In The Ring With Jesus

 

In looking for a photo to put this post into words, I found one featuring Ronda Rousey, a world-famous American fighter, having her hands bandaged and held by her coach.

I thought the image of a woman fighting in a ring was appropriate, because that’s how I often see myself; stubborn, angry, wanting to right wrong by ‘fighting it out’. And seeing the picture, it wasn’t just a woman being cared for by her coach. I saw my Heavenly Father’s hands covering my own with His, tenderly reassuring His love for me. But, there’s a problem – I still want to get in the ring. I want to fight and wrestle with Jesus until He blesses me the way I want to be blessed.

Heavens, who does that sound like?

“Then Jacob was left alone; and the Angel of the Lord wrestled with him until the day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against Jacob, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hit was out of joint as they wrestled… and Jacob said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”

Genesis 32:24-26

I know many Christians, myself included, struggle to grasp the relationship we have with God as our Heavenly Father. Our fathers here on earth can’t be perfect – and many are far from that ideal – so it’s difficult for us to grasp what a perfect father’s love really is. But something else I’ve always struggled with, is anger.

I have a short fuse; it’s not easy to admit, but it’s true. Sure, I’m easy going and most things slide off my back – I’m sure motherhood did that to me. But for the most part, injustice, inconveniences, and impertinent people boil my blood in seconds. And in those moments when I give in to the fury, give in to the anger rising in me, I choose to forget the peace and blessing I can have from my Father.

What prompted me to write about this was the sermon at church today. A seasoned godly man from within our fellowship spoke about the ‘mystery of Christ’, which is God Himself in us; heaven, the very presence of God, living in us. He leads us through the power of His grace, and our obedience, toward where He would have us go and the person He is growing us into. Picture the prodigal son – God, the Father, stands with arms toward us; do we also reach out in eager love to embrace Him?

My problem is this: I rely on happiness, not joy, to sustain me. Happiness depends on circumstance, whereas joy is based on the foundation of Christ. Through my struggle with mental illness, I have found it physically and mentally draining to even try to seek joy through prayer, bible reading, listening to sermons – even singing worship songs, as well as other non-spiritual things I’ve often enjoyed. In fact, almost everything I usually enjoy is tiring to me. So, I’ve found it easier to fill myself with superficial ‘joys’ – things I do that make me happy, which certainly aren’t bad in and of themselves, but realising I find more fulfillment in creative hobbies or my work than say, my time with God or with loved ones, raises a huge red flag to me.

And yes, a lot of this comes down to the neurophysiological chemistry in my brain – that is to say, not finding enjoyment in things you usually enjoy is a very common symptom for those with depression. But I’m not okay with that. I am so not okay with that. And I’m willing to fight – to fight both God and myself. Let me explain.

Imagine this in your mind. God, our Father, sitting on His throne in a great hall – the floor scattered with broken toys in front of Him. His children approach Him, one by one saying, “God, this toy is broken – give me a new one!” and with that throw their broken toy on the floor. But every once in a while, a particular child comes along who says, “Father, I broke my toy. Can you please fix it for me? Let me watch you while you fix it”. They know their Father, and they know His heart for what He’s given them.

When the time comes and we find ourselves in a tense situation: a trial, a temptation, a tragedy… God does not think so little of our worth and joy as to merely give us a new situation. No, God blesses us in the times we find most hard – even if it’s by our encouragement to others in moments of our greatest pain. God is not Santa – He won’t give us whatever we want. But He does give us whatever is most good.

And He can’t take us to the next step in our journey if we fail at one point – in order to move on, we must learn, we must grow, and most importantly, we must trust and obey. And in doing so, allow ourselves to be conformed to the image of God’s own perfect Son.

And so, I’ll keep striving towards holiness, even if it means God has to put my hip out of joint in the process. Because then I’ll know it’s by His power, His grace, that He has chosen to save me, and continues working in me even while I insist on fighting against Him at times. And, just like Jacob, I’ll be stubborn and relentless in seeking His blessing – not for the things I want, but for that which is most good for me: God Himself. For, the mystery of Christ is this: God Himself, the very presence of heaven, in us right now! And you can have this. I can have this. I just need to keep getting back into the ring; wrestling against my sin for holiness, and wrestling with God for blessing.

NOT Princes and Princesses of God, and 20 Things God Says We Are

 

I might cop quite a bit of backlash for this post – or, some well-meaning comments from wishy-washy types who think it appropriate to take words from Scripture and extend them into meanings which feed their ego. Regardless, this is a topic I feel very strongly about – not only because it’s propaganda of a false title for Christians, it takes everything Jesus lived – and died for – and spits in His face.

We are NOT royalty

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen memes, statuses and even T-shirts claiming something along the lines of “I’m a prince/princess in God’s eyes”, “I’m the daughter of a King – I’m a princess!”, “I can do all things in Christ because I am royalty” yada yada ya, you get the picture. But, is there anywhere in the bible that believers, or those who trust in God, are called such a thing? No. In fact, far from it.

It’s a nice sentiment. Royalty are a representation of everything we could want: financial stability, good reputation, status, comfort – in short, a perfect earthly life. Isn’t that nice? Isn’t that what Jesus was all about? I mean, He attended parties, hung out with his friends and family, and told us to ‘shine our light to the world’, right?

Yes, our Lord Jesus did do all of those things. But do you know what His main goal was? To take our focus off of the things of earth, and onto Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Just look at the statement: I’m a princess. What do we get from that statement? Firstly, we are the only ones it’s directed to. I’m talking about ME. Even if I join it to God somehow, the focus of the statement is still on me. Secondly, I’m stating something as truth, that something being ‘princess’ or ‘royalty’.

Thirdly, the exclusivity of this statement (as well as the screaming implication, “I’M OKAY BY MYSELF THANKS”) excludes us from God. Why? Because a Prince, or Princess, usually have everything they need, don’t they? They have health, wealth, and every possible comfort. They are the epitome of earthly indulgence and contentment, so this is what we are proclaiming when we call ourselves royalty: I am content because I am blessed and comfortable and, frankly, don’t feel a great need for a saviour. If you don’t think that’s true, have a look around you and your home. Is there a fridge with food inside? A wardrobe with clothes? Access to water and electricity? Heck, if you’re reading this, you’re at least rich enough to own a laptop/Ipad/mobile phone. That makes you wealthy. Moreover, do you know what Princes and Princesses are not famous for needing or desiring? A Saviour. And that should be very, very sobering to us when we consider how we present ourselves to the world as Christ’s ambassadors.

… But God says we are BETTER!

I’ve got good news! You’re NOT royalty, but do you know what you are? A helpless sinner in need of grace. That is the heart cry of the Christian. We are aware and convicted of our sinful nature. We don’t want to sin, and we need a Saviour: so we submit our lives, our heart and soul and mind and strength and all that we are, to Jesus Christ, who isn’t merely royalty, but divine. We believe in Him who had no sin, who died on the cross in our place, as payment for our sin on our behalf. Trusting in Christ’s sacrifice and repenting from our sin is how we become children of God. That is WAY better than being called a prince or princess.

Also, Jesus is called the Prince of Peace, and that’s right, because He is of God – we are not. “But,” you say, “we are heirs! Does that not make us royalty?”. People can be heirs without being royalty. A king can adopt a child who is not of his own, and make him a co-heir with his true son – that doesn’t make the child of the king in the same way the true son is. Jesus is God, He is divine; we are not. And we dare not risk irreverence by ignorantly implying that we are.

So, what can we call ourselves?

Here’s a list of biblical titles for Christians, as put forward to us by God Himself in His Word to you – yes, you! – you’re welcome!

  1. Sinners (Romans 3:23)
  2. Co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17)
  3. Saints (Ephesians 1:1)
  4. Chosen/elect (Ephesians 1:4)
  5. Objects of God’s pleasure (Ephesians 1:5)
  6. Slaves of Righteousness (Romans 6:18)
  7. Child of God (John 1:12)
  8. Made alive from sin (Ephesians 2:1)
  9. Friend of Jesus (John 15:14)
  10. Justified (Romans 3:24)
  11. Redeemed (Romans 3:24)
  12. Bought by God (1 Corinthians 7:23)
  13. God’s workmanship – created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10)
  14. Slaves of the gospel (Ephesians 3:7)
  15. Gifted (Ephesians 4:11)
  16. Sheep in need of a Shepherd (John 10:14)
  17. Forgiven (Colossians 1:14)
  18. Raised with Christ (Colossians 3:1)
  19. Endurers for the sake of the lost (2 Timothy 2:10)
  20. Loved by God (1 Thessalonians 1:4)

I don’t know about you, but all of these titles, which God Himself calls us, far surpass ‘princess’, which has a self-indulgent, pompous ring to it. I’d prefer to be called the friend of God any day.

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God… Put to death, therefore, anything that belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” Colossians 1:2-3, 5

On Parole From Depression – Becoming Myself Again

 

Today marks a year since I began this blog – meant originally as a way for me to use my gifts and passion for biblical interpretation and application. It has now morphed into something more – a platform on which I can also express my creativity and my heart. Being genuine is important to me, as is being transparent – and after the year that has been so far, I feel I’m finally ready to do so.

I had always resolved to write about the experience of transitioning into motherhood. Although, it’s not really a transition as much as it is a plunge into a deep, dark ocean – from which there is no return. There are others swimming up on the surface, some even enjoying the float – but they’ve been in the water for years, and many have forgotten the exhaustion and turmoil of the beginning. “It gets better!” they shout. But I can’t seem to believe it yet.

The days in hospital were a shock. The first two weeks home were hands down the hardest weeks of my life. I have never spent so many tear-filled hours on my knees in prayer: for strength and grace in droves. Even now, remembering the desperation of my aching, tired body and soul makes my hands tremble. For the first few months, Nathan cried a lot. As in, any time he was not feeding or sleeping, he was crying, day and night. I dreaded each and every day, and begged Alex to stay home longer – which he did. I had incredible support around me: Alex being the best by far. We had family and friends who would give us meals, gifts, time, kind words, and sympathy – as well as assurance that, again, this is not forever and it will get better.

PND is something that runs in my family, and having had bouts of depression as a teenager, my obstetrician, midwife and GP were all on high alert. But for the most part, I was OK – I accepted the fact that this was just going to be a hard time, simple as that. I looked forward to when, hopefully soon, I would feel like myself again, and I could relax and be happy.

It didn’t happen.

When Nathan hit around 6 months, I cracked – he was overwhelmingly needy, and I didn’t have the time or energy to be constantly holding him and playing with him. There was washing, cleaning, cooking, hanging, scrubbing, as well as my own needs, that required fulfilling on a daily basis. And there was no rest – certainly not. I struggled to even feel happy or hopeful, and started to feel the familiar weight of those mental handcuffs again.

With sincere thought about what Nathan and I both needed as individuals, as well as direction from my doctor, I conceived a plan that would give him the constant attention he craved, but also gave me the space I needed to spend time becoming whole again. I wanted to stop feeling like motherhood was a prison sentence. I wanted to stop resenting Nathan for the inconvenience that he was. I want, so desperately, to cherish, love and enjoy him, without the hindrance of depression.

Now, Nathan is 8 months old – and doing very well! And I’m doing better. I have a couple of friends who come over during the week to play with him and spend time with him for a few hours while I take care of the house, or have some free time to rest or work. I’m taking medication on the insistence from my doctor (who really had to push me, as I was apprehensive of anything interfering with breastfeeding), and having sessions with a specialist who has given me wonderful techniques to practically apply to day-to-day struggles. I’ve noticed Nathan cries a lot less, and I’ve started enjoying our time together even more than before. It’s an ongoing process. In the words of Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars Episode II, “I wish I could just wish my feelings away; but I can’t”. I can’t make myself be the perfect mother; I can only be a good enough mother by giving Nathan what he needs, being there for him, and also making sure I get what I need – so that I can be the good enough mother.

For many, having babies is a mostly wonderful experience. For others, it’s harder to feel that same bond or fulfillment. I can’t explain it, except that it’s like fighting myself to become the woman and mother God made me to be. With His help, and the support of those I love, I know and believe I can – and I look forward to being the good enough mum for Nathan, because she will be good enough for me.

What Good Thing Must I Do?

 

“Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”

Most of us are familiar with the story of the Rich Young Ruler from Matthew 19. As I read from verse 13 to 30 in my quiet time today I noticed something that I hadn’t before.

The Rich Young Ruler was working out of a framework most of us live by because, well, that’s just the way the world works most of the time. That framework is the idea that in order to receive something, we must do something to earn it. This is a good principle to keep us from being elitist and having a sense of entitlement by virtue of our existence. Working hard to earn or achieve something produces in us substance of character and fortitude. All good things.

But when it comes to the gospel, we must understand that the way things work in God’s Kingdom take the principles of the world and flip them on their heads.

The problem with the Rich Young Ruler’s question is that he is assuming that in order to attain eternal life, he must do something to earn it. And this is what many Christians today believe – but this is not the gospel!

Jesus’ response is brilliant: “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only One who is good.” The thing we get through salvation is God Himself! And God is not something we can have or achieve on our own – it is purely by God’s grace that He extends His love and relationship to us. God IS our salvation, from God Himself.

Let us not be foolish like the Rich Young Ruler, or even like the Galatians – who Paul rebuked for “turning back to those weak and miserable principles (?) Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” (Galatians 4:9).

It is by grace we have been saved, through faith – not of our own works (our own doing), so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8). Salvation is completely God’s work, completely His own predetermined election and grace, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We need only repent, turn from our sins, and believe and trust in what Jesus has done; enjoying the free grace and mercy of our Heavenly Father.

Marriage Vision Statement: Just For Marrieds? 

Recently I posted on my Facebook wall a photo of the “Marriage Vision” my husband and I had come up with. He and I have been receiving awesome feedback about it, as well as some questions as to whether and how this could be relevant outside of marriage. I believe the principles definitely can be! But before I talk about that, first let me explain what a Marriage Vision is.

As a married couple, you are joined together in a covenant of love, bound together by God as a united front. You are a team – two singles brought together to make one whole. With Christ as your foundation and hope, it is helpful to know where your marriage is headed, and what it’s going to take to get there – in other words, what is the purpose of your marriage? And how are you going to achieve that?

Props must of course go to The Generous Wife, who was the one to encourage myself and thousands of other couples to come up with a Marriage Vision. You can read more of her encouraging content here: http://www.the-generous-wife.com

This is our Marriage Vision:


The clincher in all of that is that we want to glorify God by increasingly enjoying Him and enjoying each other forever. 

So, considering the specific parameters of marriage, how can non-married Christians apply the same principles in singleness, or a dating relationship?

Glory, Fellowship and the Church for Singles

The glory of God should be the top priority of every Christian, regardless of life circumstance or season. So for the single, their ultimate goal should be glorifying God; and this is mainly done through knowing and enjoying Him in increasing measure, as you grow in godliness; ministering to other Christians (as well as being ministered to), and devotion to Christ’s church through genuine, heartfelt worship and service, using the spiritual gifts God has given you for the sole purpose of building up His bride.

Holiness, Honour, and Dating

I believe there’s also a middle ground for those who are neither single nor married – but within the context of a romantic relationship. The seeking of God’s glory becomes a hunger and thirst for holiness (as we ought to be holy as He is holy). Our romantic relationships should increase in spiritual, emotional and physical intimacy with equal measure (as appropriate), with reverence and a sincere desire to be holy. Instead of, “how far can we go?”, Christian couples should ask, “How holy can I/we be?”.

Moreover, we can honour our partner by adhering to the biblical pattern of loving headship and submission. Obviously, since you’re not married, this won’t be to the full extent – but lads can practice loving like Christ loves the church (by making sacrifices for his gal), and ladies can practice gentle submission by letting go of pride, and trusting the loving leadership of her man.

All in all, there’s no reason for any Christian to think they can’t apply the ‘principles’ found in the vision and goal of marriage to their own lives. We should continue in the hope set before us by Christ, ever prayerful and devoted to the glory of God!

The 4 Pillars of Priority for God’s Women

 

As Christian women we live not as anti-cultural, but counter-cultural – presenting to the world a completely different way of living and hoping, as we continually become more and more like Christ.

As different seasons come and go and new roles and responsibilities make their presence known, I often find myself coming back to God’s Word to refresh and refine my mind with what my priorities ought to be. It’s far too easy for me to let the world, news, and other humdrum of life carry my mind to places that distract me from my God-given callings.

So, what should our priorities be as God’s women? Particularly for young women? And where in the bible can we find such instruction for our hearts?

The two main texts I always refer to are Titus 2:4-5:

Then they (the older women) can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children,

to be self-controlled and pure, to be workers at home,

to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

and Proverbs 31:10-31:

A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

1. God and His Word

We see in Scripture that God gives honour and praise to the woman who fears Him. A woman whose dress is dignity and strength – not meaning literal clothing of course, but the way she presents herself and her character leaves an impression on others that she is strong and dignified. Her hope is in her Saviour, Jesus – so she has no fear for the future. She eagerly does good, so that she faithfully represents the Saviour she worships, and so the Word of God will not be maligned. The godly woman is obedient, gentle, kind, faithful, sensible, and a hard worker.

2. Husband and/or children, if they have them

Another priority of the godly woman, and her first ministry, is to her husband and children (if she has either). Our husbands are given to us by God as a gentle, loving servant leader who constantly directs us to Christ, as co-heirs and co-worshipers of God.Our submission to our husband is a model of the church’s submission to Christ and, ultimately, the kind of submission we bring to God in our own relationship with Him.

Just as our husbands are called to love us sacrificially, so we too must also consider the needs of our husband and children before our own. In this way we imitate Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve others – that we might have life. This service of love, hard work and faithful diligence to our husband and children will come also as a result of us seeing to the next priority.

3. The Home

The home can be many things – an unsafe, unkempt area of chaos or, as it should be, an ordered, safe, peaceful haven for the family, brought about by the willing and loving nurture of the wife/mother. Our care of the home should be taken seriously as it is a representation of ourselves, and also reflects the value we place on providing for our family. If the burden is on godly men to provide the finances the family needs, then it must also fall to us to complement our husbands work by ensuring he and our children are well fed, dressed, and kept comfortable and safe in the home.

The home is also an arena for hospitality to others in the church, family, friends, and the needy. Having a home that is safe, tidy and welcoming makes this all the more possible, and makes it a much more viable place for God to use to meet the needs of the underprivileged in our community.

4. The Church

Finally, another main priority for the godly woman is her home church. We ought to be regular attendees, not neglecting meeting with other believers to fellowship, worship and minister together. In being involved in church we also use the spiritual gifts God has given us to build up the church – this is done through teaching (other women, and children), counselling, cooking, discipling, hosting, cleaning, sharing testimonies, child-minding, administration, and other general helping. In doing so we bring glory to our God, and joy to our fellow believers.

It’s easy to guess what kind of life this would result in – a VERY busy one! To meet all of the instructions is impossible, for sure – but through prayer and a willing heart, we ought to strive all the more. If working in employment outside the home is still a plausible option that you’d like to take up, and you have not neglected the needs of your family, the needy, the home and the church, then I say go for it! Having some employment work can also be very fulfilling, as well as the God-given privilege of working as Christ’s hands and feet to our husbands, children, and communities.

I encourage you to pray this week for God to reveal His priorities for your life, where He’d like you to spend more time working, and maybe some things/places you needn’t worry about so much. Ask Him to reveal what your spiritual gifts are, and to bring up opportunities for you to serve the church and your family.

Trust and Anxiety: When Truth and Courage Triumphs over Fear

 

“Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves were swept over the boat.

But Jesus was sleeping.

The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”

Then he got up and rebuked the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this?

Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 8:23-27

Thunderous storms often come upon us without warning, much like the storm that came upon the disciples in this passage. They arrive quickly and set into action quickly, barely allowing us much time to think past the emotional reactions we feel to our circumstances. Our knee-jerk reaction, as it were, is to surrender to worry, anxiety, and sometimes fear, when it comes to changes (sometimes even the good ones) in our lives.

But even in the most unpleasant storms, we ought to do as nature does, and obey God at His Word and trust in Him. This is certainly easier said than done! But there are ways of overcoming our fears.

Turn to Jesus

Just like the disciples in the boat, our first step ought to be turning to our Lord – the only one who can save us, from anything. He alone, being God, knows everything, is all-wise, all-knowing, almighty and perfectly good. He alone has our best interests at heart, and brings about things for the good of those who love Him.

Be Bold in Prayer

God already knows what we’re going to pray for before we pray it, and He also knows our situations. If some trial has come upon you, or you’ve given in to some temptation you’ve faced – be honest before God, knowing that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and will cleanse us (1 John 1:9).

Expect God’s Work

Following the trend of boldness, be so bold as to expect God to not only hear your prayer, but answer it – because He will. The disciples in the boat didn’t ask Jesus for help, and then simply cover their eyes, fall asleep or cower in fear – they stayed well aware of the situation, anxiously watching Jesus for any sign of deliverance from their storm. Let us do likewise, and glorify our Lord by trusting in His power in all things.

Praise God, and Continue in Obedience

When you see God’s answers to prayer by the work He does in your life (whether He delivers you from your changed circumstances, or gives you the grace and strength to endure it), you will all the more want to respond with genuine thanks and praise! What a warmth to the heart it brings to see our Heavenly Father’s kindness made so evident in our lives, brought about by prayer and obedience.

I have to remind myself of these truths, daily! Our finite and sinful minds and hearts often lead to disappointing attitudes, thoughts and choices. But, with eagerness and hope, we rely on our great Father to continually conform us to the image of His glorious Son, as we await the day when we will suffer fear and anxiety no more.

I encourage you to be vigilant in prayer, heartfelt in praise and constant in your hope in Christ!

How Does our Holy High Priest Sympathise with Sin?

“Then Jesus… was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,

being tempted for forty days by the devil.

And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward,

when they had ended, He was hungry.

Luke 4:1-2

My husband read this passage for his quiet time yesterday, and in his reading of the commentary, came across a remarkable interpretation that hadn’t occurred to him before.

Our High Priest was Tempted

Jesus is our High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16), and when He was here on earth He was fully man, while still maintaining a divine nature; He did not inherit a sin nature, for He was still fully God. How, then, can He as the Holy of Holies, truly sympathise with us in our weaknesses, and our temptations, if He is without sin? How can He find sin tempting at all if He has no worldly flesh with which to constrain Him?

The answer lies in Jesus being without food or water for forty days. A miracle in itself that His body survived, this was necessary to produce in Him hunger; an experience similar to our own sinful disposition. For although it is impossible for Jesus to truly be tempted by sin, when His own body was starved and dehydrated,  His physical hunger, exhaustion and, ultimately, His desire for relief, became the closest thing He could possibly experience to having a sin nature.

Have Confidence in Your High Priest

From this, we can be greatly assured and encouraged! Jesus was tempted in every way, yet remained without sin; even in the face of unbelievable trials and hardships. The very fact that God was willing to send His son from glory into flesh, from eternity into the constraints of time, and from majestic power to flimsy human weakness, is supremely wonderful. Let us give thanks to our God who, in Christ, extends mercy to us in our sin, gives grace through forgiveness, and for our great Saviour and Friend who truly sympathises with us in our weaknesses.

Unbinding Bitterness to Refresh with Forgiveness

 

I always like to be honest and transparent across all contexts – friendships, family, as well as blog posts. I’ve had so much I wanted to write about for a while, but this takes precedence today; it is so timely for our family.

Our church is going through a rough time at the moment. There’s been division, dissension, disunity, quarreling, gossiping, anger, confusion and hurt among many brothers and sisters. Our husband and I got caught up in some of the thick of it by becoming aware of some of what had gone on. We were devastated. It grieves our hearts so much to see people we love and respect so deeply, be either the initiator or the receiver of conflict and pain.

We have our own opinions, of course – and we have had to struggle against our own pride to pray earnestly for God’s wisdom, that He may lead us in the way He wants us to go – whatever that looks like. But, all things aside, I personally have to confess my own sin, not that of others – and it’s a tough one – unforgiveness.

Blegh.

It feels gross just saying it. But, there it is – recently I have caught myself feeling hurt on behalf of others, and becoming angry about it. The events that have gone on are unjust and certainly cause for upset, but not to the point of me holding bitterness and resentment toward other Christians, for we are called to be better than that.

Because, while I may sit here and say truthfully, “but they did this/said that/did this to that person/those people! They are so hurt and devastated! How can I not be mad at them? What they did was wrong!”, it is far better for me to decrease my own voice, and to turn up the volume of Jesus’ voice instead. Because do you know what you really become, when you focus on all those things pertaining to the hurt, and the sin, and why you can’t not be upset and just move on? Do you want to know?

Self-exalting.

Woooaahh, you might think. I’m not self-exalting – if anything, I’m exalting others, because of my concern for them! No, friend – and I’ve had to spend all day preaching this to myself – your concern isn’t really with them. Your concern is with your own need to be the judge and justifier in all things.

Think about it. A lot of the stuff going on actually has nothing to do with me, and yet I’ve made it my business to be angry on behalf of those who have been hurt. Yes, what has happened is awful – and should and must be dealt with – but it is never permissible for me to put myself in the place of judge over other Christians to the point of sinning against them myself. I have in doing so just become a hypocrite.

Want to know something else? Unforgiveness isn’t just self-exalting. It’s also exceedingly thankless and selfish. Let me show you:

 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Matthew 18:21-35

Because God has shown us mercy, we must also show mercy. And let’s look again at what Jesus said at the beginning: Peter asked, “how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?”. And Jesus replied, “Seventy seven times”. And by the way, there’s no asterisk there – no loophole or clause that says, “forgive only if they’ve repented, or taken responsibility for their actions, or admitted they were wrong”. No, we offer forgiveness – with exceeding joy!! – because our own Lord and Saviour offered forgiveness for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2), while we were still dead in our own sin (Col. 2:13).

Let us instead be like Philemon, who Paul admonished to refresh him in Christ by forgiving the charge against Onesimus (Philemon verse 20). By obeying Christ at His Word, allowing Him to unbind the bitterness and unforgiveness that reigns in our hearts, we are free to refresh others, and are ourselves refreshed.

I hope this encourages you, friend – wherever you’re at. May God bless you with an abundance of wisdom to see clearly, mercy to forgive freely, and peace to love joyfully.