Choosing Life

toasterContinued from here.

So, then, what does it mean to choose life? In a word, Jesus. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Follow Jesus, and he will transform you from death to life, which is why he came in the first place. Paul summed up how to do this here:

If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’” ~ Rom. 10:9-11

This is what it means to choose Jesus as your Savior and Lord, which is choosing life. Simply tell Jesus that you are sorry for living in death and that you want to live in life through him. It really is that simple, although I have said many times that simple is not the same thing as easy.

It’s hard to humble yourself, admit that you have made a mess of your life, and that you need a Savior. You know what’s even harder? Being dead … living only for yourself … making your own judgments about what is “good” and “bad” … bearing the consequences of those decisions because your worldview is skewed … being mired in bitterness toward everyone who has wronged you … taking advantage of other people before they take advantage of you… Being dead is hard work!

I gave up a lot when I became a Christian. I gave up my “right” to live my life however I feel like living. You know what else I gave up? Being dead! I gave up reliving all of the ways that my abusers harmed me … fixating on my bitterness … judging everyone around me while worrying about their judgments of me … suicidal urges … an eating disorder … severe anxiety disorder … panic attacks … self-injury … Yes, I gave up a lot for God, and following Christ was the best decision I ever made!

Jesus did not come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live. Are you ready to live?

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace popping out of a toaster saying, “Not bad. How are things in your life?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

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Why Jesus Came

lifesaverContinued from here.

So, if Jesus did not come to make bad people good, what did he come for? To make dead people live! That is the good news that if we really grasped, we would experience joy and peace every minute of every day for the rest of our lives! (And, no, I am not there yet, either.)

God told Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate the fruit from the Tree of Good and Evil. When they ate it, they did not physically die. However, they did spiritually die, and that is what Jesus came to undo.

From the moment Adam and Eve ate the fruit, their perspective shifted. Instead of seeing the world in alignment with God, they aligned their worldview with Satan, whose worldview is in direct opposition to God. Sadly, we have all inherited this skewed worldview, causing us to naturally behave in ways that are counter to God. Our problem is not that we are “bad.” The problem is that we are DEAD! This is why God told the Israelites through Moses to “choose life” rather than to “choose to be good:”

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. ~ Deut. 30:19-20

Don’t be deceived – your default setting is death. If you do what comes naturally, you will consistently choose death over life. That’s the consequence of the Fall and why we live in such a broken world today. God gives us another option – to choose life, and He sent His Son to die for us to make this possible … not in our own strength but through the equipping of the Holy Spirit.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking through a lifesaver and saying, “Ur a Lifesaver.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Jesus Did Not Come to Make Bad People Good

overruledContinued from here.

One of the lies far too many people believe – both Christians and non-Christians alike – is that Christianity is about “being good.” They mistakenly believe that the Bible is a rulebook of “do’s” and “don’t’s.” If I do this, then I get to go to heaven, and if I do that, I will burn for eternity in hell. That’s not why Jesus came!

If we could will ourselves into “doing good” by following a rulebook, then Jesus would not have needed to die for us. Paul captured this dynamic beautifully:

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” ~ Rom. 7:18-20

If it were possible to do what is “good” through following a rulebook, Paul should have been able to do so. After all, he was a Pharisee well-versed in the Law. And yet, as he so eloquently explained, he was unable to do what was “right,” even though he knew better than most what “right” is.

That’s why we need a Savior! Even when we know what is “good,” we are helpless to do it because the drive of selfishness is so deeply ingrained within us. So, it’s pointless for me to spend my time memorizing a bunch of rules and fixating on how I am going to follow them because I cannot do it! In my own power, I am helplessly “bad.” I am entangled in sin and death. The power of both is too strong for me to withstand. Thankfully, God provided us with a solution:

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” ~ Rom. 7:24-25a

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace slamming down a gavel and yelling, “Overruled!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Futility of Trying to “Be Good”

nopeContinued from here.

When I was a teenager, I did try to “be good” and was mocked for it. I was called a “goody goody,” “goody two shoes,” and other such nonsense by my peers. I wrestled with “right” versus “wrong.” Adults wanted me to “be good.” My abusers “punished” me through severe abuse for “being bad.” My peers mocked me for “being good.” It seemed that no matter what I did, it was never “good enough:” I was never “good enough” for the adults or “bad enough” for my peers. Whatever I did was always “wrong” in somebody’s eyes.

As a child and youth, I was terrified of “being bad” because this came with dire consequences. My abusers would set me up to fail and then “punish” me for that failure through severe abuse. To this day, the dynamic of being placed in a position in which there is no possible outcome but failure triggers my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, despite all of the grace that God has lavished on me over the years.

Because of this deep fear, I came across as a perfectionist to the people around me. Everything needed to be “just so” for me to be OK. (This developed into Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in my 20’s and 30’s.) However, my underlying drive was not that of a perfectionist – it was one of sheer terror of the consequences of something not be “just so.” My “perfectionism” was driven by a severe anxiety disorder.

I tried really, really hard to “be good,” but I simply could not do it. No matter how deep the terror of falling short, I was unable to succeed in “being good.” “Being bad” (selfish) comes as naturally as breathing while “being good” (godly) feels like being told to walk on the ceiling. It is completely unnatural, and all the willpower in the world cannot make us successful at it.

News Flash: It is not possible to “be good” in our own strength. Thank God for sending us a Savior to do this for us!

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running in fear over the words, “Nope. Nope. Nope.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Jesus Came to Make Dead People Live

deadI have previously shared that I am enrolled as a student in Divinity School. In one of the lectures, the speaker said something so simple and yet so profound that I have been mulling this over for days:

Jesus Christ did not come to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive.”

I do not know who to attribute the original quote to. This was tweeted by Ravi Zacharias, but a version of this quote is also included in a newsletter for the C.S. Lewis Institute in an article written by Thomas A. Tarrants, III. Regardless of who originally said it, it’s brilliant, and I am grateful to have heard it because this quote succinctly encapsulates the Christian faith.

I am always disturbed when I hear someone assume that my walk with God is about my efforts to “be good.” Believe me – I have no illusions about my “goodness.” Nothing within me is “good” apart from God. I know where I have been and what I have done. I know that by God’s standards, I am a murderer. While I have never taken a physical life, I have repeatedly relished envisioning torturing and murdering my abusers in such sick and twisted ways that it’s a wonder even God could forgive such evil … and yet He has!

Not only do I know what I have thought and done, but I also know my complete inability to be able to overcome my deep-seated drive to be “bad” – to be selfish, play God by judging others, and inflict my will on everyone around me. This drive of “badness” comes as naturally as breathing. While I might look sweet and innocent on the outside, there’s nothing sweet and innocent on the inside beyond what God has redeemed.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace’s head sticking out of the ground in front of a tombstone that says, “I’m Dead.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

God Knows More Than My Name

u_get_meA recurring theme in Contemporary Christian music is that God knows my name. Whenever I hear that lyric, I think, “Thank goodness that’s not all He knows!”

For people who feel disconnected from God, I’m guessing it’s reassuring to hear that God knows your name. However, I think about the many people whose names I know but who I don’t know a thing about other than what the tabloids tell me, much of which is likely untrue. And then the things that really matter about those people aren’t going to make it into the tabloids. Only their closest friends will know the information that really matters, and some of the most important information might not even be shared with them. So, yeah, I know their names, but I don’t know them.

Contrast this with the knowledge that God has of you:

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7

Even I don’t know how many hairs I have on my own head, but God does. That’s a level of caring that I don’t even have about myself!

Yes, I love that God knows my name, but I love even more that He understands the way I tick, which is something I don’t fully understand myself. Thanks to the child abuse, my brain developed differently from a “normal” brain, causing me to react differently than other people to particular stimuli. As I have healed from the child abuse, I have grown to understand some of my triggers (thanks to flashbacks), but others continue to perplex me. However, God is not perplexed. He knows exactly why I think and do what I think and do, and He loves me through it all.

I love that I have a God who knows me intimately … who knows where I have been, am now, and where I am going … who knows exactly what I need … who completely understands my peculiarities that I don’t understand about myself … and who loves me completely exactly as I am, even knowing me that intimately. Love like that is transforming and runs far deeper than simply knowing my name.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her hands on her heart below the words, “U Get Me.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

God is “EveryWHEN”

whenI just completed a series on God being everywhere, which got me thinking about how God is also “everyWHEN” – that God is not limited by time. Those of you who were blessed with scientific brains might be thinking, “Duh!,” but I was not blessed with such a brain, so bear with me. I never took a Physics course. My science-challenged brain has a difficult time wrapping around the concept of God existing outside of the confines of time and space.

Rich Mullins wrote the following lyrics in his song, Nothing is Beyond You:

Time cannot contain You. You fill eternity.”

This helps me apply what I have been processing about God being everywhere to His transcendence of time. Just as God is “too big” to be contained by space, He is also “too big” to be contained by time. My linear mind has trouble grasping this concept. I’ll probably have to spend a lot of time meditating on this reality to even begin to get this. Just writing this paragraph is making my non-scientific brain cramp!

If I could truly grasp and believe that God exists outside of time, I would find it so much easier to trust Him with my future because He already sees it and is already there! He’s not just a good guesser or playing the odds that the suffering I am experiencing today is likely to produce a harvest in the future. He KNOWS this because He is already there looking at that harvest. My poor brain cannot process this!

This is one reason why God wants me living in the present. When I envision the future, it’s often without God’s presence, which is not possible because He is already there. I’ll worry that X, Y, or Z might happen and construct contingency plans for how I will deal with those issues if they arise, but my worry excludes the presence of God. I’ll never experience one second of my life without God, which makes worry a complete waste of time.

This is not a topic that I’ve been pondering yet – I’m still working on wrapping my mind around God being everywhere – so I don’t have much to say about it. At this point in my journey, I have more questions than answers, but I can see how I could much more easily rest in God’s provision by resting in the reality that God is “everyWHEN.”

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding a pocket watch under the word, “When?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]