I’m attempting to share a bit more via audio for those who prefer to listen rather than read, or who would like to be able to clean or wrap presents while drinking in the Word.
I hope you enjoy! Peace.
I’m attempting to share a bit more via audio for those who prefer to listen rather than read, or who would like to be able to clean or wrap presents while drinking in the Word.
I hope you enjoy! Peace.
We prepare for who is coming.
Many of you, I think, experience this: You set a date for a gathering. You envision friends or family at the table, their smiles. You picture soft lights and imagine breathing in delicious smells— so you make sure your star lights have batteries, make a grocery list, and pick a cookie recipe. You prepare for what you set your mind on.
We prepare for who is coming. And, in the process of preparation there is something of the celebration itself— a foretaste. When I’m excited for an event, I have deep joy and delight in my preparation. I want to invite comfort and joy, I want the people at my table to be filled with love…and maybe experience a taste of Love Himself.
I visualize the goodness and try to prepare so it just might become a reality.
But, I seriously fall short of goodness when I only prepare materially and mentally.
Let’s be realistic…as I prepare, I also taste spiritual germs on my breath and others’ threatening to spread our soul-sicknesses, fractures in hearts, death cycles, my social anxiety creeping up my neck and squeezing. We can experience a foretaste of anxiety rather than celebration. A foretaste of the broken can steal our preparation for goodness.
So, when I am wise (by the grace of God), I prepare my heart—I beg for my broken heart to be prepared and repaired. I pray for God to shift my focus from the wounds to the Warrior-Healer-Carpenter. For my roof to be patched, my windows to be sealed tight, and my door to be unlocked— for my home and my presence to be a haven from the cold.
I want these precious people I envision sitting at my table to experience a little bit of Emmanuel. And, as my great-grandmother Vivian would say, a little taste of heaven.
We prepare for who is coming because we love them.
Yet, we also are filled with God’s love in the process of preparation— as we ask God to help us prepare out of love for Him, He lavishes us with more love to give. As we confess our brokenness and invite Him to repair our hearts we have peace with Him.
YES, isn’t this one of the greatest treasures? When we prepare for Christ’s coming at our Christmas party or His guaranteed Second Advent, we experience ever-increasing peace with Him because we experience more and more of Him.
Isn’t that what we really, deeply want as we hang lights and make menus and vacuum under the chair?
Peace with God.
We have peace with God through Jesus— the Holy Spirit is with us through Jesus. God has come, God is here.
BUT, never forget, God is coming.
He is coming to work in your broken heart, at your invitation. He is bringing joy as you sweep. He is washing feet and pouring grace at your Christmas party.
And that is not all!
He is coming on the clouds as King! He is coming to establish a new, unimaginably radiant Earth!
He is coming to be with us in a way we have yet to experience— a way only He can prepare us for.
He fills us and moves in us to prepare for more of HIM. For the true life He intended. And, guess what? In this process of preparation, there is a sweet, sweet foretaste of His peace and His glory because He Himself is our peace and He is inexpressibly glorious.
How do you prepare room for God to work in you?
What time will you set aside this week to re-focus and re-center on Christ as your motivation?
I invite you to open up a gift I prepared for you! Click here for simple daily scripture readings I put together on preparation: Advent Week 2 Scripture Readings
If you would enjoy hearing this content read, click here to listen: https://m.soundcloud.com/doni-owens/christs-advent-at-your-christmas-party-and-the-last-day-of-your-achy-body
Love and peace,
During the first week of Advent, we are invited to remember prophesy of Jesus’ birth and the expectation and hope of a Messiah among the people of Israel.
But, that is not all– WE have hope through Jesus’ first coming because He paid for our sins and made a way for us to be reconciled with God. And, the story doesn’t end with His resurrection and ascension. He is not done!
I celebrate Jesus’ birth, but I am also filled with an aching longing paired with a life-giving hope.
One day I will be entirely free from my sins. I will be with my Lord, Savior, Lover, and perfect Friend. I wait for heaven, Jesus’ second coming, and the New Earth with expectant hope…and awe.
“Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“We know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
(1 John 3:2)
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
May you be filled with hope and joy in the gift already given and the gift to come.
How many times have you had food in the fridge and it ends up in the garbage?
How many times have you had extra time and it ends up in the garbage?
Yep, me too.
It’s not something to be ashamed of— not eating all of your chicken does not mean you just took a bite away from starving children. Stop that false guilt train before it starts— you know who you are. We can have extra food and extra time without having extra energy or any sort of prompting to do something about it. What looks like extra time might be very necessary rest time.
We can’t do everything and we were not made to do everything. But, sometimes we DO have the energy or we ARE prompted…yet our extras still end up in the garbage.
And, not because we were feeling especially greedy.
It’s mostly accidental. But, sometimes (if you’re like me) you have a feeling the leftover potatoes you put in an opaque Cool Whip container will be forgotten and grow a furry green blanket by the time it sees the light of day again…as you put it in the fridge for the first time. Sometimes you have a feeling you’re making too much food for dinner. But, inviting people over last-minute or bringing them food feels next to impossible.
Forget giving your last penny—sometimes it’s hard to give the extra.
Sometimes it goes like this:
My mom graciously drove a total of 12 hours to visit me awhile ago. It was the week after her birthday, so I made her a birthday cake. I planned on sending her home with a large chunk of the extra cake, but I forgot.
The next day I stared at two-thirds of a 9×13 cake sitting in a fridge only two people use.
It was a box cake with store-bought frosting and imprecisely cut strawberries— but, the frosting was chocolate and it tasted all right. Each time I saw the cake sitting there, I cringed a little because I knew I needed to do something about it (and that something should not be binge eating). I saw it going down the garbage disposal or filling half of our compost bucket like so much of our extra food does. But, I hate that. I really do.
I wanted and felt I should offer cake to the neighbors— and part of writing this (I wrote the initial drafts before I shared the cake) was to ensure I offered it to them in the end— but, this offering is difficult for me.
My neighbors are pretty great. They have already given me their time, energy, and even shared their food. But, when interacting with someone I haven’t spent a lot of time with I want my acne to be completely covered, my apartment to be very clean, and a guarantee I am not going to seem like a weirdo (like the creepy man on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang who lures the children in with lollipops). And, I get a feeling akin to stage fright before knocking on someone’s door— whether literally or metaphorically. I experience a small or huge wave of nerves and anxiety.
My insecurities and anxiety make it SO easy to ignore the small and seemingly simple promptings of the Spirit, like— offer the neighbors your extra cake.
I know, I know, I know. It’s so small! It’s cake! I’m willing to die for Christ…but, am I willing to give my cake away when He tells me to? I feel a little ridiculous even typing that, but it was a very real question. The larger:
Am I willing to be an active member of my community and share?
Here are a few reasons why this is hard:
I may need to interact with others before I put makeup on or invite people over for dinner before I have time to thoroughly clean my apartment. I need to be vulnerable and allow people to see me/my life in ways I hadn’t planned. I need to remember that outward appearance is not what matters.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. -1 Peter 3:3-4
Doing something I hadn’t planned on requires flexibility and relinquishing of control. My plans and desires cannot become a god— I need to submit to God’s plans. You know the passage in James 4 about plans and how we really aren’t in control? It ends with this:
If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. -James 4:17
I’ve always thought about this verse separately from the part about planning— but, it makes sense that the two go together. We can’t let our plans get in the way of doing good we know we ought to do.
As mentioned, knocking on people’s doors to give our extra is not as easy as it sounds (especially for those of us with some amount of anxiety) even when we HAVE some energy in our tanks. It requires us to give our energy to others (ultimately, to God) rather than own desires. Here is the awesome news— we have supernatural power through the Spirit and NO sacrifice made for Christ is a waste, however small! He often changes our desires to His and grants us great joy as we trust in Him.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. -2 Timothy 1:7-9
Vulnerability, flexibility, submission, and giving energy are all so necessary for true community.
I think this is why most people I talk to never connect with people in their apartment complexes— the relational risk doesn’t feel worth it to them.
But, love is always risky, isn’t it?
I’m praying that whoever reads this will be encouraged by the Spirit and the Word— that you will give your last penny when you are called and you will give your extras when you are called— that you will rely on God’s strength in all things…even in acts of obedience and love that seem small.
Peace and Love,
[Please note: This post includes some of my personal experiences of sexual harassment. I am not sharing these experiences out of spite or for shock value, but because I believe sharing them could be beneficial. Love keeps no record of wrongs— in fact, when I was keeping a record of these wrongs in my heart, they only hurt me more. Forgiveness is so important and freeing, but I also believe God can use our brokenness and pain for good and sometimes that involves sharing our stories with others.]
I spent a lot of time reading friends’ “me too” posts, heartbroken, and realized after awhile that I was avoiding writing my own. Whew. It’s hard, my friends…and, as many have mentioned, others (whom I know well and love dearly) have gone through much, much worse.
I’ve been sexually harassed through words often veiled as “compliments” and “jokes.” I’ve been touched and paralyzed by fear. And, as many women experience, what happened to me was almost always minimized and justified by both men and women. A boss I no longer work for implied, multiple times, that I should give him a certain sexual favor and said, multiple times, when he saw my anger “Oh, so-and-so is much worse and says things like that all the time to the other girls, it’s just a joke.”
As if his verbal sexual harassment could be justified by levity and comparison.
After I quit he asked me out— multiple times. He didn’t like the word no. I guess it really was never a joke and he really didn’t understand. He has no idea that when I think of him, I only feel nausea, fear, and sadness….such sadness. He was so blinded that, even after all of my anger and rejection, he thought I would find him romantically appealing. I chose this story to share in more detail because I think he TRULY did not know what he was doing. He was taught that his behavior was acceptable long before he harassed and disrespected me— probably through a combination of culture at large and influential male role models in his life. He is responsible for his actions…but, other people are, too.
I didn’t tell anyone what lewd things were said to me until after I quit. I felt such shaming false-guilt. And, because similar things were said to other girls and it didn’t *appear* to bother them, I felt weak and small and as if I didn’t have a leg to stand on. Sexual harassment was the norm in that workplace, what else did I expect?
That’s one instance out of many. I could tell you about the time I heard a middle school classmate make a joke about me involving gang rape, the handsy old man on the airplane, the two boy team that evaluated my body out loud and concluded that I was “*insert explicit vulgarity here* approved,” the first time I was aware I was being catcalled and sexually objectified as a teenager, and lots of other instances of harassment.
Sexual harassment is a huge part of our culture.
I’m uncommonly fortunate to be at this point in life without worse wounds.
This morning, as I prayed, I thought about a friend from high school who protected me in small and subtle ways, and what a HUGE deal that was. I began to thank God for other men who, throughout my life, protected me. I could think of many men who I felt respected by (and that matters!)…but there were fewer men I felt safe being around because I trusted they would take action on my behalf. There were nine men on my list. I could think of two women who had actively protected me. I don’t say this to criticize women— I think it reflects how paralyzed we are by fear and how powerless we often believe we are in our society. These people protected me in some very different ways. Some protected me emotionally and some protected me physically— but, each act was significant.
As I let myself become filled with gratitude, I was so moved— they thought about me and my well-being instead of themselves. That, my friends, is love. They didn’t just respect me, they loved me. Respect can cause a man or woman to not harass another person, but love takes action to shield the other emotionally, physically, and spiritually from the degrading actions of the people who are disrespectful, self-serving, or ignorant.
Yes— “Love always protects.”
I want to actively, with compassion and gentleness, defend the women and men around me when I see or hear harassment and disrespect. I want to love abusers through speaking truth in a world that is constantly feeding them lies. I want my love to be bigger than my fear.
As we seek to eradicate the injustice in our society, let’s remember what we desire to fill the space with.
Love and peace,
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. -1 Corinthians 13:4-7
For the last nine months I’ve been wrestling over the question, “If marriage never happens for me, will I be okay?”
And the answer varies day-to-day, I’ll be honest. But it struck me the other morning in a big way. I was lamenting the fact that I may never experience that kind of intimacy and then a new thought emerged. Maybe I was very wrong.
We seem forget that marriage is just the metaphor, reflecting a larger, universal reality.
Marriage is supposed to be a picture of Christ and his Church. But somewhere along the line, marriage became the reality—the concrete realness of things.
But marriage has become less permanent and the pretty picture seems to be fading, and here’s the problem with that:
Marriage is just the picture. It was never intended to be what Christ and his bride reflect. It is instead the reflection, the lesser…
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Elisabeth Elliot’s voice, low and calm, read from a journal entry of her deceased beloved— the statement, bold and heavy with conviction, landed hot on my heart through the car speakers, “Dreams are tawdry compared with the leading of God.”[i]
Not simply, “we must sacrifice our dreams for God’s dreams” or “our dreams must not become idols.” No, no. Jim Elliot, considers (I am quite certain his opinion hasn’t changed since meeting God) human dreams with a flavor of distain. He considers them “tawdry”— gaudy, showy, cheap, low, mean, base, or, as a noun, “cheap, gaudy apparel.”[ii]
Human dreams, I think, can be worn in attempts to show people we are worth something in the world. We are headed toward greatness of some sort— in artistry, finance, even ministry. We are not solely the person standing before them, mortal and unimpressive, we are small gods who can fabricate greatness out of something that is not— the future. Many of us know in our hearts that our dreams are ultimately fiction. They are stories we weave for ourselves that we hope will come true— not only hope, but work toward. At times, it is not a stretch to say, serve.
Numerous qualifying fine lines of motive and heart can be drawn if we are trying to figure out when a dream goes from being moral to immoral— from beneficial and productive for the Kingdom to idolatrous, prideful, and selfish. However, even if a dream or desire is good and submitted to God that does not change what our dreams are in comparison to God’s will: Tawdry.
Jesus tells us our love for Him and desire to serve Him should be so great that, in comparison, our relationship with our family should look like hate.[iii] Paul says, “Those who have wives should live as if they do not.”[iv] As has been explained by many a pastor and writer, this does not mean we should hate our families or leave our spouses. However, this should not take away from the weight of the call…and, the basis of this call— the great, great worthiness of Christ and His Kingdom. And how very small our other loves and dreams should be in comparison. Eyes solely fixed on Christ, love for sister and spouse becomes more holy. But, in choosing between the two, the answer is always to be Christ. If it’s not, our love is sullied. The same is true when considering good dreams.
Clothe yourself in a dream of your own invention and it is sewn with all your brokenness.
Clothe yourself in Christ and you are covered in power, righteousness, and light. He will mend the brokenness of your dreams and shape your dreams to His will as you choose Him time and time again.
This is so amazing!
The possibilities we have on our own are limited. Our God does beyond what we could ever imagine— His ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.[v] His power so far exceeds our abilities but our dear Lord, He, (great mystery) uses His power through us as we submit. “That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”[vi] [SAY WHAT?!?]
The will and power of God may seem far from you, but it is not. He is not. He is accomplishing His will through you as you walk in obedience and communion with Him— even when it means putting a dream second. He is accomplishing His will as you respond to the prompting of the Spirit—even when it means putting a dream to death.
The “kingdom of God,” at least in one sense, is not far off: “Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can observed, nor will people say “Here it is” or “There it is” for the kingdom of God is in your midst [or, ‘within you’].”’”[vii]
He is working now and He wants to do His work in and through you.
I trust that His dreams are so much better than any dreams I could write for myself. The future He has for us makes me tear-up in awe— I know He will use me beyond my power and this ASTOUNDS and humbles me. Such great delight. Such great mercy. His wind blows and whispers and clothes my heart with His. Jim Elliot died by spear trying to connect with the Aucas, a tribe who had never heard of Christ. Elisabeth Elliot forgave, lived with, and ministered to that same tribe for two years. Many were added to the Kingdom.
My dreams are so tawdry compared with the will of God.
I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
[Painting by Mariotto Albertinelli]
Cain— the first murderer— the guy with anger issues— the sinner of the Bible I have historically identified with the least. In the past, I’ve been quite appalled by Cain— appalled that his jealousy and anger over something seemingly easy to correct could escalate into the act of murdering his brother. He was angry because the Lord received Abel’s gift of meat, but rejected Cain’s “fruit of the ground” (Genesis 4:3 NKJV). The solution seems easy—get over it and give God some meat, man!
However, in reading Genesis again recently, I was struck by the Cain and Abel situation in a new way. More specifically, the Cain situation.
I used to see Cain’s actions as not only sinful, but horribly rash and idiotic. Now, I see myself and the attitude of our culture in Cain.
Cain was a “tiller of the ground” while “Abel was a keeper of sheep” (Genesis 4:2 NKJV)— both gave to the Lord out of their occupation…but, Cain’s gift was not accepted. Surely it felt unfair— wasn’t his job just as worthwhile as Abel’s? Didn’t they need to eat grains with their meat?
It seems it would be easy (on a practical level) for Abel to give the Lord a meat offering, sheep were his thing! …but, maybe it was really hard for Cain to sacrifice a sheep— he spent his days tilling the earth. In fact, God probably wanted him to till the earth, it was an important job. But, the Lord did not want or require what came out of Cain’s giftedness for THIS offering…and that must have hurt. We know he became “very angry and his countenance fell” (Genesis 4:5 NKJV).
God sees Cain’s response and addresses it:
“Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?”
This seems like not only a chastisement (and an implication that Cain knew what he was supposed to give God and deliberately disobeyed), but an encouragement, an affirmation that Cain COULD, indeed, be accepted AND that the Lord saw the way Cain felt.
The Lord goes on:
“And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Genesis 4:6-7 NKJV).
Cain wanted to make his worship about himself rather than about God. He thought the Lord “should” accept his offering— after all, didn’t the Lord appreciate how he cultivated the earth? I am sure He did…but Cain failed to see that appreciating and affirming man was not the point of worship.
Cain did not “do well.”
We do not “do well” when we try to make religion and worship about us— when we say “God made me this way, He can’t ask me give Him such-and-such!” We clothe our self-worship in the pleas of a victim, “Why can’t you just accept me?” or “A loving God wouldn’t make it this hard for me to obey Him.”
Oh, but it was HARD for Cain! It did not feel natural or right or fair for Cain.
Cain’s sin leads to more sin.
Cain kills Abel.
God is obviously very upset about this and punishes Cain— part of Cain’s punishment is that the work he wanted God to accept as his offering, tilling the ground, would no longer produce anything for him. The Lord also said he would be “a fugitive and a vagabond” from then on (Genesis 4:12).
To me, this punishment seems to be an act of grace. It seems like God is about to show Cain how the work he may have thought to be so vital to his identity (tilling the ground) actually wasn’t. Because Cain couldn’t produce from the ground and had to live as a vagabond, he had to change his occupation. Maybe God was pruning Cain.
Though the Lord punishes Cain for murdering Abel, He also shows him mercy. God marks Cain so anyone who kills him will receive vengeance “sevenfold” (Genesis 4:15 NKJV).
Cain isn’t so unlike us. Our sinful tendency is to become self-focused and to make worship what WE want it to be— we can easily make ourselves the focus of worship rather than our great God. Sometimes what is really needed, and what God would have us to do, isn’t necessarily where our giftedness lies.
We can continue in sin that leads to death yelling, “This is just the way I am!” All the while, our good and gracious God longs for us to run into His arms. He is longing to show His strength through our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). He loved us first— and He receives and accepts us when we accept Him. My sin nature, sinful tendencies, personality and even my gifts should not define who I am. I am adopted into Christ’s family. He calls me blameless, pure, His bride. He wants to make me into His likeness.
He desires for us to walk and worship in His ways— the ways that lead to life. Praise the Lord for His mercy. The story of Cain holds hope.
We don’t know if Cain began to live in obedience to God after this. We know he lived for a long time. Genesis 4:20 specifically mentions that some of his descendants were known for raising LIVESTOCK…which seems significant to me. However, he did build a city, which may have been in defiance unless God told him his time of being a vagabond could be over (because part of Cain’s punishment was that he would be a wanderer).
The state of Cain’s heart after correction is uncertain. I don’t think we’ll know until our earthly lives are over.
What I can seek to understand and change is the state of my own heart in relation to the Lord:
Am I worshiping the Lord and living my life for Him through obedience to His word and His Spirit? In other words, am I worshiping the Lord or myself?
How do I respond to correction?
What do I need to sacrifice?
God is so worthy every bit of my soul, my heart, my mind.
To be in His presence is life, freedom, and peace.
It is only with His help and His grace that we can worship Him the way He deserves to be worshiped.
My soul yearns for His hand physically in mine— for all of my brokenness restored.
For now, with the help of God’s mighty grace, we fight the evil within and without us. We may fall in our weakness, but He picks us up. He says, “My grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
When I’m scared of what God has to say, I fill the spaces. Sometimes I fill the spaces with good things— Bible study, recited prayers, exercise, baking.
God can speak to us through Bible study, when our hearts are open. God can transform us through prayer, when our hearts are open. Baking and exercise can be acts of worship. But, God does not enter hearts uninvited, even when mouths are professing His name.
In John chapter 8, we read about a hard conversation Jesus had with some Jewish people (potentially a mixture of Pharisees and laymen). The people he was speaking to likely studied the scriptures, prayed, and followed the Law to varying degrees…however, their core issue was deeper than outward actions. Jesus said to them, “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word” (John 8:37).
Not because they hadn’t studied enough, not because they hadn’t prayed enough, not because they had broken too many laws— no, they wanted to kill Jesus because they did not have room for Him in their hearts, minds, and souls.
There are times I study the Word in the same way some of the Pharisees did— I attempt to leave Him less room instead of more. I don’t want to leave room for His words to echo, I don’t want to leave space for His Spirit to transform and direct me.
I forget that my Savior, in all His goodness and mercy, truly seeks to SAVE ME and that my fear should be a joyful, trembling, awe-inspired fear that draws me nearer to His light.
When I seek to increase my sense of self-righteousness, I leave no room for HIS righteousness.
When I seek to solely increase my knowledge, I leave no room for His peace that passes understanding.
When I seek to justify my plans and desires, I leave no room for His perfect plans and desires.
And, the opposite is true— when I sit in the presence of God, with my hands and heart wide open to receive Him, He grants me His strength to walk in paths of righteousness, He grants me His indescribable peace, and He corrects my thoughts and makes them obedient to His good, perfect, beautiful will.
Jesus died not to make us good people or solely to save us from Hell, but to be with us and transform us through intimacy with Him!
In the words of Isaac Watts, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” 🙂
If you are one of the many men and women who are participating in the international, interdenominational Bible study BSF (Bible Study Fellowship), the title of this post probably sounds familiar. This past week we studied the third chapter of John. In this chapter, we read about Nicodemus’ nighttime conversation with Jesus. Then, about John the Baptist’s embrace of the role God gave him. John 3 is packed with such rich truth about the problem man faces and Jesus’ loving solution— in other words, the condemnation of sinful man and salvation through Jesus.
After giving an account of Nicodemus’ interaction with Jesus, which ends with Jesus telling Nicodemus that He will provide salvation from sins and eternal life, the Apostle John further explains:
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (John 3:17-21, emphasis added)
When we put our trust in Jesus, we are not condemned! We have eternal life! Such comfort and true freedom from fear can be found in these truths.
And, yet— I live in fear of man. In fear that man will not think I am behaving properly— in fear that man will not love me. (Kind of like Nicodemus, who waited until the cover of night to seek Jesus…Jesus was so gracious to him, and to us!)
The above passage should transform my thinking:
We see clearly that GOD has the power to condemn or acquit.
We see that mankind’s tendency post-fall is to LOVE THE DARKNESS.
Recently I was in a conversation with someone and began to feel guilty about doing something the Lord clearly commands us to do. I felt that I needed to start covering it up…I became so afraid that this person would think poorly of me and of my husband.
This fear and shame is such a deception of the Devil.
But, it’s more than that— the fear and shame is also a symptom of not resting fully in the salvation and authority of Christ…of allowing the opinion of man to have sway over me in areas where only Christ should.
In studying John 3 this week, I was both convicted and comforted. In the BSF notes for this chapter, a question is posed in relation to John the Baptist’s actions: “Do I lead people to love me or to love Jesus?” My undue fear and shame are evidence that I am more concerned about people loving me than loving Jesus.
If we take my actions as an example of what not to do, we can take John the Baptist’s actions as an example of what to do.
If you know the story of John the Baptist, you know we have many examples of John not being swayed by man. Ultimately, John would be beheaded— talk about not being a people pleaser.
When Jesus started baptizing, this meant that fewer people went to John the Baptist to be baptized— if he were concerned with people loving him more than he was concerned with people loving Jesus, he would have been upset by this. And, his disciples were. John explained to them once again that Jesus was the Messiah, not him. John was simply an attendant, meant to help bring the bride to the Bridegroom (Jesus). Now that the Bridegroom had arrived John said his joy was complete and told his disciples “He [Jesus] must become greater and I must become less.”
As Jesus becomes greater and we become less—as we focus on leading people to love Jesus rather than ourselves—our fear of man will diminish and we can live freely in the JOY of salvation.
Sure, men could behead John, but they couldn’t kill his soul.
Sure, we can be judged “guilty” by men, but they cannot condemn our souls.
Remember, Jesus was judged “guilty” by men. Judged a blasphemer. Yet, through him all LIFE and SALVATION has been granted us!
May we boldly and joyfully walk into the light out of love for the Lord and pray that others will as well:
“Whoever loves the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God” (John 3:21).