So it finally ‘clicked’ for me what ‘the Gospel’ is. I wasn’t entirely convinced that it was ‘the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’, as one of my friends preaches, because that phrase isn’t in the book of Acts (as far as I know).
But…the early Christians were martyred for declaring ‘Jesus is Lord’ (and by extension, ‘Caesar is not’), which is the same message told from our human perspective. The King says his kingdom is here. We declare Jesus to be king. Same thing.
Paul goes further, declaring ‘Christ and him crucified’, which explains who that king is and what he has done for us.
So there is agreement among the New Testament saints: Jesus is Lord, the Kingdom of Heaven is already here, and Christ has done all the work!
In my job, I have often found myself caught up in endlessly revising emails, worrying about the smallest details. At times, it’s quite paralyzing.
One thing that has freed me in recent days is this phrase from the Holy Spirit:
“Whatever you want to do is right.”
That means that if I mess up a word or a punctuation mark in an email, God will make it right. Either people will not see the mistake, or they will understand despite the mistake, or something better will happen. But it doesn’t matter that I made the mistake, because God worked it out.
In the Holy Spirit, we have all of the direction that we need, all of the wisdom that we need, and all of the grace that we need to. So we can go about our lives in confidence instead of fear, because we know that there is grace for mistakes.
We also understand that God gives us holy desires as we walk and rest in him. So we only want to do the things that please God. That doesn’t mean that we don’t mess up, but it does mean that even if we make a mistake, God will make it right.
So if we walk in the Spirit (actively communing with the Holy Spirit at all times), we tend to make mistakes less often…
…but even if we do make mistakes, God makes it right anyway.
There is plenty of grace available at all times, in every situation.
One definition of grace is, ‘God’s supernatural empowerment for life, given to us out of his abundant love.’
Through the shed blood of Christ, we are given a new nature. Our new nature wants to do good. Therefore we have good and holy desires.
Perhaps there are other desires that war inside our minds at times (a subjective truth), but our true desires (an objective truth) are pure.
Therefore, if your true desires are holy, which they are, whatever you want to do is the right thing! So don’t be paralyzed; ask the Holy Spirit what to do and then take action, doing whatever seems right to you.
Then watch as God works both your good decisions and your bad decisions out for good.
I was grieving inside. My life over the past few days had been dominated by distraction. I wasn’t reading the Bible as I should, I wasn’t listening to worship music, I wasn’t ‘doing the stuff’ necessary for spiritual growth.
I was afraid.
Afraid of backsliding. Afraid of falling away. Afraid of going back to distractions.
I had spent five years away from grace, forgetting who I was in Christ, time away from what I knew of His Presence, wasted time focused on video games and not much else.
I didn’t want to go back.
I pleaded with God, “Lord, I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to backslide. I’m not doing the things I need to do to grow. I’m scared.”
I saw a circle around me, the Trinity. I saw myself surrounded in a love embrace. I saw myself in a dark room. When I would back away in fear, God’s presence was there.
“Beloved, you can’t get away from me. When you back away from me, you will back right into me. When you run away, you will run right into my arms. When you go, I will follow. I am always here, and will always be with you.”
I put on some worship music and just cried and cried. I was still afraid, but a little less afraid. I knew He wasn’t lying, but I was still grieved. I wasn’t in sin, but I was still worried about distraction.
I went to sleep that night still bothered. Surely God was with me, but if so, why was I having a hard time concentrating on what mattered (the Bible) and an easier time concentrating on what didn’t matter (fiction novels)?
This week has really had the theme of ‘perfect love casts out fear’, as my recent post mentioned. I could be a case study with regards to how God’s love ‘turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror’ (1 John 4:18 AMPC), as, for some reason, fear has been a dominating factor in my life for years and years.
Though a lot of my Big Fears have been taken care of through experience with God being faithful (fears such as dying early, or Really Bad Things happening to my kids), a lot of little niggling fears have plagued my life and stolen my joy for far too long.
Most often, the fear of man has been the ‘joy thief’. What will this person say? What did his/her facial expression mean? What does my boss think of me? Am I in danger of getting fired? Am I in trouble? The list goes on and on. You name a fear, I’ve probably dealt with it in one form or another.
Recently, Holy Spirit has been dealing with me to deal with ‘the little foxes that ruin the vineyards’ (SoS 2:15). In this case, the ‘little fears’ are what is messing up the vineyard of my heart–the Secret Place where I meet with God inside. These ‘little foxes’ distract me from the presence of God and cause me to focus on things that will never happen, or really don’t matter.
So what can be done about the little fears–not the Big Fears that keep you awake at night, but the little ones that pester you like sand gnats on the beach?
Yesterday, the question came to me,
“What if I wasn’t afraid of that?”
This clicked in my spirit.
I asked the question over and over. Someone looked at me funny: “What if I wasn’t afraid of them?” Passing people in the hall: “What if I wasn’t afraid of them?” Someone says ‘hi’ on the elevator: “What if I wasn’t afraid of them?”
And on it went.
And you know what? It’s helping. I’m realizing that I don’t have to be afraid of anything or anyone. That’s important. It helps me become more bold and less timid, something that looks great at work or anywhere.
Fearless ambassadors of Christ–that’s what the world needs.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18. The more we tangibly experience God’s love, the less we fear. I’ll handle this scripture both in context and out of context, because this principle is true both ways.
First, in context: ‘Fear has to do with punishment.’ If we expect the other shoe to drop, if we expect God to harshly discipline us, if we expect bad things from a good Father, then we have reason to fear. Why? Because we don’t believe that God is really good. We expect him to punish us harshly (not gently) if we do wrong, or even cast us into hell if we really, really screw up. This is not the God expressed in human flesh in Christ. Everything Christ did while walking the earth was bathed in grace and love, even his corrective discipline.
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.
Romans 5:1. We have peace with God. We are not at war with him, we are not at odds with him, we do not have to be afraid of God. We have peace with him ‘because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.’ What has Jesus done? He has torn the veil apart between man and God forever. He has permanently united us with him. We have been co-crucified, co-buried, co-raised, and co-seated in Christ. We are new (kainos, new in kind and quality) creations in Him.
We have no need to fear God. Therefore we can experience his love deeply, tangibly.
The second application of this verse is out of context, as a general principle, but it works out in a similar fashion. ‘Perfect love casts out fear.’ If we understand, really understand, God’s love, fear dissipates over time. We watch as God supernaturally works circumstances out. We watch him rescue us from ourselves and from other people. We watch as the bad is worked out for good. And we learn to believe. We learn to trust. We learn that he really does love us, love that is complete and everlasting. And fear, over time, just goes away. ‘God worked that out, so this will work out too.’ And our faith (our simple trust) becomes stronger.
I sat in the prayer room for a long time, back in the Dark Days, back in the Dry Times before I understood grace.
This song, Jesus, You’re Beautiful, by Jon Thurlow, was one of the songs that I remember from those times. Recently, some friends of mine sang it during a worship session and ‘redeemed’ the song in my mind.
I know that your eyes are like flames of fire
I know that your head is white as wool
I know that your voice, it sounds like waters
Jesus, you’re beautiful
On the way home, I reflected upon the Dark Days, where I would sing songs like this and attempt to think heavenly thoughts. We were to develop ‘holy imaginations’, reflecting on passages that described God, such as in Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation. I don’t know if it ever worked for me. I tended to get distracted easily back then.
In the middle of my remembering, I had a conversation with Jesus that went something like this:
You know, I’m honored when you talk about my physical appearance, but I much prefer talking about me in you.
I felt the presence of God inside, a strong sense of Jesus-being-within.
I don’t mind people talking about what I look like, but it distracts from the experience of having me stand up inside them, ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’ It’s easy to become obsessed with seeing me in my physical form, but I want people to realize that I am right there, inside, through the Holy Spirit.
The focus changed. I still sang the song to myself, but it was no longer about a Person, distant and far away, on a Throne somewhere else in the cosmos.
Intellectual Christianity was tried and failed. The world was not changed and instead became bitter and hardened at these moral people with words but no power.
Mystic Christianity is the only real Christianity. True experience with God cannot be faked or replicated. All the world is looking for the sons of God. The sons of God are the mystics who have encountered God.