A House on I Can Do It Street

san-franciscoImagine with me God the Father seated on His golden throne, His feet resting comfortably on a velvet foot stool. The air is heavy with the fragrance of flowers; Hillsong music is playing quietly in the background. He looks over the side of His throne down to earth and suddenly His eyes widen in horror, His feet drop to the floor with a thunder that shakes heaven and He says with a slight edge of panic in His voice, “Jesus, My Son, come quickly. Look at what Joe just did! Did Your sacrifice cover that?!” Jesus extends a nail-scarred hand to rest gently on the Father’s shoulder, “Yes, Father, My blood covers even that.” No, that conversation just ain’t gonna happen.

If I told you some of the things of my past would you be shocked!? Perhaps. Is God shocked? Of course not. If I could look into the future and see everything I will do someday would I be shocked? Undoubtedly. Is God? No. The truth is I cannot shock God. There is nothing God can’t fix through the blood of Jesus. More than that, there is nothing He hasn’t already fixed through the cross.

There is nothing spiritual about guilt and condemnation. God does not expect a penance of beating ourselves up for a period before he will forgive us. Guilt is just unforgiveness of myself and, like unforgiveness, it keeps me chained to the past and the devil loves it. Why would I continue whipping myself when Jesus took the whip for me?

When our oldest son, our firstborn, was little we made a lot of mistakes. We used negativity to motivate and we disciplined out of anger. We basically followed what was modeled to us by our parents. Today he is bitter and angry. The choices he has made sadden me but we have asked his forgiveness and God’s forgiveness. That is something “behind” (Philippians 3:14) and I will not be chained to feeling guilty about the past I can’t change. Not forgiving myself would be destructive to my destiny. I could not be a light of God’s love if I remained under a burden of guilt for every sin and failure of my life.

I was burdened by guilt and condemnation for many years after I became a Christian. Then I read a verse that changed my life: Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” The key is to repent and let go. 1John 1:9 promises, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Once we confess, once we repent, they’re gone. Why would I keep holding on to them? That just sucks me back in.

I will never be who God wants me to be if I am loaded down with guilt. There is a difference between healthy grief and carrying a burden of guilt and condemnation. Sorrow for sin is normal but a burden of guilt drains my energy and my desire to grow and serve God. I will be held back from going where God wants me until I am willing to let go of my past.

Isaiah 43:25 promises, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Why am I still talking to God about things He has forgotten. Am I waiting for God to do something in my life? He has already done all He is going to do. Now it is up to me. I can’t change yesterday but I can change today and changes made today will change my tomorrows.

When our children were small we would load them in a backpack and hike with them. Problem was as they got older, they were darn heavy. So often I carry around a sack of guilt. I may put it down for a while when I go to church, shove it under the seat in front of me but after the closing prayer I pick it up again and carry it out with me. I may feel energized to carry that burden more easily for the moment but it is still there. It weighs me down and soon I am stumbling and shuffling under the unbearable weight again. That is the time I need to remember Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Ever feel like you can never do anything right and please God? Romans 5:20 promises, “Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.” Grace is the empowerment from the Holy Spirit to overcome sin.

When Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees strikes out, do you think he comes off the field saying, “I’m such a loser. I can’t do anything right.” Or is he saying, “OK, I’ll do better next time. What do I need to change? I better be out for batting practice early tomorrow.” He is not dwelling on the past; he is focused on the future and that focus makes him an overcomer. Forward focused. When I sin I need to be asking: What was the trigger? What do I need to be doing differently? Every failure can become a launching pad to growth.

Guilt starts as a thought, becomes a feeling and we too often live by our feelings. When I live by what I know is true and not my feelings, my feelings will eventually change to line up with truth. All problems can be traced back to the way I think. That is why the Bible talks so much about our thoughts: Be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2), As a man thinks in his heart so is he (Proverbs 23:7), Bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2Corinthians 10:5). Meditating on the word of God will change my thinking, change my feelings and ultimately change my life.

Romans 6:2 declares I died to sin. Yet sin seems to be alive and well, screaming at me every day. Here is the difference: The new me does not want to sin. Sin has been taken care of. I am a new creation (2Corinthians 5:17). I have a new heart to replace a stony heart (Ezekiel 36:26). I am the temple of the Holy Spirit (1Corinthians 6:19). Is God giving me a license to sin? No! (You wouldn’t be reading this if you were looking for an excuse to sin.) God sees my heart. I have a new heart, a new desire to please God.

Jesus was my substitute in taking sin to the cross. All sin was taken care of. I don’t need to pay for it because Jesus paid for it.  In God’s eyes that was me on the cross. That is not, “I hope so, maybe it’s so, I wish it were so.” It is a fact. My name is written in heaven. Romans 6:3 promises that I can live in newness of life. That comes from knowing who I am in Christ.

What do I think are God’s expectations of me? God is not as hard to get along with as I may think. Matthew 5:48 says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Whoa, that’s a pretty high standard, impossible in reality. I can get discouraged pretty quickly trying to live to that standard, but the Amplified Bible gives a fuller picture, defining perfect as “growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity.” Life is not about having arrived but about growing. It is time to leave the city of regret which includes thought like, “I should have…” “I shouldn’t have…” “I did it again!” “I should know better.” “I’m never going to change.”

I died with Christ and now I live with Him.  The closer I am to God the more strength I will have to do the right thing and reject the wrong thing. When I fail, I repent, recognize that I have more growing to do in that area and keep moving. I don’t need to fear sin because it can’t conquer me.

According to 1John 2:1, if I should sin I have an advocate, a lawyer, someone on my side. When our son was killed, we hired a lawyer to help with the insurance settlement. He was the one on our side though all negotiations.  That is who Jesus is for me before the Father. He was the atoning sacrifice.

Hebrews 12:1 describes a cloud of witnesses that are cheering us on in this race. That is my son, my mom, the child we lost to miscarriage.  You may finish reading today and make a nasty comment to someone or dwell on a selfish thought, and the devil is right in your face saying, “How can you do that when you just came from church! You are never going to change!” “Devil, shut up. I am growing.” Hebrew 9:12 (NIV) says, “He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.” The work of redemption is complete. That promise is not just for Billy Graham or your pastor or Roy the gal in the next row at church. It’s for you!  Every stain removed. We have been set free.

Let’s start building that house on I Can Do It Street. Here are some construction materials to use:

  • I am a friend of God. (John 15:15)
  • God is on my side. (Psalm 118:6)
  • God lives inside me. (1Corinthians 3:16)
  • I have been made alive with Christ. (Ephesians 2:5)
  • Nothing can separate me from God’s love. (Romans 8:35-37, 39)
  • I am more than a conqueror in Christ. (Romans 8:37)
  • I am a new creation. (1Corinthians 5:17)
  • I am the righteousness of God in Christ. (1Corinthians 5:21)
  • I am free of condemnation because I am in Christ. (Romans 8:1)
  • The Father loves me as much as He loves Jesus. (John 17:23)

Fresh Start

Sunset streakI love mornings: the chill of the morning air before the heat of the day, the brilliant oranges and yellows of the sunrise, the promise each new day holds. Despite the disappointments and failures of yesterday, today I can start fresh. I think God is a morning person. Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV) says, “The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” A new day means a fresh start.

Jesus is in the business of giving people a fresh start. He encountered many people during His ministry. It wasn’t the religious people who got a fresh start. It was the woman caught in adultery (John 8). It was Peter who declared himself a sinful man (Luke 5:8). It was Zacchaeus who was a despised tax collector but turned around (Luke 19). It was the criminal crucified next to Him on Calvary (Luke 23). The apostle Peter says, “Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life, and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven” (1 Peter 1:3-4 MSG).

2Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV): “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

“If anyone” means no limitations, no one is excluded. “Is in Christ” says the only requirement for God to erase my past and make me new is for me to come to Jesus, to accept him as Lord of my life. “Everything that we have – right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start – comes from God by way of Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:30 MSG) We reach the point of frustration and despair where we cry out, “Oh God, something’s gotta change.” That’s right; the something is me.

Each of us is composed of spirit, soul and body. Our spirit is our connection to God. Before salvation our spirit was corrupted by the stain of sin. When we are born again, as it says in Colossians 1:13, we were rescued out of kingdom of darkness. It’s like an On/Off switch: We were in darkness, now we are in the kingdom of God. Our body, which is our flesh, on the other hand, will not be changed until the last trumpet sounds. Until then we will experience conflict between spirit and body. Our soul (that’s our mind, will and emotions) is caught in a tug-of-war between our spirits wanting to do God’s will and our bodies wanting to satisfy fleshly desires. Romans 8:5 (GNTD) says, “Those who live as their human nature tells them to, have their minds controlled by what human nature wants. Those who live as the Spirit tells them to, have their minds controlled by what the Spirit wants.” We continue to experience condemnation if we continue to walk according to the flesh.

1John 1:9 (NKJV) promises, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God is not surprised, disgusted or caught off guard. When David hit Goliath with that stone, Goliath was heard to say as he fell, “I didn’t see that coming.” (Not really) God won’t say that. He cleanses not just what society considers minor, not just the misdemeanors. He takes it all. “Faithful” – He is true to His word; I can depend on it. “Just” – how is that just? Because Jesus paid the price. Jesus stepped between me and the judgment of God.

2Corinthians 5:17 (Phillips): “For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether—the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new.”

I am cleansed. It is like getting out of the shower after a sweaty day’s work; refreshed, renewed. Romans 6:4 GNTD “By our baptism, then, we were buried with him and shared his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live a new life.” I am never going to be good enough to get into heaven because it’s perfect and I have never been perfect. It is Christ’s goodness in me that makes me acceptable.

The devil is definitely not a morning person. His is a kingdom of darkness. The devil, when he has us down, keeps piling on: late fees, interest, penalties. God has something different for us. Matthew 11:28-30 promises that His yoke is easy, His burden is light. Colossians 3:10 challenges us to “put on the new man created in righteousness and holiness.”

The real cause of depression is not where we are, but our attitude about where we find ourselves. That’s why the devil wants to make you feel like you’re worthless and rejected. Philippians 4:4 encourages us to “rejoice in the Lord always.” When we’re focused on God, rejoicing in Him, depression has no place in us. So the next time the enemy tries to make you feel low or sad, choose to rejoice in the Lord.

2Corinthians 5:17 (NLT): “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

New life has begun! Get off the bench! In Matthew 4, when Jesus called Peter and Andrew, they “at once they left their nets.” When he called James and John, “immediately they left the boat.” It’s time to turn the page and get on with life. Being in a perpetual state of whining and negativism gets me nowhere. I am not what I used to be. I am a new creation.

We allow setbacks and failures to enslave us. Listen to Isaiah 43:18-19a (NIV): “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. I am doing a new thing. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Don’t think about the past, it’s over. God is more interested in my future than in my past.

I am 67 years old. Do I have 67 years of experience? Not necessarily. How many times has it been the same experience repeated over and over? The more time I spend regretting my past, the more of my future is wasted. I set myself up for more failure by focusing on past failures, because what I focus on tends to reproduce in my life. Recognize that real success is built on failure. Look at Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers or Alexander Graham Bell. The life of each one was characterized by failure after failure until breakthrough occurred.

Maybe we think if we feel guilty enough, we will earn a fresh start. If we dwell on our mistakes long enough, better things will happen. Feeling bad about myself is not enough. A fresh start is not found in a new job or a new location or new spouse. Our fresh start comes in living as a new creation.

2Corinthians 5:17 (God’s Word): “Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence.”

To make a fresh start, I need to stop making excuses and blaming others. Proverbs 28:13 (Living Bible) “A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance.” I have a choice how I will respond to hurt, rejection, failure, disappointment. It’s easy to blame a father who wasn’t home, a teacher who didn’t care, a spouse who cheated, a drinking buddy who didn’t know when to stop. In reality, nothing will change until I take responsibility for my life. God confronted Adam for his disobedience and Adam said, “It was the woman You gave me.” In that he was blaming both Eve and God in one short sentence. We live in a culture that loves to shift the blame, pass the buck. We blame the government, our parents, the schools, the stars. “I’d better check my horoscope to see if I should go out of the house today.” Benjamin Franklin wrote, “He who is good at making excuses is seldom good at anything else.”

A fresh start means a totally new direction. If I were given a fresh start but didn’t change my thinking, I would just mess everything up all over again. God isn’t interested in redecorating; He is after radical change, new construction. He will take the wrecking ball to the strongholds we have constructed and start anew. A fresh start is a whole new person. Jesus takes the whole mess that described my life and makes it right.

The Bible does not say, “You shall read this book…” It doesn’t say, “You shall listen to this book…” It says, “You shall meditate on this book…” (Joshua 1:8) Good intentions are not enough. If we maintain the same thoughts, the same actions, the same habits we will end up right back in the same place. That happens enough times and hopelessness sets in. 1Corinthians 13 (NLT), the “love” chapter concludes with verse 13: “Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.” If the devil tried to take my faith, I would say, “No, I’m standing strong.” If he tried to take my love, I’d say, “Devil, that belongs to me.” But the devil tries to take my hope and I tend to say, “I guess that’s the way life is.”

We call ourselves people of faith. More importantly we need to be people of hope. Can I give you hope? Can God give you hope? He has given us the book of hope. Our responsibility is to meditated on His Word until hope takes hold of our soul. I won’t let the devil steal my faith. I won’t let the devil steal my love. It is just as important that I don’t let him steal my hope. It’s time to get ahold of hope. I can change. My life can be different. I am a new creation.

Cinderella had it easy because she had a fairy godmother with a magic wand. “Bibbidi bobbidi boo” and she could see the changes: a new dress, a new hairdo, a new carriage. I don’t look new but God says I am. By faith, it’s time to live it.

2Corinthians 5:17 (Cotton Patch): “Therefore, if a man is a Christian, he is a brand new creation. The old guy is gone: Look, a new man has appeared.”