Say “NO” to the Fear, Guilt, and Shame filled Life
This is Day One of the Challenge: 5 Days to Destroy Fear, Drudgery, and Despair in 2021. I hope you join in.
I have shocking news for you. It may be hard for you swallow, initially, but I ask you to stay with me. It is really important and will be worth it. It can be the launch pad for taking off to a fearless life as a Christian. This is the abundant one that you see the disciples live out in the Bible. Do you want that? Do you understand why Paul and Silas were able to sing praises to Jesus despite being in prison in great physical pain?
Ok, then buckle up. The answer may not be what you are used to. It can shake up the foundation of your decision making – in a good way. You ready? Here goes.
When you are a Christian:
God is not mad at you.
God is not ashamed of you. He doesn’t seek to shame you.
God loves you regardless of what You feel about You.
God’s approval of you is not dependent on your decisions.
God’s love does not fluctuate with how good or bad you are every day.
Your standing with God is based entirely on HIS perfect nature…not your performance!!!!!
Your relationship with God is about Him, not you.
Think about the familiar verse:
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
Paul was not satisfied writing “nothing” can take you away from God’s love. He tried to cover all the possible objections. But what about…? Nope, no created thing can take you from God’s love in Christ. That includes you, created thing!
Isn’t that wonderful? Do you believe it?
Now, you may intellectually agree. You likely have heard some of this before. But agreeing with it fully is another thing. Living it out a different ballgame. Many of you know the verses but are still caught up in something entirely in opposition. You are free in Christ. Jesus’ righteousness was given to you through His work on the Cross. Yet, you live as if it was not or as if it was a temporary thing. You struggle under the ever present weight of guilt, shame, people pleasing, rules, and expectations. It is like setting up a rocket on launch pad and getting it prepped for take off, only to drain out the fuel and knock it on its side. It is not going anywhere that way.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
You are Set Free…Really
Do these ideas shock you? “What about sin, hard work, and running the race?”, you protest! Does it seem just wrong to think about God that way? It certainly did for me when I started my walk with Christ. I understood there was nothing I could do to save myself. I did not have a problem with God saving me by totally by grace – an unearned gift. I knew I brought nothing to that deal. I was grateful for Jesus freeing me from bondage. It was in the next steps that I stumbled right back into prison. I reasoned that since God did all the hard work and saved me, it was up to me after that. I needed to show my appreciation by being better and trying harder. I thought it only fair to pay God back. I had to show I was worth it. I needed to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. I took that verse to mean God would be mad if I did not do good for Him. I took the Gospel for my salvation and then left it in the past.
Well meaning faith based advice and culture added to the burden. I was already saddled by a background overflowing in guilt, shame, and man focused obedience. The calls to repent and have more will power, self control, and trying harder lest your sin separates you from God amplified the message. The people may not have not intended to do so but I heard them saying:
Do good or God will be disappointed.
Try harder or God will not bless you.
Be holy or God is angry.
Fit in here or it shows you are unholy and therefore bad.
You need our approval or God does not approve of you.
Victory in Christ was earned and not for quitters.
I was overwhelmed with focus on me. I tried as hard as I could in response. I honestly worked myself to the bone trying to serve Christ. The only things I felt in return was exhaustion, disappointment, and distance from God. This made sense. I was serving everyone’s expectations but Jesus’. I feared all of the things Paul said could not take me from the love of Christ. I worked myself silly trying to earn what Jesus already gave me.
Are you in this position? You don’t have to be. You just have understand why God loves and approves of you. It is not about your goodness.
Who has Bewitched You?
Have you read Galatians lately? This is the book that set me free of my own walk in bondage. It is the book that started the Protestant Reformation. It also fundamentally changed John Wesley’s view of God. It can transform your life, as well, if you are willing.
Paul wrote to a church in trouble in Galatians. They were gentiles (non-Jews) who started their faith in Christ with great joy. They were initially doing great as a church. This was until some men came and told them a corrosive message. They needed to be “more” in Christ than what they were. They needed to do more, try harder, and jump through hoops to earn their place with God. The appeal was to keeping of the Mosaic Law including circumcision and eating Kosher but there was more to it. The men claimed salvation by Jesus and a life in Christ was insufficient. The gentile Christians had to prove to God they are worthy. God’s love, approval, blessing, and relationship were worth more from them. The subtle message was they were “less than” other Christians because of a standard outside of their identity as new creations in Christ.
Have you experienced the same treatment? Were you treated as “less than” for not meeting a standard at church, among friends, or in life? Were you viewed as inferior because you are not on stage or on the mission field? Were you treated as a second class citizen because of how you dress, study, talk, or struggle?
Have you done this to yourself? Are you constantly battling the voice of your own expectations and goals condemning you for your failures? Do you view yourself as “only” a mother, teacher, laborer, or any other way you compare yourself to others you consider more than you?
Paul response is direct and emphatic. He speaks to a church wrapped up in an ancient struggle against feelings of inferiority:
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? Galatians 3:1
Have you forgotten the Gospel? Why would you believe this nonsense after seeing Jesus so clearly? The word bewitched referred to a superstition in their culture. They believed someone could cast a spell by catching your attention and force you to follow them. The Galatians were clearly not looking at Jesus if they believed they were inferior in Christ. They made Christian life all about them rather than about God.
Insulting the Gift Giver
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. Galatians 2:21
Has your heart rebelling against what I am saying? I know how that feels and so does Paul. This explains his strong language. I was foolish when I listened to anything or anyone other than Jesus. You are foolish to do so too. It is human to be pulled away from the simple message but it is also unwise. It also takes away from Jesus. The Gospel is about Jesus being good enough for those who are not.
Did you read what Paul says in the bolded portions?
Righteousness is your standing with God. It is what Jesus bought you on the Cross. The Galatians knew they were Christian. They were trying to be better Christians and earn more approval from God. Seems reasonable to man. What is Paul’s response? If it were possible to earn your standing from God then Jesus died for nothing. Trying to do so is actually insulting Jesus.
for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.
Your standing is based on God:
and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Do you see it? Past tense! 2,000 years ago it was done. You cannot undo it once you have been born again!
Can you grasp it? Are you brave enough to live it?
Sin is not good. Holiness is important. All of the good practices you are used to do help you know the Lord better. But they don’t add or take away a single thing from what Jesus already did for you. God’s view of you as a person is not conditional. This means it does not change based on your conduct. Living in freedom is not being disrespectful to Jesus. It is actually honoring His finished glorious work on the Cross.
It is Finished
The words Jesus used mean “Your debt is paid”. He cleared your account forever with His blood. Jesus still died for you when you fail miserably when you are in Christ. It is Finished. He loves you when you yell at your kids or forget to read your Bible. It is Finished. He loves you as you sin in big ways or little. It is Finished. You are just as much the child of the Most High God when you are feeling like the servant of Satan. It is Finished.
If you are born again in Christ, you are beloved of God, full stop! Your standing before God is a done deal. It has been since Jesus stepped out of the Garden Tomb. This means you don’t need to work to get God to love you. He already proved that to you on Calvary.
It is because God’s love of you is not based on you. The Bible is the revelation of the greatness and mercy of God. It is not a make self help manual.
Day One – Let Go of Living to Earn God’s Approval
Jesus Loves You because He is that great not because you are. The more you understand this, the better your life in Christ will be.
This is your Day One Challenge: Accept Jesus paid for you – now and forever. You are free from the law of sin and death in Christ. You are seated in the heavenlies. You are a chosen child of God. Your sin does not change this standing. You cannot earn God’s love. He already gives it you for free!
Do you believe it? Do you live it? Honestly?
You want to honor God. You want to be like the people of the Bible. You want to not sin. Sin is bad. Holiness is good. He did His part now you will do yours. Trust in Jesus’ finished work. Enjoy His perfectly done job. Paul also provides a road map how to do so in Colossians 2:
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
Live life just like you received Jesus – freely, gratefully, and understanding you could not earn it. Rejoice in the mercy and grace required to get through every day knowing it is only possible because Jesus loved and gave Himself. It is a miracle you are saved considering you. This highlights God’s glory not your inadequacy. This is the launching pad for a life of abundant thanksgiving. Fight against anyone who tries to steal it from you…including you! This may lead you to physically exhausting work. It may involve hard circumstances. None of that separates you from the Love of God.
It is only what Jesus did not what you do that makes you beloved of God! Walk in the freedom He paid for with His life!
A song to inspire you to lay down your old flame to carry God’s fire!