a trip through my mind

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 | Filed under: life | Tags: , | 13 Comments »

When I write, it’s after I’ve been studying scripture. I discover words to build my life on and I want to write them down so that I don’t forget. I want to know the truth and I don’t care what it is. If there is something I should be doing, I want to do it. If I am wrong about something, I want to know it. Truth doesn’t start with me, it changes me. The more I know, the more it becomes a part of me, the harder it is for something or someone to take it away.

I find freedom in the scriptures. Freedom is a hard thing to believe when I’ve had so many reasons to feel shame, guilt, and uncertainty. I study scripture because, if left to my own devices, I will slip back into self-doubt, which is a symptom of doubting Jesus. If my identity is only understood through His, then I need to continually remind myself of who He is.

If the Truth that has been revealed to me can set me, –flawed-scarred-strong willed me– free, then I can only imagine what it can do for someone else. So, I write…

Instead of writing a message inspired by what I learned, I want to let you in on my thought process as I was learning it:

I was having my devotion the other day and the scripture my devotion book used came out of Romans 6. So, I read Romans 6. I was barely through the first few scriptures when things started standing out to me. I decided to read them in translations that provide more insight (cross-reference scriptures and commentaries) and different phrasing so I could see if my initial interpretation held up.

Here we go:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? Romans 6:1 ESV

Everybody knows this scripture. It’s used by people on all sides of the issue that grace creates. My thoughts: Of course grace isn’t to be used as an excuse to sin. I’ve never thought that was the problem, but as I talk to people and hear their worries, I realize that there are people who do view it that way. Apparently, there were people in Paul’s day who did, too. It’s not a new problem. However, I never feel like it’s my message to tell people what they’re supposed to do, the pressure on my chest is to tell them what grace does. That is my message because I believe in the power of grace to transform lives. It’s not my idea of ‘right living’, when it pertains to the things God has told me to avoid, that I feel the burden to share. I have them, I obey them, but, when I don’t, I don’t kick myself or doubt my relationship with God. I accept grace, learn from my mistakes (gain wisdom), and move on.

There is a cross-reference for this scripture and it’s this one:

And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just. -Romans 3:8 ESV

That’s interesting to me because I have been ‘charged’ with the same thing. I knew I had to read that chapter so I could see how Paul handles the backlash against the message of grace. How does he explain it? And what does, “Their condemnation is just.” mean?

I read that scripture in a different translation and figured out that Paul was saying that if he were teaching to go ahead and sin because ‘grace abounds’, then anyone who condemned him for that would be right. Then he explains that that is not what he’s saying.

Two more verses stood out to me:

What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,”That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” -Romans 3:3-4 ESV

This is awesome because it confirms that God doesn’t take Himself away from us when we mess up. This also references a sentence previously written in scripture and it is found in here:

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. -Psalm 51:4 ESV

David is saying to God: “I have sinned against You. You are right and I am wrong.” He goes on to say that acknowledging when he is wrong teaches him wisdom. He learned his lesson and became wiser for it. Then he asks God to “create in [him] a clean heart.” He knows that he can do nothing to make himself clean. He even goes as far as saying that trying to do it on his own is not pleasing to God.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.Psalm 51:16-17 ESV

Another cross-reference scripture is this one:

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. -Proverbs 28:13 ESV

God wants a broken spirit, a broken heart, and for you to know that you are guilty. Sin enables that. You would not be broken if you had not failed. You have to go through the brokenness to know what grace is. When you say it that way, it sounds like sin is ‘good’ because it puts you where God wants you. When you are fully aware of your guilt, it’s a source of hope. However, when you shrug your shoulders at your sin by saying that God will forgive it, you bypass the brokenness and and claim freedom. It’s true that God will forgive, but brokenness is where grace comes to life. It doesn’t make sense to look for freedom when you don’t acknowledge that you have been taken prisoner.

When I write, I write to and for those who are devastated by their sin. I remind them of the hope because they believe they are beyond it. I write to the broken. However, I can’t choose who reads and what they take away from it. If you walk in on a conversation that doesn’t concern you (meaning in this context: you do not see that you are depraved and you are not broken), you will misunderstand what is said. The message of grace is offensive and viewed as ‘dangerous’ to those who don’t feel they need it.

Here is where the trouble comes. There are those who know that grace is the only reason they have legs to stand on. There are those who are in the middle of their own personal hell, brought on by their sin. They desperately need to be told about grace in a way that they believe it and accept it. Then, there are those who have not seen their personal worst just yet and don’t understand the magnitude of grace at all. These are the ones who need a crazy amount of patience because they can be horribly judgmental and end up kicking someone who is broken, making getting back up even harder for them. I say ‘patience’ because if they knew what they were doing it could tear them to pieces. They would need what they refuse to offer from those they refused to offer it to.

There is not a person on this planet who gets it right. That is why passing judgment on another is a death sentence to those who pass the judgement.

All of my cross-referencing, reading, and studying led me to this:

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. Romans 2:1 ESV

That’s the death sentence to those who try to size up another’s life and decide it’s not good enough. The point is, no one is good enough so when someone declares that over another, it falls back on them.

Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:3-4 ESV

That last part is exciting to me because it confirms what I have been learning for several years now. “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” Telling someone that they are not good enough while pointing out their flaws does not lead them to repentance. Kindness does. Mercy and grace do. Telling someone about God’s love for them leads them to repentance.

The religious want to know about God’s wrath. They cast judgment to further inflict wounds as if being aware of sin alone were not good enough. They judge the past as though it could not possibly be covered by the blood of Jesus. They state what they believe when they rub dirt into the wounds of the broken. If you are saved by what you believe (Whom you believe in), then they condemn themselves. God’s wrath falls on that.

Paul, still talking to those who pass judgment on those with broken spirits and broken hearts says this:

But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.Romans 2:5 ESV

False teachers do exist and this is what Paul says about them:

Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery—Galatians 2:4 ESV

False teachers lead people back into slavery. They make people doubt the freedom they received from the grace of Jesus. That’s how you know who is false. When you want to know who is true, look for the opposite of that: People who lead you to Jesus and freedom with the gentle tether of grace. Whatever illuminates the distance between you and God’s love for you is a lie. Whatever draws you to Him, like a child running in tears to safety, is the truth.



13 Comments on “a trip through my mind”

  1. 1 Julie R. said at 5:30 am on March 22nd, 2011:

    WOW! What an amazing explanation of the scriptures. I would be very interested in a devotional developed by you. Serena you have such an easy way of explaining the scriptures. I live in a community with a very hard core belief that if the scripture you are reading doesn't come from a KING JAMES c 1611 translation then what I am reading is NOT of God. I abhor that idea. I once asked someone if what they meant then was that if I wasn't going to read said translation should I not read the Bible at all… I was told yes. SOOOO talk about further condemnation, If I don't read 1611 KJV then I shouldn't read the Bible at all. Other translations make the scripture alive to me in a way that a KJV can't. I don't understand it. Thank you for using other translations. It helps me to understand what it is The Father is trying to say. 🙂

  2. 2 Jason said at 6:24 am on March 22nd, 2011:

    “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.”

    My first thought when I read this was "Serena has the theme statement for a new book right there."

  3. 3 Serena Woods said at 6:31 am on March 22nd, 2011:

    I like that we have several translations to help us understand what the Bible is saying. If someone gets used to hearing certain scriptures said in a certain way, they don't hear them anymore. I think the term is called constant proportion. You need a big enough departure from the norm before you notice anything at all.

  4. 4 Serena Woods said at 6:32 am on March 22nd, 2011:

    Jason, a new book is weaving itself in my blood as we speak. 🙂

  5. 5 Holly said at 6:40 am on March 22nd, 2011:

    "…God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance…"

    Love, love, love!!

  6. 6 Serena Woods said at 7:07 am on March 22nd, 2011:

    I know, Holly. Me, too. 🙂

  7. 7 Heather said at 7:18 am on March 22nd, 2011:

    And kindness is such a gentle word. It's not demanding or loud.

  8. 8 Serena Woods said at 7:39 am on March 22nd, 2011:

    "…the gentle tether of grace…."

  9. 9 Eileen said at 1:30 pm on March 22nd, 2011:

    "It doesn’t make sense to look for freedom when you don’t acknowledge that you have been taken prisoner." Love that!

    Great post, thanks.

  10. 10 Serena Woods said at 4:57 pm on March 22nd, 2011:

    Thanks, Eileen. 🙂

  11. 11 Michelle said at 5:45 pm on March 22nd, 2011:

    Sometimes when I come here after a long hot day in the wilderness, wondering if I'll make it much further, you offer a quenching cup of grace. The smoldering coals burning inside — the words of "well-meaning" friends — are extinguished…and I feel I can keep going…again.

    Thank you, Serena, for speaking the truth about grace.

    Thank you, Father, for speaking so clearly through her words as she opens the scriptures to us, in Jesus' name.

  12. 12 Serena Woods said at 6:08 pm on March 22nd, 2011:

    Michelle: 🙂

  13. 13 Sisterlisa said at 6:36 pm on March 22nd, 2011:

    Very well articulated, Serena. And I was just reading those SAME passages today. Amazing!

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