Sometimes when I’m preparing for a message, as I am right now for a women’s retreat on Saturday, I just feel so overwhelmed with ideas and thoughts. Suddenly things come out and I don’t know where they’re coming from, I don’t know how to sort through it or what to do with it. I typed all of this in 10 minutes and it took a lot longer to edit to fix all of the errors of my stream-of-consciousness writing. I don’t know what it is, I like to think it’s the Holy Spirit guiding my hands. I’m left feeling tired and worn and with tears streaming down my cheeks. I just don’t understand, I’m not strong enough for this, I’m not the person this should be coming out of. I can’t possibly be the vessel that He wants for these things. I don’t understand. But here it is anyway:
I feel Him telling us to be assured that He wants us to be ourselves, our individual personalities, preferences, it’s all so important. He wants us to be ourselves, but without the burden of sin. We need people to see that you don’t need to become a mindless robot when you become a Christian, God wants you to become a better version of yourself, without all the sin and baggage weighing you down, but with a willingness to share your testimony, to glorify God in what He’s done for you! Our job is to then show others that it’s possible for them too. Jesus came for everyone. Everyone. This freedom, this salvation, isn’t just for a chosen few. But it’s our choice if we want to accept this gift..
Look at Paul, he was the worst person ever. He, as Saul, persecuted Christians and Christianity in a big way. He had everything by worldly standards: power, fame, wealth…then He let Jesus in. And he became Paul and left it all. He never married and chose a hard life of persecution, abuse, imprisonment, physical hardship and suffering for the greater good. What an awesome example for us. Maybe our comfort is killing us spiritually, I know it was for me. It took stage 4 cancer to wake me up.
Don’t we understand that God wants us to be us, but a version of us that cares more for others than ourselves, a version of us that sees people hurting and wants to help, a version of us where criticizing and condemnation aren’t our first reaction. A version of ourselves that is focused on His heart and what His will for our lives looks like. That’s the complete beauty of it. It’s going to look different for everyone! You don’t have to get hung up on if someone has tattoos or dreads or piercings. We all look, think and act differently, we all came from different backgrounds, carry different baggages and have completely unique testimonies. Like Lecrae says in his song “Beautiful Feet”,
Man if you ain’t burdened, please pick up your word
Though this world is going down while we’re here we can serve Him
Yes. It’s not about the laws, the rules, the focus on sin, it’s about the freedom in Christ and the choice to serve Him.
Paul has been reminding me through reading Romans that focusing on the sin is useless. It’s not that we are trying to wrap Christianity in a pretty package, this way is hard, this way is so much more difficult than just living for ourselves and whatever that may look like. But people need to see that we’ve been changed, we’ve been forgiven, we’ve been set free. They will see it by how we love. They will know that we are his disciples by. how. we. love.
Jesus is not giving us a free pass here, He is clear on how important love is, but love does not ever mean acceptance of sin. We cannot confuse this. By this I mean, I can show love to someone who, say, killed someone, but I can’t ever tell them that killing people is ok. I have selfish desires, I struggle with love of self. Don’t tell me that that is just how God made me and Jesus loves me anyway. Yes, ok, Jesus does love me, but He can help me change, don’t enable people in their greed, or laziness, or selfishness, or whatever it is.
Jesus was clear about love, but He also spoke so much about sin and the spiritual bondage that it brings, and He also said so many times that if we love Him we will obey Him. Yup, go ahead and pick up your Bible and check, it’s in there. When we look at people, we can’t just call them out by their sin, that’s not our job! Once people come to Christ, then through mentoring and relationships and guidance through the Holy Spirit and studying of the scriptures, they will begin to see the sin in their lives and begin to change it. I know my heart was not receptive to change and I wasn’t able to see my own sin as sin until I allowed Christ in my life. I can’t be the only one, am I crazy here or is this true?
Salvation is for everyone, not just the people that we think are worthy or listening. This is real, it’s true, it’s not a figment of my imagination, it’s not a mental crutch to help me through these tough times. Keeping God’s will in mind and not my own has actually made some aspects of my cancer journey much more difficult, but infinitely more rewarding.
Becoming a Christian, a true Christ follower, is not about mentally checking out and setting your life onto cruise control, it’s about stepping up. Realizing your life has purpose, has a meaning far beyond whatever we could ever have imagined. It’s not a desperate attempt to feel important or to make myself feel like I have some impact before I die. It’s not about that!
I don’t care what people think. I don’t care that when I slip up people will celebrate or that they’ll relish in calling me a hypocrite or whatever, I don’t care. But I believe this very strongly, it’s not our job to call people who aren’t believers out on their sin, do we understand that? Unless I’m misreading Romans and the teachings of Jesus. Until people accept Christ they have no reason to want to play by our rules, and that’s ok. Jesus did say to the people condemning the adulterous woman that unless they are without sin they cannot cast a stone – obviously, none of us are without sin! But Jesus was. He looked at the woman and told her to “go and sin no more”. I can’t offer you forgiveness, but Jesus can! He can set us free! But it’s up to us to decide if we want to be set free from it or not. We are scared of change, scared of what people will think.
Our focus should be on growing in our journey so that we become more sensitive to the spirit so that he can tell us how to effectively minister to people who are hurting. My heart’s cry is to let people know that they’re not too far gone, they’re not alone, their doubts are normal and can be overcome.
It’s so accurate to equate being a Christ follower as being refined in a fire. It hurts, its not always pleasant or easy or beautiful, but you come out of it better than you were before.
God is real. He is truth. Just not believeing in him doesn’t make him not real, and claiming being agnostic is just lazy. I always wondered how all Christians could have the same Holy Spirit and still not get along and disagree on so much, be so contentious and awful. But I’ve learned through this journey that sometimes it’s easy to get too into the rules. Don’t get me wrong, God is never ok with sin and once we accept Jesus we will be held responsible for every word we say, every sin we commit, every time we misrepresent God and who He is. But it’s surprisingly easy to be a Christian and ignore the importance of the Spirit. I know this because I did it for years. It’s a process of learning to discern and be sensitive to his nudgings and leadings. We all have the same spirit, but we don’t all listen to it or live by it, I know I didn’t for a long time into my journey.
It’s a process, it’s hard, its one that opens you up to persecution and criticism, but it is through perseverance that we can be refined. I still believe that lukewarm Christianity will cease to exist very soon in America. We will be forced to pick a side. And I know where I will stand when that time comes. Do you?
I realize that this post seemingly has nothing to do with cancer, but the truth is it has everything to do with it. I finally understand how Paul could have the audacity to tell us to rejoice in our sufferings. If it wasn’t for this I would not be in the place I’m at spiritually. It’s not that I’m “there”, I don’t think anyone can ever be done spiritually until the day they come before the throne. I just know that I’m nothing special, at all. If I can do this, if I can walk this path, if I can experience this growth, literally anyone else can too. I could go on, but I’ll stop here. I’m exhausted.
If you’ve made it this far, please just listen to this song.
Hillsong – King of Heaven
I’ve been sitting here crying for 20 minutes listening to it over and over. Just wait til you’re in the mood to meditate on the things of God and listen.