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Where Can I Find Joy?

Posted on September 1, 2014 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

I think I do a pretty good job of hiding behind my sense of humor, but those that know me well know I'm--on the inside--a melancholy, introspective kind of person that thinks, cares, and lives too deeply. It's my nature as a "realist" not to look on the bright side of things but rather to think through what might happen if I were never to reach the bright side. I’m prone to depression; I must always be reminded that things aren't "so bad."


So, when I'm told to "choose joy," I wonder if joy is actually a choice. I wonder, how does one go about choosing joy?


I lived a very long time bound up in the chains of the law believing that I must do this or that in order to earn God's good favor. I was told that obedience led to joy, and the reason that I didn't have joy was because I wasn't being obedient enough. What a soul crusher for me; I just wanted to please a God I thought was angry with me. So, I began on a journey of reading my Bible more, praying more, serving more, striving for more obedience. Yet, still no joy.


I tried with all my might to live as the old hymn says, "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey." The hymn goes on to tell us that His favor and joy are only for those who are doing it right. I concluded: since I couldn't get it right, then I didn't deserve His favor and joy. Every morning brought a new opportunity to try to get it right and to earn His love; it became a tiresome, weary, cycle to be in.


Finally, the endless cycle of trying harder to do better so that I could be happy in Jesus ceased. (It sounded a little too self-serving anyways.)


You see, the law entices us with the words "do this and you will be happy" just the same way that sin does; either way we are being fed a big fat lie. It's not "do this and get that." It's: "He's done this and now you have everything."


Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that there isn't joy in obedience. There certainly is but only when it is TRUE obedience. True obedience doesn't come from a heart that is only trying to obey so that it might find joy. When our actions are fueled by fear of what might happen--instead of gratefulness for what has happened--we are merely trying to find a way to please so that we will not suffer under God’s wrath; this isn’t true obedience. True obedience comes from gratitude; gratitude comes from hearing the gospel of the justification of sinners. Gratitude springs from the gospel because in the gospel is real and true life, and therein is joy--true, everlasting joy.


Once I began to grasp the meaning of the gospel, my desire for life began to flourish. I began to see that although in the midst of pain and sorrow and in fear of both, there was one thing that never changes: Christ. His love, His grace, and His mercy, which He has poured out on me abundantly, will always continue to pour out on me no matter the circumstances (both good and bad).


God chose me to be the recipient of the gift of perfection by replacing my tattered, desperate self-loving record with Christ's perfect account of righteousness. A righteousness that is so incredibly undeserved that it makes me want to dance. It lifts my soul up, bringing lightness to my step, and gives me an unusual carefree attitude to my joy opposed tendencies.


When I wake up and face the mundane--again and again—it’s the Gospel that gets me through it. It frees me to love even though I might get hurt. It gives me grace to have dominion over my weaknesses and not let them dominate me.


God, through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, gave me life when all I was looking for was death. If God is for me, then who can be against me? (Rom 8:31); this is the light in the darkness; it’s the rest for this weary pessimist.

The List

Posted on April 7, 2014 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

During my early thirties, my over active guilt glands were at their peak, self-introspection was killing me and depression had its long bony fingers firmly grasped around my neck. For several years, every day felt like a matter of survival. Every day felt like failure.


Amongst my drawer full of books that instructed me on how to be a better Christian, wife, mother (etc.), there was a self made list to which I often added new items. It was a list of my sins. A list that grew longer as each minute passed. Every night I would pull it out, stare it down, and wonder how I could ever be forgiven for all that I had done; wonder how anyone could love me who knew all of these things about me; wondered how tomorrow I’d expunge these sins from my record. The list became an obsession to the point that I could feel its presence in that drawer throughout the day. It was calling out to me the shame of the secrets that I longed to be set free from.


But the list wasn’t the exhaustive list that it should have been. The truth is that I had broken far more of God’s laws than that list represented. It was ridiculous to think that I could account for them all. As I have said before, the written law was meant to expose to us the ugliness of our heart and bring us to our knees begging for grace. The problem is that in the years of my life that I kept this list I knew nothing of God’s grace and lived trying to please him through fulfilling his law.


It was not until I began meeting with a counselor that I really began to hear the true gospel. I had spent my entire Christian life hearing and believing that the gospel was what we preached to non-believers so that they would believe and be saved. I disregarded the fact that every day of my life was sustained by the grace of the gospel and not of my own works. I truly believed that now that I was saved, it was up to me to stay in God’s good graces until the very end, never understanding that because of Christ, there was nothing that I could do to be separated from his love.


After months of counseling, I finally confessed that I had this list that I had kept and to my horror my counselor had asked me to bring it to her. With much trepidation I pulled it from my pocket in our next meeting and laid it out on the table. There it was, The List, laid out in utter vulnerability, everything that I never wanted anyone to know about me. I could not think of a more humiliating experience. 


Without reading the list my counselor handed me a marker and instructed me to write “PAID!” in all capital letters across the words over which I had felt so much shame and guilt. She told me of everything that Jesus had done in order to destroy the list that I had kept. She told me of the freedom that comes with having an unsettled debt paid off. She told me of how all of that sin, every one of those acts, had been laid upon his back and died with him in his death; how my sins were cast into the sea of God’s forgotten memory ("His Be the Victor's Name," Zac Hicks). And then she shared Psalm 103:10-13:  


He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.


I’d like to say that this was in instantaneously freeing moment for me but I can’t. In fact, it angered me. I was insulted that there was nothing that I could do to make up for all of the awful things that I had done. I was offended by this gospel that she so adamantly preached to me week after week. I was offended to the point that I told myself one day that if she brought up the gospel one more time, I was going to get up and walk out of the office. Of course she did, and of course I didn’t get up and leave. The Holy Spirit glued me to that seat. I could not escape the Spirit’s furious longing for me to hear the truth. I believe that this was the day that the message of grace finally broke through my hardened pharisaical heart, and I began to believe that I could rest in my forgiveness. It was then that I began to grasp hold of the comforting truth that God's love never shudders at the state we're in (Francis Spufford).


The gospel is scandalously offensive to those who are trying to earn their way. Rightly so. Not one of us wants to be the weak person who needs to be rescued. All of our lives we are told to “stay strong” and “keep fighting;” while these are helpful survival tips, they are counterintuitive to the gospel. The gospel tells us to “give up” and to “boast in our weakness.” For it is in this giving up and admitting that we are weak, that we die a death to ourselves and are raised into the newness of life; a life of vulnerability, grace, and the unending comfort of living in forgiveness.

Sitting Down

Posted on March 24, 2014 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

As a mom, there is never a night that I go to bed with my work done.


I have yet to lay my head down on my pillow at the end of the day and say “My work here is finished.”


I may have a quitting time each evening but what is left undone stays undone until the following day where it takes its place back on my never-ending list. My job has no beginning and no end as I remain on call twenty-four hours a day, whether I’d like to be or not.


There are very few restful moments while raising young children.


While as moms we may never truly be finished with our ongoing chores and care for our children, we can however rest in the fact that Christ’s final words on the cross, “It is finished,” were meant for us just as much as anyone else. These three extraordinary words were not referring to the end of His suffering, but rather to His completion of the law on our behalf.


His final and most important command to our busy hearts was, “It is finished. Stop trying to earn your way and rest in what I have done.”


Day after day the priests of the Old Testament offered up sacrifices for the sins of their people. The priests were never able to sit down (can you relate?), never able to rest because their work was never finished. Because of the fall, the world was in an endless cycle of sin and sacrifice.


But then God sent us The Great High Priest. The only priest (Christ Jesus) that was able to offer up one full and final sacrifice that would atone for all of the sin of the world would be the only priest whose work was finally finished and was able to “sit down” at the right hand of God.


“So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.” Mark 16:19


While I can’t lie my head down on my pillow at night knowing that each job on my task-list for the day was checked off, I can still utter the words, “It is finished” and rejoice in His finished work for me. I can revel in His goodness knowing that although I will start the next day with more dishes, laundry and needy children, I will also start the day with a spiritual list that reads “DONE.”


So it is through Christ that we are able to “sit down” and rest in the work that has been done for us. We can stop the feverish work of trying to live up to self-imposed standards to make ourselves worthy, it is finished. Believe it and rest!


-An excerpt from Christ in the Chaos: How the Gospel Changes Motherhood http://cruciformpress.com/our-books/christ-in-the-chaos/

Grace for One of Those Days

Posted on February 17, 2014 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (2)

The sticker on the back of the jeep in front of me threatens to crush my weak spirit. It has the words, “No Bad Days” encased in a fish outline alluding to the fact that there are no bad days with Christ.


What? No bad days?


The guilt and condemnation pour over me as I think about the “bad day” that I was having. What had I done wrong? Perhaps it was my pessimism coming to a head again. Maybe I just needed a more positive attitude. Or maybe God was punishing me for my unkindness to my children as we were getting ready for school that morning. I should have kept my mouth shut. I should have prayed and asked God for patience before entering into a discussion with my daughter about her unbrushed hair.


Then there was the broken dishwasher, the mess from the dog, and the unruly rooster that attacked my daughter, drawing blood from her leg. I saw her heading to the office for a band aid when I pulled away from the school wondering why I had failed to offer her one before we left the house.


And as I sought to sleep off my frustration and annoyance that day with a quick nap, my husband told me that the school called to say that my son may have broken his arm and needed to go to the emergency room. In an instant, my feelings of what had transpired over the course of the day came out in one tired, snarky word, “Seriously?”


Perhaps you have had a day like mine recently, so full of chaos that you can’t seem to escape. Nothing catastrophic has happened, yet there have been enough little mishaps to label it a bad day. Or, maybe it’s been one of those days when tears gather on your lower lid, waiting for a blink to push them out. Maybe it’s one of those days where you try to find an explanation for your urge to fall apart; a continual holding-it-together-hoping-to-avoid-a-trigger day because if you cry you won’t be able to say why. You know...just one of those days.


If you are like me, you may believe that you are the only one who has bad days. You may look at others in life and only see “No Bad Days” plastered across their foreheads. You believe the lie that if you are in Christ you are not allowed bad days. You may have been misled to think that once saved your life would simply be a tip-toe through the tulips and you wonder where you’ve gone wrong.


Maybe you believe that your bad days are a punishment for your sin. As if you are finally getting what you deserve from God. If that is the case, please rest in Romans 8:1, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” There is no wrath left for you, and the unraveling of your day is NEVER a barometer of God’s affection. In fact, as our days start to spin out of control, we can be assured that because we now have Christ’s righteousness God continues to be as pleased with us as he is with his Son.


It is in the midst of our bad days that our sin and weakness is magnified, showcasing our desperate need for the strength of Christ. And these are often the days that he is most glorified as we are reminded of our need to be rescued and we turn, once again, to Him.


God is the lover of those who have bad days. He loves to love you in your weakness. He pursues you in your pessimism. He desires you when you are undesirable. He loves you when you are unlovely. Believe that no matter what kind of day you have had--whether good or bad--that you remain His longed for beloved His heart’s desire and His beautiful bride. There is no sin or circumstance that will ever change that. Rest. You are free. You are loved.

The End of the List

Posted on January 6, 2014 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

As I get to the beginning of a new year and read the world's lists of resolutions, I can't help but feel like a bit of a loser: I just don't seem to care. I have no interest in trying harder in 2014. I have no desire to write out a list of what I want to do better this year.


Sure, I think it would be great if this was the year that I got in shape, or if I made it past the book of Numbers in my Bible reading plan. But I highly doubt that writing these things down on a list—once again—will get me any further than it has in previous years.


What do you think? Am I a loser because I lack motivation to better myself? Is my negativity bringing you down? Shouldn’t I have a little bit more hope in myself to affect change?


Honestly, in all of my list making experience I've never seen much change via the try harder, do better method. Oh sure, some effort-based change can last for a while. I can force myself to hit the gym for the first few weeks in January only to end up back on the couch come February. I can force myself to say “no” to sugar and caffeine for a few weeks, only to find myself in the Starbucks drive-thru line, desperate, shouting at the speaker, “I need a ventifrappesugarbomb, ASAP!” after I've been up all night with a sick kid. I can set my alarm for 5:00 AM to get up and pray, only to sleep through it the very next day because my insomnia gets the best of me. The (brief) moments of change are only skin deep. Whether it’s feeling as if I've failed or feeling proud and self-righteous because I've succeeded, my heart remains unchanged.


But, even in the face of being negative toward change, I do have hope. I have hope because I know that I will be changed this year. I know that I will continue to grow and be sanctified daily because that is what He has promised me. Even in the years I’ve completely given up on life, He was faithful to change me.


I don’t need another list of things to do. There is a list that's already been written. It has spelled out every good and perfect thing that I must do to be acceptable. It's like a New Year's Resolution List on steroids. I look at it and I'm crushed: Love your neighbor, do not be jealous, and love God with all your heart, and on and on. I can't even begin to do these things “sort-of”, let alone do them well. I’ve failed before I’ve even started.


There is One and only One who has kept the list of perfection. Jesus never had to make a single New Year's resolution. He never had to try harder to be a better person; to sin less and love more. And at the cross He chose to take my identity as one who can never get it right no matter how many years I put it on a list, and, in exchange, He gave me His identity of the perfect list keeper.


I don't have to make a try-harder, do-better list. I don't have to look inward and find the courage to love myself more. I don't have to put post-it notes around the house reminding myself of the promises I have made to be a better person. I have Christ who has set me free from the need of constant self-improvement. It is Christ who will work in me to complete a good work this year.


And if I don't get any better in my habits this year, He will love me the same as He did yesterday, today, and forever. My list has been completed. He has torn it up, thrown it in the fire, and dared me to be free.


We can all rest knowing that we don't have to resolve our way into God's favor in 2014 because we cannot gain or lose ground with God. Failures, successes, whatever comes our way, we will remain in His love and His face will never turn away from us. We are his beloved now and forever.

When I Think I'm Better Than You

Posted on November 25, 2013 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (1)

I stood in line at the drugstore. Cheap wine and a bottle of tums in my left hand, the arm of a floppy four year old who would not stay upright in the other; not quite feeling put together like the person that my self-righteousness had previously carried into that same store many times before. I felt weak; weak like the lady in front of me purchasing a six pack of her favorite cigarettes and some breath spray, and like the man behind me waiting to pay for his antidepressant and whiskey. Nothing about me shouted godly in the store that day.


Absolutely. Nothing.


But…Maybe that's good...


As I stood there in line, I was tempted to wonder how I looked to those around me. After all, if I was standing in line at a homeschool conference, at a private school spelling bee, or women's ministry event, being both unshowered and annoyed while grasping a bottle of wine and impatiently pulling my four year old up off the floor by his arm, no one would have been impressed.


Truth is, real never impresses.


Nobody knew my story and frankly nobody cared. The wine was purchased to replace the one that fell out of the back of my car and smashed in the grocery store parking lot earlier that week. The kid was suffering from a late night party and an early morning that left him obedience-impaired as his body became like a lead noodle. But no one cared to know the truth.


Except for maybe me; I cared for them to know the truth.


I cared only a little. No. I cared a lot.


My self-righteousness wanted those around me to think I was better than them--“Oooo, doesn’t she have it all together?” In my heart of hearts, I was truly ashamed that I didn't appear any different. How's that for being honest?


To be even more honest, I often feel the obligation to impress. But it’s not only me, it’s a disease we all suffer from. Especially as Christians because we often falsely believe that we are impressing others when they notice our virtuous behavior—“Oooh, look how holy she is…”. We somehow relate our manners and politeness to the amount of godliness within us. We tell our children things like, "Using our manners shows others that we love Jesus," or "They will know we are Christians by our cheerful attitude." We believe that if we dress nicely and don't smoke or cuss or drink then we are somehow more righteous than the rest—more righteous than they are, and they want to be righteous like me…don’t they?


But the problem is, the fact that having good manners and behaving well and not drinking or smoking isn’t specifically the privilege of the Christian. What about the atheistic, humanitarian family that taught their children to be just as cheerful and well mannered, that they should love others, too? There's plenty of polite people out there that don't love Jesus. There are plenty of upright citizens who do not know Jesus.


There is a disconnect in our hearts between the things that we do and the God that we love. I love my God and one of the reasons that I am free today is that I understand that I will not always be a picture perfect representative. I am a real person with real needs and real weaknesses just like the people I stand in line with. I don't know their hearts, but I do know mine. My heart is a weak and sinful heart, unworthy of the status that He has given me. Yet He loves me in my weakness, He desires me when I look down on others and fight to push my way to the top. He gets me when I think (and sometimes say), "I'm better than you." I am His, covered in His blood, wrapped in a robe of His righteousness.


And when I think I should look, smell, or smile differently than I do to differentiate myself from the rest of humanity, He reminds me that He has made the only impression in me that matters. And that final impression was made for me and became mine. I can stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters rather than try to rise above them with my works.


Because of Christ...I have no need to impress.

The Horse and the Cart

Posted on October 14, 2013 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

"Forgiveness is the horse that pulls the cart of good works." -Walter Marshall


I had a stellar week, if I don’t say so myself. Can I tell you about it?


*I gave away a few books to friends.

*I encouraged my husband.

*I gave my kids grace and dazzled them with the love of Jesus.

*I led the women in our Gospel Community group.

*I invited a bunch of women and their children to my home and set up babysitting for them.

*I took a friend to a new church forty-five minutes from my house so that she didn't have to go alone.

*I cared for sick kids, carted them to the beach, and boogie boarded with them. I took them to the pool and to be with their friends'.

*I took a friend's kids for a few hours so she could get some stuff done.

*I called to check in on a lonely friend.

*I gave counsel to a hurting and discouraged woman.


Pretty awesome huh? The picture of godliness right there!


And then Thursday came. Ahh Thursday; the day I realized how awesome I was. The day that I was certain I had earned my wings and that I had finally gotten it all together. It started with a beautiful email from a friend telling me what a great job I am doing in leading the women in our Gospel Community group. I believe the email was even titled "Awesome." I read that email a number of times and reflected on my awesomeness. The email was written in a spirit of love, to be a word of encouragement; but, I ran with it and I ran far. It spurred me on to continue in my "good works." How can a person so awesome let anyone down by failing to be just that?


So by now, you are probably really annoyed with the fact that I am telling you how great I am. What happened to the "boaster of weaknesses?" Have I lied to you all along only preparing you for the real unveiling of my awesomeness?


Here's the thing: it wasn't until I fell very hard and found myself in the middle of a big mess, which I had caused, that I even recalled what I had done this week. You see, the "Awesome" email was timely. Timely in that it arrived in the midst of my big mess, and I would refer back to it to try to convince myself that I wasn't as bad as I thought I was even though the truth is. I am actually worse than I think (Romans 3:10).


As the messiness progressed, I started to count my good deeds of the week. It was then that they became meaningless and self-serving. It was then that they became about me. I was using them to try to earn favor, to earn forgiveness for the sin I was overwhelmed by. What was originally effortless and loving had now become a crutch; I was using my good works to verify my goodness and to cancel out the bad ones.


It was apparent to me that there was a major contrast in my week. I had started the week with my eyes on what Christ had done. A heart so full and so amazed that I would do anything. As Walter Marshall said, "Forgiveness is the horse that pulls the cart of good works." I had the horse before the cart, right where it should be, living in my forgiveness, but then things changed. I sinned badly and I no longer believed in my heart that I was loved much and forgiven much. I had put the cart before the horse and with all awkwardness proceeded to push into good works to justify myself, to sanctify myself, to make myself awesome so that I could prove that I was worthy to be His daughter. If the good works out weigh the bad, then I’m good…right?


No. That's all wrong; we don't have to prove anything. We don't have to earn anything. Because He stepped in for us out of love to make us worthy. We can stop trying to earn our way into forgiveness. We are loved, cherished and redeemed children of a great and loving God—when we are doing good and when we’ve created a huge mess. We don't have to earn forgiveness, approval or good merit by working hard. We don’t have to get the cart to move apart from the horse; we merely need to be reoriented and set aright in the cart and see that the cart can only be pulled by the horse.


My prayer for us, friends, is that we would live into our forgiveness and justification to such an extent that we would love our neighbor as ourselves, and remember that we have nothing to earn or gain because we have it all in Him.

Three Free Sins Review

Posted on September 11, 2013 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

The first time I heard Steve Brown on the radio, I made my husband turn it off. My law bound heart was afraid of freedom; afraid that a teaching such as Steve’s would cause my husband to jump off the deep end and do something radical like, I don’t know, smoke a pipe or something. Funny thing is, I kept trying to listen and kept turning it off. Over time, I made it through the whole talk and was immensely grateful for the message of grace that was slowly penetrating my heart.


Because of my lack of tolerance for any book that’s going to lay the law on thick, leaving me with another list of ways to be a better Christian, Steve Brown’s book, Three Free Sins, excited me. The title alone drew me in; I wanted to see what the heck he was talking about, especially when every other book on the shelf was (and is) promising ways to overcome my sin. But that’s what I love about this book; it’s unexpected and freeing, and you just can’t put it down.


If you were to open my copy of this brilliant book you would see page after page of underlined sentences, starred paragraphs, and circled phrases. When I mark a book this way, it means one of two things: it’s “that good” or “that bad.” In this case, my graffiti carries on to the very last page, thus it was definitely good enough for me to stay with it to the end. I rarely finish a book unless it really captivates me and pulls me in. Steve’s book did just that and so much more.


I love that Steve addresses the all too often neglected subject of self-righteousness (something I really struggle with). Others may write about it, but nobody seems to understand it quite like Steve does. His honest and open sense of his own struggles with pride leaves you feeling as if you just had a long chat with an old friend. You can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that he’s just like you.


While reading this book, I was reminded that it is not just from my badness that Jesus had to come to save me, but my goodness as well. This book challenges the religious, try harder part of our hearts, and exhorts us to rest by freeing us from the deep rooted “God is mad at me if I don’t do it right” lie that we often tell ourselves..


Though I enjoyed every bit of this book, from Steve’s humorous illustrations to his theologically sound doctrine, it is this paragraph that sums up what I took away from this book:


"I’ve given up trying to be better (it wasn’t working anyway), doing it right (I was hitting it about 49 percent of the time, and that was more accidental than anything else), and wanting everyone to be impressed by my faithfulness (they knew the truth but were kind enough not to tell me). I found out that it really isn’t about me and my faithfulness, perfection, and obedience. It’s about Another, who is perfect in His faithfulness and obedience. That would be Jesus."


I highly recommend this book. If you are hesitant at all about reading this book I say be free and go for it, you could always count it as one of your three free sins!

The Gospel for the Good Days

Posted on September 9, 2013 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

"And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith." Phil. 3:9


I walked through my bedroom door patting myself on the back and feeling quite pleased about what a great job I had done with the kids that day.


It was true.


I was kind, patient and loving all while being exhausted and dealing with exhausted cranky children.


I was delighting in my goodness; proud of my great accomplishments.


Then it crept in. My mind dwelled on the idea that God must be really pleased with me and my actions. Believing that because of the great day that I had with my kids I was just a little bit more loved, a little bit godlier.


You might say "What's wrong with being good?" or "Why can't you just enjoy the fact that you had a good day?"


Shouldn't we all be good for goodness sake? Isn't that what this Christian life is about? Finding our kindness and sharing it with others?


Well, no.


The Christian life is not about me being good, it is about my utter dependence on the God that saved my soul by sending His son to live the life I couldn’t live, to die for my failures, and to be resurrected for my justification that I couldn’t earn. It's about remembering that I am a sinner who, by the grace of God, has been given the righteous record of Christ by faith so that I don't have to earn my way. Anything good that comes from me is a result of the work of Christ who lives in me.


The Christian life is not about trying harder to be good but rather worshipping the only One who truly is good.


When we start to believe that the goodness that comes out of us is something that we have manufactured or something that can get us closer to God then it all becomes about us; it becomes about earning our way by climbing a ladder of works and forgetting that the way has already been earned. We struggle against the flesh, and that means our tendency toward self-righteousness.


We are prone to take what God has given us and call it our own. Our heart desires acceptance. Our heart wants to justify itself.


Some days, like yesterday, our hearts desire a ladder to climb because we’re sure that we’re doing great and will make it to the top. Other days, like today, the rungs of that ladder seem to break every moment we try to do something good.


But the gospel...the glorious, honest gospel comes and destroys the ladder. It tells me, it tells us, that there is no climbing into heaven by good works. The gospel tells us there is no more failure, no more striving, no more broken rungs. Jesus said, “It is finished.” And it truly is finished.


Christ came and smashed that ladder across His knee by fulfilling every work on my behalf, by forgiving every rung broken in failure and every rung climbed in self-righteousness. There is no more ladder!


So, what should we do with the good days? The same thing that we do with the bad:


Remember what Christ has done and rest in His goodness in our place.


“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt 11:28-29)

Obsess Much?

Posted on August 5, 2013 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

The past month I have been a bit of a bear to my family. How ironic is it that when my six year old, who is still learning how to spell, writes a note meaning to say "You are the best" misspelled best to say "beast." Ha! There's truth in that; I've most certainly felt like The Beast lately.


Even when I've lived in disobedience like I have been--knowing that I'm avoiding God and wrestling with my anger---He's been rejoicing over me.


My confession is: I've seen my ugliness and every day I wake up and decide that "today I'm going to change!" I fight against admitting this about myself; I know better! I know that preaching a try harder/do better sermon to myself is not the way to go about it; yet, I still do it, daily.


I can be obsessive in my pursuit of getting better. And I bet I’m not alone. We can easily spend our days either trying to figure out how not to sin or trying to figure out how to make things better after we have sinned. We pursue ourselves indeed!


I love what Tullian Tchvidjian says in an interview from 2011 [http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2011/11/17/stetzer-interview-part-two/]. It's exactly what's been on my mind lately during the few quiet moments between sin obsessions:


"We spend too much time thinking about how we're doing, if we're growing, whether we're doing it right or not. We spend too much time pondering our failure and brooding over our spiritual successes. In short, we spend way too much time thinking about ourselves and what we need to do and far too little time thinking about Jesus and what he's already done."


We have an obsession with sin. We have an obsession with wanting to grow and be better. It's what consumes us. We are told, "be the best that you can be" and when we aren't, we despair; in despairing, we question God’s stance toward us. "I'm trying Lord! Why aren't you allowing me to succeed!?"


What is the remedy for all of this? Surely, if we are busy serving others and conjuring up all we have to love them, then we will be too busy to think of ourselves. Is it as simple as turning our focus towards others? The answer is: No. Actually, by merely refocusing on others, we are still self-focused. The truth is, anything done out of our efforts is done for our own edification. (We have all been told at one point or another that if we help someone else, we will feel better about ourselves.) Essentially, anything mustered up from a will to do better still comes from us.


Does that just make you want to give up, throw your hands in the air, and declare that if your efforts are void then you will just live for yourself?


Don't despair so quickly, friend. Though focusing on our sin or focusing on others may be outside of His will for us, our sanctification is not. Our change is truly His desire and it is truly a job that only He is big enough to do.


To remedy all of this, to truly live outside of our self, our sin obsession must be turned into a Savior obsession. Rather than focusing on ourselves, we need to focus on what's been done for us. We must swim in the grace that He has poured out on us, and remember that he has saved us despite our vile, self-seeking heart. We should revel in His unending love for us despite the many times we push Him aside in our self-reliance and desire to be number one.


He has loved you from the very beginning. Not since the day you were saved but since forever. He knew that you would belong to Him and has desired you...ALWAYS. He has desired you even in your sin, even when you are obsessed with your sin.


Let us obsess over a Savior who would do such a thing as give His life for us, bringing us freedom from the very sin that we allow to consume us.


Be free and enjoy the feast He has prepared for you. Partake in His never ending grace. Take in a nice deep breath of the gospel and live in the holiness that is already yours through the Holy Spirit.