If you're just tuning in, click here to read the previous posts in the series.
Often, when we first "become a Christian" there are dramatic changes that we are willing to make (and can sometimes - praise God! - make quite easily) in response to our new-found freedom from sin and love for Jesus: leaving a relationship, giving up an addiction, dropping an ugly habit, etc. For me, my faith has been built up in stages and I don't have a day that I can say I converted. I grew up in the church and first professed faith when I was five, but it wasn't until about eight years ago that the Truth of the gospel really started coming alive for me - freeing me to admit I'm a sinner for real, deep down to the core, and freeing me to start letting go of patterns and habits that I had, until then, held so dear. Scales fall from our eyes, but it can take some time for things to come into focus. God has each of us on the journey marked out for us.
But one thing is consistent for all of us, wherever we are in that journey, when we find ourselves seeking refuge in something other than God - shopping, food, computer time, drugs, alcohol, people, a specific person, a body image, etc. - WE ARE LOOKING FOR LOVE IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES.
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When I was a young gal, I was boy crazy. I was not really even looking for relationship, though I was very happy to have one! I simply want to be desired. This led to all kinds of problems for me and my heart - and for those whose hearts I broke or at the very least bruised. I wanted to be affirmed, told I was beautiful, desirable, smart, and so on. It was definitely all about ME. I wanted to be someone's whole world.
That was not my place in anyone's life. It never could be. And what I was looking for, no poor, unsuspecting boy could ever provide for me. God bless 'em.
Honestly, I still want to be desired, told I'm beautiful, smart, fun to be with, etc. Who doesn't, right?! But once we encounter Jesus, know our Creator, and lay our life in His hands, we've got somewhere to go with it when it begins to consume us - when my husband, friends, family, etc. are not filling the void I'm demanding they fill for me ... that one I mentioned above is not theirs to fill.
Because I belong to Jesus, I can turn around. You can turn around. Confess to God who is slow to anger and abounding in love that you're sorry. He forgives sins, even those of people who should "know better." I can even go so far as to confess to the person I've offended (whether they know I've been offending them or not) because the Good News frees us, securing us by the anchor of God's love as a member of His family, purchased by the precious blood of Jesus. Just a short time meditating on that reality can make our hearts sing.
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Friends, it is the Gospel* that frees us to look in the face any sin in our hearts, and the Holy Spirit who helps us to stare it down, weakening its power in our lives, taking us to new levels of joy and freedom in Christ - "becoming more ourselves than ever." There are "big sins" we can think of that require a major external behavioral change: an impure relationship, an addiction to a substance, etc. Some of these are addressed when we first come to faith, leading to rapid and dramatic changes in our lives. But, more challenging as we walk with Christ, are the sins of the heart that tend to be more subtle and God opens our eyes to them little by little: greed, worry, discontent, impatience, anger, fear, doubt, judging others, envy, unforgiveness, pride, etc.
And you better believe that that's what we'll be getting into this month!
Because Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again we can move forward boldly, look into the tangled mess of sin in our hearts, and declare that it has no place there because we are children of the King!
*The Gospel is simply this: Man didn't deserve it, but God loved us so much that He sent His son to die in our place, taking the punishment we deserved, so that we could again be in relationship with Him and spend eternity with Him. We're set free from bondage, a desperate situation, by a God of mercy who was pleased to glorified to rescue us. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, is how John Newton put it.