It's easy to forget what God has done for and in us. Years after starting this journey of faith, we lose perspective on how we're supposed to walk this road. Rules and commands overcome our focus. God tell us to do many things as part of our faith in and with Him, and like all things in life, the minutiae begin to look a great deal bigger than they really are.
When the little things become the big things and the big things become little, we can revert to religion, full of its damning laws and ordinances by a God we try stuffing in a tiny box of human control. We judge ourselves and others, sometimes in self condemnation and envy of others' supposed holier, easier lives, and sometimes in the pride of how holy we, ourselves, are, and how everyone else needs to "get with the program."
For myself, I've recently suffered a season of self condemnation and crying out "to be saved." I admit I've struggled with truly believing that my salvation is permanent, and that its impermanence means I'm only a step away from losing God -- and my soul -- forever.
But ever faithful my God proves himself to be.
I was reminded of a small exercise yesterday that has helped me more than once in the past few months when I start forgetting the most important part of my relationship with God -- who He IS.
Write a list of everything you know about God. Here is mine from yesterday:
- God loves us
- He keeps his promises
- He gives good things to his children
- He is the giver of every good and perfect thing
- He never leaves nor forsakes us
- He is faithful to forgive and will forgive every time
- His Holy Spirit is always available to us
- He does the good work of healing and restoration within us
- He is the builder of our faith
- He will always act when we pray (even if it's not as we expect)
A few more truths I added indirectly about God and our place as believers in Christ:
- We are to pray with expectation
- Always expect God to do good
- Always expect God to show up
- Always expect the presence of the Holy Spirit
- We do not change ourselves, but submit to His power to change us
- The Holy Spirit leads, guides and comforts us
- We do not save ourselves
- We are members of His holy household, heirs to His kingdom
- We may always enter the presence of God since Jesus-as-high-priest paid the price of our separation, dropped the dividing wall of hostility and abolished the law of commandments by ordinances (meaning by his death, those under His blood are free from the wages of the law)
- We are to deny fear (as antithesis to love) a place in our lives: "Fear not!"
When I remind myself WHO God is, wondering or fearing what He will do goes right out the window. Identity drives behavior, and when I recall God's identity, my fears over his actions fall to the wayside.
Now, part of that is also remembering that while God answers every prayer, it doesn't mean He will answer it how we might like. We must submit to His will when we pray, but we must still pray with expectation that no matter how God answers our prayers, He will answer it with something good.
Secondly, we must actively choose to believe. This part is incredibly difficult, because when you struggle with self value issues, you're begging God to change you because you feel so weak. You must, however, EMBRACE strength, to choose to believe that God has given you strength through his ever-present Holy Spirit for you to come closer to Him. You don't change or heal yourself, but He makes available the power of the Holy Spirit to draw nearer to him, and as someone who has accepted Christ, you are a co-heir and are worthy to enter His presence. You did not earn it by being good, or lose it by failing for the umpteen-millionth time when you trip up in your self worry, addictions, bad choices or other mistakes.
With Christ in you, YOUR identity as a child of God is now permanent.
We struggle most when we begin to believe Satan's lies that we are "no longer worthy" to walk in God's presence. We feel we must earn our way back in, but that's as impossible today as it was when you first realized you needed Christ. That won't change on any day you live. If Satan can keep us from living daily with our Savior, He wins the lesser fight; he already lost our souls, but he can keep us from living lives of abundance in the Spirit. Living in the Spirit allows God to have a greater impact on our healing and on others around us as He employs us as "Little Christs" in the lives of others, bringing the hope of His love and salvation to everyone we encounter.
We must also choose to believe the truth in God's word. Like my list above, we must choose to believe each thing we know scripture says about God. We must believe that truth over the lies we've begun to hug to our hearts. Doing so melts those lies and the chains holding them down.
And while you could focus on what scripture says about God's judgement, remember also that Christ took that judgement on our behalf when he died for our sins. In accepting Jesus, the wages of the death we deserve are washed away. If you believe anything, you MUST believe in this most crucial element of Jesus' purpose in coming to Earth as a man.
All pursuit of God's forgiveness after salvation is a pursuit of reconciliation and relationship, not a rectification for judgement. Jesus fulfilled the law in coming to Earth so that we might pursue a life and love with God free of earning heaven -- something we can never achieve.
The last thing to embrace in this method is choosing to love. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of all of this, but it doesn't work as well until you frame everything else written above into your psyche. When you choose to love as God has called us to love, which is his greatest commandment and the validator of all else we do in life, it's a multifaceted act.
- Choose to love God, who He is and what He represents as the creator of the universe, author of your salvation and perfector of your faith
- Choose to ACCEPT GOD'S LOVE. Like communication, there is a receiver and a recipient. If you are unwilling to accept God's love due to your superior knowledge about how unworthy you are, you cannot live by God's love, which is required if we are to love others.
NOTE: As God IS love, you must choose to accept his love if you hope to accept His spirit into your own!
1 John 4:15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
- Choose to love yourself, because in Christ, you have inherent, unearned value. You are worthy of love. You cannot earn this value, but it is yours, regardless. However, you must be willing to love yourself in hopes to forgive yourself and free your mind and heart from the chains you so willingly wrap around yourself.
- Choose to love others. For the same reason we are to love ourselves -- because God has made us with unearned value and purpose -- so are we to love others who have not earned that love. We love them because they need love, not because we need their love in return. We love them because God loved us first, and in so taking the first act prepares our act in return.
Read the scriptures' definition of love to validate how you're loving others. To be kind, gentle, longsuffering, patient ... as much for others. That also goes for yourself! Give yourself mercy when you'd rather beat yourself up. Commit to change, but don't wallow in self hatred and shame. God does not call us to do that, and we cannot be holier than God by choosing to do it to ourselves.
So if you're struggling with some big demons today, I encourage you to write down everything you know about God. Go find a book by someone more knowledgeable than me in scripture who can explain the glory of Jesus' salvation in our lives and how He has freed us from the darkness which plagues our hearts. While life is a journey of that freedom expressing itself, the work has already been done, the price has been paid, and we are new creatures.
All thanks to Jesus.