Monday, March 14, 2011

Beauty in the Ashes

Please know there is no pride in the following statement: God has given me a heart that easily forgives. Perhaps it is because I myself have been forgiven so very much, but I can honestly sit here and say(or rather type) that there is no unforgiveness toward another in my heart. While forgiving others is not difficult for me, understanding and accepting the forgiveness Jesus has shown me another thing entirely.

For the longest time I would sin, ask for forgiveness, know that I was forgiven-but still feel incredible and guilt and separation from God. I always thought that when I stumbled and then asked for forgiveness I had to start back at square one with God and start our relationship all over again. Not true.

Right now I am reading what could possibly be the best book I have ever read. "Deep unto Deep" by Dana Candler takes the reader on a journey into a more int imitate relationship with their Beloved. A few days ago, Dana discussed the topic of forgiveness and completely changed my view of God's grace to His bride.

"I am set free by the blood of Jesus, and I can bring nothing to the table to motivate the heart of God into the response of forgiveness. He desires my by His own self-replenishing love that exists within Himself, unaltered by my response(pg.96)." Let me rephrase, God forgives me because of the blood that was shed by His Son on the cross, not because of my guilt or shame or even because I asked Him too. His forgiveness is based completely in the love He has for me, not in anything I do.

How selfish have I been?! Thinking all this time that I had to do something to earn forgiveness.

This next part is the statement that shook my heart to the core: "In these crises experiences we so often allow ourselves the legal position of salvation yet deny ourselves intimacy with Him. Intimacy seems to pleasurable for what we deserve(pg. 96)." "Though we know the cross is about forgiveness of sin, we neglect its provision for Christ's intimacy with believers who still struggle with sin(pg.97)." In essence, just because I have sinned does not mean that once I repent I must start all over again in my relationship with Jesus. He desires intimacy with me, even though I still struggle. It is in my struggle that His strength is made perfect within me.

Think of the prophet Jonah. He was called to a task by God, but decided he didn't want to do it. So he ran. He chartered a ship and God caused a great storm to occur. Jonah realized this was a  consequence of his sin and wanting to save the rest of the crew, he had them throw him overboard where he was promptly swallowed by a giant fish where he stayed for three days. It was within the belly of that fish that he cried out to God. His prayer is outlined in Jonah chapter 2:

 [a]From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. 2 He said:
   “In my distress I called to the LORD,
   and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
   and you listened to my cry.
3 You hurled me into the depths,
   into the very heart of the seas,
   and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
   swept over me.
4 I said, ‘I have been banished
   from your sight;
yet I will look again
   toward your holy temple.’
5 The engulfing waters threatened me,[b]
   the deep surrounded me;
   seaweed was wrapped around my head.
6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
   the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, LORD my God,
   brought my life up from the pit.
 7 “When my life was ebbing away,
   I remembered you, LORD,
and my prayer rose to you,
   to your holy temple.
 8 “Those who cling to worthless idols
   turn away from God’s love for them.
9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
   will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
   I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’”

Jonah understood that even when we are in the depth of the pit of our sin, God still desires intimacy with us.

Candler goes on to say in her book that keeping ourselves distant from God is not only unnecessary, it is a sin and a tool of Satan. The longer that the evil one can keep us from God, the longer he has to corrupt us and keep us digging deeper into our pit of sin. Candler says, "When we do this(keep ourselves from intimacy) we agree with the lie that our weakness is greater than Jesus' work of redemption, and we stand in the way of God Himself by counting our own evaluation of our hearts higher than His(pg.97)."

I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago and we both remarked how we just wanted to 'get there' in our Christian walks. Wherever 'there' is. We wanted it. We wanted to learn all of the lessons, understand all of the truths, get rid of all of our perfection. Basically, we wanted Heaven on earth.

Dear friend, Jesus is not waiting for us to get 'there' before we come to Him. He is simply waiting for us to come. Stop reaching for your own perfection and reach for Perfection Himself.


* All quotes are courtesy of "Deep unto Deep" by Dana Candler.
* Jonah 2 verses courtesy of Bible and the NIV Bible.

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