When you at first do not succeed, what do you do? “Try, try again?”
Or, do you slip into a self-loathing monologue?
Early in my marriage, I made a financial decision that was unwise. And, it affected us both. My husband and I worked through it, but I did not speak to him immediately when the problem arose. I wanted to solve the problem by myself. This led to lies of omission—which break down trust. Recently I was reconciling our account and discovered a missed transaction. Since it had been a month, we’d thought there was a surplus in our budget and the money had already been spent. When I caught my error, I made like Eve and grabbed my leaves. The fear and shame of making mistakes crippled me—I want to be dependable and never let people down. (but, I’m not capable of perfection. Only God is.) I was internally upset for a few days before telling my husband. When I mustered the courage to tell him (shame from the last time), he was gentle in his response.
I was sobbing and he soothingly said, “We’re on the same team.” “I’m “for” you, Tammy.” “I just want you to tell me right away.” “I love you.” “When you wait to tell me, it separates us.”
As he said these things, I had a revelation that God is also speaking this to me—and to you. He is “for” us. When we avoid Him, it separates us. Not because He is stern or upset, but because we are trying to hide something from Him. It eats us up and robs our peace and steals our joy. We don’t trust Him, and fear an unloving response.
1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (NKJV)
God knew us in our mother’s womb. He knew what we would need help with, and He’s cheering us on as we try to take steps, even if we totter and tumble. We’re trying and He’s cheering.
Confession frees us from the burden of our sin. We are not free from consequence, but the weight of shame and guilt will not be there. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Jesus told the woman, “neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Grace is not a license to keep doing wrong, but a key to the locks on our chains. We do not have to be locked in to the cycle of sin any longer!
Take heart, friends, we are being perfected and transformed to look more like our Maker every day. As long as He is our strength and perfection, then we can rest in the fact that He created us to do His good works. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)
Recently, I failed to run the entire 5k portion of my “try”athlon, but I was not a failure. I still finished. You and I are here to glorify God’s name. We may be failers, but we’re not failures, and we’re not going to give up.
You’re going to have many role models as you grow up. From your parents, teachers, family members, and friends, life will give you many examples to follow. You might even look up to musicians, pastors, or celebrities one of these days. Whoever you choose to hold in high esteem, I hope those people point you to Jesus. Above all, I hope you pattern your life after His because there is no greater person to value than the Son of God.
Besides the four Gospels, there are numerous passages in the Bible that shed light on Jesus’ example. The twelfth chapter of Romans finishes strong, offering a clear picture of how Christ followers should strive to interact with and respond to others this side of Heaven.
Here are ten ways to live like Jesus:
1. Love genuinely. (v 9)
It’s easy to love my own. I love my people, the ones I most relate to, naturally and genuinely. Love becomes a challenge, and often near-impossible, when I’m faced with those who look, believe, or sin differently than I do. It’s easier to write someone off or label them than it is to love them. So how do I demonstrate true affection when it becomes a struggle? The answer is Jesus. He loves each one of us with a deep, authentic, unfathomable kind of devotion. If I am to show this love to the ones I find hard to accept, I have to tap into His supernatural resources. I have to dip my cup into His stream of mercy until it overflows and naturally pours out of me. Walking in genuine love is possible with Christ.
2. Honor others. (v 10)
It’s been said before, Your life is not about you.” When I get wrapped up in my to-do list, I forget to really see others around me. And if I don’t notice people, I can’t reach them for Christ. Honoring others means I put my own agenda on the back burner so that God’s plan might be furthered through me. What does it mean to honor others? Maybe I go out of my way to do something unexpected and unrequested for someone, whether they’re a friend or a stranger. Perhaps I put somebody’s needs before my own. Any time I sacrifice joyfully, not for recognition or reward but because I want the light of Christ to shine, I’m magnifying my Savior. Jesus himself modeled honoring behaviors by healing, forgiving, and serving. He won many to His cause through this radical, loving actions.
3. Serve your Heavenly Father with passion. (v 11)
The passion I need in order to serve God comes from nurturing an honest personal relationship with Him. I think about my best friends and how none of them started out that way. It took time, back and forth communication, and a deep understanding of a person’s character before a deep friendship based on trust could develop. It’s no different with Jesus. When He walked the earth He got real, eating meals, forging friendships, and making memories with the disciples and other followers around Him. I have to be as intentional in cultivating a relationship with Christ as I am with my favorite people. The passion I feel for serving Jesus is a direct correlation to the amount of time I spend with Him.
4. Rejoice in hope, have patience in tribulation, and pray continually . (v 12)
Jesus set the bar high on this one. He relied on the Father’s plan, trusting that as His purpose was carried out in human form, Almighty God would raise Him back up to immortality. Christ rejoiced in knowing mankind would have fresh hope to be reconciled to God because of the cross. He stayed in close communion with his dad, often retreating to pray. Because He talked to God so much, He had the ability to display remarkable patience in the face of persecution and accusations. He willingly suffered. He possessed true joy. He did it all for me. For you. For all of creation. And because He lives in me, I claim these characteristics in the midst of my circumstances. Whatever darkness I’m confronted with, if I respond with joy, patience, and prayerful meditation, people around me will take note. They’ll see something different – they’ll see Jesus.
5. Help those in need and be hospitable. (v 13)
I’m extremely blessed to live in relative opulence. I have a roof over my head, some cash in the bank, a cozy bed to sleep in, a pantry full of food, and a little family to dote on. I haven’t been given these amenities because I deserve them or so that I can kick back and luxuriate my way through life. I know that “to whom much is given much is required.” I’m in a wonderful position to take my money, time, talents, and material wealth and pass them along to those who are lacking. I gravely sin when I hoard these blessings and refuse to open my house, wallet, food, and heart to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the orphan. Jesus walked the path of charity. He’s calling you and me to join Him – so I’m slipping on my shoes and rushing to catch up!
6. Bless your enemies. (v 14)
“Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” If ever there was an acceptable time to curse an enemy, I’d say the moment that they’re nailing your wrists and feet to a cross, piercing you with a sword, and mocking you as you die ranks pretty high on the list . I don’t get mad about a lot, but if you disrespect my Lord, I’m ready to throw down. I get angry when I read about the suffering Jesus endured at His crucifixion. Then He goes and speaks a blessing over the ones who are murdering Him, and I’m chagrined, much like Peter after he cut off the centurion’s ear in defense of Jesus. My only real enemy is Satan. My existence is reduced to petulant dramatics when I spend it dwelling on revenge. I want to live the way Jesus died – offering forgiveness even as I’m being wronged. Blessing those who may never feel anything but contempt for me and what I stand for.
7. Share in the joys and sorrows of those around you. (v 15)
Jesus wept when he heard the news of a friend’s death. He celebrated weddings and feasts with family. He had compassion. He delighted in local children. He immersed Himself in the joys and sorrows of those He loved. He’s equally invested in me. One way I want to follow Him is to entangle my life with the lives of my companions, however messy it might get. I can show up. I can laugh, cry, hug, and listen. I can encourage and even talk some sense into them when need be. I can share my junk because they’ve shared theirs too. I can link arms with these kindred spirits I’ve claimed as my own and forge through the muck towards Jesus.
8. Esteem others higher than yourself in the name of peace. (v 16-18)
But for Christ, we would all look the same to God: black hearted and full of evil darkness. It’s the second I forget about the state I was in when He rescued me that I start to walk a precarious tightrope of self-righteousness. I begin to confuse His presence, the only good thing within me, with my own disposition. I put my opinions, viewpoints, and experiences on this pedestal of self-worship. I become judge, jury, and executioner of anyone who dares to cross me. And it’s like I’ve dressed myself in the finest royal garments shipped straight from the King – oblivious to the fact that I’m actually wearing filthy, soiled rags of my own making. I’m not fooling anyone except myself. I wreak havoc on those in my wake, bruising souls and crushing spirits in the name of truth and justice. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He traded a throne for a cross. His righteousness is all I can boast in. His peace is worth calling a truce for.
9. Leave your battles in God’s hands. (v 19-20)
I cringe when I think of times in my life when I’ve let anger get the best of me and then lashed out impulsively. My heart breaks when I think about how many non-believers are turned away from saving faith by witnessing Christians duke it out amongst ourselves. When I feel justified, filled with righteous indignation, or entitled to my anger, I’m more apt to storm the battlefield without a working weapon or an exit strategy. You don’t have to be in the military to know that’s a recipe for failure. Jesus was accused of things He was innocent of. He was interrogated, beaten, and killed by spiteful, smugly moralistic men. Not once did He defend Himself or argue. Christ knew and relied on a truth that’s sometimes hard for me to accept: God is fighting my battle on my behalf. He is a formidable, undefeated opponent. If He is for me, who can be against me?
10. Overcome evil with good. (v 21)
In today’s society, evil seems to be gaining ground. At times it feels like darkness is choking out the light. I have to remind myself of one thing when I start to feel discouraged: Christ has overcome ALREADY. If I belong to Him, I’m on the winning side. Why should I live a defeated life when I share a being with His triumphant Spirit? On my own strength I can overcome little. Evil engulfs me if I try to fly solo. But I’m not alone. I’m sheltered under the umbrella of His protection. I am more than a conquerer! I have the ability through Jesus Christ to overcome the evil around me with good. I have love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control on my side. I defeat wickedness by DAILY stepping in Jesus’ footprints, letting Him guide me to loving others. It’s an arduous journey – He never said it would be easy – but it’s a trip with a greatly-desired destination…my home in Heaven.
I’m praying you’ll join me in this layover-life as I attempt to humbly honor the Father, genuinely love others, and offer everything I am to the One who makes my brokenness beautiful.
This winter has been non-typical for my region. At over 4,000 feet elevation, we’re accustomed to snow in January and February, but have instead received rain. My white vehicle, alas, does not fare well in the weather and looks dirty soon after a storm.
While filling up the tank, I washed the windshield recently. Though I took all the pollen and dust off, the windshield still looked dirty.
I took some of the brown paper towels at the pump, dipped one in the solution, and began to clean the inside of my windshield. I quickly dried with the other towels to prevent streaks. When I had finished, the view was so clear it looked like there was nothing between me and the outside!
My light brown paper towel, however, was an ugly shade of dark grey.
It occurred to me that we can be like that in our own lives. Though we appear to have it all together and polished and washed, we are still holding on to things inside that prevent us from seeing clearly.
In Matthew 23, Jesus came down pretty hard on the Pharisees who were very “spiritual”—but it was all pretentious. They wanted people to see them as great religious men, but their motives were impure and prideful.
“You are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! First wash the inside of the cup, and then the outside will become clean too.”
(and down a couple lines)
“You are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. You try to look like upright people outwardly, but inside, your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
If we don’t have our hearts right with each other, then we don’t have any room for God to work in our hearts.
If we claim to love God and yet spread hurt, negativity and bitterness to those around us, then what testimony do we have?
Wounded hearts need healing, or they will spread the woundedness.
King David, in Psalm 51, pleads from a position of remorse. He has just been confronted for his wickedness regarding Bathsheba and her husband. Starting in verse seven, he says
7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me—
now let me rejoice.
9 Don’t keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.
I believe that when we allow God to come in and cleanse us from those frustrated thoughts that pose a threat to our peace, that He restores us to Him.
When we are repentant and remorseful, we recognize that we are imperfect and are less likely to hold the imperfections of others against them. This is the first step in loving them.
I don’t want to be a painted tomb full of dead bones and impurity, but instead a beacon of hope and love. That I would be like a kerosene lamp that God is shining from and bringing light.
If the inside of the glass is dirty, the light will not be as effective.
16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
(Psalm 51:16-17 NLT)
Will you join me in offering your heart to God? He can clean our hearts from within and cause us to be filled with His love and goodness.