Did I just say that out loud??
Do you ever have those moments when you say something and then realize what you said after you hear it come out of your mouth? Most of the time when that happens to me, it’s not a good moment of realization. It’s usually one where I stand there in embarrassment wishing the floor would open up and suck me in.
But now and again, I have really great moments of brilliance inspired by the Holy Spirit when I say something wise, or encouraging, or with a knowledge that I KNOW didn’t come from me! I’m just not that good! That happened the other night when I was leading a discussion / book group at a transitions home for women who are coming out of poverty, homelessness and drugs. Most of these women have children. When I look into their eyes, I see such potential and such promise, yet I know they are just one bad decision away from re-entering their destructive life. So I pour out everything in me on those nights, giving my all to demonstrate the immense love of God for these broken girls, most of whom have never known safety, stability, self-discipline and real honest love.
I don’t go up to that house with a plan. I bring a book that we’re reading together that deals with using God’s Word to bring emotional healing and changing destructive thinking to positive, overcoming thinking. We take turns reading out loud until I feel like we should stop and talk about what we read. Or until one of the girls stops me and asks a question. Every single week is different from the last.
Some girls have left the program…sadly. But more have joined the house than have left. And as our group grows, so does the amount of discussion and the number of questions that I’m fielding. So I lean heavily on the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom for the simple reason that I’ve never been an addict or homeless with my children. I have first-hand experience with addiction in my family, but that’s not the same as being the user and the one who now has to pick up the pieces with children in tow.
These girls want to stay clean and sober. They want to provide a better life for their children than was handed to them. But they question if today they will be strong enough to silence the howling wolves of addiction that they still hear in the distance. Will they fail today like they did in the past? Will they let their children down again? Will they let down the director of the program who works tirelessly to advocate for them? They have lots of questions about faith, about changing their thinking, about making better choices and about God.
So on one of these nights, one of the girls tossed out a question that I hadn’t ever needed to explain before. She asked me, “If all of my sins were taken away at the cross, why do I still sin and what happens with those sins now?”
Uhboy….that question stopped me for a second. How do I explain this? And then I heard myself talking, so I tuned in to what was coming out of my mouth. I hope this makes sense, I thought to myself.
“When Jesus went to the cross, he took the punishment for ALL of your sin for ALL time. So the sins you haven’t even committed yet have been paid for. It’s like when you go to the grocery store hungry and you open a bag of potato chips and eat some while you’re shopping. When you get to the cash register, you show the half-eaten bag of chips and pay for them. Some of the chips have already been eaten and the rest will be eventually. But they get paid for all at once.
But then what do we do about the sin that we still commit? Do we throw up our hands and say, ‘Well, I guess since it’s been paid for, I can do whatever I want’? No! Because if we love God, then we don’t want to take advantage of the price He paid when He sent His Son to die for our sins.
When we sinned before we knew Christ, those sins were crimes. We were the criminals and there was a judgment on us that we deserved. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, and receive the salvation that he purchased for us through His torture and death on the cross, our judgment – our life sentence without parole – is paid for and we go free. We are criminals that are now made into royalty and brought into the family of God. The Father, who has always wanted us to be restored to Him as His beloved children, has us back.
So NOW when we sin, we’re not criminals; we’re children who are disobeying our Father. Think about a time when you yelled at one of your children and later when you calmed down, you knew that you had really blown it by lashing out at them like that. You probably apologized because you knew that your child didn’t deserve your anger and you didn’t want to hurt them. That’s how we treat sin now. It’s not OK to sin. Therefore, we turn back to the Father and ask for forgiveness and restoration not because He’s going to punish us like criminals, but because we love Him and don’t want anything to separate us from Him. We’re his children now and he will discipline us as children for our own good when we are going in the wrong direction. But the punishment that criminals deserve isn’t coming to us. There is no punishment for us anymore. It has all been taken care of at the cross – for whosoever receives Jesus as their Savior.”
I looked around the room and I saw six sets of eyeballs riveted on me. I wondered what they were thinking. Were they thinking, Can this be true? It’s too good to be true. Can I trust her? Is she candy-coating this Jesus stuff?
I actually don’t think so. When I look in people’s eyes, I usually get a really good sense of what’s going on inside and when I looked at these lovely women, I saw hope. I saw relief. I saw them relax into the security of the love of God. They all have a long road ahead of them. But I love them and I believe in each one of them.
Like I told them last week: This is a new day. It doesn’t matter how many times you failed in the past. That was yesterday. And yesterday has no bearing on today’s decisions if you don’t let it. This is a day full of God’s mercy and ability to make the blessed and favored choices He is laying in front of you. You will not fail if you lean completely and totally into His grace, minute by minute. You cannot fail because He cannot fail. And I will be here to cheer you on.
- Do you struggle with questions about whether you will fail again? Do you struggle to see yourself making the positive changes that will last? Have you failed so many times that you have lost hope that today can be different?
The word ‘grace” is an amazing word because it shows us how much God is assisting us if we let Him. Grace means: God’s unmerited favor – God giving us the both the DESIRE and the ABILITY to accomplish His will. The fact that God will pour out grace on you should give you hope that He will give you the desire to do His will that you don’t have yet and the ability to follow through. Today is a new day. You can reach out and ask God for His grace today and watch Him trip over Himself to lavish it on you!
A friend of mine, Rena Bold, wrote a great song called New Day that perfectly sums up how each day is a new chance to walk in God’s plan and His will. His mercy is new every morning. His strength and forgiveness are new every day. We can never use up our allotment of his grace, mercy and patience because He is infinite and unending. Don’t give up on yourself because God, your wonderful Heavenly Father, never has and never, ever will!
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