Does life ever feel like a scene from the movie, Groundhog’s Day? Experiencing the same annoying or disappointing situation(s) over and over again?
That was (and sometimes is) my life; fraught with mistakes and misjudgments because I leaned on my own understanding, tried to manage dating relationships apart from biblical principles, or used my love for words and eloquent speech to hurt others when offended or put out.
The Apostle Paul seemed to suffer from the same malady:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do. (Romans 7:15)
I would cry out to God, feeling like a hypocrite. Confused as to how I could start my day in prayer and worship, but completely lose my temper before the kid’s left for school.
As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (Romans 7: 17-18)
My Christian walk was like one big fig leaf. I prayed that the world wouldn’t see my “privates”. My private wavering faith. My private disappointment in God’s seemingly slow hand. My private resistance to forgive and release. My private privates that I could only hope that the God that never sleeps may have possibly blinked- just that one time.
Do you have a day you wished God had blinked?
For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Romans 7:19)
Years ago, my New Years’ resolution was simply not to repeat the same mistake. New mistakes? Okay, but not the same, old, running in circles type of existence. Like many of my New Year’s resolutions, I broke that one too.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. (Romans 7:21-23)
I questioned my salvation. How could I say that I loved Jesus and continue to make the same mistakes, swim in the same pool of sin?
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)
Indeed! Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Christ Jesus.
In a tearful moment of repent, I confessed my love as I had done many times before. I expressed my frustration and personal disdain for my lack of self-restraint, my perceived weaknesses, and my critical heart. My refrain: I love You, Lord. I’m so sorry.
Holy Spirit whispered this in my heart: It’s not your love for Me that sustains you. It’s your ability to receive My love for you that will sustain you.
Jesus’ love is death defying (2 Timothy 1:10). Jesus’ love is an all-consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). Jesus’ love is transformative (2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus’ love is a force (Romans 8:38-39.
Our love, well– Our love for others (one’s child(ren) excluded- most times) tends to be conditional. It fluctuates. We’ve made love a feeling when it should be a decision.
I think most people would say that they know God loves them. But it’s a head knowledge, not a heart experience. We have an intellectual understanding of it- like Algebra. Jesus wants us to own His love, to live in it. That’s our power, our kryptonite against all that threatens our peace.
OUR ABILITY TO RESIST SIN, RELEASE HURT AND ABANDON THE PAST RESTS IN OUR ABILITY TO RECEIVE GOD’S LOVE.
In the Bible, Peter swore that he would never leave Jesus. He openly and adamantly vowed his commitment and faithfulness to Jesus. (Matthew 26:35) Peter demonstrated his willingness to fight, maybe even kill for his Lord. (John 18:10) But then things got hot. The “situation” got real. And the one who boasted of his love for the Savior would deny knowing Him three times with cussing and swearing. (Matthew 26:73-75) To make matters worse, Jesus saw it all. I bet Peter wished Jesus had blinked.
And then there’s John. I love John. In his account of Jesus’ ministry John refers to himself as “the one whom Jesus loved.” (John 19:26; John 21:7; 20) We see him resting on Jesus at the last supper, like a small child with a parent; soaking in the Lord (John 13:23). And when things got hot, John was there (John 19:26). The one who boasted of Jesus’ love was able to withstand the heat.
John supernaturally escaped the attempts on his life. He would later pen the book of Revelation- the very last book of the Bible- which promises a blessing to whom ever reads it (Revelation 1:3). John, the one whom Jesus loved, is the only disciple who died peacefully of old age*. This is a good place to Selah.
My love for Christ- your love for Christ – is not enough to steady the heart. Professing your beliefs to neighbors and co-workers isn’t what strengthens your will. Boasting of our affection for Him does not renew our minds. No, it’s the boasting of His love for us that anchors the soul, keeping you from being emotionally tossed about. When we boast His love for us, we spiritually own our worth and value in the Father’s eyes. Our thinking is elevated and our resolve has roots. When we boast as being “the one whom Jesus loves”, like John, our life is protected and our days are peaceful.
One of the first songs that a child learns in Children’s Church is Jesus Loves Me. Typically sung off key with staccato flare, they are boasting of what matters. They are subconsciously tilling their hearts to receive, embrace and experience the death-defying, all consuming, transformative love; the sustaining kind of love. Who knew?
Have two more minutes? Use them to watch Little Miss Sophia singing Jesus Loves Me. Too Cute!
Rhonda, the one whom Jesus loves
* Recorded in other historical texts: 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia; Foxes’ Book of Martyrs.
SCRIPTURES REFERENCED ABOVE
2 Timothy 1:10. …but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,
Hebrews 12:28-29. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.
2 Corinthians 5:17. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
Romans 8:38–39 ESV. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Matthew 26:35 NIV. But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.
John 18:10 NIV. 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.)
Matthew 26: 73-75 NIV. …A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away.” Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
John 13:23 ESV. One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side
John 19:26 NIV. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,”
John 21:20 NIV. Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”)
John 21:7 ESV. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.
Revelation 1:3 NIV. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.