Over the next few days/weeks, I will be posting blog posts from my old blog. A part of me wants to remember the girl before the illness, before the diagnosis. This particular piece is from June 30, 2015.
Over the last two days, my entire body has hurt.
Hurt so good.
My heart has been racing and jumping with unexplainable joy. My body is literally aching with anticipation of….I don’t know. Completely absent of my circumstances, I know this season in my life is finally over. And it sounds crazy when I say it out loud but Spring is here. The last year and a half is over. It’s really over. Nothing in my present circumstances suggest that. It’s legitimately just faith right now. And that realization made me want to ensure that I finished this race better than how I started it. About three weeks ago, I was talking with a new friend about the person I had been. The malice. The anger. The jealousy. And while she was quick to remind me that grief can make a person do some pretty stupid things, I knew that the remorse I was feeling should lead me to seek peace by making peace with the people I had hurt along the way. The fruit of righteousness. I hate the fruit of the Spirit, not because love, peace, faithfulness, joy, goodness, gentleness, patience, self-control and kindness are bad, but because of that passage in Matthew 7 that says that you will know my people by their fruit.
And we just love to throw that in the face of a sinning brother or sister.
You must not know Jesus because I don’t see how you’re changing. Sanctification needs to be present. I will pray for you.
Last year, I wielded that same sword of self-righteousness. I claimed someone could not be a follower of Christ because I didn’t see any fruit in their life. And I was chastised for it. Rightly so, as I felt the weight of those words swung back at me. We murder each other by our judgments and use Matthew 7 to justify it.
I heard once that in order to experience true sanctification, you must first grasp righteousness. I always took issue with that. If Christ is righteousness personified and sanctification is the process of becoming like Christ, how can you take hold of righteousness before being sanctified? In order to experience true sanctification, you must first grasp grace. The idea that God would love me, pursue me and send His son on the cross to die for me is something that I could not and still struggle to understand. Grace was such a foreign concept to me. I carried this continual shame from my upbringing that I was incapable of change. My sins were recorded and reread anytime I screwed up. For a long time, this brought on the constant pursuit of change in my life in spiritual life. Every bible verse I memorized, every note I wrote in church, every community group I was a part of contributed to my pursuit of sanctification. I wasn’t trying to earn salvation; I was trying to earn legitimate heart change. Sounds right, doesn’t it? Because the world tells us that we are the only ones that can change ourselves. And when it concerns behavior modification, it’s totally true. No one changes your diet or exercise habits but you. Nobody puts away the addiction to porn, drugs or alcohol but you. But heart change is different.
I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” –Romans 15:14-21
Dang, I love Paul. He was so on fire for the Gospel. What I see and have experienced in sanctification is fairly simple. Until you surrender to grace, sanctification will never be a possibility.
It was grace that propelled Paul to spread the Gospel, to be obedient to God and that led to sanctification by the Holy Spirit.
It is the Holy Spirit that changes us and there is no amount of cadence or even community that can do what the Spirit does. In the last five months, I have shared the Gospel more than I have in the last three years because it was grace that propelled me to do so. And through sharing the Gospel, through pursuing intimacy with my Creator, as I’ve faced hungry nights and losing my home, I experienced the fruits of the Spirit more than I did trying to find change in memorizing scripture or seeking community.
These things are not bad in it of themselves but they are not replacements or supplements to fill a void that God cannot fill in your heart.
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.– Romans 15:13
As this season in my life comes to a close, I have learned and continue to learn that when we are moved by grace to pursue a deeper understanding of God, we learn more about the people we are meant to become. Because we are made in His image.
God is a relational being; therefore, we are made for relationships.
God is kind; therefore, I have the capacity to be kind.
I apologize and repent because God is a God of grace.
My loneliest days are the days I forget that God has the capacity to fill me entirely. When I have spent days basking in His word, down on my knees in gratitude and submission, those are the days my relationships are healthiest. Because they become blessings from God, not something I need in spite of God. I have seen change happen in my heart not through behavior modification or even spiritual disciplines but in the continual pursuit of deep intimacy with my Father. Through dancing in the joy that comes from grace. You cannot sit in the presence of God and not change.
And when I fall, I know His mercies are new each morning. I know He covers me in grace, forgiveness and correction, not shame, condemnation and guilt. I can’t wait to see what this new season will hold.