We can practice religious activities to “fit in” at church or to merely meet some obligation, or we can practice spiritual disciplines to have a meaningful relationship with Christ. The difference is our attitude about the decisions we make. We can choose to follow the Spirit or we can choose to try to impress others with our works. This choice is made in our hearts, but is ultimately discerned by the Spirit.
The problem with shame is it can motivate you to go into emotional hiding. Sometimes this is a conscious effort. Sometimes it isn’t. Either way, it takes so much energy hiding over the shame we feel or the shame we anticipate.
Though it isn’t wise to go around telling everybody everything, finding security in God and making the volitional choice to trust God with your entire being by letting your guard down with Him, will lift the burden of trying to hide all the time. Trusting Him in this specific way will also close the distance hiding creates.
Even if you love God, if you don’t trust His love for you, you will live in fear. Living this way isn’t necessary…
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18 NIV).
To be made perfect in love, you must run into the Father’s loving and open arms unafraid of His reaction to any part of you.
“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father'” (Romans 8:15 NLT).
We can’t always let just anybody in to the most vulnerable parts of our hearts, but it is safe to let Him in. 💜
I have done so much thinking about God lately. Inhabiting my prayers are petitions for God to decimate strongholds and for the crucifixion of my flesh to create such discomfort, that the cross I take up is not just a wall decoration, but the holiness of God evident on every surface and in every space of my heart, life and home.
Whatever stands up against the knowledge of God, the truth, Jesus—I want it to go. All of it. I want His light to shine in the darkest corners of my heart, though it may painfully expose firmly held deceptions.
And I know theology is important and I’ll study it, but I just want to have a relationship with God. That’s all. I tend to find theological debates a thing of weariness, but if wading through theology is what it takes to get to know the real Christ, I will aim to master it according to the grace extended to me from the Giver of life and truth.
Whether I’m navigating through areas where I need to grow or theological tensions unresolved, I can’t help but become more convinced of this…
That it is not through the church that I belong to Jesus, but it is through Jesus I belong to the church. Yes, the church sowed the seeds that brought me to Jesus and is an edifying force, but if I spent all my time with the church and none alone with God, then how can I really bless and serve the body of Christ—the church and Jesus?
I just want to be near Jesus and live in the Spirit. I just want the simple truth. A willing heart. A teachable attitude. The faith of Jesus. The love of God.
Finally, all this has led me to conclude I think I have spent enough time seeking the church to be served, and with so much yet to learn, right now I am learning it is by far a greater approach to seek Jesus, that I might serve Him, love His church and reach others with the Gospel, instead of deferring too much responsibility to the church for my relationship with God.
The clay is devoured when it hardens and can only be shattered in order to change, but soft clay is humble clay. Who can receive the Potter tenderly except the one who believes the Potter’s hand is mightier than the clay it beautifies? Hydrated clay. Cooperative clay. Dependent clay. Pride will be broken, but humility is purpose bound (1 Peter 5:6-7).
When others hurt us by sinning, the pain residing within us must be addressed and healed. Part of that healing process is forgiveness. Without finding forgiveness the pain is compounded by resentment. Two hurts for one trespass. The residual pain and the resentment that follows.
We can be a prisoner to our own sin, but we can also become imprisoned by someone else’s. We can find freedom from our sin through Jesus, and we can find freedom from the sins of others through forgiveness.
“…and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12).
You see, forgiveness begets freedom. It is going to be very difficult to experience the fullness of freedom for as long as we withhold the willingness to forgive. Today, let us break free from the chains of resentment and enter into the fullness of liberation!
An orphan, all I have to adorn myself is rags, but I enter into the palace of a King. I suddenly feel so aware I came with nothing to offer.
Before the throne, I feel so self-conscious. What do I think I’m doing here? I simply wait for Him to tell me to leave.
He calls to me, “Daughter, I know you. I AM and I am Abba.” For a moment I’m skeptical. I know this trick. But then life falls around me and love floods my heart until it just aches with gratitude—the enormity of belief.
It was too good to be true, but it was. This was real.
No, I wasn’t just in the palace of a King, but the presence of Jesus the day I wasn’t turned away, but instead invited into the miracle of grace.
“Then the leading priests kept accusing Him of many crimes, and Pilate asked Him, ‘Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?’ But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise.” (Mark 15:3-5 NLT).
Jesus said nothing. He doesn’t offer a defense. I’m surprised along with Pilate! If my life were hanging in the balance, I’d have some kind of defense. Why didn’t He fight for His life? Standing before Pilate would have been the time to do it. It was Pilate who had the authority to crucify Him or set Him free, after all.
“’Why don’t you talk to me?’ Pilate demanded. ‘Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?’ Then Jesus said, ‘You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin'” (John 19:10-11 NLT).
In Gethsemane Jesus surrendered to God’s will. Since God is the source of authority, Pilate only has authority to crucify Jesus or set Him free because it was given to him from above. Jesus wouldn’t give a defense because He accepted His fate, God’s will, “this cup”, before He ever left the Garden of Gethsemane.
“He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine'” (Matthew 26:39 NLT).
We see from Gethsemane He sought total submission to God’s will. Therefore, He freely laid down His life so completely He didn’t take the opportunity to respond at a time it seems Pilate wouldn’t have faulted Him for it.
Still, He didn’t defend Himself, which is an amazing feat in and of itself, because people innocent or guilty plead their case in self-preservation. So His silence was a profound act of humility. Not only because His ego didn’t drive Him to try to change everyone’s mind about Him, but also because He exemplified submitting to God’s perfect will, not stepping outside of it even to utter a single word in His defense.
Headed toward a horrifying slaughter and this moment where He says nothing to stop it, is the result of His time of prayer in Gethsemane. Taking a break from praying, He went and found His disciples sleeping, then He told them to pray so they wouldn’t fall into temptation (Matthew 26:41). Praying to the Father and seeking the Father’s will, prepared Him to demonstrate the incredibly amazing spiritual fortitude to say nothing that might fight God’s will when He was finally given the chance. His prayers before God strengthened Him for His silence before the men about to execute Him.
Jesus was so committed to God’s will, He didn’t even want Peter to speak against it! (The following interaction between Peter and Jesus took place chronologically before both His prayer at Gethsemane and His trial before Pilate, enumerating what Jesus started to explain to His disciples up until these events happened.)
“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns'” (Matthew 16:21-23 NIV).
After observing the text, it begins to make sense why Jesus wouldn’t defend Himself before Pilate. If He didn’t even want Peter to speak against His death, certainly He wouldn’t be inclined to convince Pilate it shouldn’t happen.
I am more like Peter than Jesus (putting my foot in my mouth). There have certainly been times in my life I wish I would have prayed beforehand to keep from stepping outside of God’s will with my words. Maybe sometimes prayer is not only about what we say to God, but also about the words we don’t say to each other. Sometimes it means not saying something even when everything but the Spirit tells you it’s ok.
Prayer. I could certainly do some more of it. Praying like the psalmist:
“Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3 NIV).
P.S. So enters an opportunity to remember another one of those cool messianic prophecies from Isaiah:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on Davidʼs throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV).
This adds some cheer to the story and proves God is a better story writer than I am, telling of the glorification of Jesus way before the crucifixion part, the end from the beginning. His glorification wasn’t really an afterthought at all—but happened just according to plan.
Jesus’ obedience, especially in these solitary moments like praying in Gethsemane, makes more possible than we could ever understand on this side of eternity, but I’m so thankful He so loved the world. I’m also grateful His strength instructs in the power of love for Him and others. God bless!
Thinking today about God’s love and how He loves us before we are born…then it occurs to me how this proves His unconditional love. It is impossible for God’s love to be conditional and based on our behavior (this is not to say behaviors don’t have consequences, because they do).
But performance has nothing to do with being loved by God, and this becomes more apparent when you consider we weren’t doing a whole lot of moral decision making while we were in the womb, loved by God already!
If we can understand that God loved us before we were ever born, we will no longer worry His love is conditional or influenced by anything we do, since He loved us before we did anything—good or bad. It’s not the other way around, where we earn His love by being on our best behavior.
Since His love precedes every decision we ever make, we must conclude His love exists completely independent of our behavior. It is grounded in and sustained by His benevolence. Not our performance.