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Posts from the ‘Assurance’ Category

Reflections of Regret and Remembering

At the end of the year, we review.

Yesterday, we sat with our kids and recalled by saying, “Look what the LORD has done for us.” It’s always fun to look back over the friendships we have gained, the goals accomplished, even the goals left undone. Radio and T.V. will cover the “year in review” — the best new songs, the worst clothes.

But, there are times, we look upon our year in disappointment. As sinners, that’s no surprise, right?

There are two words that make my heart feel really tight, cause my eyes to well up with tears, and bring some regret when I look back on this year: selfish ambition. Looking back, I can see it. I can see it in so many ways. Chris and I were caught up and didn’t even know it. But God is light. He is truth. In Him is no darkness.

So, when God whispers, selfish ambition into our darkness, we pause. We don’t argue. We stop dead in our tracks to review. Confess. Repent.

Nichole Nordeman said, “Today we pull the blanket back on our sin and try not to look too quickly away. It’s worth lingering. Grace isn’t going anywhere.”

Fortunately, regret is not the only take-away from this year. For as much as I look back and see my selfish ambition, there was a much bigger theme that was increasing higher and greater over the theme of my sin.

Remember, also whispers the Holy Spirit. Remember who you are.

You belong to me.

As children of God, we have been given the gift of belonging — to Him — the God who holds all things in place, the only one who can be trusted, the one even who keeps count of the amount of times we’ve turned over at night when struggling to sleep.

And, when we belong, our belonging cannot be shaken. It cannot be removed, undone or changed. God is for us. He pursues us. He fights for us.

“You have kept count of my tossings;

put my tears in your bottle.

Are they not in your book?

Then my enemies will turn back

in the day when I call.

This I know, that God is for me.

Sin has no victory when the One who reigns the world, reigns in our hearts.

Because grace is greater than sin, remembering who we are is greater than the regret of what we’ve done.

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Connecting The Dots

Sometimes I’m a little slow to connect the dots. I can’t count the times I’ve read Romans Chapters 7 and 8, but last week, it struck a new chord.

So, I was here, again, struggling with sin. If you know me, that’s no surprise, and you’re meeting me often in these conversations. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, and Paul’s words in Romans 7 kept running through my mind. You’re probably familiar. This is the ESV translation:

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Romans 7:15-25)

Now comes the big chapter, right? And, if you are like most of the Church, you have much of Romans 8 memorized. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us… And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies… And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose… What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

For some reason, I have always drawn a big, black line between Chapters 7 and 8. I have completely separated Paul’s words of struggling with sin with Paul’s words of hope that follow in 8. Last week, I connected the dots…

Now, let’s consider that our current struggles with sin are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Let us be aware that the sin struggles themselves may be groanings as we wait eagerly for adoption.

May we know that God will even work our sin struggles for our good, for those us who are called according to his purpose.

Especially, we must know that in our struggles against sin, God is for us.

I don’t think we can disconnect Romans 7 from Romans 8. The Apostle Paul speaks of struggling with sin, and without taking a break leads into “life in the Spirit”, “heirs with Christ” and “future glory” — all of which are freeing in our battle against sin.

 

How To Fight

I have found myself in a battle lately. Stress has been high. Life has been busy. Anxiety has been my theme. The recipe has been perfect for a storm.

I have been reminded that I am not a slave. I have been set free.

So, I fight.

The greatness of this battle is that we are not alone. We are an army. An equipped army at that. We have tools, weapons and a successful win already on our side.

Practically, I have fought this particular battle with blessing.

Most everyone is familiar with Matt Redman’s lyrics from “10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord).” The second verse praises,

You’re rich in love, and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

So, when attacks are high, I am challenging my soul to bless. When my soul praises the Lord, attacks flee.

How do you fight?

Does God Love More When “To Do” List Is Done?

So, if [since] God imputes the righteousness of Christ to us, a righteousness not our own, why do we still try to justify ourselves before God by our works?

“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” Galatians 2:21

 

We cannot save ourselves.

Sin is so serious that God had to deal with the problem.

Since we did not save ourselves, neither can we maintain our salvation.

We live in a task-oriented, A+B=C, results-based-world. I love it! It’s the way I function well. If I have exercised, showered, had a quiet time, made the beds, stocked the pantry, quoted scripture to my children and received eye-contact in return from 1/3 of them, prepared dinner with something fresh and green on the side, had the opportunity to loved my neighbor and acknowledged that my husband exists, I have been a good person. I mean, I have had a good day.

On the flip-side, relying on my ever-so-unreliable-self and putting stock in my damnable good works leads to such despair. What I have worked so hard to maintain one day comes crashing down the next.

I can’t boast in getting myself here. I can’t “pull myself up by the bootstraps,” “get my heart right” or “clean up my act” enough to maintain my current standing with God.

God keeps me here, and he finishes his work.

Here is the evidence:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Phil. 1:6

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Phil. 2:12-13

For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. Hebrews 12:10 (spiritual discipline is not solely left up to us)

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:2

Where is boasting in our being justified?

Where is boasting in our growth?

Once we believe and are saved, we are not left to our own devices. Rest in the fact that you are not only justified but that you are continually being justified because of the perfection of Christ.

We must cling to the gospel promise that God is pleased with us because he is pleased with Jesus.”  (The Gospel-Centered Life)

So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:7-9

Chit-Chat

Sitting around with a small group of women, coffee in hand, engaging in a little chit-chat is one of my favorite places to be. In the last few weeks, I’ve been able to do that, and twice, our “shooting the breeze” has led to such matters as substitutionary atonement, double imputation and justification. Anything can happen when a group of women get together and jaws start flapping!

One of the most important and powerful verses in all of scripture is 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Jesus, although sinless, was regarded as sin for our sake.

Christ became our substitute. He bore the wrath of God in our place.

God imputed our sin and guilt to Christ.

God imputes the righteous of Christ to us, a righteousness not our own.

We are regarded as forgiven.

We are declared forgiven.

Amazing the weight that one sentence can hold! Pervading what this truth should do to our lives and families!

How should such deep theological truths impact our marriages, parenting, self-image in this world?

I was mad at Chris this weekend. Something he did irritated me, and I was wrestling with how to let go of it. I remembered what a friend said when discussing this verse, What if I viewed my husband as righteous the way God does?, and it hit me from a different angle. Justification is outrageously difficult for us to grasp for ourselves as believers; do we accept our brothers/sisters in Christ as righteous as well? I understand we’re not capable of seeing through the perfect lenses of the Creator, but my unwillingness to forgive was challenged when I realized I was withholding from a man who had already been forgiven by God.

The pressure is off of our believing children when the expectations of them being perfect has been shifted to their true identity in Christ. When we consider our children wrapped in the righteousness of Christ, they will no longer be required to meet our expectations, and good behavior for the sake of good behavior will no longer be the goal; seeking and loving the One who has draped them will be our primary desire for their lives.

I sat across the table from a beautiful friend recently. She keeps her body in excellent shape. Her eyes, smile, hair, skin are all incredible. By the world’s standards, she’s very attractive. She thinks she’s ugly. Ugly enough that she shouldn’t leave the house some days. Who would have ever thought that what makes her beautiful is blood? She is completely blanketed in a righteousness not her own. Jesus took the most beautiful pieces he could find to cover every square inch of the ugliness of sin, pieces like daughter, alive, redeemed, loved, chosen, joint-heir, atoned-for, forgiven, justified. When we look in the mirror, those are the words we should see.

These are just some of the ways these deep theological truths should pervade our lives and homes.

It may stir a different conversation in your circle of friends.

How should these truths change your

marriage

family

parenting

neighborhood

job

self-image?

Non-Failing Contingencies

“Mom, should we be glad that Adam and Eve sinned?

Sarah, my oldest posed this question one day in the car.

My response to her was that we should never be glad when someone sins, but I don’t believe that was her true inquiry.  We had further discussion, and I am certain she was aiming toward the gratitude we should have for God making a way for us, redemption, restoration, the forgiveness of sins.

It was no surprise to a perfect and matchless God that we would sin, and in his divine greatness and mercy, he already had in his plan a way for us to be made clean.  That, in and of itself, should provoke worship of him. How loving and gracious!  I think that had to be the awe my 10-year-old was expressing that morning.

Before they left the garden, God whispered a promise to Adam and Eve:  “It will not always be so!  I will come to rescue you!  And when I do, I’m going to do battle against the snake.  I’ll get rid of the sin and the dark and the sadness you let in here. I’m coming back for you!”

And he would.  One day, God himself would come.  Sally Lloyd-Jones The Jesus Storybook Bible

God always keeps his promises, and he did come — in Jesus.  Knowing that we would continually be unable to reach the mark, he goes before us and paves the way.  Jesus proved this to his disciples time and again.

In John 15:3, Jesus said to his disciples, “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.”  He spoke these words knowing they would turn their backs on him when he was arrested.  He spoke these words before Peter would deny him 3 times.

In John 16:1, Jesus said to his disciples, “I have said these things to ‘keep you’ from falling away.”  He promised to “keep them” knowing they were about to fall away.

“Your commitment to Jesus doesn’t keep you abiding, his commitment to you does.”  Greg Gibson

From the Garden of Eden to Mount Sinai to the Garden of Gethsemane to the eyes that are reading these words right now, God knows we cannot keep our promises.  The keeping of God’s promises/covenants are contingent upon him, not us.  

Our God set in motion plans from eternity past.  He has proven himself faithful.

Already he has made us clean.  He is proving himself faithful.

Upon his returning, he will fulfill his promise.  He will prove himself faithful.

Spirit

“Live in the present to the maximum and do not let your future mortgage your present any more than you should let the past mortgage your present.”  Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The trap for me is not so much dwelling on sins of the past.  The trap for me is dwelling on fears concerning the future.

This revelation has helped me arrive at my word of focus for this year:  SPIRIT

In Spiritual Depression:  Its Causes and Cure a collection of sermons by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a chapter is given to Fear of the Future.  Dr. Lloyd-Jones expounds on the text 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

SPIRIT OF POWER

“And as I understand it, the big thing that Paul is saying in effect to Timothy is:  ‘Timothy, you seem to be thinking about yourself and about life and all you have to do as if you were still an ordinary person.  But, Timothy, you are not an ordinary person!  You are a Christian, you are born again, the Spirit of God is in you… God has not given us the spirit of fear.  He hath given us the Spirit of power.’  So do not think of your own weakness; think of the power of the Spirit of God.”  Lloyd-Jones

SPIRIT OF LOVE

Next, Lloyd-Jones asks, Why love?  “For what after all, is the main cause of this spirit of fear?  The answer is ‘self’ –self-love, self-concern, self-protection… There is only one way to get rid of self, and that is that you should become so absorbed in someone or something else that you have no time to think about yourself. Thank God, the Spirit of God makes that possible.  He is not only ‘the spirit of power’, but He is also ‘the spirit of love’.  What does it mean?  It means love to God, love to the great God who made us.”  Then, love of others.

SPIRIT OF SOUND MIND

Lastly, he’s given us the spirit of wisdom and a sound mind.  “He will tell you what to do, He will tell you what to say, He will if necessary, restrain you.  We are not living on ourselves.  We must not think of ourselves as ordinary people.  We are not natural men; we are born again.  God has given His Holy Spirit, and He is the spirit ‘of power and of love and of a sound mind’.” Lloyd-Jones

The Spirit of God is in me.  A Spirit of love and of power and of sound mind.  I do not have to fear the future.  I just have to remember.  That will be my focus as I join the community of OneWord365 this year.

Do you have a focus God is impressing on your heart this year?

Give Thanks for the Helper, for Assurance

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)

In this week of Thanksgiving, my heart is turned with gratitude toward the gift of the Holy Spirit. That God would send his Spirit to live in us and dwell with us — there aren’t many words for that!  I feel compelled to worship with gratefulness, but I’m usually left speechless.  Fortunately, because of the Holy Spirit, we don’t always have to have words.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)

Sometimes, we are struggling for words.  Our pain and grief are deep.  The wounds in our life are so consuming that they can’t be expressed in words.  We desire for someone to know the depths of where we are, but it cannot be uttered.  In times like these, it’s okay to be without words.  The Holy Spirit knows the language of our hearts, and He speaks on our behalf.  And, His words are according to the will of God.

Sometimes, we are struggling for words of praise.  Our gratitude is deep.  The worship we want to express is so consuming that the Spirit speaks it for us with groans that words cannot express.  We have longings for the day we will finally be adopted and set free from the wrongs of this world — the Spirit has words for those longings, too.  He knows the language of our hearts.

As God gives the promise of the indwelling Holy Spirit and His intercession on our behalf in accordance with the will of God, He follows-up with more assurance:  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Give Thanks this week for all the ways God shows his love to us — sending us a Helper — His intercession on our behalf — His working of all things for our good.  They are all for His purpose and His glory!

Read more from John Piper on The Spirit Helps us in our Weakness.

The Gospel Of LOVE

God is LOVE.

He defines LOVE. He provides LOVE. He produces LOVE. He sustains LOVE. He epitomizes LOVE.

His LOVE is unfailing, unconditional, great, relentless and eternal.

God so LOVED the fallen, broken, sinful world he created that he sent LOVE to earth to be our atoning sacrifice.

He demonstrated his LOVE this way – while we were still sinners – Christ died for us.

There has been and there will be no greater LOVE than this. That a man would lay down his life for his friends.

How great is the LOVE the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!

God has poured his LOVE into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

And, nothing can separate us from the LOVE of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In LOVE he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.

We LOVE because he LOVED us first.

LOVE the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

LOVE your neighbor.

LOVE your enemies.

This is LOVE for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.

LOVE as fruit, compels and abounds, lets them know who we are, is a breastplate, is patient, kind…

Perfect LOVE drives out fear.

LOVE will return for us.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who LOVE him.”

God is LOVE.

Try Harder Do Not

The first 20 years of my Christian walk could be described in many ways, but right now, I’m going to focus on two words that still creep in and haunt me — try harder.  If you’re like me, you don’t really like these two either, but you still invite them over occasionally, have them at your table, and before you know it, they’ve overstayed their welcome and somehow made you believe they fit into this Christian life.  So, like any lie, we must dispel and withdraw the invitation of this guest.

We are not relying on performance but grace.  

God’s love is not contingent on our human effort.  

Stop trying harder.

If those sentences did not just register with you.  Read them until your eyes bleed.  When I really realized it was not within my power to be good enough, the chains fell off.

I cannot be good enough as a Christian.

I cannot be good enough as a wife.

I cannot be good enough as a mother.

Christ. is. my. righteousness.

He won it for me.

It has been accomplished.

We must cling to the gospel promise that God is pleased with us because he is pleased with Jesus.”  (The Gospel-Centered Life)  The pressure is off.  Rest in what He has done.  Repay Him for what He has done with love and gratitude from the depths of your heart.

“so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:7-9

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