Allowing God to lead your emotional healing

I’m English and we are commonly associated with the phrase “keep a stiff upper lip”: an implacable resolve, a refusal to show emotion, a stoic perseverance in times of trouble. We almost have a fondness for this because it seems so quintessentially British, especially with shows like Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife. This approach originates from Stoicism (not surprisingly), though the phrase itself was first used in the early 1800s. It was the overriding philosophy in Victorian private schools and came to exemplify what was considered right and proper behaviour.

In the West generally, there is an approach to emotions where they are kept very private. We grieve privately. Our funerals are about individual closure. We read self-help books at home and see counsellors on sick days or in our spare time. A few years ago, another English phrase was imported around the world: “keep calm and carry on”, from a poster made at the outset of World War II. These days you see it on mugs and t-shirts and phone cases. Stoicism still infiltrates our culture, telling us how we should (or think we should) behave.

Many people’s approach to emotions is about efficiency. We seek to swiftly move from feeling bad to feeling good again, wanting to process bad events as quickly as possible. This is partially natural. We want to take the pain away. When we are physically hurt we put bandaids on and take pain killers. But we need to remember that those things only ease the situation; healing still has to happen.

It takes a lot of work to have a stiff upper lip, to keep calm and carry on. In fact, it does a lot of damage. We move on from the pain before it heals or, even worse, we suppress wounds and there is no healing at all. What would happen if we had a deep physical wound that we allowed only to partially heal, or not at all?

In other cultures and times, processing negative emotions is more communal. Roman funerals could be quite elaborate and include up to five elements (a procession, a cremation and burial, the eulogy, a feast, and commemoration); mourning was public.

Ancient Jewish culture was more like this. One of the best gifts we have to help us process emotional pain is Psalms. Given our cultural discomfort with negative emotions, we tend to mainly focus on the happy psalms. They’re good for inspirational posters and giving comfort to those in pain when we don’t know what to say. But the beauty of Psalms is that God did give us words to say. He gave us words for when the pain is so deep it seems unspeakable. He gave us words to cry out to him, even when in anguish and despair, even when we want to shout and scream and protest and question.

What these psalms do is lead us into the pain and allow us to sit there awhile—to acknowledge the feelings and deal with them. We don’t need to solve the problem as quickly as possible. In his mercy and grace, God teaches us a different way.

Nearly half of the psalms are laments, journeys to take to process our emotional pain. They name fears specifically for us: fear of attack, fear of loss, fear that God will not answer and more. They acknowledge feelings: confusion, emotional exhaustion, despair, longing, deep yearning. Only when the psalmist has brought our pain into the light and we have stayed in it a little while does the poetry move us to a more hopeful future. This conclusion can only happen after the pain has been processed.

Let’s look at Psalm 13 together, one by David:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

The psalmist fears that God has left him alone in his pain.

How long must I take counsel in my soul

David despairs of his anxiety and over-thinking, mulling and stewing on the things that plague him.

and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

The seemingly never-ending sadness is palpable. It remains when he pushes himself to go through his daily business, a lead weight in the heart.

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

There is a sense of injustice, that someone has overpowered him materially or emotionally. In this situation there may be loss of land or money, loss of face, loss of family, loss of power and control.

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,

David pleads with God to answer him because otherwise his only rest will come in eternal sleep.

lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

This sense that there will never be vindication brings to light David’s deepest feelings of yearning to be justified.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Having acknowledged the feelings and stayed with them awhile, here God, through David, brings the reader out into the light of hope.

In this model, our pain doesn’t need to be private (many of these psalms are communal psalms) nor processed quickly. This doesn’t mean we should parade and wallow in our pain and end up celebrating it. Psalms gives a shape and tempo to our processing. It acknowledges and gives validation to our feelings, and allows us to stay in them for the purposes of healing. But then the words move us very definitely on to the next stage.

And there are over 60 of these types of psalms, for a whole range of painful emotions and for repeated use—because it’s not as though we read one psalm and then we’re good to go. Just as we have repeated counselling sessions or doctor check-ups, we should stay in Psalms for as long as we need to. This invites God to speak comfort to us and urge us to seek him when we are at our darkest points.

The next time you are seeking to comfort someone, read lament psalms with them. Help them to access the pace of processing our hurt provided to us by God himself. Likewise, the next time you are seeking comfort for yourself, go to Psalms. Know that God sees your pain and your most negative emotions. He wants you to acknowledge him in the darkness and bring your pain into the light—but he wants more for us than that alone. He wants you to trust and move forward, even an inch at a time, for as long as you are here on earth. And he wants to do it with you: he’s given you himself in the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort our hearts; he’s sacrificed himself in the Son to bring you freedom from sin and pain; he’s prepared a heavenly home where you will be whole. Let him lead your healing—he knows the pace to set so that you last until your heavenly prize.

By Ruth Baker

How do you compare?

We like to measure and compare things. We compare the coffee at one café to another. We compare one internet provider or phone plan to another. We compare one school or university to another. But we also like to measure and compare ourselves in relation to other people. At work or in our study we will compare ourselves and our performance to our peers. Trawling through social media, we can’t help but compare our life to others’ (or to what they want us to think their life is like!). Maybe you are someone who consciously compares your appearance to other people. We compare ourselves to other people all the time.

We even compare our Christianity. How often do you find yourself measuring your faith and godliness in relation to that of a fellow brother or sister—or even an unbeliever’s? How often do you compare yourself to another believer by the church that they go to or the amount of ministry activities that they do?
But when we compare ourselves to other people we fall into two big problems: comparing down, and comparing up.

Comparing down
When we compare down we elevate ourselves above someone else; we compare ourselves to them favourably. In the Bible we see this play out in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. This Pharisee is a classic example of someone who compares down, and as he prays we are left in no doubt as to what—or who—he measures himself against: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11).

By elevating yourself above others, you look down on them. You use a person whom you judge to be ‘worse’ as your measure. This stems from our pride and our over-inflated view of ourselves and our superiority. It’s the sentence or the thought that starts “At least I’m not as bad as…”. We do it because it makes us feel better and gives us a greater sense of self-worth, but it is dangerous and wrong. Jesus had some stern words about the Pharisee and taught that this proud attitude was not the path for those who want to be right with God (Luke 18:14). Let us heed this warning.

Comparing up
On the flipside, we also compare up. This is where we compare and see others as being greater than we are, or even the ultimate. A fellow human being becomes the benchmark we must reach. The Bible speaks sharply about how, in our rebellion against God, we humans have idolized and worshipped creation—including fellow humans—rather than God (Rom 1:21-23). When we compare up, we search for the ideal in the creation and not the Creator.
How often have you said or thought something along the lines of “If only I was like….” or “If only I had…”? Comparing up shows our lack of contentment and ungratefulness towards God for how he has made us according to his good design. It also shows us where we find our value: in someone or something other than God. Rather than promoting an attitude of thankfulness to God for how he has made us and the circumstances he has placed us in, we become jaded and dissatisfied with God as we chase what we have idolized.

Measuring and comparing ourselves against others, both favourably and unfavourably, hinders our trust in God.

The right measurement
When it comes to making comparisons with others, the bottom line that the Bible draws is: no-one and nothing can compare to God. When God addresses his people through the prophet Isaiah he says:
To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike? … Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. (Isaiah 46:5, 9b)

The true measurement for all things is in relation to God. The humbling truth of the gospel is that in our sinfulness none of us can reach the perfect standard of God. We fall dreadfully short because of our sin; we are not even close. But the liberating truth of the gospel is that Jesus is the ultimate one who doesn’t fall short of God. When we look to Jesus we see that the only standard and measurement that matters is who we are in Christ, not in relation to someone else. Through Christ’s finished work on the cross and his merits—not our own!—we can measure up to God.

Looking to Jesus gives us enormous comfort as we find our true self-worth in him, and leads us to far greater joy and humility than engaging in the fruitless exercise of comparing ourselves to other people.

So how can you fight the urge to compare yourself to other people? Here are three suggestions:

Fight grumbling with gratitude. Give thanks to God for how he has made you in his good design (Ps 139:14). Thank him for the circumstances that he has placed you in. Make gratitude a key part of your prayer life.

Fight jealousy with joy. Celebrate and rejoice in the diversity of gifted people who are members of the body of Christ (Rom 12:3-8). Rather than being jealous of a fellow brother or sister, give thanks for them and praise God for the unique way he has made them. Find a Christian and tell them what you are thankful for about the way God has made them.

Fight discontentment with delight. Find your contentment in your loving Father and all the riches he has given to you in Christ. Have a go at memorizing Ephesians 1:3-14, and marvel at all that God has given us. Or, if you’re looking for something a bit shorter but no less significant, memorize the comforting words of the Psalmist in Psalm 73:25-26.

By Rusdyan Cocks

A word on submission and respect

Submission can be a controversial can of worms. In Australia, secular journalists have recently published concerns about the dangers of submission. They’re right to do so.

When men and women submit to Christ, we give up our selfish rights and preferences, and voluntarily choose to live under his authority. He owns our lives and asks for total allegiance. If Christ were not trustworthy and abounding in compassion, grace, wisdom and goodness, this would be a precarious position indeed. But, thankfully, submission to Christ is the truest freedom, so we need not fear.

But in this sinful world, power is abused. Men and women in all kinds of positions of influence and leadership can use their position selfishly and sinfully, and victims become injured by heinous evil. As such, submission is a risky business.

So when Christ says, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord”, there are risks. Sometimes husbands are foolish and make bad decisions. Sometimes husbands are sinful and abuse their wives. God speaks very clearly about the latter. He hates violence, rage, fits of anger and the abuse of power (Ps 11:5; Prov 3:29; Gal 5:19-21; Mark 10:42-45). Such people will be punished most severely (Gal 5:21).
So what do we do?

Ephesians 5:22-33 is the extended parallel of Colossians 3:18, where the hidden mystery of marriage is unveiled. God designed earthly marriages to give a foretaste of the sublime goodness of the eternal marriage between Christ and the church. As such, wives are to be like the church, modelling submission so that everyone has a better understanding of what it looks like for individuals to submit to Christ. Likewise, husbands are to demonstrate Christ’s headship, modelling sacrificial, selfless leadership so we better understand Christ’s loving rule. We are to learn from each other.

I am very grateful to God for the blessing of a wonderful, Christlike husband. Richard insists on taking out the garbage every week, he cooks when I’m busy, he drives when I’m tired and he comforts me when I’m sad. Submitting to him is a wonderful joy that I don’t take for granted. I received this undeserved blessing through the painful death of another. So I cherish it dearly, thanking God for this tangible expression of Christ and the gospel.

Yet despite this, in my sinfulness, I still fail. Sometimes I get tired and grumpy. Sometimes I’m impatient and irritable. To my shame, sometimes I get angry when I feel my husband hasn’t loved me exactly as I want him to, and in a desire for justice I punish him for it. But Colossians says, “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them”. Should Richard only love me when I’m kind and patient and in a good mood? This would be outrageous! Husbands, even if your wife is angry and emotional, please love her patiently—with compassion, kindness and humility. Assume she knows how undeserving she is.

Likewise, wives, even if your husband is disappointing, slow to initiate, and clumsy in his efforts, please respect him, patiently encourage him, and build him up with your words. Assume he knows his weaknesses and failings. He might feel trapped and unable to change himself. He may feel self-hatred and pity for his own inadequacies and sins, and know just how undeserving he is of your loyalty and grace.

Ephesians 5:33 is very helpful in all this. Insightfully, author Emmerson Eggerichs says that respect is the heart of submission, and the biblical ‘love language’ for men. In general, where women want to be loved and cherished and adored, men want to be respected.

But sometimes in our ungodliness, instead of respecting our husbands, wives can belittle, demean and demand. Sometimes it’s easy for us to have a critical, complaining or controlling spirit, especially when there are differing preferences and opinions. While there’s certainly a right place to disagree and discuss, and while there’s certainly a right place to keep a safe distance from a violent or abusive husband, it honours God to do so with loving respect—not with superiority and stubbornness, not with a spirit of revenge or bitterness, but with “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col 3:12).

As you continue reflecting on Colossians 3:18, these questions might be helpful: Do you appreciate your husband’s work and service? Do you admire his strengths (or even his efforts) to love? Do you praise his godly ideas and leadership? Do you honour his preferences and desires?

Respect is most foundational to the goodness of submission: Whatever his failings, how can you treat your husband with respect and build him up with your words? Perhaps do some homework. Ask him, “What makes you feel respected?” You never know—the answer may surprise you.

By Jeanette Chin

A season of rebellion

The law of the rebellious son: Deuteronomy 21:18-21

The elders of the city have been called and the makeshift court is in session. A young man is dragged in. His language is foul. His eyes flash with anger as they fix on an old couple. His father and mother are watching their son as the charges are read and witnesses are called. The testimony of the witnesses is unambiguous.

Finally, the father is called. He stands facing his son, with anguish etched into his face. The silence of the court is broken only by the mother’s quiet sobbing. When the father speaks, his voice cuts the air.

“I can’t understand it. When he was a child we loved him so much. He never wanted for anything. I can remember taking him in my arms, teaching him to walk, watching the first faltering steps he took towards me. Oh, the pride I felt when we walked down the street with his tiny hand in mine. I was always there for him, always ready to catch him if he fell. You all know the love we gave him. We couldn’t have loved him more than we did.

“But it hasn’t been any good. It seemed that the more we loved him, the more he abused us. He has always been stubborn, always rebellious. He has never done what we wanted and he won’t obey us even now. It’s not as though we haven’t disciplined him—you all know that we have. God knows that we have done everything we could, but now he’s a drunkard and his life is out of control. He has made life hell for you and for us and we just can’t take it anymore. It can’t go on. We don’t want it to end this way, but it must.”

As the father faces his son, eyes full of love are met by hatred and scorn. The old man choked on his last few words. “I love you but it has to be this way.”

Judgement is passed and all that remains is to carry out the sentence. The men of the city drag the condemned son to the city wall. Each of them bends down, picks up a rock and hurls it at the young man. He is pelted until his body lies hidden and broken beneath the stones—a sign for all rebellious sons.

The son rebels: Hosea 11

Many years later another court is in session, judging another young man. His name is Israel and he represents the chosen people of God. As he stands before the court, charges are read, witnesses are called and finally the father stands facing his son.

This is no ordinary father. He is God—the father of Israel. He is no ordinary god either. He is the God who gave to his people the law of the rebellious son and demanded that they live by it. He is the God who is the creator and lord of the world. He is the one who created people to live in relationship with him and the one who demands that they recognize who he is and live in obedience to him.

He is a holy God, intolerant of the claims of false gods. He sets himself against all who fail to acknowledge his uniqueness. He wages war against all who will not recognize, bow down, and worship him.

This God is serious about himself, caring whether or not people recognize him, caring whether or not people obey him, caring whether truth or falsehood prevails. He is holy, jealous and intolerant of falsehood—a God who will not be mocked. This is the father who stands facing his rebellious son in Hosea 11.

The whole courtroom waits, asking themselves, “What will happen here? How will a holy God treat his rebellious, idolatrous son?” Into the silence resounds the voice of the father.

“When Israel was young I loved him. I called my son out of Egypt. Yet the more I called him, the more he strayed from me. He went off and sacrificed to other gods—to the god Baal and to other images. He did this even though he was my son, even though it was me who had taught him to walk and taken him in my arms.

“He can’t seem to understand my care for him. I led him by cords of human kindness, with ties of love. I lifted my child to my cheek, I bent down to feed him. Yet, he continued to rebel. Even now, as the surrounding nations tear him to pieces, even while he is suffering the consequences of having left me, he still stubbornly turns from me. He is determined to cling to a god who cannot save.”

The rebellion is clear and the judgement obvious. No further witnesses are needed. The law of the rebellious son must be applied. All that remains is an inevitable punishment.

But the father dramatically halts the proceedings. The holy God silences the court and speaks again, not to the court this time, but to his son. He is overcome with emotion; his anguish is evident.

“How can I surrender you to judgement? How can I give you up? How can I annihilate you? How can I treat you like Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities when I obliterated them from the face of the earth?

“My heart burns within me. I cannot let it happen. You deserve it, but I will not permit it. I will not satisfy my anger!”

Then he turns to the court.

“Though my son deserves it I cannot permit it. This is my son! I love him! I will not become enraged, for I am God, the Holy One, the Lord of heaven and earth. I am not a mere man. I will not exercise the fierceness of my anger. I will not destroy Israel.”

This is Hosea’s message—God has loved his son as no other and, although he has been disappointed time after time, he will continue to love him. He is rightly angered, for his son has done far worse things than the rebellious son in Deuteronomy. But then Hosea records something great. As this holy God and father faces a son who deserves punishment he does what no human being can do—he decides to take all the suffering and hurt upon himself. In a struggle that takes place at the very depths of his being, God turns his anger into a new expression of love. The punishment of Israel takes place in himself as he contains his smouldering anger. Love triumphs over judgement.

Looking at me: Matthew 27:45-54

A third courtroom is in session. There is no rebellious son this time and no rebellious Israel. There is only me. I stand before God the judge. Again, this is not just any god. This is the God who created me, the holy, just, jealous and intolerant God who opposes all who do not recognize that he alone has the right to be God. This is the God who demands my total dependence upon him.

I am exposed. The blazing heat and light of his holiness renders me naked before him. My sin is plain to see. My life has not been lived in the realization that he is God. I have been my own god. I have done things my own way, without his help or advice. In my words, actions and lifestyle I have considered him irrelevant.

Before this holy God, the truth must out. He is justly angry and I deserve the heat of his holy wrath. I deserve the terror of the situation which I have wasted my life trying to attain—the escape from his presence into the ravages of hell. All that remains is punishment.

Then the judgement comes. As he had through Hosea, now God speaks to me. Just as he loved Israel, now he will not vent his anger upon me. Just as he promised in Hosea, he takes in his own being the suffering and hurt that I deserve. He is truly God.

As I look around the courtroom, the scene becomes clearer. There in the darkness, almost outside of my perception, I see what should be a most unusual sight. A man hangs on a cross—God in the flesh, nailed to wood. And as all the heat of divine anger is burned on him, this holy incarnation cries out in what ought to be my voice—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The core of God’s being is split. An eternal relationship is severed for the first time. The father turns away while his son, who has never known separation, dies the worst of deaths. A son hangs in the darkness without his father, alone, while life ebbs from his body.

In this single act, my sinfulness is both proclaimed and forgiven. On the one hand, my sin is declared to be totally unacceptable, so heinous that it could only be dealt with by God becoming a man in Jesus and by his suffering my punishment. I am in a situation so dreadful that it was only resolved by Jesus’ separation from God.

On the other hand, forgiveness is made possible. Here is the meaning of the temple curtain being ripped open. This curtain stood in front of the part of the temple where God’s presence resided, a constant sign that access to God was impossible and that forgiveness was not available. However, in the moment of the divine agony, at the very point when the core of God is being ripped open, that curtain is ripped open. There can be no mistaking the symbol: forgiveness is made possible, access to God is now available.

In Jesus, I see what Israel had been promised—God loving me in a way that no human could. God loving me so much that he lowers himself to become a human being, turning the reality and fierceness of his own anger upon himself. In the cross, God in the flesh dies in my place and endures abandonment by God instead of me. Only God could be holy like this and only God could love like this.

The end of rebellion

My judgement, in one sense, has already taken place. When I face God, as we all must, he will take me back to the courtroom set up on a Friday afternoon so long ago. There will be no hiding. As I face the cross it will clearly expose me, proclaiming the sinfulness of my sin and the inevitability of judgement. But it does greater than this—it proclaims the possibility of forgiveness.

What God will want to know from me and all human beings is this:

How then have you lived? What did you do with this judgement already proclaimed?

Did you live life determined to face the holy God on your own, determined to face the consequences of your actions on your own? Did you say in thought, word or action that you were willing to bear the punishment on your own?

Did you accept God’s gift? Did you accept that in the flesh Jesus faced the consequences of your sin on your behalf? Did you, in word and action, demonstrate that you wanted Jesus to face God for you and bear the punishment for you?

Will you deal with the case on your own or will Jesus deal with it for you?

I know my answers. I want to know the real God.

By Andrew Reid

How can I know that I am saved?

How can I know that I am saved? It’s a question I’ve asked myself a lot over this past year: a question I’m not the first to ask, and I’m sure I won’t be the last. For me, this question came up because I was doubting my salvation. I wasn’t doubting the truth of the gospel; I was sure that Jesus was the Son of God who lived, died, was raised to life, and ascended into heaven. I was sure that his death on the cross paid the price for sinners, that they may be made right with God, and come to know him personally. I was sure that people got saved—but I doubted whether I was one of them.

I was asking these questions because I had been doing what Paul instructed the Corinthians to do: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Cor 13:5). I was testing myself (to the best of my ability), looking at how I spoke, how I acted, how I treated those around me. I was comparing my life to what I read in the Bible. I read that we are to be holy, because God is (1 Pet 1:16); we are to “abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Pet 2:11); we are to “put to death therefore what is earthly in you” (Col 3:5). I read that I was to live for God, and to love him with my heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:27). That was the standard for being a Christian, the level you had to meet, or at least come close to.

In my examination, I fell miserably short of that standard. I was not holy just as God was holy, and some days it felt like I wasn’t even trying to be holy. It didn’t feel like I was abstaining from sinful desires, but like I was falling into the same sins over and over again. It felt like my earthly nature was surviving and thriving. It didn’t feel like I was living for God, and I certainly wasn’t loving him with all my heart, soul, strength and mind. I fell short of the Christian standard. The saying goes, “If it swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck”. I felt like I wasn’t looking like a Christian, or acting like a Christian, so was it possible that I wasn’t actually a Christian?

I doubted my salvation because I looked at all the sin in my life and said, “Surely a Christian cannot be this sinful”.

So I spoke to some trusted Christian friends, and they pointed me back to what I was so sure about: how we are saved. We are saved because God the Father “chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4). We’re saved because “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…” (1 Pet 3:18). We’re saved because the Spirit now works in us, shaping us into the image of Jesus (2 Cor 3:18; 2 Tim 1:7). We are saved because God saves us.

If our salvation were based even partly on us then our performance would matter. If we saved ourselves, even a little bit, then it would matter whether we’d been more sinful last week, or better with Bible reading and prayer this week. But, as Paul writes:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-9)

Our salvation is based on the work God has done and on his generosity, not on the work we are doing. We are saved, from beginning to end, by grace.

So how did this give me assurance? Firstly, it showed me that feeling unsaved didn’t change whether I was saved or not. If salvation is from God, then my feelings can’t affect it. Secondly, it showed me that I wasn’t perfect, but no other Christian is either. We are all sinful, both before and after the Spirit begins his work in us, and we all need to be saved by God’s grace. The Spirit doesn’t make us sinless overnight, but he changes our attitude toward sin: we do not revel in sin as non-Christians do, we repent of it. We pray that God would forgive us and make us more like his Son. The mark of a Christian is not a lack of sin, but a repentant attitude toward sin.

And thirdly, after seeing that salvation isn’t through how good we were or how good we’ve become, I was reminded that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. As Paul puts it: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9).

You will be saved, no ifs or buts about it. That’s how I knew that I was a Christian, and that these promises applied to me. I knew because I called Jesus my Lord and my Saviour, and I knew that he had the power to save by his resurrection from the dead. If you believe these things, then the Spirit is at work in you, and the Spirit is a seal, “a guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:14).

So where do we go from here? Certainly not back to living in sin:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Rom 6:1-2)

Our works do not save us, but they are meant to be a response to our salvation. If Jesus is our Lord, then we are to live under his rule, which means doing as he has commanded us to do. We will fail, but that will not change what Jesus did on the cross, and our response should always be the same: come to Jesus, ask for forgiveness, and ask for the strength to turn away from our sin and live life for him. As John Newton said, “I sin continually—but Christ has died, and for ever lives, as my Redeemer, Priest, Advocate, and King.” Luther was a man with full assurance, not because of his own sinlessness, but because of Jesus. Finally, as the author of Hebrews writes:

Since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Heb 10:21-23)

Let us stand firm in our faith, with full assurance, because God is faithful.

By Ryan Anson

Time Machine – Back to God

When I was a young boy, I used to love sci-fi movies. Especially the ones that had a lot to do with time travel.  The idea of building a time machine and going into the future or back in time really intrigued me.  I was fascinated about what the future would look like – flying cars, high rise buildings, fashion – all exciting.  But what caught my eye the most was the ability to go back in time and fix stuff.  I remember one such movie, Back to the Future.  In one of the (many) sequels, they had to go back to the past to rectify something that had gone wrong.  Biff, one of the bad characters in the movie, had found a book of all the horse races and sports game results in the past.  He then went (stole) on the time machine, went back in time, to give his younger self the book and get rich.  Marty and Dr Emmet had to go back into past to stop old Biff (from the future) – giving young Biff (from the past) the book – confused?  Yeah,   I know.

Can you imagine the chance to go back in time and change something?  A decision?  A word? An event?  So that you can fix the future. It is rather interesting isn’t it? Being able to go back and wipe your mistakes, so that you don’t get to live with the guilt or consequences of those mistakes. And sometimes it’s not really that far in the past – it could be last week, or last month or even this morning.

In Luke chapter 15, we are introduced to the story of the prodigal son.  The son who told his father he wanted his inheritance today, so that he could go and squander it in wild living. What a bad, terrible mistake. This decision he took, to turn away from his father and his blessing, did not result in much, but dire consequences for him.  He was stranded, alone and sought company from pigs (Luke 15:15-16). At the time of making the decisions, I’m sure it look like it was a good decision. Truth be told, we would also have the same temptation, given the chance.  But reading the words he says in verse 17 of Luke 15, it looks like he could have done with a time machine, to transport him back in time and not make the same mistake he did.  So that he could avoid the anguish, embarrassment and pain  of what he was experiencing.

How many of us have gone through the same process?  Where we make bad decisions, where we turn away from God and do our thing because it “looked and felt” like a good decisions at the time.  The time where we are led by our sinful desires and they manifest into actions, words that hurt or destroy relationships, including ourselves.  A time machine would be needed.  I am sure King David would have thought the same, after he coveted Bathsheba, slept with her, killed her husband and lied about the whole thing (2 Samuel 11).  What he would have done to go back in time and fix things – or at least warn his younger self not to walk around the palace on that day.

But we don’t have a time machine.  The great ideas of the movies, unfortunately do not exist in reality and we have to face the challenges and consequences of the rebellion against God.

But the story does not end there….

Looking back at the prodigal son, when he came to his senses, he left the place of desolation that he was in sought after his father.  He went back to his father to seek forgiveness and acceptance, even after all he had done (Luke 15: 18-25). To his surprise, the father welcomed him, embraced and treated him as if he never left.  His father never stopped thinking about him, even after all this time. The son had rebelled, but the father forgave, accepted and loved him, despite what he had done.

And so with us, when we turn away from God.  When we come back to him and seek him, he will forgive us, restore us and love us beyond our comprehension.  And this love is not because we have dome some great deed, it is because of what Christ has done for us on the cross.

No matter how much you think you have sinned, how much you have rebelled against your father in heaven – taken his blessings and squandered them – he has the unending capacity and capability to forgive you. It matters not the sin you’ve committed, what matters is the greatness of God’s willingness and ability to forgive you every single time you turn to him. God is able to forgive, even our deepest darkest sin.  So, if you are hiding, worried and embarrassed about what you’ve done to turn away from him,    don’t hide, come to him, come back to God.  Much like the prodigal son, when he sees you, he will lift his robes and run towards you, hug and kiss you and he will clothe you (Luke 15:20).

When I look at my past and the many times I have turn away from God and done my own thing, it’s hard to think of and live with the consequences, but what brings greater joy is that God was able to forgive me and restore me.  That has far much more comfort and assurance than a time machine.

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