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Friday, November 12, 2010

Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment

I grew up in Church.  I spent my entire life learning about God and what I thought He required of me as a follower.  I became an expert at following rules and regulations and found myself comparing the way I conducted my life to that of others.  As long as my morality exceeded the people in my sphere of influence, I believed I was in good standing with God and I experienced a sense of self-righteousness from it.  At the same time, I knew deep down in my heart I was not perfect and I needed a Savior.  I wanted to do what was right, but found myself making mistakes more often than I would have liked to admit.  I had all these highs and lows based off my moral performance.  When I did the right thing, I believed I was doing well and God was pleased with me and when I did the wrong thing, I had a cloud of condemnation hovering over me for days and weeks at a time.  In an effort to regain acceptance by God and others, I would pray and read my bible more and I would try really hard to earn God’s favor back.  The harder I tried the messier my life seemed to get…Frustrating! 

I struggled with lustful thoughts for years which would lead to an outlet of masturbation.  I felt so condemned every time I gave into this bad habit, but found myself repeating it over and over again.  When I went for periods of time without succumbing to my lustful pleasures, I felt a sense of accomplishment and God was definitely pleased with my effort.  When I messed up, I believed God was angry with me and looked for ways to punish me.  I asked for forgiveness a hundred times and never really believed I was forgiven!!  I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I knew something needed to change in my life. 

With a heart felt prayer, I asked God to help me through this trial.  The Holy Spirit began to show me several verses in the bible that began the healing process of wrong thinking. 

Ephesians 2:8-9   For it is by free grace (God's unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ's salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God;
Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law's demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.]  (Amplified)

My Christianity was based off of performance or trying, which really meant I was not trusting Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross!  I can never earn or deserve God’s grace, forgiveness, right standing and unmerited favor on the basis of my good deeds!   When I finally realized I was treating my relationship with God like this, I asked Him to forgive me and I understood a deep truth about God for the first time.  He LOVED and ACCEPTED me the way I was.  Simply by BELIEVING what He did on the Cross 2000 years ago I was totally FORGIVEN!  
Galatians 2:16  Yet we know that a man is justified or reckoned righteous and in right standing with God not by works of the Law, but [only] through faith and [absolute] reliance on and adherence to and trust in Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). [Therefore] even we [ourselves] have believed on Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the Law [for we cannot be justified by any observance of the ritual of the Law given by Moses], because by keeping legal rituals and by works no human being can ever be justified (declared righteous and put in right standing with God).

Many Christians have become experts in trying instead of BELIEVING God at His Word.  We try so hard to earn his forgiveness or approval and it has already been done for us.  We simply have to receive it by faith…BELIEVE.  This was not an easy thing for me.  My logical mind wanted to earn and strive for the things of God, but it left me frustrated and defeated.  When I began to let go of trying to figure it all out and just receive his unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness, real change started to take place in my life.  For the first time, I had real peace and joy and a deep sense of God’s pleasure toward me!  I started to look at people differently.  I wasn’t so quick to judge them or their motives because I finally realized that God didn’t do that with me.  When I deserved judgment, He extended His mercy and grace, and it made me want to do the same for others.  My relationships began changing.  Damaged relationships were restored because I started allowing others to make mistakes and not hold them “accountable” for their failures!   I showed mercy because I experienced the tangible mercy of God in my own life.

God showed me another scripture that was life changing.
Romans: 7:19-20   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.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  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.  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: 8:1   Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 

The Apostle Paul was writing to the Romans and understood his trust and acceptance were found in Jesus Christ alone and not his ability to keep a bunch of rules and regulations.  Jesus Christ set us free from having to live up to a law we could never keep. 

God didn’t expect me to live this life perfectly, but to trust Him to complete the good work He began in me.  My response was to be open to His leading as He highlighted areas I needed to surrender to Him.  In turn, He would change me little by little. Even when I would make a mistake and start to feel a condemning cloud come over me, I would hear the Holy Spirit whisper to me,

“You are forgiven!  It isn’t by your strength, but by my power that you are set free.  Cory, get back up, dust yourself off, and keep moving in the direction I have for you!”

Wow, God is not the way I thought He was.  As He showed me His true nature, it set me free and helped me begin to change.  He is faithful to complete the good work He began in me, and He can do the same for you!  Don’t be frustrated because you are not as far along the journey as you think you should be.  Rest in God and He will see you through the storms and challenges of this life and use your failures as stepping stones to your destiny.  Remember, your mess can become your ministry!  One day you will look back and be amazed at just how far God has brought you!   Do you have unforgiveness in your heart toward yourself or someone else for unrealistic expectations?  Are you comparing your morality to others and judging them for falling short?  You can be free from that by experiencing God’s unconditional love toward you.  Just receive it by faith!  Ask God to help you receive His love and acceptance and extend it to others who don’t deserve it.  Remember, we don’t deserve it either!    

James 2:13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful, MERCY TRIUMPHS OVER JUDGMENT.

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