Redemption


You are right. I’m a mess.

I know that. I live that.

You see, I am a mess, but I choose to believe.

I believe in a big God.

I believe in a Savior

I believe in new life

I believe he can and will turn it into something more

I believe I can be changed

I believe that he can use a broken, messed up, anxious, hurting, life in huge ways

I believe that he can redeem

I believe in second chances

I believe I am not forsaken

I believe I am not lost, but am found

I believe that there is a plan for my future and my hope

I believe, and I choose, oh how I choose

I may be broken, messed up, and anxious, but

I KNOW I am saved, chosen, and anointed.

I choose Him. He already chose me.

My God is an amazing God, and I will fight for his glory.

Even if I have to limp, crawl, cry, and make a mess along the way.

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We have a problem in the church, a problem that is growing because we are not recognizing and addressing it. Our problem is we are moving away from truth and toward our own wisdom. We have taken up moralizing and psychologizing issues and not looking at our issues as a result of a distorted understanding of God where we have hold other things as idols that take the place of God in our lives.

This information is quoted from Galatians: The Law and the Gospel by Timothy J. Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, NY:

  1. Moralizing: Basic analysis: Your problems is that you are doing wrong. Repent!
    This focuses on behavior but doesn’t go deep enough. We must find out the why of our behavior. To simply tell an unhappy person (or yourself) to repent and change their behavior is insufficient, because the lack of self-control is coming from a belief that says, “Even if you live up to moral standards but don’t have this, then you are still a failure.” You must replace this belief through repentance for the one sin under it all – your particular idolatry.
  2. Psychologizing: Basic analysis: Your problem is that you don’t see that God loves you as you are. Rejoice!
    This focuses on feelings, which seem to be deeper than behavior but it also fails to go deep enough. We must also find out the why of our feelings. To simply tell an unhappy person (or yourself), “God loves you – rejoice!” is insufficient. The unhappiness is coming from a belief that says, “Even if God loves you, but you don’t have this, then you are still a failure.” You must replace this belief through repentance for the one sin under it all – your particular idolatry.
  3. The Gospel: Basic analysis: Your problem is that you are looking to something besides Christ for your happiness. Repent and rejoice!
    This confronts a person with the real sin under the sins and behind the bad feelings. Our problems is that we have given ourselves over to idols! Every idol-system is a way of our-works-salvation, and thus it keeps us “under the law.” Paul tells us that the bondage of sin is broken when we come out from under the law – when we being to believe the gospel of Christ’s-work-salvation. Only when we realize in a new way that we are righteous in Christ will the idol’s power over us be broken. “Sin shall not be your master for you are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). You will only be “under grace” and free from the controlling effects of idols to the degree that you have both repented for your idols and rested and rejoiced in the saving work and love of Christ instead.

Grace, a word and concept we don’t understand. Christ saved us by faith and grace, not by works. Grace frees us because it does not condemn and shame us, but it points us back to the work that Christ did for us. It tells us that the law will not, can not, was never meant to save us. It just shows us the contrast of what the Lord did for us and how we are liberated and free.

Moralizing and psychologizing will not save us, but the Gospel will. It is all about Christ’s work and not ours.

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to read Grace is for Sinners by Serena Woods. I say “privilege” because this autobiographical book gives a look into some very difficult aspects of Serena’s life and she presents them with grace, honesty, and humility.

Serena, although being a Christian, made some choices that did not adhere to the standards the Lord has given to us and she is transparent about the choices she made, the effects of her sin, and what the results have been in her life. Serena, while married, became involved with a married man and committed adultry. The results of her moral failures shattered her life, her relationships, and shook her faith to the core. She honestly tells about the questions she asked, the struggles she walked through, and the reactions she received from others.

This book holds some very powerful messages if people are willing to listen. For those who have made choices that led them into sin, Serena talks about coming to terms with those decisions and accepting that although she never thought she was capable of this type of sin it was now her story. For those who have faced rejection, banishment, or judgement from other Christians when they needed love, there is a message of understanding, and some direction for how someone might overcome the pain and the disillusionment. For those who want to provide safe, loving, and redemptive places for those who have been hurt or who want to be restored after sin, this book gives a fantastic glimpse of the pain and suffering someone may go through and the issues they may wrestle through in coming back to faith.

Serena is honest about the struggle she faced to accept her own sin, and to find some message of hope. She knew that she had made mistakes, but longed to set things right and to be restored to faith. The honest and authentic approach to her quest for resources, words of encouragement, and places of truth and hope provide the reader with a heartfelt understanding of her pain and desire to change.

Serena’s answer to her pain, her sin, and her quest for answer led her straight to the Word of God. Scripture became her place of truth, and strength as she looked for answers. That message above all others is the one that I believe we need to hear. She didn’t find the answers in the sinful relationship with the man she became involved with. She didn’t find the answers in the words or support of friends and family. She didn’t find the answers in books, podcasts, journaling, or attending church services. She found her answers, her hope, her path toward righteousness and restoration by turning to God’s word and learning about God in new ways. Her relationship with Him became the most important thing. She now knows that her lack of relationship and understanding of the Lord kept her from recovering, and through growing in her knowledge of God and scripture she now has a firm foundation that drives her life, her recovery, and her quest for hope and purpose. She is now a living testimony that God can redeem lives. She is now a living testimony that Grace is for Sinners, and she is developing a faith that will be immovable. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). Serena is a witness to the power of grace and its power to change lives.

I commend Serena for her honest and authentic and transparent presentation of this time in her life. She does an amazing job of sharing the hardships and pain that her own decisions led to, and how difficult it was to return. She also presents us with hope that returning from a place of devastation and rock bottom is possible.

Thank you Serena for the message of hope and the witness of the Lord’s restoration.

It truly was a privilege to hear your story, and to see God at work in your life!

Check out Serena’s blog at http://www.graceisforsinners.com/

I have been reflecting on the differences between forgiveness and reconciliation and the Biblical support for both. My heart conviction is that because I have been forgiven by the Lord I understand forgiveness. I have been reconciled to him. As he has changed and altered my life and heart I am now able and called to give forgiveness to others, offer them grace, and work toward reconciliation. With the Lord at the center of the relationship I truly believe forgiveness and reconciliation is not only possible but necessary between two believers. Many I talk to do not share this same conviction though. They feel it is okay to say “enough is enough” and walk away from a relationship. They feel it is okay to create boundaries that keep the others at bay. While I am a strong support of discipline, boundaries, and accountability I believe these are only successful when done in love and with a heart of teaching others rather than building walls.

Steve Cornell has posted a good Biblically based article on Forgiveness and Reconciliation at his blog. Check it out for the full article, but here are two lists he posts: Actions the offender needs to take, and Guidelines for the offended.

The offender:

1. Accepts full responsibility for his or her actions. (Instead of: “Since you think I’ve done something wrong…” or “If have done anything to offend you…”).
2. Accepts accountability from others.
3. Does not continue in the hurtful behavior or anything associated with it.
4. Does not have a defensive attitude about his or her being in the wrong.
5. Does not have a light attitude toward his or her hurtful behavior.
6. Does not resent doubts about his or her sincerity- nor the need to demonstrate sincerity. (Especially in cases involving repeated offenses)
7. Makes restitution wherever necessary.

For those who are hesitant to reconcile: Ten Guidelines to consider

It is common for those who have been seriously hurt to feel hesitant about reconciling with their offenders. When your offender is genuinely repentant, however, it is important to open yourself to the possibility of restoration. Remember, Jesus spoke about reconciliation with a sense of urgency (see Matthew 5:23-24). If you are hesitant to reconcile, work through the ten guidelines on the next pages.

1.     Be honest about your motives
2.     Be humble in your attitude
3.     Be prayerful about the situation
4. Be willing to admit ways you might have contributed to the problem
5.     Be honest with the offender
6.     Be objective about your hesitancy
7.     Be clear about the guidelines for restoration
8.     Be realistic about the process
9.     Be mindful of God’s control
10.  Be alert to Satan’s schemes


In addition to the twelve men who walked daily with Jesus here on earth, he also had a few friends. The closest friends were probably Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. They are mentioned in several stories in the New Testament, and the death of Lazarus shows the grief the sisters felt when their brother died.

In John 11 Jesus is told of Lazarus’s death and he goes to visit the sisters.

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” (John 11:41-44)

When Lazarus emerged from the tomb he still was wearing his grave clothes. He still was connected to what had happened to him in the past, but Christ wanted him to free, he wanted the past to be left behind so that Lazarus could have a new life.

When we become Christians we are made new. We no longer have to be tied to our past. Christ wants us to leave it behind. Many of us have not been taught that what was in the past can be completely left behind and we can let go so we can walk into a new life. We feel bound by our past, our families beliefs, the culture we live in, or just by our own ignorance and how to live as a believer who lives daily in faith. We may take steps forward and live free for a time, but we may also fall and stumble back into certain thinking or behaviors at future points in our faith because to live the new life we need to walk in it every single day. Circumstances of difficult seasons, trauma, or misunderstanding may derail us from the conviction that we have a former way of life and Christ has opened the door for a brand new way.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Are you still bound by your grave clothes? Have you let go of your former way of life, put off your old ways, and accepted that Christ has offered you something new? Do you even know how to accept his gift so that it will allow you to be unbound and free? Christ has offered to take off the grave clothes so we can have a new life, we just need to accept that. It is okay to strip off those grave clothes and be set free.

When I was in college I, like most students, took classes in different subject areas (departments) at the same time. I was a double major, but also had to meet all the prerequisites to graduate, so often I was taking four classes and was studying from 3 or 4 different subject areas at one time.

In the later part of my freshman year I learned a very valuable lesson that I have revisited several times in life. I had papers that were due in two different classes at about the same time. I was writing for both my English class and my Sociology class. Being a fairly good and very dedicated student I put my best effort into both papers and turned them in on time. A few days later I received both papers back.

Paper #1 the teacher gave me a moderate grade, told me that he felt my writing style needed work, said that I was not writing to an audience, and reflected that I did not cover my subject completely.

Paper #2 the teacher gave me a high grade, told me that my writing style was very easy to read and that I had done a great job on the paper.

Two different papers, two different subject matters. Two different answers.

The lesson I learned that day had to do with perspective. While there were different papers and different subject matters, there were also two different readers (my professors). One reader liked my style and connected with me, the other did not.

As we go through life we will find people who we connect with and others we do not, or others that we do not connect as well with/it is harder to connect with. I am learning that again as I am getting connected into a new church. At my last church I loved the people, I tried to make relationships work, and I was very committed. Just like with my paper I put forth the best effort I could at that time (which was somewhat limited since I was in a difficult season), but things didn’t click. Even today the leaders of that church speak negatively about me. Yesterday I received a message from my new pastor. In just a few words he expressed more care and acceptance to me than I have received in a very long time, “I’m grateful for your heart more than anything. It’s beautiful how he brought you into our presence. So grateful you’re with us.”

Two different churches, two different viewpoints toward God’s word. Two different answers.

I was raised in a mainline denominational church. There are many things I love about the churches I attended growing up (we moved every few years so I went to several that I remember), but there are few things that I did not learn about in that denomination: the Gospel, making a personal commitment to Christ, putting off the old self and putting on the new, and sin.

I remember in late high school or college I struggled at times to even see sin in my life because I wasn’t doing things like drinking, drugs, lying, cheating, stealing, sexual misconduct, or even dishonoring my parents. I was a “good girl”, in fact I was often ridiculed because of that. Occasionally something would come up that I would struggle with, but usually I dealt with it quickly and moved on.

Over the last couple of years I have learned a lot about sin and where it exists in my life. It isn’t in my actions, but in my underlying beliefs which then affects my actions, especially in relationships. Again, it isn’t that I am blatantly doing those top recognized sins or living in ways that oppose my Christian beliefs, but instead I doubt, fear, struggle with my beliefs, and believe things that give me a wrong starting point so every step I take from there is incorrect. It is like the bird who accidentally flies into a room through an open window and keeps banging on the closed window on the other side because it can see out, but the bird has the wrong belief that this closed window will let it free, it only needs to turn around to see the truly open window behind it.

Sin is anything that separates, divides, or leads us from God. It truly starts with our deep, underlying beliefs. It starts with our heart. I recently heard someone say that all sin starts with the first and second commandments: you shall have no other gods before me, you shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything. If we have made something else an idol or a god in our life, even if that is a belief we hold in our heart then we are walking in sin. If we think lowly of ourselves, lowly of God, or do not trust his Word then we are living in sin. If we know a truth in the Bible and are not living by it then we are living in sin.

Honestly, life was easier when I couldn’t recognize sin in my life. I could move forward and not think much about what I am doing and what the condition of my heart was. Now, I am daily seeing how far I have to go and how wrong I am. It is humbling. I am not depressed or upset about it because I know it is bringing me closer to the Lord, but it is hard. I wish repenting of the sin was as easy as just saying I wanted it to end and that I choose to turn from it. Unfortunately many of the beliefs and actions are so engrained that it takes a very long time and a lot of work to change. I can get upset at myself because I know my heart wants to change, but my flesh is so weak. My heart is heavy at times because I have such sorrow over the sin I see in my life and how much I want it to be completely and permanently gone. I take heart in 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 because it gives me hope that my sorrow and struggle have an outcome ahead that I can not see yet.

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.”

What is sin? Sin is what I do, think, and believe that doesn’t represent Christ, show him and his truth to the world, and bring redemption, hope, and promise. Sin is how I have lived and what I want to move away from. Sin is what separates me not only from God, but from you, from others, and even from myself. Today I am overwhelmed by seeing and knowing about the sin in my life and I pray that my heart does change, that my life is repentant, and that my life is transformed by the power of the Gospel of Christ.

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