Core Ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Posts tagged ‘why am I so angry’

Walking Away from a Painful Past

CHAIN BREAKING“Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.”   Jean-Paul Sartre

Great books and movies may seem to make the past come alive, but it’s only in our minds. That’s because yesterday is mostly dead, lingering only in history books, museums, memories and… in the attitudes of survivors.  As a counselor, one of my most difficult tasks is helping victims realize they still have a choice: that they are not slaves to the way they were born or the failures of their parents.

That’s why I detest that popular mantra of today’s church: “I’m just a sinner, too.” It’s not only defeatist and cliche’, but it’s factually untrue.  As a follower of Christ, I am familiar with sin, but I am now a saint.  In the words of Jesus, I have been “born again” as an “overcomer.” To quote Paul, I am a “new creation in Christ, ” the old has passed away and the new has come.  Sinner, indeed!

It’s no wonder modern day believers wander dazed and confused through the swamps of discouragement and defeat.  One moment we minimize sin, behaving as though Christ made a small deposit on my righteousness on the cross, but I can easily take care of the monthly payments by simply going to church, owning a Bible, and practicing selective holiness. No sweat! The next moment, my sin is so powerful that it still defines my identity in spite of everything my Savior has done through his death and resurrection, dispatching the Spirit, establishing the church, and sending the Holy Spirit.  “I’m still just a wretched sinner!” God help us.

The Gospel is a far cry from all this spiritual psychobabble.  In fact, my sin is so grave and insidious that I cannot control it, run away from it, hide it, or make amends for it!  It is innate, deceptive, relentless, and fatal.  On the other hand, Christ’s work of liberation has not only paid off the damage inflicted on God’s system of justice, but also affords me the power to live a new life with a different identity.  I may not forget my old abuse and addictions, but I don’t have to be ruled by them.  I have experienced sin, and still know the sudden allure it can summon. But I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live.  It is Christ who lives within, and the life I now live is by faith in Jesus Christ. (Galatians 2:20)

I don’t have to be controlled by the way I was born- whether my birthright includes an inclination to lie, steal, kill, commit sexual immorality, rage against the whole world, or lie about others.  The emotions are often still there, but the shackles have been broken.  I am united with Christ, the Son of God. What’s more, I am not irrevocably chained to the way I was neglected, abused, or violated as a child.  The memories may linger, but the bonds are shattered.  I remind myself that I have crucified my past and am living with Christ in a new realm of experience.  There is truth there and power.

The transformation that always follows faith in Christ begins not with new habits, but with a new way of thinking. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)  It begins when we give up our bitter complaints and the passing of blame, and accept by faith a new identity.  DNA is not destiny: ask any identical twin.  Faith is the victory.

Lift up the Cross!


Take No Captives


Sunday’s sermon was all about forgiveness and reconciliation.  As followers of Christ, you and I are under orders to forgive first- even before the people who have offended us apologize.  In scripture, Jesus prays that the Father will forgive the people killing him and the others mocking him even though the murder and mayhem are still underway, and no one has said “I’m sorry.”  It may be proper etiquette to wait for an apology, but it’s not Christ-like.  Forgiveness is our default setting.

Saints offer grace because it was extended to us first.  We forgive first in hopes that the kindness of God will lead others to repentance.  It’s not grace with an asterisk.  It’s not “I forgive you, but…”  Like the father of the prodigal son, we have already applied forgiveness to the offenses of others long before we spot them on the horizon, running in our direction to make peace.  We have forgiven them before they utter a word.  It simply takes too much energy to live with an open wound.

After the sermon was finished, we sang that wonderful lyric from O Great God. The song begins, “O Great God of highest heaven, occupy my lowly heart.”  As we sang those words together, one single, vivid image filled my mind.

I could imagine myself inviting the Christ into my life.  “Come in, Lord, and make yourself at home.”  I could see myself guiding him through the living room, the den, and into the kitchen, even opening the refrigerator door.  Then I would show him the bedrooms and the garage.  And finally, I would take him down into the basement of my heart and show him the dungeon.

“Lord, I have to say how ashamed I am that I ever built a prison here.  But I wanted you to see that I have unlocked the door to this cell, and I have set my captives free. Lord Jesus, please occupy this dark sad place as well, and transform it to a worship center.”  That’s all I could think about on Sunday, and it’s still on my mind today.

Lift up the Cross!

Just Call Him Daddy

“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.”  -Brennan Manning

There are many reasons why the Christian Faith quickly took the world by storm and soon became the largest religion, the only one without a regional or cultural identity.  One reason is the way Jesus taught his disciples to address God “Our Father in Heaven.”  Christ set the precedent of calling God, Abba, which was the term for Daddy.  In all the centuries and all the empires leading up to the time of Christ, pagans had known their gods by many names, but never as Daddy.  Almost universally, the ancients offered sacrifices to appease the gods, not out of any sense of love or affection.  The gods cared about nations, not individuals.  And pagans never imagined themselves sitting a some divine figure’s lap; they wanted the gods off their backs.

Then Jesus broke all the rules.  He explained that the Most High God, the only true God, cares about individual men and women.  He encourages us to call upon him in prayer.  He even knows what we need before we ask.  Accepting that amazing fact, we are suddenly able to realize that God loves us so much he actually wants to hear from us.  Did you catch that?  The God who already knows everything doesn’t need to hear from us.  He wants to hear from us.

The Christian Faith is often overlooked because it values the human soul in a sensuous culture where people fixate on the shapely body.  We lurch hither and yon like those now familiar zombies from Night of the Living Dead.  Our bodies are decaying day by day, but in this materialistic culture they seem to be all we have!  We check our watches every hour and our Smart Phones every five minutes, but we never check the condition of our souls.  Here’s the rub: your soul doesn’t die but it can be twisted and tortured.  For some of us, that all happened when we were kids.

Maybe your earthly parents neglected you because of ambitions or adolescent yearnings never satisfied.  Or maybe they failed you because they, too, were so damaged they had nothing of substance to offer you.  Or maybe you suffered at the hands of some nameless adult much bigger than you; some fractured monster who made you the object of his boundless lust, his shameless violence.

Here’s one of the overlooked truths of the Gospel: when Jesus Christ comes in to take care of your sins, he also removes of the toxins from your heart, even the ones stored there by other people.  Jesus is powerful enough to help you with the rage, the shame, the guilt, the fear.  He will lead you to the Heavenly Father who may very well have nothing in common with your earthly parent- just a title.  The title may be the same, but his address is very different, and he has a different approach to parenting.

The Eternal God has the time to hear you and the power to heal you.  Recognize your “father hunger,” and run to Him.  Read Psalm 51 aloud and talk to the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God.    If you have a friend who still carries the baggage of a shameful, agonizing childhood, send him or her this link.  When the Heavenly Father embraces lost souls, he does wonders for broken hearts.

Lift  up the Cross!

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