When was the last time you were surprised and overwhelmed by the forgiveness of Jesus? Can you think of a moment where you were face to face with the darkness of your own heart and depths you are capable of reaching, only to be reminded of Jesus’ love, patience and grace again? Do you remember how it felt to experience mercy when you expected punishment? Do you remember the freedom of feeling God’s love and acceptance when you deserved to be shut out? Have you known the joy of giving that same gift to someone else? The most loving and joyful people I’ve ever met all have one thing in common: forgiveness. They know how much they have been forgiven and they love being forgiven. The folks I’m thinking of know what sin is all about, too. They were all grade A scoundrels who were chased down and doused in the mercy of God when they needed most. As a result, they love to give forgiveness to others. Jesus talked about this at the very beginning of the Sermon On The Mount. He said that the happiest people are the merciful people because they will be shown mercy. The cycle goes like this: you sin, God forgives, you are shocked and thankful for the grace because you know you’re a screwed up mess who needs all the help you can get. When the next guy sins against you, you show him grace because you’re just like him. Now a mystical thing happens where you are connected with the Lord because you’re doing His work - showing mercy and love, which makes you more aware of the mercy He gave you. If you let it, His forgiveness will make you more forgiving.
Can regular folks really know God on a deep level? I know that the answer to this question should seem like the most obvious thing ever, but strangely it’s not. Tons of people believe that you can’t really connect with God all the way unless you are some kind of pastor or missionary. People think there is a super-sized version of knowing Jesus that you can only get a hold of if you are initiated into the elite group of folks who are ‘really getting it done’ or whatever. They believe there are special words you have to know, languages you have to be able to decode and super top-secret stuff that normal folks don’t know and the problem is that they don’t know how much they don’t know.
The truth is that you (whoever you are) can get as close to God as any human being has ever been and you can do that right now, today. You can know Him just as deeply and intimately as any missionary, martyr, prophet or Apostle has ever known Him. Even if you’ve never done any of the things you think those so-called super Christians do, you can enjoy the sweetness of His fellowship. Not only that, but your connection to the Lord will be utterly unique - unlike any relationship anyone has ever had with Him. You don’t have to have a degree from a Bible school and you don’t have to have a certain number of years on the mission field. You can know Him and be close to Him in this very moment.
So, how do I know this is true? Well, in Isaiah 45, the Lord says, “I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’” There is no secret knowledge you don’t get access to. God wants to be known by you. He has encouraged you to seek Him out. He wants you to pursue Him and get to know Him. He doesn’t tell you to seek and then make Himself unfindable. You can find Him. You can know Him. The main ingredient is whether or not you want it. Do you want to know Him? Do you need Him in your life? Do you want help making it today? Do you need grace and forgiveness? Do you long for friendship with the One who made the stars? Go get it. This relationship is an all-you-can-eat buffet with doors that are always open. If you are looking for peace and joy and hope and real, full life, you’re going to find it in Him. If you are searching for God, you’re going to find Him.
When was the last time you failed? I’m not talking about a little mistake - I’m talking about a time when you really bombed. Can you think of one? If you’re anything like me, you already have a smile creeping across your face because you can easily recall the last time you really screwed up. You can still taste the sting of a moment when you weren’t enough. You are all too familiar with the sensation of failure. Some people are more afraid of that feeling than any other thing. They’d rather die than face defeat. I think people are so afraid of failure because they think that they are supposed to be good enough, clever enough, skilled enough, determined enough and just flat out be enough to make it and succeed in life; but there is a problem with this line of thinking: Jesus won’t let you get away with it. Jesus is going to make sure you fail. It may not be today or tomorrow or this year or next year, but Jesus is going to make you wind up in a place where you are staring in the mirror, looking at yourself and admitting that you don’t have what it takes. He forces us to face the fact that we are needy and weak. This goes down to the heart of the Gospel, because knowing Jesus is not about becoming a better person. Knowing Jesus is about knowing Him, period. It’s about getting closer to Jesus, and the more messed up, broken, needy and dependent you are, the more you’re going to cling to the only One who can make you whole. He breaks us down to bring us to Himself, which is where we are most whole.
How do you deal with guilt?
So I Said:
I don’t deal with guilt. Seriously, I don’t. Now, I’m not saying I never feel guilty - but I am saying that as soon as I feel the hints of guilt creeping into my head and heart, I get rid of those feelings immediately and completely. I make no concessions or allowances for those feelings. I do not meet the demands of guilty feelings. When it comes to guilt, my policy is the same as the government: I do not negotiate with terrorists.
I think what we may be dealing with in this question is a confusion between an emotion we feel and a legal reality. Sometimes you feel ashamed of yourself. This is an awful emotion both to experience and to remember. Sometimes you feel ashamed of yourself because you did something wrong, and yet at other times you can feel ashamed or defiled when you can’t even really pinpoint anything you did wrong. Now, here’s the really important thing: shame is a feeling and guilt is a legal reality. Guilt has to do with where you stand - your legal status.
We have all sinned a million, kabillion times, but Jesus has paid for our guilt and shame by dying in our place. He substituted His innocence for our guilt, offering us a new status and a chance to be free of all our shame forever. If you have believed in Jesus, your status has officially and eternally changed. You are not guilty, period. That means that the shameful feelings associated with guilt and the demands those feelings make on your heart need to take a hike right now. Jesus took away all your guilt and shame forever. You stand before Almighty God guiltless, clean, righteous and free.
So, whatever you do, don’t make deals with guilt. Don’t allow a little of it here and there. Don’t deal with guilt at all. Punch it in the mouth. Arrest it. Break up with it. Laugh at it. Kill it with the truth of Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice and your own eternal guiltless status! You are not guilty. You are free.
At some point today, you’re going to have the feeling that you suck. You’ll feel accused, ashamed, embarrassed or alone. You’ll feel that everyone else belongs and that for some reason, you don’t. It won’t quite be an audible voice whispering in your ear, but it’ll be close to that. There will be a subtle hint running through your brain during this day, trying to creep its way down into your heart that says you are not good enough and you know it.
The thing is, you have enemies. I know this is going to sound weird and more than just a little sci-fi, but it’s true. These enemies are invisible, silent and capable of catastrophic damage. They are like really evil ninjas. They sneak in, suggest horrible things to your mind and then leave without a trace while those malicious ideas replicate, mutate and mess with you to no end. The devil and his cronies are out to get you, period. They want to unsettle you, discourage you and make your faith flimsy and faulty. These enemies of yours don’t actually have any real power. They can’t affect anything true about you. They can’t undo your salvation or change the way the Lord feels about you. They can’t erase your eternal inheritance or make Jesus love you less. The only thing they can affect is the way you see all this true stuff. They want you to believe that none of it is true.
So what are you supposed to do? How are you going to combat a force of deadly spiritual ninjas bent on your demise and lead by the devil himself? Well, it’s kinda simple, really. Treat them like you would any other bully. Get right up in Satan’s face and tell that old snake in no uncertain terms that you just don’t care about his stuff anymore. Tell him that everything he says is either a lie or old news and that you’ve moved on. My favorite new thing to say to the enemy and his minions is, “So what? You say I’m not good enough? No kidding, man. Everyone knows that. Who cares? You say I’m a big fat sinner? No joke! That’s old news, dude. Are you still on that? Dang, man - change the channel! Get a new song. You say I suck? I say, big deal. Jesus loves me anyway. Go talk to someone who cares. Your stuff is tired and I’ve moved on. You should too.”
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” - James 4:7
Do you know that feeling where someone has something against you? No matter what you do, there’s something in between you and this person and you just can’t connect. I hate that feeling. Maybe you know what it is they’re upset about and then again, maybe it’s just a nebulous cloud that’s impossible to define. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do when someone has something against you, and it’s easy to feel like you’re being punished with no way out. I know a lot of people who think their relationship with God is like that. They feel distant from Him because they are convinced that He’s disappointed in them. They think He’s hanging on to a detailed history of all their sins, shaking His holy head in disbelief from His throne in Heaven. Have you ever felt far away from God because you believed all your unrighteousness stands in between you and Him like an unscalable mountain? In 1 John 2, we find out that even when we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father - that means that Jesus speaks up for us on our behalf, vouching for us and having our back. He goes on to say that Jesus is the “atoning sacrifice for our sins.” That word ‘atone’ literally means to satisfy God’s holy requirements. In other words, God is not disappointed in you because Jesus has satisfied every expectation. Jesus stood in your place and has you covered. God is perfectly satisfied with who you are, right now, today. You don’t have to clean up, act straight or make promises. There is nothing between you and God. You get to go to Him in righteousness and be as close as you want.
God promised us he has a plan for our life.(Jeremiah 29:11) Does it mean that we just stay here and wait for his plan happen? Should we be aggressively or passively waiting for his guidance?
So I Said:
Hey Mandy! Glad to hear from you.
Annoyingly, the answer to your question is a ‘both this and that’ type of answer. As Christians, we both wait for the Lord patiently and aggressively pursue Him. There are things He promises to give us that will come later and we have to trust Him until those things come, but this waiting in faith is not passive. The whole time we’re waiting on Him to provide for us, we should be running after Him, seeking a deeper and more personal walk with Him with everything we’ve got. Sometimes the Lord allows us to go through dry spells of not getting what we want for the specific purpose of taking us to a place where we need Him so desperately that we’ll respond by drawing closer to Him. The main thing He wants is to be close to us.
The verse you referenced in Jeremiah is a very interesting example. People always quote that verse (because in it the Lord promises to give His people a future and a hope - not to harm them but to prosper them) but most people don’t look at the context of that verse at all.
Here comes the context: God’s people had been invaded by the Babylonians and the entire nation was being carted off to Babylon as captive slaves. Jeremiah was a prophet speaking God’s words on His behalf telling people not to resist captivity, but to go on to Babylon. He was telling them that this thing they feared would certainly happen, but that wasn’t the end of the story. He was telling them to go ahead to Babylon, live, work, set up a life there. God would be there for them. He had plans for them and a future, but hard times were indeed ahead.
God has amazing things for you too. He may have tough times ahead, but everything He has planned for you is for your absolute best. I know you’ve already been through some difficult and devastating times, but the Lord loves you and He knows what He’s doing. There may be things He’s calling you to do right now. If you know He’s calling you to follow in really specific ways, aggressively follow in those areas. If there are uncertain things ahead, wait patiently for what the Lord is doing, but pursue Him with all your heart. Put the pedal to the floor on getting closer to Jesus. Seek Him everyday. Love Him with all you’ve got. The future may be hard right around the corner, but if you’re holding onto Him, you’ll make it through anything that comes.