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Fullness of Life Through Freedom in Christ

Galatians 5:1: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” 

If you’ve ever seen the movie Braveheart, the first image likely to come into your mind is  Mel Gibson’s blue painted face screaming, “FRRREEEEEEDDDOOOMMM!” as he rides into battle to bravely defend Scotland.  And if you’re a proud American, you likely proclaim that our country is great because it is free.  Our beautiful National Anthem even resounds this triumph with the concluding words, “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”  No matter how many times I’ve heard it, those majestic lyrics are enough to bring me (or any other patriot) to tears.  

It’s amazing how much strong emotion is brought on by the word and concept of freedom.  And rightly so- for it is the inborn desire of every person to be free. We yearn for the ability to think, speak, and act without hinderance or restraint; to not be governed by a foreign entity; and to not be imprisoned or enslaved to any person or thing.  

The quest for freedom takes form in many aspects of our lives.  This is evidenced by advertisements aimed at helping us find financial freedom, or advertisements informing us how working at home allows freedom in schedule setting or travel.  We even seek freedom in our physical appearance, choosing clothing, accessories, and hairstyles that reflect who we are as a person. And when it comes to relationships (or even our appearance), we might lean into phrases like, “I’m free to be me.”  We go after freedom in every category of life because it brings relief, joy, and peace.  Some might even say freedom is the foundation for life itself.  

As much as I enjoy the freedoms of this country, or believe in the benefits of financial freedom, or value the right to self-expression and healthy relationships, the truth is, these are not the freedoms I really need.  They are the freedoms I love and enjoy…but they cannot save my soul.  

Galatians 5:1 tells us it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  This freedom is twofold: 1)Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are forgiven. Meaning, no longer can Satan (or anyone else for that matter) accuse us before God.  Our sins have been paid for in full, and for those who are in Christ, we can stand before God Almighty, uncondemned, covered in His grace. And 2) We are no longer slaves to sin; sin has been dethroned as our master!  Instead, we become servants to Christ. If you find this unsettling or confusing, take comfort in Romans 6:22 which says, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”  

It may seem paradoxical, but a life lived in service to the Savior of the world is the life of true freedom.  There is no lasting joy to be had when we are in slavery to our sin- for this is a slavery that leads to death.  There is however, infinite and eternal joy found in living obediently to Christ- for this is a servitude that leads to life.  

Indeed, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  This freedom is the entire theme of this website as well as my book, Remade: Living Free.  I humbly invite you to join with me in the pursuit of understanding the depths of this freedom given to us by the God who loves us immeasurably.    

Chasing Perfection

I can’t tell you how many times in the last few months the topic of perfectionism has come up in conversations with both my clients and friends.  At least a dozen times I’ve thought, I need to write about this.  So here it goes, my feeble attempt to touch on this difficult topic and to present the gospel as the needed remedy.  As with everything else I write, this one is just as much for me as anyone who happens to read these words.  

I want to first begin by clarifying what I mean by perfectionism.  By this I’m talking about the expectation that you can- and should- be perfect at x.  This belief goes beyond the idea of putting forth your best effort to do x well.  This kind of perfectionistic thinking results in anxiety or panic, produces fear, and potentially keeps us from doing what we’re called to do.    

To be sure, the degrees of perfectionism may vary but if we’re all really honest, there is at least one area of our life in which we struggle with perfectionism.  For some it may be in the realm of academics, athletics, or in regard to physical appearance and beauty.  Likely there are many who strive for perfection in their career or in their role as a spouse or parent.  Still, many seek perfection in their everyday lives through the pristine maintenance of cleanliness, order, and organization.  (My husband can emphatically  attest that my struggle is not with the latter.)  My battle with perfectionism can be found in the kitchen and at the computer as I type the written word.  

Whatever realm(s) you find yourself seeking perfection, the first question I believe to be answered is this:  What do I want this perfection to do for me?  This is a necessary question because perfection is not an end in itself- it’s a means to an end.  Namely, control, value, approval, and acceptance.  

First, let’s talk about that c-word because I believe it’s the hinge on which the other three “ends” swing.  Control brings a sense of comfort and security and is therefore a highly sought after commodity.   For example, if we operate under the belief of, “If I’m doing x perfectly then everything will be alright,” we are using perfection to attain control of an outcome.  And if we obtain that control then we have some sense of the aforementioned peace, safety, security, or even power.  

The only trouble is that perfection is an impossible standard to achieve and our ability to have control in life to the degree we desire is limited.  Here we have the set-up for perpetual anxiety: when our efforts to be perfect at x cannot be attained we then feel we are losing control- which results in us trying even harder to attain what we are incapable of.  And on and on it goes for the pursuit of control is an elusive game.  We must come to realize that our attempt to reduce anxiety by gaining control through perfection only creates what we’re trying to eliminate.  

If control is the end we seek, we must lay that aside and instead pursue a life of surrender and obedience to our King.  Isaiah 55:9 states, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  This verse is a wonderful reminder that God is infinite in His knowledge and wisdom and that He sees above and beyond what we possibly can.  It’s because of this truth we can trust that He will not lead us astray.  

While trusting God’s ways does not always come easy, Hebrews 11 reminds us that the righteous will live by faith, and that without faith it is impossible to please God.  These are some convicting words!  We exercise our faith when we trust God with the outcomes of our life and when we surrender our ways to His.  If control has been your end game, repent and ask God to help you submit your life to His will.  He himself will give you grace and faith to walk in obedience with Him.  

Perhaps somewhere along the way you have come to adopt the belief that you must be perfect at x to be valuable.  Or, maybe you have gained a sense of value and worth from being near-perfect at x.  Either way, holding the belief that our value is tied to our ability to be perfect in some realm is both enslaving and honestly, prideful.  That may sound harsh, but think about it: there is no freedom in feeling pressure to live up to an impossible standard; and if we are in fact deriving value from our achievements, pride is most likely a factor.  

Ask yourself this question: Who told you you had to be perfect at x to hold value?  For some, this message has come from a critical parent or spouse.  If this has been the case for you, consider taking time to work through these wounds and examine the untruthfulness of such messages.  If, however, these messages have come from your own determination, recognize that your reliance on yourself to create your value is ultimately pride.   

True freedom is found not in what we can achieve by our own talents, abilities, or merits, but through the person and work of Jesus Christ.  While our wavering talents produce a shifting foundation on which to base our worth, who we are in Christ never changes.  In him we are chosen (Ephesians 1:4-5; 1 Peter 2:9), adopted (John 1:12, 1 John 3:1), forgiven and redeemed (Ephesians 1:7; Romans 3:23-24), and an heir together with Christ (Romans 8:17).  This is the foundation from which we derive our value- and it has nothing to do with us!  It is a gift of grace so that we may not boast in our own works, but only in Christ.  To combat the temptation to use self-reliant perfection to determine our value, we must ask God to impress upon our hearts the truth of who we are in Christ, and we must study His Word which teaches us these amazing truths!  It is this truth which will also help us with the next point…

Not gonna lie- these next “ends” hits home: the use of perfection to gain approval and acceptance.  Let me first say that the desires for approval and acceptance are not sinful in and of itself.  The problem comes when we seek these from men rather than from God.  (I also think the points of this article piggy back off each other- for example, one’s perceived value is often closely related to being accepted and liked by others. Not to mention we often like to control how others perceive us.)   

As I mentioned in the beginning, I can be very perfectionistic about writing.  To be clear, I hope the words I write both enrich and challenge others while pointing them to Christ! But when I press myself regarding the perfectionistic aspect, it seems to come down to wanting the approval of others… which in turn boosts my ego…which absolutely is pride.  To combat both pride and the desire for others’ approval there are two truths I desperately need to keep in mind.  I pray they will encourage you as well.

The first truth in combating the desire for approval via perfection is to remember who it is we truly work for; who it is we serve.  If we have any doubt about this, Colossians 3:23-24 reminds us: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…you are serving the Lord Christ.” This is so beautiful and so freeing.  God does not ask perfection of us, only that we work heartily for Him.  When I am able to fix my mind on these words I am less inclined to feel the need to be perfect.  After all, God uses both our strengths and weaknesses to accomplish His purposes.  Our part is to work heartily and submit to His ways.  Lately I’ve been praying this one sentence prayer to remind myself of everything I just wrote: Lord, please bless this imperfect work as I work heartily for you.  This prayer brings both humility and peace.

The second truth we must realize is that we do not exist for our own glory, but for the glory of God alone (Psalm 115:1).  Soli Deo Gloria has become the aim of my life and my heart’s desire.  However, I must constantly check in with myself, asking the question:  Who’s glory am I seeking?  I firmly believe the battle to glorify self will be a battle we will fight until our last breath on earth!  But this I do know: when I focus on giving God glory I am Him-focused rather than self-focused.  And when this is the case I am not pursuing the approval of man.      

Although approval and acceptance are closely related, I think it’s important to distinguish that while approval relates to confidence and affirmation, acceptance relates to belonging.  How many times in life have we felt the need to be perfect in hopes of being accepted by others- or, even God?  Probably more than we would care to admit.  Yet, how many times has this “perfection pursuit” only led to fear and anxiety? 

I pray those of you reading have people in your life who love you unconditionally and genuinely, and that you can rest in assurance of your acceptance despite your imperfections.  But more than that it is my prayer you will know that God’s acceptance of you is not based on your attempt at perfection, but on the person and work of Christ.  It is through his perfect life, death, and resurrection that we are counted righteous before God.  The Apostle Paul made this clear in both of his letters to the Corinthians:   

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21);  “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).  Praise God that Christ has done for us what we could not do for ourselves! 

As I conclude this section on acceptance, allow me to say a word about sanctification.  To grow in holiness is a work of the Spirit and the calling on our lives as Christians.  Paul put it this way in Romans 8:29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”  To be sure, as long as we are on this earth we will be in the flesh and we will still sin.  However, we are called to be doers of the Word and not just hearers (James 1:22).  Jesus himself stated in John 14:15 that if we love him we will keep his commandments.  While we are not saved by our works, our works are the fruit- the evidence- of our salvation.  As we abide in Christ our desire for the Spirit’s work of sanctification will replace our desire for human perfection.  

When I began writing this particular blog I honestly didn’t know the direction it would take.  And while I am fully aware that this post has contained a lot to chew on, I hope the basic tenets have been clear: that the anecdote to human perfectionism is surrender, obedience, and a desire for sanctification; resting in the assurance of who we are in Christ and the work he has done on our behalf; knowing in humility that the answer is not self-glorification but living to the glory of God alone.  Try as we might, we come up empty-handed when we seek from others, ourselves, or the world to give us what only God can.  As Romans 8:6 says, to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 

One last thought…

I entitled this blog “Chasing Perfection” because ultimately the perfection we pursue in this world is unattainable.  However, the day is coming when in our glorified state we will be perfectly free from sin; for we have the promise that “those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30).  Praise be to God that we can be confident that He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).  May we faithfully serve him here as we await that most glorious day.   

That We Should Suffer

“The problem with dogs is they do dog things.”  This is a comical (and true!) saying from the father of one of my best friends.  As a runner I’m not an overly huge fan of dogs and this statement perfectly sums up my thoughts regarding that species!  Happily, on my morning run yesterday there were no barking or chasing dogs, only the quiet of the early hours and the rising of the sun.  My mind was heavy not only with the recent events in the news but also with the burdens of people I love.  As I thought about the overwhelming amount of suffering and injustice in the world I landed on this thought: The problem with the world is it does world things.  

As Christians we know the problem of the world is the problem of sin.  It is this sin which produces suffering.  Consider these three points: 1) Because of the Fall (Genesis 3) our bodies are no longer perfect.  Not only do they age, but now they are also subject to disease and deterioration.  2) We each have inherited a sin nature with desires that are contrary to holiness.  While through Christ we are saved from the eternal consequences of our sin, our sinful actions still have consequences here on earth.  As we all have experienced, these consequences include mental/emotional pain and broken relationships, among others.  3) We also experience the consequence of others’ sin.  There is no way around this.  We all are affected by the sinful choices of others.  To be sure, some to a greater extent than others.  Still, the reality remains: we cannot escape being hurt by others. 

While there are good institutions to provide justice in the world, they are not perfect.  And though some world/political/cultural leaders seek after God, the vast majority do not.  1 John makes it very clear that the world’s values are in opposition to those of God, and that we must choose whom we will serve.  That the world and culture operates in a way contrary to God is of no surprise to us.  That people hate us for speaking the truth isn’t shocking.  Jesus told us to expect persecution.  In light of all this, why should we think that we will not suffer?  Why do we believe we will be unaffected by sin and the ways of the world?  Though we all want to be the exception, this is an impossibility.  

I am aware I’m only briefly touching on a weighty topic, but let me conclude with some thoughts regarding an appropriate response to suffering.  Though these points could be books unto themselves, I pray these few words will spur us on to further reflection. 

In respect to numbers 2 and 3 discussed above, let us daily examine our hearts and repent of the sin from which we need to repent; and when we have been wronged, let us seek to forgive others through the power of Christ.  Repentance and forgiveness are the means by which we gain healing and are a demonstration of obedience to our sovereign heavenly Father.  Which leads to my next and final point…

There is nothing in this universe that is not under the sovereignty of God (Isaiah 45:7-9, Matthew 10:29-31, Lamentations 3:37-39.)  Although I nor anyone else can perfectly explain the reason for what God allows and does not allow, we trust in His holiness and goodness knowing that He is sovereign over every ounce of sin and suffering.  Romans 8:28 assures us that the sovereignty of God works all things for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes.  But dear friends, let us not make the mistake of misunderstanding what is meant by “good.”  Our good here on earth is our sanctification- being conformed to the image of Christ.  Though painful and tear wrought, suffering brings about our sanctification.  Our response then is submission to the sovereignty and purposes of God knowing that His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). 

And yet our good continues, for our good goes beyond this earthly realm.  Our good culminates in an eternal resting place with the triune God, living in perfect communion with Him.  Our good is that every wrong will be made right and all of the effects of sin in our life will be completely and perfectly undone.  Our good is that we will simultaneously bear witness to God’s incomprehensible mercy and His perfect justice.  Indeed, we will be the recipients of the King’s promise that he will make all things new.  This is the truth that gives way to hope and rejoicing in the midst of earthly suffering.  As the Apostle Paul said, “This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).  

Praise God that our sufferings produce something of infinite worth both here and in the age to come.  And best of all, in all things God is and will be glorified.  Our good.  His glory.  This is the assurance we possess as we live in a world that will only continue to do world things.  

The Goodness of the Hard

Today as my daughter neared the end of her 45 minute morning run she reported to me that she was, “hungry, thirsty, and sweaty.”  Pedaling alongside her I answered back, “That’s a good way to be at the end of a run.”  I found myself envious of her at that moment and thought to myself, “Man, I miss that.”  For those who are unaware, I’ve been nursing a bum heel for what seems like forever.  In fact, the last bit of real training I did was in the fall of 2018.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been famished after a workout or since I’ve felt the classic achiness in my legs after a really hard run.  I miss the challenge of a speed workout and the mental and physical exertion of pushing the pace in the midst of discomfort.  I miss the tiredness in my legs after a long run.  And why do I miss all this you might ask?  Because the hard is what makes it good.  

I firmly believe that anything worth anything is going to be hard…and worthy of effort.  We might be tempted to think this is not truly what we want or how we really want life to be.  But why would we want it to be otherwise?  The true beauty of a thing- the true glory- is the effort required to try.  Think about it:  Anything you have ever truly valued has taken a good measure of hard work.  Be it an academic or athletic goal or a relationship of any kind, we value most what we work the hardest for.  Indeed, the hard is what makes it good.  

I also believe that this is how God meant it to be, how it needed to be.  Though God had promised the land of Cannan to the Israelites, they had to endure the hardness of battle to obtain it.  Even before the Fall, Adam was given work and responsibilities which required his effort- and this was good!   And though sin and its effects have undoubtedly riddled our lives with suffering and trials which add to the hardness of life, the goodness of redemption that comes only from God is magnified all the more.  As stated in Isaiah 61:3, He gives us beauty for ashes.  

Yet, in spite of this knowledge our natural bent is not to embrace the hardness; for we’re tempted to tap the breaks or check out when the going gets rough.  As a runner I try to consciously embrace the pain and welcome the uncomfortable- but just as in everyday life, this is a difficult task to execute.  There are moments in both life and racing when I find myself relenting.  But praise God for His continuous reminder that we are not in the hard alone.  Because while the hard is good, we were never meant to shoulder it solo.  Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  What a Savior we have, for he knows better than anyone that the hard is necessary for the good.    

Whatever you’re facing this week- be it the hardness of singleness, marriage, parenting, work, illness, or any other matter- be encouraged that your labor is not in vain.  The hard that is being required of you is serving a purpose: your sanctification and God’s glory.  For this may we continue to labor as we embrace the goodness of the hard.   

Unpopular: Male and Female He Created Them

“Did God really say?”  Oh, those four dreadful words; the catalyst for the fall of man and the demise of our society today.  After all, isn’t that how all deception begins- with the questioning of the word of God?  It seems our rebellious hearts just can’t accept that God meant what He said.  We have questioned everything from creation to women preaching in the church, and certainly everything pertaining to the family and sex.  Somehow we’ve even come to the place of questioning the words of Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” 

Male and female He created them.  Two humans, two different sexes, biologically distinct to determine one from the other.  And it pleased Him to do so.  A few verses later we read, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”  He made it so simple and so clear yet with a profound and amazing purpose.  In verse 24 of Genesis chapter 2 we see the first glimpse of His purpose in this created order:  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  

This covenant relationship required a male and a female and was the ultimate example of the union and fellowship of Christ with his bride, the church.  In Ephesians chapter 5 the Apostle Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 and then states, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church,” (v.32).  How awesome that marriage is a representation of this relationship; for Christ is represented by the man, and the church is represented by the woman.  (Although not the focus of this post, this also underscores why biblical marriage can only be between one man and one woman.)   

With the background of God’s purpose in the creation of biological males and females and His design for marriage, I would like to focus the remainder of this post on the gift of maleness and femaleness.  As has been discussed, God created men and women with distinct biological differences, and these differences are their own unique gifts!  It is a gift to have physical strength in order to work hard and to protect one’s family, just as it is a gift to bear and care for children.  So often that previous statement is scoffed at as “outdated” and “sexist.”  However, we cannot deny that our physical bodies were created with intentionality and purpose- and the above sentence is certainly a part of that purpose!

Even more than the purpose of our physical bodies is the gift of being a part of the aforementioned representation!  I can only imagine the tremendous honor and privilege for men of knowing they are the head of their wife as Christ is head of the church.  What a gift for men to submit to God as a spiritual leader and servant of his bride; what joy in the readiness to sacrificially lay down his life for her!  And just as Christ is the defender and protector of his church, so the man is to be of his wife.  This is the true gift of maleness! 

Likewise, what a gift it is for women to serve their husbands in the same way the church is to serve Christ.  As followers of Christ we are to joyfully place ourselves under submission to him because he has given us new life through his life, death, and resurrection.  While the word submission can be a hard word to swallow for some, we must remember that we have no need to fear, for we are safe in submitting to Him.  Our Savior has given himself up for us and does everything for his glory and our ultimate good.  Our sanctification is the result of this submission.  Similarly, in Christian marriage there is joy in submitting to and serving a man who loves his wife as Christ loved the church.  The true gift of femaleness is to love and be loved in this way.  

To be certain, though we are a redeemed people we are still in our flesh.  Consequently,  we will not carry out these roles in a perfect manner- yet God’s good purposes in creating two sexes and marriage still stands.  We can therefore rejoice that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by our Creator, knowing that it is He who has chosen us to be male or female.   Let us celebrate the gift He has given us by finding joy and satisfaction in the purpose of His creation.  

Unpopular: Every Good and Perfect Gift

Oh the nature of mankind.  Hasn’t that been the debate for the past several millennia? Countless scholars, philosophers, and theologians have written on this subject and yet confusion still exists on this matter, even among Christians.  

I understand the appeal of wanting to believe we are innately good, and that humankind is by and large composed of people who are naturally kind hearted, compassionate, and loving.  The only problem with that is it stands in stark contrast to what God’s Word tells us about our fallen nature.  As this is meant to be a shorter post, consider the following summary:  

Sin entered the world through one man, Adam.  The effect of this sin was total, meaning that sin has affected every part of human life.  For this reason it is written, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23).  Therefore, apart from Christ we are children of wrath, undesiring of God, and dead in our sin (Ephesians 2:1-3). As Romans 3:10-12 tells us, “There are none who are righteous, not even one.” 

With that being established we can now talk about the heart of this post: that anything good residing within us is a gift of God.  For some that may sound extreme; for we desperately want to hold on to the idea that there is a shred of righteousness within us for which we can take credit.  But dear friends, let us consider that we cannot take a breath without the sustaining power of our Creator, through whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).  How much less then can we do good on our own?  

I can hear the objections coming, so let me also say this: Every human being is made in the image of God.  And because we are made in God’s image we have the capacity to love, be compassionate, and be doers of kind deeds.  Yes, sin has corrupted and distorted our created nature, but it has not nullified the fact that we are capable of loving actions.  We must only remember that this capability is the result of being made in the image of God.  Furthermore, His common grace extends to all, including non-believers.  This grace includes blessings and the giving of personal characteristics and gifts as He sees fit.  Consider the following verses: 

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change,” (James 1:17).

“The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made,” (Psalm 145:9).

“For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike,” (Matthew 5:45).  

For those in Christ, we must also recognize that our regeneration was a gift of God.  As we were spiritually dead in our sin we could do nothing on our own to come to Christ.  Saving faith and the sanctifying work of the Spirit is purely a gift of God.   This is made clear in Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”  The great George Muller echoed this truth when he said, “It is true that faith which I am able to exercise is God’s own gift.  He alone supports it, and He alone can increase it.  Moment by moment, I depend on Him.  If I were left to myself, my faith would utterly fail.”  

The longer I have studied God’s Word, the more I have come to see that everything God does is for His glory and His name’s sake.  He is the provider of every good thing so that in all things He is glorified.  There is nothing of our own accord in which we can boast.  As the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 6:14, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”  All good things- even our salvation- is unto the Lord alone. 

It’s interesting: the more I know that there is nothing good in me apart from the Lord, the more I love Him.  And the more I love Him the more I desire to see Him glorified.  Let us thank Him today for His good gifts that His name may be praised.  

Unpopular: Made New, Not Better

For those of you following this series, this post piggy-backs off my previous post and echoes in part the theme of an article I wrote earlier this year on the topic of humanism (you can find that article at simplydevoted.net).  For those who are just joining, I wrote last week that the mission of following Christ is about building His kingdom and making disciples- not about changing culture or making the world a “better place.”  Similarly, today’s post points to this truth: that being a Christian is about being made new in Christ- not about becoming a better version of ourselves. 

It has become popular today to uphold the “self” above all things, making the idea of self-improvement the ultimate goal for which we are to strive.  Unfortunately, many current Christian teachings have adopted this philosophy as well.  We hear this in statements such as “Being a Christian helps you be the best you.”  Or, “Being a Christian will make you better at life.”  Dear friends, let us guard our hearts and minds against such teachings.  

One of my favorite passages in Mere Christianity addresses the heart of what it truly means to be transformed by Christ.  I love this description from C.S. Lewis:  

“God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man.  It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature.”  

When we give our lives to Christ we are made into something new entirely.  As the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  The aim of our lives then is not to attain some form of highly sought after self-actualization, but to be conformed to the image of Christ through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.  This point is made clear in Romans 8:29: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”  As Christians we are to look less and less like us and more and more like him.   

One more concluding and adjoining thought: The Christian life is about denying ourselves rather than glorifying ourselves.  Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” (Matthew 16:24).  Self denial- the antithesis of self-glorification- is the life to which we are called.  To deny ourselves is to surrender the desires of our flesh and to live in obedience to our heavenly Father.  While the world encourages us to indulge and promote ourselves, we are to joyfully submit ourselves to the King of Kings, promoting His glory above all else.  As John the Baptist so humbly proclaimed, “He must increase, I must decrease,” (John 3:30).

I am so thankful for a triune God who not only saves me from my sin but through whom I am made into a new creation; for this newness far exceeds a “best version” of myself.  We have been given this life on earth to live Soli Deo Gloria- for the glory of God alone.  May He be glorified in us as we are conformed to the image of His Son.  

Unpopular: Our True Mission

I want to start this blog series by saying that I take no delight in conflict.  Truly, I hate it when anyone is upset with me for any reason and I generally want to be well liked.     However, I do like to make people think.  For those of you who read my blog post on humanism, this series may come as no surprise.  Because as much as I crave harmony, I desire truth all the more.  It is my aim to approach these topics with both love and boldness as I write these unpopular words.

So let’s begin with this: Our ultimate mission as Christians is not to change the culture or to make the world a “better place.”  As followers of Christ we are commissioned to make disciples by proclaiming the gospel.  We are to be builders of the kingdom of God.  Jesus himself gave us this great commission in Matthew 28:18-20 when he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  

It’s easy to lose sight of the great commission when we live in a world that loudly emphasizes cultural virtue.  T-shirts and social media posts abound telling us to “be a good human,” and to “be the change you want to see in the world.”  Now.  Please hear me loud and clear: of course the love we show through our words and deeds matter, for they should be a reflection of our love for and from our Savior!  But we must remember the reason for this love is not to just “make someone’s day,” or to be a virtuous person for the sake of virtue only- but to ultimately point others to their Creator and His redemptive plan of salvation.  We show love for the purpose of evangelism, not to make the world “a nicer place to be.” 

One of my favorite verses in all of Scripture, 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  This verse is a true encouragement because it reminds us who we truly are in Christ.  But it also reminds us of the purpose we have been given- to proclaim the excellencies of the saving grace of God.  A few verses later God through Peter wrote, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”  We live obediently to the Word and with much love so that others will know and glorify our heavenly Father.  

In a world preaching that love means complete acceptance of someone’s choices, we cannot lose sight of the fact that it is loving to share with someone that they are sinners in need of grace.  And praise God that He has given us this grace through Christ Jesus our Lord!  We have such a glorious hope to share with the world; for through the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior we are forgiven of our sins and redeemed as children of God.  As followers of Christ, the sharing of this hope is our mission.  In 1 Peter 3:15 we see again this command and how to carry it out:  “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” 

As I conclude this post I want to challenge you- as well as myself- to continuously be mindful of the commission to which we have been called.  To give thought to our words and actions as they are the vehicle through which we share the gospel with those whom God has placed in our paths.  And to be full of grace seasoned with salt so that we can be ready to answer anyone who asks about the reason for the hope that is in us.  May we live our lives fully and wholly for this mission and to the glory of God alone.  

How Can it Be? True Identity Revealed

How can it be that you see me and know me?  That thought is too wild for my mind to contain and too precious for my heart to hold.  

Yet the truth remains.  

You number the hairs on my head and you know my innermost thoughts.  You know my name.  There has never been a time when you have not seen me; when you haven’t heard my prayers.  

Still, I wonder what you think…what you really see when you look at me.  Do you see my failures and years of sin?  With your eyes upon me do you recall my words of gossip and my haughty, impatient attitude?  Do you see me as the prideful girl with jealousy in her heart?  I bow my head, close my eyes, and pray that it is not. 

Is it possible you instead look at me with the love of a father, pleased with whom you have created?  Or, perhaps do you see something even more? 


The topic of how people see me has been on my mind quite a bit lately.  In some ways I feel I’ve taken a backroads regression to the insecurity of adolescence.  What exactly brought this on?  Who can know.  But I’ve found myself asking, “Who really knows me?  Who sees me most accurately?”  I wonder if it is myself or others.  As I debate this in my mind, I know that neither answer is what really matters, for it is God who sees me with the most accuracy.  The true question then becomes, “How does God see me?” 

Although I am tempted to begin with saying I am His daughter who is wonderfully made, the answer to this question truly begins in Colossians 3:3- “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”  First and foremost, I am “in Christ.”  As Sinclair Ferguson once said, “That is a little preposition with a big noun!”  That preposition and noun comprises my security, my assurance of salvation, and my true identity.  They are the most valuable words I know. 

To be in Christ means that he has given me his righteousness in exchange for my sin.  Because of this glorious imputation, when God the Father looks upon me He does not see me in the murkiness of my iniquities, but clothed with the righteousness of His Son.  As 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  This great exchange is almost incomprehensible- yet, it is the very truth of God.  Furthermore, His Word tells me that in Christ I am chosen, forgiven and redeemed, and that I am an adopted daughter and heir with Christ.  Consider the following: 

Chosen

Ephesians 1:4-5- “For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will.” 

1 Peter 2:9- “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 

Forgiven and Redeemed

Ephesians 1:7- “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” 

Galatians 3:13- “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”

Romans 3:23-24- “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” 

Adopted Children and Heirs

John 1:12- “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

1 John 3:1- “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

Romans 8:17- “And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”


And now I know: 

Chosen, adopted, forgiven, redeemed.  All this and more: an heir forever kept in Christ.  Comfort of all comfort you see not only me, a daughter whom you love- but the righteousness of Christ.  His perfect life in me, you see me white as snow. 

Too often these truths I forget.  In my desire to please I fail to recall that my loveliness to you extends far beyond how you have created me.  I am lovely to you because I am in my Savior. 

This truth will forever remain, for the Son of Man does not change.  To the glory of God alone, it is the truth in which I stand.  The truth in which I am kept. 

The Hope of all Things New

This past December I had the opportunity to hike some beautiful trails in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.  The scenery was gorgeous and I relished the views that differ so greatly from my homeland of Northwest Ohio.  As my eyes rested on the rolling hills and waterfalls, my heart was filled with gratitude and I couldn’t help but worship our awesome Creator.  And though I was surrounded by such visually stunning sights, it was the air I loved the most.   

Breathing in the clean, crisp, earthy air was refreshing in a way that is difficult to explain.  It stood in stark contrast to a world that is chaotic, messy, and sinful: the air that filled my lungs was simple, pure, and lovely.  It was completely invigorating.  As I walked along the tree laden trails, I wondered if this might be what the air in heaven is like.

Now more than ever, I find myself thinking of heaven and longing for the day of Christ’s return.  When I feel distressed by the current state of the world, my mind drifts to the  truth filled song “Whatever May Come” by Jeremy and Adrienne Camp.  The entire song is fantastic, but these lyrics always bring me to the verge of tears: 

Every wall will break, all the darkness shake, all the joy will be renewed; 

So every knee let’s bow, raise a victory shout, for the King will make things new.”

The King will make things new.  There does not exist a more beautiful hope than that.   

This eternal hope, authored before the creation of time, was given to the Israelites in the book of Isaiah and culminates in the last chapters of the book of Revelation.  By the grace of God, it is our hope as well. 

After Israel was exiled to Babylon as a consequence of their rebellious hearts and rejection of God, the prophet Isaiah foretold the saving of a remnant.  This saving included not only a joyous restoration to their homeland, but encompassed something far greater- the coming of a Servant and Savior.  Isaiah 42:9 records these words of the Lord: “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”  

Again in Isaiah 43:18-19 the Lord proclaimed, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing.”  The new that was promised was a Messiah who would establish a messianic kingdom- a kingdom that would include a remnant of both Israelites and Gentiles; a kingdom that would establish a new heaven and a new earth.     

This Messiah, God’s Servant, would bring justice to the nations and become a light to the Gentiles.  He would come willingly to atone for the sins of His people, and thereby establish a new covenant: that anyone who would believe in His name would be saved.  

In the first book of the New Testament, we learn that Jesus is the promised Servant and Messiah (Matthew 12:15-21).  It is he, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who will make all things new.  To those who receive him, hearts and lives will be remade.  For as the Lord promised in Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”  The Apostle Paul also made this clear in 2 Corinthians 5:17 when he proclaimed, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  

While we are still on this earth we marvel in humble adoration at the beauty of our salvation- and we revel in the promise of what is to come.  For we know there will be a day when Christ returns for his bride, the remnant whom he purchased with his life, death, and resurrection.  Indeed, his second coming will be the consummation of all things being made new.  

This great hope is found in chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation.  It is here we are reminded the earth we now call home will one day pass away.  And it is here we read the description of the new heaven and the new earth- of the New Jerusalem, the City of God.  

Listen to these words from the Apostle John: 

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be nor more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:3-4).  

What a glorious hope we have in Christ!  While our eyes, ears, and hearts cannot imagine what God has prepared for us in heaven, God through John has graciously given us a glimpse of our eternal home:

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city of Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal…And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass…and the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb…the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever (Revelation 21:10-22:5). 

As phenomenal the picture conceived in our minds of the above verses may be, all of that will pale in comparison to seeing our Creator and Savior face to face.  “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His servants will worship Him.  They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads” (Revelation 22:3-4).  

In his magnificent book, City of God, St. Augustine so beautifully described this pinnacle of our heavenly joy: “God will be the source of every satisfaction, more than any heart can rightly crave, more than life and health, food and wealth, glory and honor, peace and every good- so that God, as St. Paul said, ‘may be all in all.’”  

Yes, and Amen!  Praise God that our fallen hearts are made new, that all will be redeemed through Christ, and for the promise of a new heaven and a new earth.  This hope is the anchor of our souls, the hope of which we are certain.  Let us therefore rejoice, for we know our Savior is coming soon!  May we continue to walk faithfully with him here on this earth knowing we will someday walk with him in the sweet air of our eternal home. 

But I Have Prayed for You…

“Simon, Simon behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail,”  (Luke 22:31-32). 

This verse has been on my heart all day today.  Consequently, it was this verse that led me to do something I have never done before- today I asked my Savior to pray for me.  Let me explain…    

The weeks leading up to Easter were intense and joyful.  During that time I wrote and posted a mini-blog series as a way to prepare hearts for Resurrection Sunday, mine included.  The week of Easter I also read a daily Holy Week blog written by my former pastor.  The readings were powerful, and with great anticipation I awaited Sunday.  

The day of Easter the sun was shining and the temperature was a perfect 75 degrees.  It was a beautiful morning of worship and fellowship followed by a blessed time with family.  That evening we were also thrilled to watch the first episode of the second season of The Chosen, a multi-season series about the life of Christ.  It was amazing.  A perfect ending to a glorious week.  

To my surprise, Monday was a struggle.  I felt tired, unmotivated, and in general down in mood.  And honestly, my heart’s desire was to be in heaven with Jesus (even more so than usual).  Although I woke up feeling slightly better in mood this morning, it really was more of the same.  As the morning wore on the words Jesus spoke to Peter played in my mind: Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you as wheat.  

Jesus spoke those words during the last supper, just prior to his arrest in the garden of Gethsemane.  I can only imagine their shock at hearing this.  In those days the process of sifting occurred by spreading out the harvested wheat on a hard flat surface.  The wheat was then beaten with a club or flail in order to remove the chaff.  

That’s quite the mental image of what Satan had in mind when he asked to have Christ’s followers.  And it left me wondering- how often does Satan ask for me?   

When I opened my Bible to the above Scripture, Luke 22:31-32, two things caught my attention: the way in which Jesus addressed Peter, and the glorious word, “but.”  

Although the Greek word ‘humas’ (the plural form of you) used in verse 31 indicates Satan had asked for all of the disciples, it was Simon Peter whom Jesus addressed.  Notice how he said, “Simon, Simon.”  This repetition of Peter’s name conveys solemnity and emphasis, tinged with sadness and rebuke (ESV Reformation Study Bible).  Jesus felt deeply for Peter.  He loved Peter- and he knew what laid ahead.  Because of this he also told Peter, “but I have prayed for you.”  What a beautiful hope and assurance.  And how personal.  For the “you” in this statement is the Greek word ‘sou,’ which is a personal pronoun.  Jesus had prayed specifically for Peter.  

And he prays for us.  

Even after the cross and the empty tomb, Jesus has continued working on our behalf as our great high priest.  In John chapter 17, while he was still on this earth, we see the way in which Jesus prayed for both his disciples and for all believers in his high priestly prayer.  Now as he is at the right hand of the Father he continues to make intercession on our behalf.  Romans 8:34 says, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”  Hebrews 7:25 also states, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” 

It is absolutely amazing to think that our Savior is even now our advocate and great defender (Hebrews 7:25, 1 John 2:1).  He is our perfect priest.  As John Piper stated, “He prays for us and his prayers are answered because he prays perfectly on the basis of his perfect sacrifice,” (desiringgod.org). 

I have no idea if or how many times Satan has asked to have me.  But I do know that in this world I will have troubles (John 16:33).  Life will be filled with loss and more hard days than I can count.  Low moods, trials, and tribulations will abound.  But just as Jesus felt for Peter, so he feels for me.  And for you.  We who are in Christ are his recompense, his reward- and he will not fail to pray for us.  

After time in prayer this morning- and praying that unusual request- the remainder of my day was filled with an awareness of the presence of God.  Although I was home alone the majority of the day, I never felt alone.  And contrary to a downtrodden spirit I felt joy and peace.  I continued on with these comforting words from my Savior in my mind: “But I have prayed for you.”

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