Leave It at the Cross

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“You were never meant to carry this beyond the cross.” – MercyMe, Dear Younger Me

This line strikes home for me every time I hear it. Because I look back at things that I know I shouldn’t have carried beyond the cross and see the pain it brought and the problems it caused.

I think to some extent all of us have things that we try to carry beyond the cross.

We talk about turning things over to Jesus. We nod confidently and agree there is nothing that He can’t carry for us.

But still there are things we try to carry ourselves.  We plant our feet firmly, heave it up on our shoulders, and trudge forward, one laborious step at a time.

Maybe it’s because we feel like it’s not something that’s worthy of turning over to God – it’s too trivial to bother Him with.

Or maybe it’s too ugly and we don’t want to expose it to our relationship with Him – like somehow revealing the thing (which He already knows about) will somehow taint His impression of us.

Or maybe someone has convinced us that God’s grace doesn’t quite cover that.

But Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

He didn’t say “all who labor and are heavy laden with big things.” Or “all who labor and are heavy laden unless your burden crosses this line.” He said “all.”

So no matter the size, shape, appearance, or form of your burden, bring it to Him. You were never meant to carry it beyond the cross.

Alcoholism? Bring it. Pornography? Bring it. Unwanted homosexual desires? Bring it. Bad temper? Bring it. Guilt from a painful past? Bring it. Hurt caused by someone else? Bring it. Drug problems, gambling addictions, trust issues, gossip, hate, lying, cheating, jealousy, judgmentalism – whatever form your flaw or your struggle takes…bring it to His cross.

And leave it there. Don’t carry it one step further.

When we try to carry it ourselves, bigger problems result. Struggles become addictions. Secrets become complex networks of deceit. Angry outbursts become abusive behavior. One more compulsive bet becomes financial ruin.

The scenarios are exhaustive (and exhausting!).

Trust me, carrying whatever it is ourselves and trying to keep it stuffed inside only leads to more (and deeper) hurt. I know. I’ve been there.

So make the commitment now to leave everything at the foot of the cross. Everything…and live free!

p.s. – since I mentioned it, take a listen to this song if you have time. It’s worth it.

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Commend

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“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 KJV

It’s not often I prefer the King James Version for study, or launch from it in my blog posts. I love its poetic prose and rich imagery, but versions written in today’s vernacular make it much easier for us to grasp the concepts and intentions of the text, in my opinion. (No intent to launch a firestorm with that comment – I know there are passionate opinions on both sides of the KJV fence…so I’ll move on quickly).

Something in this verse jumped out at me recently, though, and the word that struck me is one that is only used in the KJV – “commend”. Most modern day translations render the verse “God demonstrates…” (NASB, NIV, NKJV) or “God shows…” (ESV) or “God proves…” (HCSB) “…His love for us.” These are all good words. But let me spend a few minutes on why I think “commend” is so much richer.

Dictionary.com defines “commend” as “to entrust; give in charge; deliver with confidence.”

God “delivered with confidence” His love to us. Not any confidence based on our ability to carry it out. But confidence because of who He is and because of His ability and determination to carry through (see Philippians 1:6).

How should that change my life? That God would ‘entrust’ His love to me? He didn’t give it to take it back. He didn’t give it to ‘see how this works out.’ He didn’t give it with reservation or hesitation. He entrusted it to me! He ‘gave it in charge’ to me! He ‘delivered it with confidence’! He gave it with the full intent of my possessing it for eternity!

What a terrific word! How rich that one word makes this promise. How could I ever take advantage of or dismiss such a commitment?

And what freedom! Knowing that God not only offers His love but commends it – this symbolizes a commitment that allows me to live in total freedom, knowing that He has full confidence in me and my ability to possess (and share) His love.

There is no obligation or striving, because it is based completely on Him and not on me in the slightest. His faithfulness and His promise and His work in the person of Jesus Christ make it so – not my ability to earn it or to maintain some level of worthiness.

So no matter what my weaknesses, what my failings, what level of ugliness I might see in myself – God commended His love to me with no take-backs or do-overs. He demonstrated it (to tie it all back to the word used in other translations) before I ever had a chance to prove my worth.

Because our worth is in who He has determined us to be.

Let that sink in.

Let it become part of how you see yourself.

Let it become who you are.

And live free!

What Lies Within

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“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  2 Timothy 1:6-7

Each of us has a gift – a message to carry to others about what God has done for us. But often it lies dormant because we don’t make the conscious effort to stir it up and put it to use.  Fear causes us to bury it or hold it back.

Sometimes that fear is the result of guilt and shame, feeling we’re unworthy or disqualified.  

Sometimes it’s due to doubt and low self-worth, a certainty that nobody really wants to hear anything we have to contribute.

Sometimes there’s just a feeling of inadequacy, that we don’t have the skills or talents to properly deliver our message. 

And sometimes it is the fear of others – what will they think or say? Will they think less or differently of me? Will my boldness stir up anger or resentment, or blow the fragile lid off of latent bitterness and unforgiveness? Will people make assumptions about my motives?

But God does not intend for that gift to be stagnant and neutralized by fear, no matter what form it takes.  As Paul encouraged Timothy, we are also urged to “stir up the gift of God which is in” us, because “God has not given us a spirit of fear.”  Whatever the source of that fear – guilt, shame, doubt, feelings of inadequacy or inferiority, potential reactions of others – it is not from God.

So what does God give us?  

Power to live larger than our flaws and failures.  With the aid of His Holy Spirit, we have the power to blast through any barriers that will rise before us.  The power to cling to the truth of our real identity in Him, throwing off the labels and the doubts, whatever their source.

Love, the only attribute against which nothing can stand.  Hatred (including self-hatred), doubt (including self-doubt), gossip, lies, labels, accusations, unforgiveness, anger, bitterness…whatever tends to reinforce our chains – all these things eventually crumble in the face of love. Read 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 4:18. There is nothing in the universe stronger than love.

A sound mind that isn’t riddled with insecurities, hesitancy, or negative labels.  One that knows what He intends for us and steps forward in that knowledge, regardless of what the world or those negative voices inside our heads may think or say. A mind that is renewed (Romans 12:1-2) and confident (Philippians 1:6). 

This is how God intends us to live. Living out the message He has placed within.

Don’t allow your gift to lie dormant any longer. Don’t let the Enemy or anyone else convince you that you are not useful or valid. You are that and so much more – you are a vital part of God’s plan.

 

Birthright

Castles 044A whole new aspect of the term ‘born again’ occurred to me recently. Maybe it’s nothing new to you, but it was for me.

When someone is born into money or royalty, they typically don’t go around trying to prove they are worthy of their social status. Instead, they generally have this confidence about them that says they don’t have to prove anything or earn their place. There’s this inner security that it is theirs by birth, and will be theirs until the day they die. It’s often not a conscious thought, but it underlies everything they do.

When you think about it, it would be silly for a prince to go about trying to earn the right to be called a prince when he has people who wait on him hand and foot and a crowd automatically comes to attention when he enters a room.  

It would seem ridiculous for an heiress to spend her days trying to prove she’s somebody when her wardrobe knows no bounds and the mere mention of a day on the water sets in motion a personal assistant, a limo driver, and a yacht crew.

So why do we feel when we’re born into the family of God, we suddenly have to start being good enough to belong?  Like we have to earn our sonship or daughtership?  Our heavenly Father would send scores of heavenly beings to our aid if necessary, and even tells us that someday we’ll judge angels (see 1 Cor 6:3). Our status is far greater than any heir to human fortune or throne.

Look at these verses:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13 NASB)

“to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4:5, 7 NIV)

See also Romans 8:15 and Ephesians 1:5.

We’re told in these passages that God declares us to be sons (and daughters).  And so just like it would be silly for a royal heir to spend their time trying to earn their royalty, it is silly for us as children of the living God to spend our time trying to earn our place in His family.  We already have it!

Trying to earn that which we already possess is self-imposed slavery.  

We try to do good things in order to please Him. But if you’re born again He’s already pleased with you – so pleased that He calls you His daughter or son. Not a potential son, not a future daughter, but His child today. Our place in His family is secured, but not on our merits. It is secure because according to John 1:13 it’s born of God. It’s based on the promises of the One who does not lie (Titus 1:2) and does not change His mind (1 Samuel 15:29, Malachi 3:6, James 1:17).

So today, don’t go about as if you are trying to prove to the world that you deserve to be His child.  Go about knowing you are His child, and let your actions flow out of that base assumption.

What Defines You?

We are not defined by our failures, our weaknesses, our temptations, or our bad choices in life – past or present.

We are not even defined by our victories.  After all, if we get into the habit of defining ourselves by our victories, then we are just one fall away from defining ourselves by our failures, right?

As believers, we are defined by God.  That’s it.  We are who He says we are, and then comes victory.  Victory doesn’t form our definition of self … it results from it!  

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

“Then He said unto them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit” (John 15:16).

“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son” (1 Cor 1:9).

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

“…you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13).

” [you] who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation” (1 Peter 1:5).

(Emphasis mine in all references.)

Do you notice the commonality?  

Jeremiah prophesied that God had an intentional, predetermined plan for His children (directed originally toward the Israelites exiled to Babylon, this also applies to each of us as the spiritual children of Abraham – see Romans 4:9-18).

Jesus told the men He called that He would make them fishers of men, and later reminded them that He chose them, not the other way around.

Paul dealt with issues such as lust, gluttony, divisiveness in the Corinthian church.  Yet He says “God is faithful, and He called you!”

To Ephesus, Paul addressed believers who, like many at the time, were dealing with various false teachers trying to either cheapen the Gospel or intellectualize it or turn it into a form of hyper-Judaism.  He also addressed drunkenness, domestic relations, and spiritual warfare, among other things.  Yet he tells them that God gave them new life and brought them into relationship with Him.

And Peter, addressing the church in general, reminded them that it was God’s power that kept them secure.

In each instance, God is acting and believers are recipients.  He defines us.

So don’t ever forget that your identity does not rest in you.  It didn’t start with you, it isn’t enhanced or impaired by you, and it certainly isn’t secured by you or anything you do.  

Jesus did say, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15), but note that obedience is not a precondition, it is an outflowing.  

1 John 4:19 says “We love Him because He first loved us.”  So here’s the scenario: (1) He loves us and speaks our true identity into us, (2) we fall in love with Him as we come to believe, (3) obedience flows out of our love for Him.

So what have you allowed to define you?  A past mistake?  A lifestyle you came out of?  A habit you can’t break?  A weakness that continuously resurfaces?  Your church attendance?  Your ability to outperform others athletically, career-wise, academically, spiritually?  Whatever it is, throw it out.  Let your concept of who you are come from God alone.

Living In The Now

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[15] The eyes of the Lord  are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry. [16] The face of the Lord  is against those who do evil, To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. -Psalm 34:15-16

I remember a while back when I was in a time of meditation and ‘listening’ prayer, and God whispered “Psalm 34”.

I opened my Bible and began to read that passage.  When I got to the verses above, I at first kept on reading for a line or two.  Then suddenly I was struck with the realization that when I had read verses 15 and 16, my mind had automatically and imperceptibly categorized me in verse 16 because of my past.  Subconsciously, I’d read “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous…” and thought ‘that’s nice.’  Then, subconsciously again, I’d read “The face of the Lord is against those who do evil” and thought ‘okay, that’s me.’  And I moved on.  But God brought me back to it.  

And then came an even greater realization.  I am not one of “those who do evil.” I had done evil, yes.  But what I did didn’t carry over to what I do, and subsequently what I am.  This was a freedom-generating concept. God had revealed to me a deep-seated, faulty thought pattern.

It’s too easy to get caught up in what we did, and then classify ourselves as evildoers because of that dark stain on our past.  But that’s a lie of the devil and it smells like smoke, as a pastor friend of mine is fond of saying.  If you are redeemed and living in freedom and victory, you may be an evil-did-er, but you are not an evil-do-er.

God has freed us from our past.  We are renewed.  That doesn’t mean the old nature doesn’t creep in.  But it does mean that we are transformed…because He says so.  

We are “a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  

We are “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).  

It is to us that John says, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4), and Paul, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

So don’t you dare allow the devil, the world, or that incorrigible inner voice to tell you that you are an evildoer.  Verse 15 was meant for us as redeemed believers dwelling in Christ.  

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry.”

Read it again.  Let it sink in.  He is watching over you, believer.  He is our righteousness, and so we are verse 15.