So many people I meet with are not satisfied with where they are in life. Since I work mostly with 30 and 40-year-olds I come across heaps of people who are waiting for the magic turn of the key that will usher in the life they always wanted. Many feel that they have missed out on someone or something that should have been their destiny. Others wonder if their divine destination will ever present itself.
This waiting and wanting can be crippling. The reason for this is that it is very difficult to live inside out for God today when your eyes are set on the future or the past. Does this mean that we are not to desire good things for our life. No, it does not. The problem is when we allow our desire for the future to devalue who we are in the present. So how do we live well in the present while hoping for the future of our dreams?
David is one of the Bibles greatest examples of this. In the pages of 1st Samuel we find the story of a boy who was anointed King, but spent years developing and leading a nation before he would ever where the crown. This ability, the ability to be the person who he was called to be in the present is what set David apart. David acted like the king he was long before he ever wore the crown. Even though David understood his divine calling, he did not allow it to cloud his present.
This fresh Biblical perspective is so far removed from how I have lived much of my life. For years I have sought after a crown or a pulpit that would bring meaning and worth to me. Once reaching this plateau I believed I would then be released into my authentic life. This imaginary life was the one I wanted and longed for. It was the life that had value. It was the life where people would finally discover how important I was to God’s cosmological plan. Give me a break! Thankfully God has freed me from this delusion.
I use the word delusion, because this is what it was. The bible is clear that the vision of my life that I can imagine is a faulty and incomplete view of all that God has for me. If I spent the rest of my life thinking up my best plan for this life, I would still never come close to the glorious plan God has determined for me.
1Cor. 13:9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
1Cor. 13:12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
2Cor. 1:14 as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Eph. 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us
When we look at David, we see a king that was not defined by a crown or a thrown. David’s integrity, leadership and courage, the ways of a king, were intact long before his physical coronation. As a matter of fact, David never really needed a kingdom to confirm his calling. In God’s eyes David was a king long before he sat on Jerusalem’s throne. Instead of pining for an unattained future while wasting today, David seized the day by being the king he was called to be. May we be able to do the same.
Last Saturday, Lucy, our three-year-old and I went on a little date day to the park. After about 12,000 pushes on the swing we decided on a game of hide-and-seek. This is one of my favorite games to play with my girls. The problem is that Lucy is horrible at it.
I’m not saying that Lucy does not find great hiding spots. Sometimes I’m not sure if I could find her with three Sherpa’s and a search and rescue team, she is that good. Where Lucy fails in the game is where her sister also struggled as a toddler. Lucy just can’t keep the location of her strategic hiding spot a mystery. Literally within two seconds of me finishing the count to ten, she is either laughing or yelling, “Here I am Daddy.”
Each time Lucy did this I would coach her in the strategy of the game. She was just not getting it. My hopes in her professional hide-and-seek career were fading fast.
After about 15 rounds of hide and seek, God allowed me to see a deep spiritual truth within a child’s game. Lucy wanted to be found. As an adult I had put the emphasis on the hidden element of the game, but Lucy valued being found. Lucy valued the heart of the gospel.
Sometimes I am astounded by how my children lead me in the ways and perspectives of God. Is not the word of God a story of the lost being found? Are we not all in some way wanting to be found and truly known?
Unfortunately, the older we get, the less we want to be found. Like Adam and Eve we have created coverings for ourselves in the form of false personas based on things like power, prestige and body type. We are no longer naked and unashamed. We no longer cry out, “Here I am Daddy. Come find me. Here I am.”
The desire to hide is based in shame. In Genesis we see that Adam and Eve were no longer comfortable in their own skin. This sense of shame was appropriate for Adam and Eve. After disobeying God they were now under the curse and wrath of God. Because of their act of disobedience, everyone who would be born after them would also inherit this character trait, original sin and its corresponding shame.
This proclivity to hide in shame is the primary reason we give up the gifts and gold of our true identities for the putrid rags of false identities based on shifting worldly standards. It is in our nature to do this. The seclusion of our true naked personality is ingrained into our flesh.
This shameful desire to hide is fueled by fear. Once again, Adam and Eve had appropriate reasons to hide from their God. They were now under His judgment. Hiding then, and now its always based in that original fear.
Paradoxically, we as humans create phantom personas to create a sense of security in order to relieve this fear. The only problem with this is the greater the deception of your mask, the greater the fear and shame you experience. Does that make sense? As you increase in the proficiency of your masking it will increase fear and shame. This is due to the fact that the desire to hide was birthed from fear and shame and they cannot be separated. Neither can increase without a parallel movement of its counterpart.
I believe that this paradox is one of the reasons why we are seeing such a rise of anxiety and depression in our culture. The more our society highlights th false personas that we use to seek our identities the more we hide our true selves in their pursuit. As I said earlier, fear and shame, which lead to anxiety and depression, are the automatic fruition of this striving.
Without a strong sense of your God-given personal identity it will be nearly impossible to chart your life’s true course. Instead of living out who you know yourself to be in Christ, you will instead continue to be drawn to false idols to find your security and peace of mind.
Jesus’ death and resurrection has removed this shame and allows us to once again be found naked and unashamed. True freedom comes not only when we know who we truly are, but understand that this image which was created by God is fully accepted by Him. This is the way of the redeemed, the unashamed and the authentic self.
John 18:10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)
Why was Peter carrying a sword on the night that Jesus was betrayed? Where did he get it? Did he tell Jesus he had it or was he hiding it from him? What did he think was going to happen that he might need a sword? One thing you can be sure after reading John 18 is that he was not afraid to use it.
The other thing that intrigues me in this passage is Peter’s abrupt turn around after discovering that the plans he had for the future were obviously not Christ plans. One minute Peter is brandishing a sword in a spirit of courageous rage and the next he is calling down curses on himself to attest the fact that he never knew Jesus.
So what happened? The simple fact is that Peter had created a Christ that did not exist. Peter had done what so many of us do. Peter had picked out what he wanted of Jesus and left the rest. Peter had heard what he wanted to hear. He had chosen a sword when the way of Christ was a cup.
Luke 22:42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”
I think that this is such a powerful message for us. Peter’s courageous faith was built on a lie. When considering this passage we must ask ourselves if we have done the same thing? Are there areas in our life where we have fashioned a Christ of our own understanding? We must always remember that Jesus is who he said he is, not who we always want him to be.
When thinking about Peter’s lie, we need to keep in mind the substance of all lies. Lies are always based on the truth. It is impossible for lies to subsist apart from the truth. In contrast, truth can stand independently. In this way, truth stakes a claim of dominance over deception.
One of the primary tools of the Devil is to get us as believers to buy into an aspect of the truth but then disorganize that truth so that it becomes a lie. When Peter realized that his faith in a rebellious and conquering Jesus was unfounded his knees became weak.
The truth in Peter’s lie was that Jesus had come to establish a new kingdom. While this kingdom would one day lay claim to the temporal, it was based in the eternal and had more important matters at hand then restoring Jerusalem. This is where Peter’s understanding failed him. This is also the place where Peter lost his faith.
As a believer I constantly need to allow the Holy Spirit to search me and purify the areas in my heart and mind where my picture and hope in Jesus do not stand up to scripture. The temptation to build a Jesus of our own understanding is strong, but in the end it is really a form of an idol. Unfortunately, too many of us continue to defend these images with a sword when God is asking us to drink of his cup. May we put down our swords that we might never lose our faith.
Should a believer mourn their sin? If so, who decides the appropriate amount of regret for each sin? Is a couple hours of regret good for a small lie? Would a year cover adultery?
What I have found is that many believers I speak with feel there is an appropriate amount of mourning and or regret that needs to be experienced before a person truly repents.
The process then works like this. Let’s say you commit a transgression. After the transgression, the Holy Spirit convicts you. Once convicted you begin to feel a sense of regret. Thoughts like, “Why do I keep doing that.” Or, “When will I ever change.” might permeate your minds. The next step is going to the throne of God to ask forgiveness. Once you have done that, you are free to no longer feel bad about what you have done. Believers who continue to feel guilt, shame and regret after this are considered to be in error. They have not experienced the true freedom of Christ work on the cross. This is at least what I have understood others to mean when they explained how true repentance works.
To illustrate the point further, let’s put this in context of human relationships. When someone wrongs you, most of us want that person to feel bad about what they have done. If they don’t feel bad about it, then most of us refuse to believe they have truly repented. Many believers feel this sense of regret and condemnation is a necessary component of the restoration process.
When searching the scriptures on this topic, I came across 2 Cor. 7:10. It reads:
2Cor. 7:10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
Here, Paul makes a distinction in the type of sorrow believers are meant to experience when repenting. Paul points to the fact that believers can make a course correction without ever having to feel any sense of worldly condemnation or regret. By this he means regret that is expected under the law.
Let’s go back to the human relational component. Would you feel satisfied if the person who wronged you turned from their error, made proper amends, but never felt any guilt, shame, condemnation or regret for having wronged you? Most of us would not, but why?
Returning to the theological aspect, Edward Fisher, in The Marrow of Modern Divinity says the following, “Nothing can be allowed in the believer for the mourning of sin, unless they (choose to) mourn for it as unbelievers, as persons under the covenant of works, who doubtless are under the curse and condemnation for their sin (Gal 3:10).”
When we mourn our sins or the wrongs we commit we are denying that Jesus death on the cross has removed all of our condemnation and shame. (Romans 8:1, 36-39). When we feel any sense of regret that moves us towards shame or “feeling bad”, we have then decided to repent in the method of those yet unredeemed. You are free to do this, but I believe that the scripture makes it clear that we can move forward without this component.
The reason we want to accept regret, as a part of repentance is that we are addicted to the law. Our flesh has a lust for the old covenant. Regret on the part of the believer allows them to feel that they have done some of the work of forgiveness. Regret is a work of the flesh that let’s many believers feel that God’s forgiveness is now available to them. Instead, grace is a free gift.
Rom. 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due.
Rom. 5:15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
When the bible speaks of true freedom in Christ, this is part of what it means. We have been set free from all malice of our souls. Take a moment and think about what your life would look like if you lived in this way. If you walked in the light as He is in the light and left all sorrow, regret and condemnation behind. Let me affirm that this is available to you should you choose to receive it.
Continued next week: Repentance with Godly Sorrow