Experiencing Grace

No matter of religious persuasion, or no persuasion at all, we inherently understand the powerful freedom that comes when we find a safe person to whom we are able to admit our guilt, speak our shame, and cut the cords from the demon-burdens we bear. I was recently introduced to the following table to help people work through their past grievances and failings. It was described something like this:

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Now, because I was at a religious meeting when I heard about this, we used more religious terms than what I’ve got on the table. The first column was titled “sin” and the process was called “confession”.  And in religious terms we would call the final column “repentance” – or turning away from prior actions, desires, or beliefs.

Anyone of any faith or no faith at all can go through this process and find some level of relief and feel like they’re starting with a clean slate.  They can get up the next day, read the list, remind themselves of the kind of person they’d rather be, and make choices that work toward that end.

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But through the power of the death and resurrection of Jesus, so much more is available to the believer.  Listen to this good news:

Make your list. And as a believer in Jesus and His gift of grace, tear away the first two columns and destroy them. Shred them. Burn them. Have your dog eat them. You get the idea. God remembers your sin no more.

Now read the words in the last column out loud and let this sink in: Because of the gift of Jesus, God already sees you this way and He promises to  remake you into what He already says you are.  That’s right. It’s not just a clean slate – but a complete slate.

You don’t deserve it and you don’t have to work for it.

It’s a gift.

That’s forgiveness. That’s love. That’s grace.

If you don’t know Jesus and the place you have in His story, or if you have been a Christian and this is new to you, I invite you into God’s reality today.

By His wounds we are healed. 

Jesus is the hero and that’s good news!

The Gospel Lens ~ Speaking Gospel Truth

Badness contained is not goodness. It is simply badness that is not leaking out yet. ~ Lee Venden

Most of us have no experience in the realm of speaking Gospel Truth to each other. In general it seems our interactions tend to land at one extreme or another. Either we say nothing at all when we see another person struggling in life, or we’ll swing to the exact opposite and tell them what they should be doing and how they need to change their behavior.  We might even read a Bible verse to show them it’s not just us who says they should be doing what we’ve told them, but God. And we call that speaking truth. But I am finding that at its heart, Christianity is not a behavior modification system, and the overarching message of the Bible is not good advice about living. So what does it mean to speak truth and how do we incorporate that into our relationships?

What I’m sharing here are some summary thoughts from a presentation by Jeff Vanderstelt (click here to watch his presentation).

Using the Biblical metaphor of our lives being trees that bear fruit, what we believe about who God is makes up the root of our tree. We have decided who God is based on what we’ve read and have experienced of the person Jesus (the Bible tells us that Jesus is the revelation of the Father). From that we decide who we are in Christ, which is displayed by our actions – or the fruit of the tree.  Speaking truth is a process of leading others (or even ourselves) to understand what they are believing based on how they are acting and to repent of their false beliefs about God.  By realigning their beliefs with what Jesus has shown us to be true about God, their fruit (behavior) naturally changes.

In the video presentation Jeff walked through an example of how he applied this process to a real-life situation. His wife was struggling with anxiety. The Fruit of the Spirit is peace. Her life was not showing the fruit of the Spirit. I’ll share with you a brief synopsis of the conversation as he shares it on the video.  His actual conversation with her lasted several hours.

Jeff – When you are experiencing anxiety, what does that tell you about who you believe you are?

Wife – I am the one in control.

Jeff – If you believe it is all up to you, what does that say about what you think God has done?

Wife – He has stopped loving me. He is not in control. He has abandoned me.

Jeff – Then who do you believe God is?

Wife – I believe God is unloving, impotent, and distant.

His wife understood that the fruit of her life revealed the root of her faith. In that moment she was acting as though she believed in herself and she was honest enough to speak the beliefs she was holding as truth about God. Those were not consistent with the beliefs she intellectually held to be true about God and she quickly repented of the beliefs she was acting on. She actually believes God is loving. She knows this because Jesus died for her while she was still His enemy. Because God is loving and cares for her, she does not have to be in control and can have peace.

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Repentance is the turning away from false beliefs we are holding about God and turning toward what we know to be true as revealed in Jesus. As you may have noticed, the discussion was not “you need to get more peace”. While peace is what she needed, telling her she needed to get peace for herself by trying would have only reinforced the root belief that was already bearing the fruit of anxiety in her life ~ namely, that she was in control of life and that it was all up to her. We don’t bear the fruit of the Spirit by trying hard to bear the fruit of the Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit comes automatically as we seek Jesus.

Empathizing with others in their time of distress helps them know they are not alone and is beneficial to the one hurting. Giving good advice about choices to one who is asking has its place. But only Christianity offers the Good News of the gospel. Only God is able to change us from the inside. Do we believe it? Why don’t we remind each other of that more often? Why do we try to fix our external fruit problem instead of addressing our internal root problem?