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Identity in Christ

Moving Past Self-Doubt — Video Devotion

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Together we rise

By Jessica Brodie

Sometimes we encounter someone who believes in us so fervently their faith inspires us to soar.

My teenaged self was miserable, overwhelmed by all the changes in my body and plagued by fears I’d never be good enough. My friends called themselves “lucky” and “blessed,” but I could never relate. I dreaded each day as my low self-esteem convinced me I was cursed and disliked, a misfit who’d never find joy.

Then I found myself in Mrs. Sampson’s tenth grade classroom.

Mrs. Sampson was the sort of teacher who made everyone feel valued and worthy. We had an A in her class, and all we had to do was maintain it. We were smart and funny, or so she made us believe—responsible and intelligent enough to handle the work she gave and then some. She looked us in the eye like we mattered, like each one of us was genuinely interesting.

A unique psychology arose: We wanted to be as good as she believed us to be! We didn’t want to disappoint her. It became a magical time of learning and growth, intellectually and emotionally. Later, when I taught, I wanted to do that same thing for my students, and as a mom, I try to do that for my kids.

Mrs. Sampson’s inspiration reminds me of the greeting in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In first century Palestine, it was incredibly difficult to follow Jesus. Early Christians faced persecution and death and were used to being hated. I imagine they had days when they struggled with feelings of worth and ability, much like I did as a teenager, not sure they could go on. I’m certain they struggled to know they were blessed as snide jeers—and worse—followed them everywhere they went.

Early Christians faced persecution and death and were used to being hated. I imagine they had days when they struggled with feelings of worth and ability much like I did as a teenager, not sure they could go on. Click To Tweet

But Paul wanted these early believers to rise above. His letter started with a bang of cheerful reassurance, as he reminded these Christians of who they were in Jesus: holy, loved, and so very fortunate in spite of their hardships. He wrote, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:1-3, ESV).

Like my high school teacher, Paul didn’t hide his encouragement. He showed he believed in them and genuinely wanted the best for them. He reminded them of who they were at their core: people chosen by God! God’s “saints,” he called them—special, endowed with gifts of faith and eternal soul-blessings beyond measure.

Like my teacher, Paul didn’t hide his encouragement. He reminded the early Christians of who they were at their core: people chosen by God! Click To Tweet

I hope they found comfort and hope in Paul’s words, just like that bunch of teens in Mrs. Sampson’s classroom did all those years ago.

Some days are tough. We may wonder why God entrusts us, so inferior and sinful, with the mighty task of spreading His Gospel. But we are God’s holy, blessed people. And together, we rise to the task.

We may wonder why God entrusts us, so inferior and sinful, with the mighty task of spreading His Gospel. But we are God’s holy, blessed people. Click To Tweet

Have you ever wondered how God is able to use you? Has anything—fear, doubt, etc.—stood in your way?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below and make sure to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram!

And before you go … have you grabbed your free ecopy of our Bible study yet? If not, you can do so HERE! (You can get a print copy for just $5 HERE.)

Also, make sure to visit us on Crosswalk to receive daily devotions sent directly to your inbox. You can find our devotions HERE. 

Intentional growth

Maturity is More Than an Age

cheriquote1-may13

Although I strive for maturity, often I find myself acting more like a spoiled child or touchy teenager than a mature adult.  As children, my sister and I often played ‘grown-up,’ each taking a turn at being the adult–the prized role in our drama.

I was certain I was growing up as I was getting older. However, many of us know those who grew older yet never grew up.  It’s easy for us to identify people who never matured because we often bear the burden for their immaturity: The co-worker who never takes responsibility for mistakes. The neighbors who know-it-all yet display no evidence of this. Or the family members who make every gathering all about them.

On the other hand, we empathize with college students who struggle in their desire to be independent and mature, yet secretly long to become a carefree child again.

In my own life I’ve had to deal with the consequences of immature behavior.  When I blame others or make excuses for my bad choices they see right through me, a sinking feeling develops in my stomach, and I know I’ve lost credibility. If I ask a child to tell someone I’m not at home so I can avoid a caller, I’ve taught a lesson that will take more than words to undo, and my immaturity haunts me. Even though I’m a Christian, it is still hard for me to be Christ-like.  I want to grow up into His image, but my actions reveal I haven’t arrived yet.

My heart breaks, as I’m sure yours does, at the thought that the way I live my life could be a stumbling block to someone’s salvation. So how do we break the cycle we’re in and take steps towards maturity? My journey of discovery began in Hebrews. The writer defines maturity as eating the solid food of Scripture, not just the baby milk or easy stuff (6:1-2). It’s nice to say that God is love, but do we choose to show that trait when someone isn’t so lovely? Similarly, it’s wonderful to know we’re secure in our salvation and have the opportunity to share that great gift with others, but what about sharing the gospel with someone who “doesn’t deserve it”?

These are hard questions, not the questions of a child.

The Hebrew letter challenged the Jews who were looking for an easier way—one with fewer restraints—to mature by continuing to ‘taste’ of the Holy Spirit.  The writer was making two points about growing up in Christ. cheriquote2-may13

First, Real maturity comes by taking responsibility for our own spiritual growth. Click To Tweet That means taking a hard look at our failures, accepting responsibility where we can, and asking God to help us move forward from there. It means being honest in even the little things such as instructing our children how to handle a phone call when we are there but unavailable. These are the little choices we must make everyday. But consistently making good choices is only part of the equation.

The second point in Hebrews is that maturity in Christ means cooperating with the Holy Spirit so we can soak in His rain and produce a good crop (6:7-8).  Hebrew farmers understood this principle. A field that produced good crops was one that had been tilled properly and was able to drink in the rain. On the other hand, a field that had become full of thorns and thistles had not been properly taken care of and, thus, required burning or purification of all the bad seed.

In using this analogy to describe the mature Christian life, Hebrews is painting a clear picture of contrast. A life constantly tilled by going beneath the surface to reveal changes needed in the depths of our hearts, is bringing the hidden into the light and will produce a surface that God can water. Going to church and reading our Bible is a good beginning, but it won't get us beneath the surface until we ask God to reveal what needs changing. Click To Tweet

A life that looks good on the surface but isn't undergoing the hard work of maturity mature under that surface, is going to produce thorns and thistles. Click To Tweet Such a land is not receptive terrain for God’s thirst-quenching Spirit. If we find our lives filled with thorns and thistles: prickly behavior, harsh words, and thorny thoughts, we must first begin anew by setting fire to our fields, recognizing our refusal to grow up or put away these childish things as the sin that it is.

I’m still learning what it means to be a mature person in Christ. But now, when I lose my temper or say things I shouldn’t, when I’m brought through a trial and find myself wanting, I invite the Holy Spirit to come purify my soul. He remakes me anew, turning the ashes of my sin into nourishment for my soul so I might have a prized role in His earthly drama … a vessel worthy of His Name. He promises the same for you.

Let’s talk about this! How often do you sit with God, asking Him to search your heart and reveal areas in need of purging? What areas are you withholding from Him? In what ways are you keeping Him at an emotional distance or perhaps ignoring His voice and prompting? Or, perhaps you’re in the “tilling phase.” Can you share how God is working in you to make you more like His Son?

Cover image for studyShare your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another! We also encourage you to subscribe to our daily devotions on Crosswalk and iBelieve to receive encouraging, faith-inspiring devotions sent directly to your inbox each day. You can read them HERE and subscribe by clicking the yellow subscribe button. We also encourage you to grab a free copy of our Becoming His Princess Bible study, which will help you grow in your faith, center your identity in Christ, and anchor your feet in grace. Grab your free ecopy, PDF file, HERE. Grab your free Kindle copy HERE. Or, if you prefer, you can purchase a print copy HERE. If you’d prefer to order this book through Amazon, you can do so HERE.

 

surrender

Fighting Enslaving Behaviors by Leaning Into Jesus

Flower image with quote pulled from post.

Though I trusted in Christ for salvation as a child, you never would’ve believed this, had you encountered me in my young adult years.

It was like I’d grabbed hold of the fringes of eternal life but not the full expression of it.

I had a tainted, partial view of God. I saw Him as lofty, for sure. The One who not only set the rules but had every right to do so. I also knew I didn’t deserve the gift of grace He’d given me. In fact, I felt so undeserving, I was certain that was how He viewed me as well. As if He tolerated me on occasion but was mostly disappointed.

He certainly had cause to be. I wasn’t living anything like my Bible said I should. I went to church on Sunday and Bible study on Tuesday then got drunk with my friends on Friday. I took my daughter to playdates and acted like a responsible and emotionally stable adult. Then, while my husband and daughter slept, I spent the quiet night hours binging and purging in a desperate attempt to fill all my empty places inside.

I was trying to live the Christian life in my own strength, apart from Jesus, and I was failing miserably. Each night, I’d promise God the next day I’d do better, only to find myself falling into the same self-destructive behaviors.

Then one day, I stumbled upon Jesus’ response to temptation. You may be familiar with the story. Scripture tells us the Spirit led Him into the wilderness where He was bombarded, again and again, by the forces of darkness. Yet, He remained strong. Unshakable. Victorious. As I read Matthew 4:1-11 and all the ways Christ engaged in a more intense spiritual battle than you and I ever will, it was as if He were holding His hand out to me, saying, “Come on. Watch what I do. Follow Me.”

Click To Tweet

So I began to do just that. I started to look at my faith differently; less about what I needed to do or not do and more about what God wanted me to learn. My first and most important lesson—discovering who He was. Gaining full knowledge of His love and glory, because only then could I truly live in Him.

In John 14, shortly before His death, Jesus spoke to His disciples. He left them final instructions regarding a rather overwhelming assignment—launching His church during a time of intense persecution. This by a group of men who, in a few short hours would abandon Him. In other words, individuals who, like me, were nowhere near strong or wise enough for the task.

But Jesus said to them, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; Believe also in Me.” In fact, He used the word believe six times in the span of fourteen verses. “Believe not in yourself or your might or plans but in Me,” Jesus said (paraphrased).

Jesus' invitation: Believe not in yourself or your might or your plans but in Me. Click To Tweet

As I fought against old behavior patterns, it was as if Jesus was saying the same to me. “I have so much more for you, Jennifer. I’ll show you precisely what that is, in due time. But today, believe in Me. Lean on Me, and learn from Me. (Matthew 11:28). We’ll take this journey together.”

Woman on swing with quote from post.

That was just under twenty years ago, and I’m grateful to say, Christ conquered each one of those enslaving habits and more as He’s molded me, slowly but steadily, into His image. This transformation hasn’t been quick or easy, but it’s been freeing and sure.

He’ll do the same for you.

Host Wholly Loved Ministries’ Fully Alive conference and learn how to move from striving and merely surviving to thriving, and visit Jennifer online at her weekly devotional blog found HERE. Check out her latest book release HERE.