Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Breathe easy, God isn't disappointed in you

I urge you to read this piece written for Relevant magazine by Jade Mazarin. It's directed to all earnest Christians who beat themselves up for being less than perfect and feel that God must be constantly disappointed in them.

I love this:
If Christ has truly taken our sins, then clenching on to them is not what pleases God. When we feel we need to punish ourselves, we are actually devaluing Jesus' sacrifice—even exalting our perceived ability to redeem ourselves or finish His atonement.
This is so insightful. There is a subtle egotism involved in holding onto our sins after we have confessed them to God in the name of Christ and received His absolution. It's as if we're saying, "Christ died and rose to bring reconciliation between everybody else and God. But my sins are too big, complicated, and awful to be forgiven."

Then this:
God does not identify us by our sins. It’s almost as if He sees things the other way around—while we might magnify our mistakes, God magnifies the beauty given to us. He is not intimidated by our weaknesses, like we so often are. He sees their power as already dissolved by the cross. 
When we feel guilty and perceive God as sternly pointing out our faults, perhaps we can recognize it is really just our own voices or the enemy's. We can choose instead, to listen to His quieter voice that tenderly repeats, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” (Romans 8:1). We can recognize that God is a God of deep compassion.
I've told the story many times about the nursing home resident who would always join the worship services conducted by my internship supervisor and me, but would never receive Holy Communion. 

When we asked why, she always told us that she was unworthy, that God could never forgive her for a sin that she committed when she was seventeen years old. Nothing we could say changed her mind. 

Guilt and shame are two different things. 

Guilt is good. It's God'a alarm bell going off in our consciences telling us to back away from sin, to repent, and to have our relationship with God restored. Guilt is about the things we do.

Shame is bad. It's the instrument either of our egotism or of the devil trying to rob us of the peace of God that passes all understanding made available to all who surrender their past sins, their present realities, and their eternal futures to Christ. Shame tells us that, no matter what Christ accomplished from the cross or empty tomb, we are unforgivable, deficient, irredeemable. Where is guilt is about what we do from our fallen natures, shame tells us that our fallenness must be our eternal natures and that even God can't save us.

Guilt is truth. Shame is a lie, straight from the pit of hell. Jesus once described Satan as "the father of lies." Don't believe the liar!

Instead, believe and surrender to the one who describes Himself as "the way and the truth and the life." No one can know the Father except through surrender to Christ. (John 14:6)

As we daily surrender to Christ, we can know that despite our deficiencies and our presently sinful natures and the sins to which they lead, we are loved, we are saved from sin and death, and we belong to the God of all creation Who loves us totally, passionately, compassionately.

Sometimes, Christians can feel like "marked" men and women, people with whom God is so disappointed and frustrated, that nothing we can do can renew our relationship with God again. 

Do you remember God's conversation with Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, after Cain had murdered his brother? God decided to make Cain a wanderer without a home through all his time on earth. (Sin can be forgiven, but sometimes there are consequences.) Cain thought that he was a marked man: “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” (Genesis 4:13-14)

Instead, God said, He would make Cain a "marked man" in a different way: [God told Cain] "'...anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.' Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.'" (Genesis 4:15) 

God met Cain's guilt and fear with forgiveness and grace. He marked Cain to live in spite of his sin.

When many of us were baptized, the pastor made the sign cross on our foreheads and said, "...child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever." 

Every time the Christian saved through Baptism (1 Peter 3:21), comes to God to confess sin, the old sinful self is drowned and the new self rises to live, made new by Christ. Christ absolves us of our guilt, so that we need never be downed by shame. You are grace!

As Mazarin so beautifully says, "God isn't disappointed in you." 

Breathe easy.

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