Be free, my friend

I present to some and introduce to others a three-letter word, glorified and despised, ran to by some and fled from others…the notorious S-I-N. Not to spend much time explaining what sin is, I’ll save some time by giving the most basic definition. Sin is “missing the mark”, that is, missing the mark of perfection. There is no evidence in history of man being morally perfect or experiencing uninterrupted fellowship with God besides the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus never missed the mark, because he knew we would countless times. He traded places with us. He took our punishment, and gave us his righteousness (The Great Exchange, as some may label it). Either way, it is a scandal like no other.

Be that as it may, if Jesus really did exchange his constant fellowship with God for our wickedness on the cross, why do we still feel so disconnected with God? Moreover, why do we still struggle with sin? Why hasn’t sin been wiped out completely? Why do some struggle with the same sin? Could it be that Jesus didn’t die for all sins? There are so many angles of sin that I cannot attack in this one article. (I’d love to spend time on each question eventually in future posts!) However, the purpose of this post is to come alongside all that are struggling with deep shame and guilt over a particular sin. I want to first assure you of your identity (if you are in a relationship with Jesus Christ), next encourage you to find community, then pray with you that your strength be renewed.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Keep a Mirror Near

It is so easy to believe lies when we lose sight of the truth. Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). His job is to distract us from the will of God. It’s usually very subtle and particular to our sin struggles. A parent wouldn’t bribe a child with broccoli just like the enemy wouldn’t tempt us with a sin that is easy for us to walk away from. Instead, he picks at the soft spots and pulls the strings that will physically weaken us. Sounds cruel, huh? Well not to him, like stated before, it is his duty. But Jesus came “that we may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Also in John, Jesus claims that we are truly his disciples if we abide in His Word (8:31); if we abide in Him (15:4); if we love one another (15:9). Abundant life is only found in the truth, being Jesus, and that alone will set us free (8:32). It can never be more simple. Our freedom is wrapped in our growing knowledge and ongoing fellowship with Jesus.

Once we know Jesus and accept him into our hearts, we can boldly claim the two promises in Scripture that assure us of our identity.

  1. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  2. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

If these promises are found in God’s word which deems to be true from Christ himself, we no longer have to live subject to the weight of sin. SIN HAS NO DOMINION OVER OUR LIVES. As Christ was crucified, he stood in the place of all of our sins, not one was forgotten. But the greatest victory lies in the resurrection, after he took sin to death and rose with all power in his hands!

*mini praise break*

We must hide the gospel in our hearts, for it is the only pure and error-proof testament to our true identity. It’s like carrying a pocket mirror. When we need to touch-up our mascara or reapply lipgloss, we shouldn’t have to run to the bathroom every time. Likewise, we shouldn’t have to examine our instagram likes or ask our significant others to remind us of who we are! We must meditate on God’s word day and night (Psalms 1:2).

Keep a Friend Closer

We all need a friend to encourage us in God’s word when we forget its freeing impact. One of the greatest tools that the enemy uses against us during our sin struggles is isolation. If he can isolate us from our biblical community, then he can control our thoughts. Rather than dwelling in God’s grace, we sulk in our guilt. When we should be reminded of the cross, we end up replaying episodes of the sin over and over until condemnation fills our souls. The fear of being fully known stunts our relationships with others and our fellowship with our Father. Life starts to feel less enjoyable. Our salvation starts to need reassurance.

I cannot put into words how thankful I am for the body of Christ. In times of crisis, my newfound family are always around to remind me of my identity. They affirm me that I am loved, and never fail to point me back to the cross. Although vulnerability is never easy, it is always worth it. (Don’t think I am suggesting that you give every detail of your struggles. Discern what is necessary enough for you to walk in the light.) As Scripture says:

“God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do practice the truth. But if we walk in the light…we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7)

Keep the Faith

Pray this with me:

Lord, I am feeling every ounce of my sin right now.
The thought of anyone finding out haunts me.
Fear, shame and guilt dominate my thoughts. But I realize more than anything, I have sinned against you and you alone.
I am sorry, Lord.
Because of you, I will no longer be burdened by guilt and shame. Scripture declares that it was defeated at Calvary.
Satan, get behind me. You no longer have a place here.
Forgive me, Father. Thank you for sending your son, Jesus Christ, for this particular sin.
Thank you, Jesus, for drinking my cup.
Thank you, Holy Spirit, for convicting me.
Thank you, Father, that you have blotted out my transgressions from East to West. Surround me with other believers to hold me accountable.
Allow me to be fully known by those around me. Let this struggle be of help to someone else.
I love you because you first loved me.
Amen.

MUST-READ CHRISTIAN NOVELS

An updated list of great Christian books to read or at least have on your bookshelf:

(in no particular order)

  1. Boundaries, by Henry Cloud
  2. Relationships: A Mess Worth Making, by Timothy S. Lane
  3. The Joy of Fearing God, by Jerry Bridges
  4. Knowing Godby J.I. Packer
  5. The List, by Marian Jordan
  6. When No One is Looking, by Bill Hybels
  7. The Hole in Our Holiness, by Kevin DeYoung
  8. The Shack, by William P. Young
  9. Passion and Purity, by Elisabeth Elliot
  10. The Pilgrims Progress, by John Bunyan
  11. Wait and See, by Wendy Pope
  12. Goliath Must Fall, by Louie Giglio
  13. Not Yet Married, by Marshall Segal
  14. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  15. The Discipline of Grace, by Jerry Bridges
  16. Emotional Purity, by Heather Ariel Paulsen
  17. Let Me Be a Woman, by Elisabeth Elliot
  18. Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out and Lonely, by Lisa TerKeurst
  19. Adamant: Finding Truth in a Universe of Opinionsby Lisa Bevere

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I just cried at a stranger’s wedding

Are weddings not about knowing the bride and groom personally? If so, how silly is it that I went through YouTube videos of weddings and shed literal tears. It’s quite embarrassing, actually. However, I do not think my tears came from knowing the couple but from knowing the covenant to which they were becoming one.

What beautiful earthly representation of the gospel in one of the most personal and intimate forms!

There is something so sweet about the covenant of marriage. Where two become  one flesh underneath the blessing of God. The bible actually gives many references to the wedding experience, Jesus representing the groom and the Church representing the bride. As Ephesians 5:23-24 reads, “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” What beautiful earthly representation of the gospel in one of the most personal and intimate forms!

Though vows are pure expressions of love, my favorite part of each YouTube video is the husband’s reaction to the sight of their bride. For many grooms, the bride’s entrance into the church is the first time they see their girl in “the dress”. Many months of preparation; many years of dating; many hours spent pursuing…the song plays, the crowd stands and the bride finally appears. The groom stands in awe of their soulmate. One guy stated, “I felt like the luckiest man on earth.” Such humility and splendor in one moment! As tears flowed from his eyes, the bride smiled because she knew he adored her. Maybe before the wedding she doubted, but in this moment, she felt assured of his love for her.

A wedding is to celebrate with loved ones as they stand witness to the greatest of all gifts: love (1 Cor. 13:13). Though I sobbed while living vicariously through each maid of honor with my best friend as the bride, I knew my heart melted for a greater reason. God gives us this beautiful picture of marriage not for romance novels and hopeless dreaming, but to bring glory to himself! Marriage is a choice to bind to another in love through sacrifice and commitment. In the same way, Jesus Christ chose to bind to us in love through sacrificing his life and committing himself to us.

When Jesus returns, he will be waiting at the altar for his bride to arrive! As these grooms lost it at the sight of their bride, my imagination still cannot fathom my Savior’s reaction as he sees the Church standing in the glory of Our Father. The greatest sacrifice of all was at Calvary. Jesus has already proposed, how will we answer?