Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sharing Who We Know

"But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto Him."
1 Corinthians 2:14

One of the most exciting nights I experienced as a volunteer youth worker was when I turned to a new girl in our youth group and asked her if she knew Christ as her Savior. She said she didn't know Him, but really wanted to. I shared the gospel with her and she accepted Christ and we both cried tears of joy. Having someone that ready to receive the Lord is unusual. The verse above tells us why that is true. People without Christ don't have the capacity to understand the things of God. This is because it is the Holy Spirit that enables us to understand the things of God. Without the Spirit's presence in our lives, the things of God can seem foolish. That means a person who doesn't know Christ often doesn't even know he needs Him. That seems like an odd statement, but let me give you an example. We did not give our children very many sweets when they were little. However, one of their grandmothers brought ice cream for them. She even gave our 8-month-old daughter strawberry ice cream. At first she shook her head and pulled back from the spoon because it was cold and she wasn't use to it. She sat there for a moment and licked her lips and tasted the ice cream for the first time. All of a sudden, her face lit up and she desperately wanted more ice cream. That's the way it is with God. We are called to share His gospel with people who in all probability aren’t even asking for Him and don’t understand what they’re missing. Hopefully, when we build relationships others will get a glimpses of Him through us and begin to desire a relationship with the God we love and serve.  

I wonder sometimes why we don't witness more. It could be that we are too busy, we are simply disobedient, or we are uncaring in regard to the plight of people who don't know Jesus. There could be another reason, which is what I want to focus on now. One is that in our own life we haven’t moved past the initial relationship that began when we accepted Christ. Like every love relationship, our relationship with Christ must be nurtured and developed. 2 Corinthians 5:15 says that when we come to understand Christ’s love it will compel us to share the gospel. (2 Corinthians 5:14). Do we comprehend His love? Does it compel us to share the gospel?

I was recently writing a letter to someone who doesn't know Christ personally and the perceptions the person has about God are very far from the truth. As I was writing, I was overwhelmed with a passion that they come to know the God I know from the scripture. I want to share some a part of that letter with you: 

"I wish you could know the God I have come to know. His holiness is terrifying and yet beautiful. His love is overwhelming and incomprehensible. His compassion and kindness always present and inviting me into deeper relationship. His comfort and peace indescribable no matter what the circumstances are. His mercy and grace are free even in the reality of my sin. I wish you could know what it feels like to have the burden of guilt taken away for good. I wish you could know what it feels like for peace to flood your heart, where there has been only anxiousness and terror. I wish you could hear His voice whisper love into your heart as He has mine. Most of all I wish you could know what His redemption means. He redeems my mistakes and the time I wasted running and trying to fill my needs apart from Him. He freed me from the guilt I felt. I wish you could have your heart healed like He is healing mine – the holes and the rips are being delicately mended and the ache is lessening and the emptiness is being filled. The process of growth is bittersweet because the more I have come to know Him the more I have realized that I need Him. Knowing God wakes up emotions of love and joy and brokenness that are deeper than any I have felt before, but it feels so good to be alive. As I grow in Christ the things of this world and the sins with which I have struggled are losing their power and their grip on my heart and I am finding myself in the grip of God's grace. There is such sweet peace and such exploding joy in His grip! I want that for you"

I encourage you to stop and write down who God is and what He has done for you. Next, think of someone you would like to come to know Christ. Maybe it is someone you know who is hurting or someone who is struggling with sin. Maybe it is someone you know who seems empty and lonely. What would you want to tell him or her about God if you knew it was your last chance to share about Him? Or maybe in reading this you have realized you don’t feel compelled to share Him because you haven't experienced His love at a personal level and His love seems like it is only something you have been reading about. If that is the case, read His word, meditate on it, and ask Him to open your eyes to the work and love He is showing you. He is always present and always loving, but sometimes we are so focused on the world we don't realize He is continuously revealing Himself to us and He is constantly inviting us into a deeper relationship. Are we listening? Do you long for others to know the God who loves you so radically?

Prayer: Father, you are so gracious. When we were your enemies You sent your Son to reveal your heart of love to us. Help us to never lose sight of your holiness and goodness. Most of all help us to experience Your all consuming perfect love and be constrained by it to share our faith with others. Amen.

The Boxes I No Longer Own

"For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous 
for the unrighteous, to bring you to God."
1 Peter 3:18

I've heard many sermons on 1 Peter 3:18. But I don’t think I have ever the time to contemplate all that the verse says. I understand at a cognitive level that Jesus died so I could be reconciled to God. The part I don’t fully grasp is the middle of the verse: “the righteous for the unrighteous." To begin to grasp the fullness of the verse I have had to wrestle with the concepts of righteousness and unrighteousness. In light of those concepts I begin to grasp the huge amount of grace contained in that little phrase. 

Scripture makes it clear that Christ is righteous. It blows my mind that righteousness is one of God’s character traits. That means He didn't just act righteous, He was righteous in every thought, word, attitude, and deed. He did the right thing every time at exactly the right moment. Every word He spoke was spoken at the right moment in the right way to rightly, unselfishly meet a need. His silences were also purposeful and governed by His righteousness, not passive aggressive as we so often are. He never lied or spoke words with a motive of wounding someone. When He confronted sin it was never done out of hurt or pride, but was done with the pure motive of reconciliation. If He healed someone it was right and if He didn't it was right. When He judged, His judgments were right. His commandments were right then and are right today. When Christ walked this earth, He never made a wrong decision, never had a bad attitude, never made a bad choice, never had regrets, and was never too late to do His Father's will. Unlike me, He never went to bed sorry for how He had treated someone nor did he regret nor reaching out to someone. 

To more fully grasp the truth of His righteousness, all I have to do is think of all of the sins I've committed over my lifetime. A pastor I served under suggested we journal our prayers. One of my young friends mentioned how much more serious her sin looked when she confessed it by name and wrote it down on paper. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "For He has made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." It is like being able to put all of our sin in boxes and being able to carry them to the cross where Jesus is hanging and placing them at His feet so God cam place them on Him. I can’t imagine how many boxes I would have! I am pretty sure those boxes would full. I am sure more than one box would be full of words I wish I could retract--words that were lies, hateful, spoken in haste, gossip, slander, disrespectful, and chosen purposefully to wound. Some of my boxes would be full of compromises that eat at my soul, because I can’t believe I gave in and compromised on issues so clearly spelled out in His Word so I would be accepted by those offended by my faith. Some of my boxes would have been filled with sins caused by all sorts of lust. Some would have been filled with self-destructive sins like binges, starving, or abusing my body with compulsive exercise. Some boxes would be filled with harsh judgments of others and some would be filled with harsh judgments of self. I would have some boxes full of toxic pride, angry outbursts, hatred, bitterness, and of self-centered selfish choices. I am sure there would also be lots of boxes filled with sins of omission. This would contain things like the withholding of love, kind words, compassion, forgiveness, and even Christ.

My purpose in writing this is not to take back shame for which I have been set free nor to trigger toxic shame in you. I understand that because Adam and Eve were our first parental types we have been born with the propensity to fill up boxes with sin--that is what it is to be a child who is a descendant of Adam and Eve. The truth of grace is that Christ took our sin and gave us His righteousness. I am writing this to help myself see just how much He loves me and to make sure that I know that as the Righteous One, He was truly qualified to bear weight of my sin and shame--He had none of His own to bear. When I was a child I was terrified of God. I was afraid not to come to Him because I feared that all of my sin would be displayed on a movie screen for all to see! However, the truth is He already became sin for me! Every sin in every box was put on Him. He bore my sin and shame so I can let go of it. He gave me His righteousness. I am free of accusation. When I'm face to face with Christ, there will be no big screen TV displaying my sin. Nor will I be given some kind of banner to wear that has my sin printed on it. Christ already bore it publicly for me. When we get to heaven we will be there on His merit and because of the sacrifice He paid on the cross. That means I have been given His truth for the lies I once spoke, love for the hatred that once dwelled in my heart, kindness for the unkind things I did, purity for my lust, self-control for my addictions, patience for my impatience, compassion for my bitterness, and passion for my complacency. Christ died so I might become the righteousness of God in HIM! 

What a precious gift God has give believers--righteousness for unrighteousness. I don't need to hang my head in shame; I can now live as a beloved child who has the opportunity to become like my heavenly Father. It hurts to think of Christ bearing my sin so publicly! The way for me to deal with my current sin is to face it, call it by its rightful name, and confess it to Jesus. When I began to look inside and asked God to search my heart, I realized that He wasn't surprised by the number of boxes. He knew that they were there. Yet, He was compassionate, gracious, and kind, taking each one from me. 

I wonder how many of us are still carrying those sin boxes around with us. Maybe we have been to ashamed to confess the sin to Him. Yet, He already knew when He went to the cross for us. Maybe it is because we think we haven't paid a high enough price to make up contents of our boxes. Yet, He paid for all of our sin, with His own blood. Because He loved He gave us the gift of grace--the act of exchanging His righteousness for our unrighteousness. The boxes He bought with His own blood are the boxes I no longer own!


Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!