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)

Get Ahold of Hope

There really is something worse than being poor, sick or in jail. It is living without hope. We need to get ahold of hope. The Israelite nation was delivered out of slavery in Egypt. They saw God perform great miracles, even parting the Red Sea. Yet, when they came up to the border of the Promised Land, they faltered. They had not grasped the vision of their possessing the land.

I am not going to spend my life talking about the Promised Land; I am going to go in and possess it. I have decided that I am going to have everything Jesus died for me to have. Sure, that is a big goal but Ephesians 3:20 says that God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that Gill can ask or think, ACCORDING to the power that works in Gill (emphasis added).” What is the source of energy in my life? I had better not be looking for energy from Starbucks or Red Bull or meth. My energy does not come from what I smoke, snort or shoot. I seek to be plugged into the power of Holy Spirit.

Our Christian walk cannot be just a Sunday morning ritual, fulfilling our “obligation” for an hour once a week. If we want constant victory, we need to take God out of our “emergency only” box and invite Him into our everyday lives on a minute by minute basis.

If we believe the right thing, we can live the way. God transferred all of my sin onto Jesus’s record. It was put on the MasterCard of heaven. Romans 4:8 promises, “Blessed is Gill because the Lord will by no means charge him with sin.” The more I focus on past sin the more I am drawn back to that behavior. Does a butterfly consider himself a recovering caterpillar? If I stay focused on my righteousness in Christ, victory is inevitable. The devil can’t stop me.

Have you ever had your cell phone battery go dead? When that happened to me, my wife complained, “I’ve been calling and calling but you didn’t answer.” Well, God is calling but if I am not plugged into the power of the Holy Spirit, I’m not getting the call. Is your battery down to 10% in the red and dropping? Better get to the power source. God is working in me energizing me.

I remember an incident when my wife and I were dating. I was driving a 1961 VW Bug. It had no gas gauge but it had a reserve tank so that when the main tank went dry, you flipped a lever by the accelerator to reserve and you had another 30 miles you could drive before empty. We were driving across the Bay Bridge in San Francisco when the car started to cough and stop. I told her, “We’re out of gas. I need you to flip to reserve.” Well, all she heard was “Out of gas” and she pictured traffic jams, tow trucks and huge fines. I flipped to reserve myself and on we went, but it is a reminder that we need power to keep going. Without it, the fun of serving God becomes labor.

It is not something out there that will make life better but it is what is going on inside. When I need to recharge, where am I going to go? Red Bull? Philippians 2:13 in the Message says, “Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you.” 1Cor 13:8 reminds us, “Love never fails.”

Guilt is tiring. Trying to live with religious guilt and condemnation instead of grace will wear you out. There is not enough power in guilt to get me to live right. But grace brings energy and drive. The world is trying to find the right drink, the right pill to energize. The reality is that power, energy and grace come only from God. Acts 1:8 promises God’s dunamus, His dynamite power to the believer. Embrace the Word of God and receive it.

On a recent trip we were on a number of airplanes. An airplane flies only when it has enough energy (speed) and the right attitude (flaps, wing position, etc.). God’s Word will lift you above the circumstances. Allow His Word to energize you and correct your attitude so you won’t crash and burn.

Isaiah 43:18-19 declares, “Gill must not remember the former things, and he must not consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing. It springs forth now. Doesn’t Gill know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” Get your mind off the past. Think about God’s blessing. He is doing a new thing. Thinking about the past pulls us right back there. The Israelites had a bad attitude when they faced the Promised Land. It wasn’t the Cananites or the Hivites or the Jebusites. It wasn’t something “out there”. Their attitude stunk. You will never live in the Promised Land with a bad attitude. Nelson Mandella said, “If I am thinking small, I cannot do big things.”

Who do I blame for where I am today? An abusive father? Over stressed mother? Corrupt politicians? As long as I blame others I have no power to fix it. According to Bishop TD Jakes, “If you are disciplined in your perspective you will be victorious in your outcome.”

I cannot erase failures from my past. There is no rewind button. So how do I start over? It begins by admitting my mistake and experiencing God’s forgiveness. “If only…” Yea, I know. We all have regrets. Romans 3:23 tells us we have all sinned. Through one man, Adam, sin entered the world. We were all born prone to mess up. And sometimes it seems like I will pay the consequences  for messing up for the rest of my life. We need to remember we are justified children of God. Psalm 103:12 promises, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed Gill’s transgressions from him.” Think of sin like a stain that keeps coming back, but Jesus’s blood is the eternal stain cleaner.

I love Psalm 118:6: “God is on my side.” When I get discouraged or frustrated I go back to that verse. The Israelites let their future be determined by their past. They had a slave mentality, a poor self-image, a grasshopper mentality. They wanted to go back to Egypt, because they had no positive vision for their life. They knew where they had been and they knew where they were and they didn’t like either one. But they had no vision of where they were going.

We talk about our problems way too much. We need to glance at our circumstances but stare at God. How can I overcome any bondage, addiction, or broken past? Get ahold of hope; get ahold of vision. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith gives substance to things hoped for. Faith is important, but it first must have hope to work with. Without hope, faith is aimless. With hope, faith can produce our future. In Romans 4:18 we are told the story of Abraham and how he continued to hope for the fulfillment of God’s promise even when his situation looked hopeless. Hebrews 12:2 tells us how Jesus faced crucifixion: for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.

If you have no reason to hope, still hope. If you don’t have a positive vision for your future, go to the book of hope, the Bible. Look at the Word and say, “That can happen to me.” And if you get ahold of hope it can.