I thought might have had more churches than homesteads. We have definitely given the Lord a place to stay in the waistline of America.

Do you want to know what else we have here in abundance? Rehab clinics. Because I happen to come from a place that also has an overabundance of drug addicts. The county I live in is #2 in the state for heroin usage, and by the looks of things, the margin separating us from #1 is getting smaller and smaller by the day.

I was out running the other day and passed three churches on one street. A building in between them, with an inscription above the door that said, “Erected in 1952 Educational Building for  —–“ It was the church’s Sunday school building. It was two or three stories tall, a real monument to the wealth of the church, and the youth that must have inhabited their great sanctuaries. That church is still as big as it used to be, but sadly, it’s congregation has dwindled to a faithful few.

I’ve been running past these churches for days, listening to the Lord speak a message to me that frankly, is kind of hard to share. It’s not popular. But He’s given me such a burden about it, I am sitting here trying to figure out how to be tactful so you’ll keep reading …

America is filled with churches that are filled with dry bones. Bones that once had the breath of life in them, but now they’re just embers of a dying fire. The message of Christ – the message that is so powerfully capable of saving the multitudes and changing the hearts of millions – has become meaningless drivel. The church has capitulated to a crowd of self-seekers who Jesus said, “Honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8). How long have we watered down the Gospel so that people can be comfortable in our pews? How long have we given them a powerless motivational speech so they don’t have to deal with the Holy Spirit’s conviction? They come into church with itching ears and instead of giving them a truth that requires them to be real with God, we give them a lie so they feel good about themselves. We’ve turned the Gospel into a lie to shield them from the truth of repentance. Listen to me! There is no forgiveness without repentance. Therefore, there is no grace without confronting the sin inside. The law was given so that our sins would be known to us so that we can receive grace (Romans 5:10). But “where there is no law, there is no trespass” (Romans 4:15). Paul is telling us that because we hear the law, we are conscious of our sin. That knowledge leads us to Christ because we are separated from God while living in sin. Jesus died so we can have access to forgiveness and freedom from the chains of sin. We are no longer bound to it, we are free!

This is such a powerful, liberating message. But it’s also foolishness and unacceptable. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Sadly, we’ve catered to the people who see it as foolishness instead of letting God’s word be true and every man a liar. We’ve created a parallel Gospel with all the “good” parts that everyone wants to hear. You know, the parts that tell us how awesome God thinks we are, and how much He loves us and wants to do amazing things in our lives. And so as not to offend anyone, we’ve taken out all the parts we don’t want to deal with.

  • Be holy as I am holy. (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11:44,20:26)
  • The one who does what is sinful is of the devil (1 John 3:8)
  • No one who is born of God keeps on sinning (1 John 3:9)
  • “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11)
  • “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sin is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God” *Hebrews 10:26-27)

The GOOD NEWS is that Jesus died so that we can be free from the grip of sin. Humanity was given a free will that was subject to the law of sin for thousands of years until Christ came and, by his death, liberated our wills, giving us control again so that we can live in Him, not in sin.

Just like the Israelites in the desert, so many people come in to church and become terrified by God’s righteousness. They don’t like hearing that they are wrong, because they are just living out the New Age gospel that tells them that their happiness is god. They don’t realize that either way, there’s a fire they’re going to face. It will either be the purifying fire of God that consumes them and burns up everything in their lives that is not in line with His Spirit, or it will be the eternal fire that consumes forever the enemies of God. And we aren’t comfortable with this part of the Gospel to their detriment, and ours. Dear preachers, haven’t you read James 3:1? “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” Your motivational speeches that lack power and truth are killing people all around you and God is saying to us, just as he said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people … so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. If I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin and I will hold you accountable for their blood” (Ezekiel 3:17-18). That’s a high calling, brothers and sisters. Is there no fear and trembling when God speaks this word to you? Perhaps that is the place to start.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:19-23).

This is a good word! A liberating word. Remember the day God reached down into the muck and mire of your life and pulled you out? You heard the full Gospel. You wrestled with it. You were broken by it, and then mended by Jesus. Remember that day? It was a good one! That message that rescued you was meant to rescue others. It’s powerful. It will bring people back into the churches. Give them Jesus! When Paul began his missionary journey, he began his ministry debating the Old Testament in the temple. By the time he made it around to the Corinthians, his method – his message – had changed drastically. He said to them, “When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:2-5).

The message of the cross is powerful. It’s also offensive to the flesh, and our churches are full of people who have been encouraged to live in the flesh for so long, we are afraid to give them the simple truth. We tickle their ears to keep them happy, but it’s all smoke and mirrors. By hook or by crook, Satan vows to have us and he is having his way in our churches and our communities because we don’t want to come before the congregation in fear and trembling. We want them to be comfortable and we want to be comfortable.

Let me challenge you, pastor friend. Get back to the basics. Trade in your crafty message of half-truths for the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If you want power back in your church and you want to fill the pews again and see people saved, get back to the unadulterated Word of God. Put down the books written by men you admire and aspire to be and consult with God over your message. See if He doesn’t lead you back to Jesus. Then Jesus will say to you, I am sure, “Go and feed my sheep” (John 21:17).

 

 

 

Who Among Us

Published March 25, 2016 by Dawn

I had an attitude the moment I pulled onto the church parking lot and saw her car. After months of sporadic church attendance, she was back for praise and worship practice, and I was indignant. How could she stand so easily before God, and lead the church in worship, covered in the sin of her everyday life? A life and a sin she wouldn’t readily admit to the church, but I knew because she was my friend.

I immediately began to pray. I knew my heart and my attitude were wrong, but I couldn’t shake the shame and distaste I felt toward her. The righteous indignation welling up in me would certainly hinder my pursuit of Christ if I was not delivered of it before the service began. So I brought all my feelings to the foot of the cross, repented of them and sought healing in it. And the Lord said something so profound to me.

“Would you rather she be living in condemnation?”

I looked up to see her smiling and laughing with the others on the platform, and my heart broke. Because I think Jesus just asked me a rhetorical question, and the answer shamed me; she was. Not His, but my own.

I marveled at her faith, which seemed so much more mature than my own. I had groveled before the Lord for years, sure that I was not good enough to be forgiven, and thus, forever bound to my past shame. Identified by it. Remembered for it. Every unanswered prayer a painful reminder, a sure statement of the Lord’s disapproval of me. A disapproval I felt through the eyes of people in the church for years. Through their words, through their actions. Through their inactions, or their complete disregard.

Yet here I sat, guilty before the Lord of hating my best friend in my heart. Hating her as I sat in a judgment seat of my own making. A pedestal I created for myself, which I know was my own making because Christ knocked me off if it with His gentle reproach. My judgment was nothing more than an indication of my own pride and religious snobbery. She was good enough for Jesus, yet not good enough for me?

Whoa! I had somehow seated myself above Christ. And realized the danger of my position.

I prayed for forgiveness. First for the way I had treated her, and then for the way I had treated my Lord. By despising her, I had despised His sacrifice. I had created a standard for her to live up to, and thus nullified His death on the cross as her means of salvation and forgiveness. I had created something unholy and unrealistic, and had she known my heart at that moment, she may have slipped irretrievably into a pit of self-loathing and hatred and bitterness. Instead, she knew Christ, and fell into His arms.

Thank you, Lord, for your endless compassion. For your love that fails not. For forgiveness. For your grace. For understanding us and dealing with us in redemptive ways.

I share this because it is not just my sin, but the sin of the church. The way we treat each other. Who of us knows the depths and heights God has brought people from, that we should judge their proximity to Christ, or their own spiritual attainment of righteousness? Who holds the measuring line, that we may measure the sincerity of one Christian over another? Who sits above Christ, who himself stooped down to lift us to our feet? Who among us has not sinned?

Is Jesus a liar?

Published February 8, 2016 by Dawn

I was going to go to bed, but I know I’ll be up for hours to come thinking about this, and I just want to work my way through it. It’s been said that Jesus was inclusive, and loved everyone, which I don’t debate. What I do debate is the lack of address to Christ’s message on sin, and that in one of his most famous sermons Jesus revealed God’s exclusivity and ultimate dividing of the people into two groups: those on his right and those on his left (Matthew 25).

There’s such an emphasis on grace in today’s culture that is so liberating, but also deceptive. I believe in grace, and thank God for it daily. But I also know scripture, and one in particular throws a wrench onto the New Age grace. Hebrews 10:26 says very plainly, “if we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sin is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”

The New Age grace says “don’t worry about how you live your life. God has no standards anymore because Jesus died for our sins. We can live it up however we want, because there is no more condemnation.” Romans 8:1 says something to that effect, but Satan had twisted it into something untrue. “There is now therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” But read further on and you will find in 1 John these truths:

“If we claim to have fellowship with him  and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth” (1 John 1:6).

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be liar and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).

“Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not do what he commands is a liar and the truth is not in him … Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:4, 6).

“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so the he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him” (1 John 3:4-6).

”Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning since the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning because they have been born of God … Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother or sister” (1 John 3:7-10).

Do I understand that correctly?  That we are not all in Christ? That being in Christ comes with evidence so that we might know one another? I appreciate that about God. He told us we’d know one another by the fruits produced.

 

Those who are in Christ will live a much different life than the rest of the world. A true believer will not live in sin and justify their sin with the message of grace. That was never the purpose of grace. Jesus did not die so we could throw off all inhibitions and live a life of self-gratification. Many new Christians in Paul’s time had similar confusions and Paul told them over and over, “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! (Romans 6:1).

“Do we then nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather we uphold the law” (Romans 3:31).

God’s standards, then, still apply. Not as a chain around our necks, but as a loving response. We were unable to fulfill the law before Christ. Now we are free from the bondage of sin and have the law as a loving reminder of what God desires of us. Now we are able to live by those standards because sin has lost it’s grip on us. So then, the sin that exists in our lives can be expelled!

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful: he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he wlll also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Sin, therefore, is a choice made against the better way God provides. It is intentional and devastating.

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).

“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness”(Matthew 7:23).

And it is right to say that Jesus was inclusive and loved everyone. He himself said, “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world” (John 12:47). But Jesus did not say the world would not be judged. In fact, he talked a lot about the judgement to come.

Grace is not a cover for the sinful life. Grace is holding the door open that those who would come before the Lord for forgiveness of sin, a true act of repentance, might approach the throne with confidence. The person determined to live a life unto themselves instead of unto the Lord is hardened and will not approach the throne of grace at all. Because he doesn’t think he needs to be forgiven.

If the Word of God is true, and I believe it is, then Jesus is not a liar and neither is the Spirit of God that ministered the Word to the faithful men who wrote it. They all being in agreement, the liar is the man or woman who preaches a different doctrine than this.

Lord, give us ears to hear. Soften our hearts that we might perceive truth again, and give us discernment so that we can understand and rightly divide the word of God. We cannot understand it on our own, but we believe that your Spirit gives revelation. I pray that the blind will see and the deaf will hear your truth, Lord. We live in an age of compelling false doctrine, but I believe in the power of your Word to dispel the enemy’s lies. I thank you for revelation and I ask for freedom for captives today. Thank you, Jesus, for fighting for us. For dying to set us free and declaring that freedom over us again today. You are a tremendous blessing and a great savior. We love and magnify you. In your precious name, amen.