400px-Rembrandt_-_The_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son

“Cheer Up! You Are Far Worse Than You Think.”

“Cheer up! You are worse than you think.”

“Cheer up! The gospel is far greater than you can imagine.”

In my last two posts, I’ve shared the story of how in the midst of what most observers would label “an exemplary Christian life”, God woke me up and started me on a healing journey of discovery, addressing my self-righteousness. If you missed those posts, go back and read them first so this segment will make sense. I ended the last post with an epiphany. I was beginning to see that the gospel is far greater than I had imagined.

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, I not only was forgiven, but now when God looks at me, he has the same look on his face as he has when he looks at Jesus! Romans 3:22 tells us God has given us the righteousness of Christ—his perfect record! God’s love for me is personal. He wants me to call him Abba—that’s the nature of the relationship we’re in together (Galatians 4:6). It is real. It is genuine—and it is not contingent on my behavior. When he looks at me, he is smiling! Wow, that feels like good news!

As I began to see the gospel differently, I began to see myself differently.

I’d become pretty good at living in denial of my own sin and self-righteousness. But now I saw that my present sinfulness was not something to hide from others—or from my own awareness. I could admit failures and sinful thoughts and behaviors because I realized God’s heart and demeanor toward me was based on what Jesus had accomplished, not on my behavior.

Repentance became not a mark of failure that documented my poor performance, but a step forward into the loving embrace of my Lord, knowing He was neither surprised nor disappointed because He already knew my heart. God was first and foremost glad that I had come to see what He already saw clearly. He was as happy to pick me up and brush off the dirt and clean up the mud as I am to do that with my grandchildren when they tumble and fall.

Grace felt different. I needed it.  I started lightening up about life; I no longer had so much riding on being perfect!  I began to give more space to others to be different. I realized there could be honest differences between people. No longer was it so important to me that everyone thought I was right. No longer did I feel it was so urgent to correct everyone. My own failures didn’t seem so threatening. The failures of others didn’t disappoint or anger me to the degree they did before.

My family said I became easier to live with!

God was bigger than I previously saw Him. Because God was bigger, I could relax a bit. I could “Sabbath” because God had finished the real work on the cross.

At the same time, because God was bigger, I could also work with greater courage and abandon. I didn’t need to fret about failure. I could really be bold—and creative—because God was so capable. I could enjoy being me and doing what He gifted me to do, walking through doors of opportunity He opened. When I experienced opposition, I even began to experience apparent setbacks differently.

Do you see what I am talking about?

The gospel IS far greater than I imagined! It changes the burden of work and ministry.

Having said all that, the nearly two decades since I first heard …

“Cheer up! You are worse than you think.”

and

“Cheer up! The gospel is far greater than you can imagine.”

… have been life-transforming!

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