Tag Archives: sanctification

Resting in God for Life

1 Jul

{While I’m reading copious amounts of books in Alaska, please enjoy these posts from the archives and random thoughts library of Life, Really.}

–Originally posted January 15, 2011–

God is so faithful.

I had a rough start to this past week. Being back from Mexico, I was confronted with all of the problems I had left behind: namely, my struggle with what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. Again, I was stressed out. It felt like there was a heavy ball of anxiety sitting right on my chest. I felt paralyzed. I had nothing that I had to do and yet didn’t feel free to do anything. I felt like I had to be productive. Like that’s what a good model citizen does – they get stuff done. But I didn’t want to get stuff done. I wanted to relax and read.

Little by little, God has been inviting me to release the responsibility I feel for my life. At first, He showed me I could let go of being responsible for my sanctification. Instead of rifling through my own soul looking for sins that I needed to work on, I could trust God to convict me of the sins that He wanted me to work on.

He then showed me I could let go of being responsible for projects at work. Even though I don’t technically have a job right now, I am helping out at the church and as such, I feel involved enough to be held responsible for things succeeding or failing. But God says that I can release those projects to Him too. It’s not me accomplishing His work – it’s Him accomplishing His work through me. I wrote these points in my journal:

1. God knows what needs to be done and when.

2. I can trust God to guide my day and to provide the wisdom, inspiration, and motivation necessary. I can even trust Him to bring to mind things I need to remember.

3. I can leave unfinished projects in God’s care – this is His work after all. He will take care of it.

4. If and when I fail, I can run to God and He will help me fix the mess. He is a gracious, patient and loving God.

Finally, God showed me that I can let go of what I have perceived to be the things I needed to be doing to live the life I want to live. I had been creating my own religious rules about how to live but God had not empowered me to live those. I constantly felt like I should be doing more than I was doing. If I bought a coffee at Starbuck’s, I felt guilty that I didn’t donate that money to charity. If I spent time reading a book, I felt guilty that I was making myself happy instead of helping someone else in need. I was constantly questioning my motives and constantly feeling condemned by what I perceived to be the selfishness of everything I did. Even the good, thoughtful things I did for others were swallowed up in the notion that they were just drops in the ocean of my own patheticness.

But praise the Lord, He has revealed the truth to me! On Thursday morning, after feeling very discouraged and fed up with life on Wednesday night, God showed me that what had started out as a good desire – wanting to live above the status quo for Christ – I had turned into an end in itself. I was trying to make myself right with God by setting a high standard for my way of life. I only succeeded in making myself miserable. Because I can’t make myself right with God!

And I don’t have to. I don’t have to procure my own salvation because of Jesus and I don’t have to make my life count because of Jesus. For the longest time, I thought that surrendering control meant conceding defeat. Resting in Christ meant that I didn’t care if my life changed – it meant I was ok if I just kept on living the typical American lifestyle. But I did care! So I couldn’t, I wouldn’t surrender. I had to make my life what I thought it should be – because if I didn’t, who would?

I am in awe at God’s perfect timing. Just totally in awe. In the past month, I read 2 books that revolutionized the way I look at my relationship with God: Walking With God by John Eldredge and Soul Craving by Joel Warne. Both authors talk about listening to God, walking through situations with God, talking to God, communing with God. I had never before realized that such an intimate two-way interaction with God was possible!

Because of that new discovery, the idea of surrendering control of my life and my expectations and desires to God makes sense. Before, I didn’t understand how I could let go of control and expect things to still happen. I mean, after all, even though God is sovereign, He is not a puppeteer. I still have to act. So how would anything change if I gave up trying to change things?

I see now that change comes out of an intimate relationship with God. As I am walking with God, talking with Him, listening to Him, inviting Him in to every area and experience of my life, I am changed. I sense His Spirit’s leading. I see doors open that I would have missed before. I find courage to do what I couldn’t in the past. This is exactly what I wanted for my life and was so desperately striving after. But now, it is God leading me. It is God doing the hard work. Joel Warne writes in his book that our relationship with God is a responsive one. He leads; we respond.

Moreover, if there is something amiss in my life, something I should abstain from or do differently, I can trust God to reveal those things to me. I don’t have to obsess over everything and continually feel guilty. This has been the biggest relief of all. I can finally put in correct perspective all of the mundane, practical, trivial details of life. I don’t have to question everything anymore! I can live everyday life in faith that when God wants to change something, when He wants to move me, He will reveal that to me. And He provides the courage and grace for obedience on top! So now, instead of asking God to show me what He wants me to do with my life, I pray:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there by any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”(Psalm 139:23).

I cannot undermine enough what a revolutionary shift in paradigm this is for me. I feel like I had been going through the motions of life in black and white but now I am rejuvenated with vigor and eagerness to engage in life in Technicolor! Because my life is what it is because of God. And I can rest in Him for wisdom, guidance, sanctification. I can trust Him to do in my life what I have been desiring – because He desires it even more than I do!!

GOD IS AWESOME!!

Unfettered Joy

21 Dec

I just took my dog Katy for a walk and as I felt the sun on my face and the cool breeze on my face, I also felt something I haven’t felt in a quite a while: unfettered joy.

As I walked along the familiar streets, watching Katy’s ears cutely bounce up and down as they do, I had complete joy. As I type these words, I still have complete joy. It’s amazing!

And I know it’s from God. I’ve been reading Walking With God by John Eldredge and it has really changed the way I think about my relationship with God. There are a lot of things I could mention but I’ll just focus on one: spending time listening to God in my quiet times. When I first became a Christian, I soaked up everything I could about the Bible. I spent hours reading and studying it. I prayed little. Over the past year, I have started praying a lot more. I pray out loud most of the time – a lot of times, I do it in the car instead of listening to the radio. I still do both of those but now I’m learning to listen. To not just tell God my side of the story but to hear Him speak directly to me. (If you want to know more, read the book.)

But this morning, as I was writing about the things the book had brought to my attention about myself, I felt myself getting anxious about spending so much time with God because I had planned on starting work at 8:00 and it was now past that time. One of the thoughts Eldredge writes in his book is looking at the fruit of a thought or action in your life – you can determine where it came from (God or Satan) by looking at what the outcome is in your life. Well, the outcome of whatever I was worrying about was anxiety – definitely from Satan. So I asked God, “Why am I always anxious when I’m spending time with you in the morning?”

This what I discovered:

“Even though I have been praying more often and being mindful of God throughout the day, I have been asking God’s blessing and strength on all the things that I have undertaken. I view my life as my responsibility – I need to make it count. I view each day that way and am stressed out as a result. I need to trust God that He will get done in my life (and every day) what He wants to get done. He is the One sanctifying me. I just need to follow His lead, cooperate with what He is doing. I had made an agreement that God wouldn’t help me so I had to do it myself. I wanted so much to be holy but felt like I continued to fail, so instead of waiting on God to help me, I forged ahead and tried to make myself holy. But here’s the great part: It’s not up to me!”

This was the little dark cloud hanging over my head that wouldn’t let me have complete joy. I still thought everything was up to me. I felt responsible for everything in my life. For making it all work. For making it count. For becoming Christ-like. But now I see that I can relax and just follow Christ’s lead. He knows what I need, better than I do. He will guide me into the areas of my life that I need to work on. I just need to rest in His finished work and in His promise that He will sanctify me.

As I am experiencing this joy, I am very thankful – thankful that God has shown me He cares about my joy, cares about my understanding of what Jesus has done for me. In this process of sanctification, He isn’t helping me – I am helping Him. He is the One doing all the work – I’m just cooperating. God is awesome.

Changing “I can’t” to “I can”

19 Nov

The title to this blog post might sound like some self-help mumbo jumbo but let me assure you it’s not. I rejoice that this is a real spiritual truth. The statement might be the same in either case but the basis behind the idea is completely different. With self-help, you chant this mantra to yourself, trying to change the way you approach life without any solid reason to expect life to be any different. Nothing guarantees things will change once you start to “look on the bright side of things.” (Optimism only gets you so far.)

But with God, this is a profound life-changing realization.

Let me explain:

This past Wednesday, I had my job interview at our church (I’m applying to work in the office). I learned that they are going to announce the open positions at the church meeting this Sunday to see if anyone else is interested and are hoping to make a decision in time for the new person to start at the beginning of the year. Which means I am going to have to keep working my current job for potentially the next month and a half.

My first reaction upon learning this was no different than my reaction when I first heard that YCS was willing to keep me on until the end of December: “I can’t handle another 2 months of this job! I need out NOW!”

In the past few weeks, I have noticed that I think this kind of thing a lot. When presented with a task that I’d rather not do, whether it be cleaning the house or making dinner, I think, “I just can’t do that right now. I don’t have the energy for it. I’m so tired.” When confronted with my own sin, and feeling like a failure yet again, I think, “I can’t be a good Christian. I can’t be loving and selfless. I’m never going to be the kind of person I want to be.”

This defeatist mentality is sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more I feel like a failure, the more I fail – because I don’t believe that I have the power to change. I am just a victim of myself. And if God doesn’t magically change me, I’m doomed to being this way the rest of my life.

But that was not the way the Apostle Paul approached things. He had the same frustration with his flesh – “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18). Paul was frustrated at his inability to do what he wanted to do, but he recognized that there was a separation between his true self and his flesh. His true self delighted in the law of God but his flesh was waging war against his spirit and making him captive to the law of sin.

I have been trapped there. The sins and failures of my flesh have been making me a captive, robbing me of my understanding of God and the gospel. I have fallen prey to the lie that it is not just my flesh committing those sins – it’s me. I am the bad person, the failure, the hopeless sinner. There is nothing good in me, period. These lies pull me down into a dark pit, the light of God’s glory and love growing continually dimmer and smaller. “Who will rescue me, liberate me, free me from this body of death?”

The glorious answer is, Christ! Christ rescues me, liberates me, frees me from myself. From my sins, my failures, and my mistakes. Moreover, He not only forgives me and wipes my slate clean, He also gives me a new spirit and a new heart, enabling me to conquer my sin and live a victorious life. Now, in Christ, I can say that I am not a constant failure. I don’t have to question my every motive and intention – because I am redeemed, I have good desires. I love God. I delight in the law of God. I am a godly woman. I am a loving person. I am selfless and sacrificing. I, the chosen and beloved, am being conformed to the image of Christ.

I learned recently that because these things are all God’s will for me, I can pray for them with authority – meaning, I can ask in prayer and believe that I have received them (James 1:5). God will not withhold His love, His patience, His wisdom from me. “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).

It has helped me immensely to see the power available to me through the Spirit because of Christ’s resurrection. His death provided salvation – His resurrection now provides the power for sanctification. Instead of being riddled with thoughts about how “I can’t” be the person I want to be, I now live in the power that I CAN change, I CAN be the person God has called me to be, I CAN live for His glory and make Him proud. I have the same power living in me that raised Christ from the dead!!

While I still believe that God doesn’t want us to feel good about ourselves apart from Christ (because we would be deceiving ourselves into thinking we don’t need a Savior), I do believe that as redeemed children of God, we are called to feel positive, hopeful and encouraged about who we are in Christ. After all, it doesn’t seem right that we should constantly loathe and despise the temple of the Holy Spirit. If God loves us as He sees us in Christ, we should love ourselves in Christ.

Christ Himself uses victory as motivation for perseverance: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Just like Christ’s triumph over evil should give us hope despite evil in the world, our new natures in Christ should give us hope despite our sinful flesh. Because we are guaranteed progress in the Christian life if we so desire it, because we have the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit aiding our efforts, we should be all the more motivated to strive after godliness and holiness.

“And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord'” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

How to: Live in a Christian Bubble

23 Apr

For tonight’s care group (which is like a Bible study for those of you who aren’t members of Grace Community Church), we walked to Baskin Robbins and got ice cream. It was yummy. (I had York Peppermint Patty).

But on the way there and back, we were supposed to talk one-on-one with other people in our group about evangelism, because that’s what last Sunday’s sermon was on. Well, to be honest, I talked to the girls about things other than evangelism because I really want to get to know them better!

When we got back to Paul and Carrie’s house where we meet, we went around the room and everyone said who they had talked to and what were their thoughts/opinions/hindrances regarding evangelism.

And the whole thing got me thinking more and more about evangelism, the reasons why Christians evangelize, what motivates us, and why I don’t evangelize really at all. I mean, I work at a non-profit youth ministry that is dedicated to teaching teens how to share their faith! We’re all about evangelism. So why am I so “bad” at it?

The first explanation (though it is by no means an excuse, and actually could make it worse that I don’t evangelize) is that I work with all Christians at a ministry. You can’t evangelize to Christians. You can talk to them about your faith, encouraging and building them up. Which is definitely a good thing! But you can’t lead someone to Christ who has already been led…

The second explanation (still not an excuse) is that beyond my co-workers and my fellow churchgoers, I don’t know anyone in Colorado. I have no unbelieving acquaintances to share the gospel with. I mean, I guess I know some people that Travis works with but wouldn’t that seem weird to call them up randomly to hang out? Even the woman I teach English to is Christian (or at least agrees with Christianity). I shared the gospel with her and it didn’t seem to be anything new.

I have been thinking about the different activities/clubs I could get involved in to meet some unbelievers. I’ve thought about playing softball with Travis’ work team. During the games isn’t the greatest time to get to know people (since you should be paying attention to flying balls and batting orders) but maybe before or after, there would be food and drinks involved and we could get to know each other? After Travis’ company Christmas party, we went over to one of his co-worker’s houses. I thought it might be the beginning of a friendship but we haven’t done anything since.

I know that I have to be more intentional. Expecting non-Christians to be intentional about forming relationships with other people is a little unrealistic, especially when even some Christians (like me) aren’t that good at it. I have even been meaning to ask some girls I work with or some girls in my care group out to coffee. When I was involved in CO, that kind of thing was routine. Going to coffee with a girl you barely knew wasn’t out of the norm. But now, it seems like it would be a little odd.

To be honest, the thing that it really comes down to is priorities. Evangelism isn’t my priority. It sounds like the sermon on Sunday talked about making evangelism a priority, which makes me interested to listen to it. I know that the Great Commission is right next to the Great Commandment in the Christian life. When we love God and are truly His followers, we will have a heart for the lost and be living our faith in such a way that people can’t help but notice the difference and that we can’t help but share.

I also know that the more I grow in my relationship with God, the more I’ll want to evangelize. But the reverse is also true–the more I evangelize, the more I will grow in my relationship with God. If I am really serious and passionate about an intimate relationship with God, evangelism will be part of my life. My Spirit wants to evangelize and share my faith–I was actually just praying about that this morning. But my fleshly desire for comfort is completely content with my life staying exactly how it is right now.

How to break out of my flesh in the evangelism area? I don’t want to do cold evangelism to people I’ll never see again and yet sometimes I feel like that is my only option if I want to share my faith at all.

Thankfully, in matters related to sanctification and evangelism and really everything about the Christian life, I don’t have to strive or worry. I can lift everything up to God and ask Him to mold me and shape me into a more Christ-like person every day.

My life is in your hands Lord. I trust that You will do what You deem best.