Grace

Moving From Guilt to Freedom

I was a mess during my teen and young adult years. I blamed everyone else for my self-destructing life: If my circumstances hadn’t been so chaotic, I never would’ve dropped out of high school. If certain interactions hadn’t been so painful and unstable, I never would’ve turned to alcohol. And if so-n-so hadn’t said such-n-such, I never would’ve reacted as I had.

This type of victim-mentality robbed me of the strength to change and distanced me from God’s mercy and grace. To experience the freedom of forgiveness, of being absolved completely, that Christ offered, I first needed to grasp my need for it. Click To Tweet

I had to honestly evaluate not just my life, not just my outward behavior, but my sinful heart as well.

Honest self-evaluation is hard. Admitting our sin truthfully, not only to ourselves, but to God, can feel even harder. It takes great humility to acknowledge what God already knows—that we’re worse than we’d imagined and are helpless, in our own power, to change. Often there’s an additional challenge that often holds us in fear when we could be living in the freedom of grace: we’re afraid of rejection. Scared of being cut off entirely. Because that’s often what we’ve experienced from others.

An acquaintance grew up in a controlling household where love was conditional and tied to behavior. When she acted a certain way and others were pleased with her, they welcomed her close. When she disappointed them, she was disregarded and pushed away.

Maybe that resonates with you. Many of us have experienced similar interactions, whether with family, friends, or with our significant others. As a result, we can unknowingly carry a similar expectation into our relationship with God, and we likely aren’t even aware we’ve done so.

Here’s where God’s different. Whereas others might say, “You messed up. You blew it,” and cuts us off, Christ said, in essence, “You messed up, and I’m going to draw you near.” Click To Tweet But He did even more than that. When He stretched out His arms wide and died on the cross for our sins, He said, in essence, “Sweet daughter, you really made a mess of things. Of your life, your relationship with others. Your relationship with Me. And so I’m drawing near.”

Whereas others might say, “You messed up. You blew it,” and cuts us off, Christ said, in essence, “You messed up, and I’m going to draw you near.”Our Savior’s love is different than any we’ve ever known. Click To Tweet

When our sin separated us from Him, Christ took the first step to bridge that gap. Click To Tweet He took the first step, then the next, and then the next after that, pursuing us with His last breath, quite literally, to welcome us in. This demonstrates, where sin abounds, as serious and destructive as it may be, God’s grace abounds all the more, for God’s steadfast, unshakable love never ceases, and His mercies truly are new each morning (Rom. 5:20, Lamentations 3:22-23).

Scholars believe Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, wrote that last phrase, shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem. He’d spent a good chunk of his adult life warning the Israelites to turn from their idolatrous ways and back to God, but His children persisted in their sin. And after generations of rebellion and idolatry, they were finally experiencing the consequences.

Jeremiah, a prophet who loved God and had remained faithful, witnessed the destruction of his beloved homeland. The city and their beloved temple had been reduced to rubble, and the people became destitute.

Mourning all that had been lost, Jeremiah didn’t say, “Why me? This isn’t fair, God.” No, instead, he said, “See, O Lord, how distressed I am! I am in torment within, and in my heart I am disturbed, for I have been most rebellious.”

This from the man who could’ve prayed, “I, only I, have remained faithful.”

Scholars debate whether he was speaking of his own sins or of those made by the nation as a whole, but regardless, we know he sinned. According to Scripture, we all have. We’ve failed to live and love as we should, whether we’re harboring selfish thoughts or displaying selfish actions. I do both a thousand times each day, and when confronted with my wretchedness, it’s tempting to divert blame. To justify and make excuses, but though doing so might feel “safe” in the moment, it only leads to increased bondage.

To find freedom, I need to take an honest look at the sin-wrought rubble of my life, focus on the love and goodness of God, and like Jeremiah did in the next chapter over, cast myself upon the One whose mercies never fail.

Because “the Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the One who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly on the salvation of the Lord” (Lam. 3:25-26).

Let’s talk about this! Have you received the forgiveness Christ offers and the freedom that follows? If not, and you would like to learn more about finding ultimate and eternal absolution, please contact us HERE. If you’ve already experienced God’s cleansing grace, are you walking in that? Or are you interpreting spiritual distance that isn’t there, that Christ died to remove? How might remembering His reaction to our sin help you rest more deeply in His embrace, not just when you’re acting in a way that pleases Him, but when you mess up as well?

Join our online book club to learn to rest, daily, in God's grace! Click To Tweet

Book club inviteWe want to help you live in the freedom of God’s grace! Join us for a five week online book discussion club to discuss the Ragamuffin Gospel, a book that was truly transformative in Jennifer’s life. You can find the book HERE.

From the back cover:

A Furious Love Is Hot on Your Trail! 

Many believers feel stunted in their Christian growth. We beat ourselves up over our failures and, in the process, pull away from God because we subconsciously believe He tallies our defects and hangs His head in disappointment. In this newly repackaged edition—now with full appendix, study questions, and the author’s own epilogue, “Ragamuffin Fifteen Years Later,” Brennan Manning reminds us that nothing could be further from the truth. The Father beckons us to Himself with a “furious love” that burns brightly and constantly. Only when we truly embrace God’s grace can we bask in the joy of a gospel that enfolds the most needy of His flock—the “ragamuffins.”

This club will be hosted on our Facebook Group and through Zoom video. Contact us HERE for information on how to participate.

Plus, we have fun news! Our 90-day devotional is now available!

Cover image for Bible study devotionalDrawing Near: 90-Day Devotional:

Each day, God beckons us to Himself, calling us to rest in His love and grace. As we do, He heals our hurts, overpowers our fears with love, and restores us to the women He created us to be. This 90-day devotional, written by women who are learning themselves to live anchored in God’s grace, will help you deepen your faith and grow your relationship with Christ.

Buy it HERE.

 

Resting in Christ

When Grace Erases a Record of Wrongs

Feet & Hands with Eph. 2:10 listed to the left

Sometimes I stand in the shower and recount hard conversations, rearranging them until they tilt in my favor. Oh, to heal the hurt I feel! But I’ve learned the danger of this practice and how refocusing on grace helps me heal.

Many times, a thread of offense or unforgiveness can be detected in those rehashed exchanges. I deem it a form of self-protection, a way of secretly wagging a finger at the offending party and holding their actions against them. Seems innocent enough, but is it?

This record-keeping of wrongs fails to solve the problem. It leads me down a dangerous road toward sin through gossiping, bitterness, or withholding forgiveness. But the grace of Jesus adds salve to those wounds. It helps me heal the hurts I feel.

The Lord came to earth, offering grace to all. He keeps no record of wrongs. He refuses to rehash tilted conversations, too. The Savior of the world simply offers a generous dose of unmerited favor to all who will accept it–including perfectionists, those with dark or troubled pasts, people whose words pierce the hearts of others, and yes, even women who hold one-sided chats in the shower.

None of us stand innocent, yet Jesus forgives and showers grace on all. ~ @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

John 1:14 describes Jesus as the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us, one full of grace and truth. Although I’m tempted to think I’m innocent concerning my rehashed conversations, none of us are free from sin. But Jesus forgave us and showers grace anyway.

These days, when hurt or offense singes and I’m tempted to rehash them, I focus on Jesus instead. I hold close the gift of grace my Savior offers, remembering how much I need it and that His grace is sufficient. The Lord loves and forgives undeserving people—even those like me.

Refocusing on Jesus’ free gift of grace, I’m lured from the temptation to gossip or grow bitter and am drawn to prayer, forgiveness, and love instead.Refocusing on Jesus’ free gift of grace, I’m lured from the temptation to gossip or grow bitter and am drawn to prayer, forgiveness, and love instead. Click To Tweet I’d much rather have a conversation with Him than myself!

The next time you’re hurt or offended, why not consider Jesus and the love and grace He offered you? Focusing there helps heal our wounds.

living in grace, Video Devotion

Living in Grace and Forgiving Yourself–Video Devotion


There was no way I was going to forgive her. She didn’t deserve forgiveness-she deserved to pay for what she’d done.

The thing is, “she” is me, and that’s exactly how I felt for years. I had no problem forgiving others, just myself. Psalms 103:12 says “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” But, I chose to believe that didn’t apply to me-that I needed to serve a sentence of shame before I could be exonerated from my guilt. Further, I was certain that my sins not only rendered me unworthy to receive God’s forgiveness but also His love.

Have you found that often the most difficult person to forgive is yourself? That was definitely the case for me, until God literally spoke into my situation.

I attended a worship service where I heard the story of a man’s miraculous physical healing. What struck me, though, wasn’t his physical healing, but the freedom he experienced from feelings of unworthiness. Following the man’s testimony, a pastor invited anyone who felt burdened by unworthiness to stand and receive prayer. Despite the pride that begged me to remain seated, I rose to my feet. And in the silent moments that followed the prayer, God spoke to me for the first time.

He said: Christa, I love you. I forgave you a long time ago, and you need to forgive yourself.

I was literally undone. Instantly freed from the tremendous weight of shame that would have eventually crushed me. I was overcome-with love.

Until that moment, I didn’t realize how much I’d allowed unforgiveness to affect my life and my relationships. I’d invited Christ into my heart but held God’s grace at arm’s length, refusing to accept it—unintentionally saying that Christ’s death was enough to vindicate others, but not me. Released from that burden, I was able to move forward, truly love myself, others, and God, and finally experience the freedom for which Christ died.

It’s not as though forgiveness erased the memory of my shameful sins, but it eradicated the oppressive power those memories had over me. Before, they were scars I desperately tried to cover. Now they’re scars I proudly point to and say, “Look what God has done in my life.”

Don’t allow unforgiveness to control you any longer. As you learn to live wholly loved, remember that God wants to do the same transformative work in you, turning your scars into a beautiful story of His love.

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