the order of things

Posted: April 5th, 2010 | Filed under: life | Tags: | 9 Comments »

(Additional thoughts added to help clarify for those who asked are written like this.)

There are so many who writhe in the memory of their own sin and what it did to ruin their relationship with God. They think, ‘If only I hadn’t…’ and mourn for what they lost and for what they destroyed. It’s as though they could have done something to keep themselves clean. (I’m thinking about all of the people who contact me that are stuck in that place and feel no hope. They want to go back and make better choices and they can’t. They’re kicking themselves because they knew better.)

This line of thinking, believing you could have done something, keeps you from the only thing that can make you clean. (If you’re constantly focusing on your past mistakes, especially pertaining to ‘knowing better’, then you aren’t moving forward.) You, before your big fall, were still inept, you just didn’t know it. (You don’t know you’re sick until you have symptoms. In the same way, you don’t know your weaknesses until they trip you up. You don’t know what you’re capable of until you do it.) You thought you were ‘good’. (Because you didn’t do ‘bad’ things.) You did not consider what Jesus did, because you didn’t ‘need’ to. (Not in that raw ‘He’s my only hope way.’) There may have been a translucent scent of ‘I’m a sinner in need of Jesus‘, but only because it’s part of the Christian costume. (It’s like saying you’re ‘dying of hunger’ because you’re hungry, but not like people who are actually dying of hunger. We say these big things without really connecting to them.) The inability to forgive is the proof that you never believed in the first place. (To forgive yourself or others. If you can’t forgive yourself, then you never believed what you were saying, ‘I’m a sinner in need of Jesus.’)

There is something within us that makes us believe we have the ability to always choose right over wrong and good over evil. (‘I know better!’) Why is it, then, that we don’t succeed? If you know right from wrong, have every intention of always choosing right, why don’t we? We can lie to ourselves as much as we want. We can make excuses, dumb down our role in the wrong, but what good does that do? Relying on your ability, whether it’s to do right or explain it well enough when you don’t, is not relying on Jesus. (Justifying your actions with excuses and not being able to forgive yourself when you can’t justify are both evidences of not depending on Jesus.)

We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know? We tried it—and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen! Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good. -Galatians 2:16

You cannot do this on your own. You can’t get it right. You can’t keep yourself blameless. If you think you can, you are further from ‘spotless’ than the man with his body covered with a road rash from sin. It goes against our common sense to see things the way they really are (the ‘Kingdom’ way). (For example: it’s better to be an obvious mess than to be a hidden pit of self-righteousness. Being flawed is not the problem. acting as though you’re not is.) To see a person’s worst makes those who haven’t yet met their own worst feel morally superior. It’s hard not to, but a gleaming outside is not evidence of a gleaming inside. Mercy, compassion, grace…LOVE, is evidence of a gleaming inside. Those things have nothing to do with sin. They have everything to do with what they believe.

I want you to know, my very dear friends, that it is on account of this resurrected Jesus that the forgiveness of your sins can be promised. He accomplishes, in those who believe, everything that the Law of Moses could never make good on. But everyone who believes in this raised-up Jesus is declared good and right and whole before God. -Acts 13:41

It’s a promise. An an unaffected promise that is not dependent on what we do or don’t do. He does not wait to make good when you earn and He does not rescind when you mess up. Sin is not a definer, it’s a reminder. If your salvation depended on you, you’d never make it. Jesus did not go through the crucifixion just to leave His gift open to being over shadowed by what it conquered. He didn’t give you forgiveness to have when you don’t need it. If that’s the case, then He gave you nothing. (It’s like a doctor only seeing well patients. A hospital not allowing you in if you’re bleeding. They brag about their technology and ability to serve the community, but not if you need them. It’s getting denied for health insurance if they think you’ll use them.)

When Jesus said, ‘It is finished,’ what do you think He was talking about? What is ‘it‘?

Everything written about me is now coming to a conclusion. -Luke 22:37

It‘ is what was written about him. And this is what ‘it‘ is referring to:

Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant, will make many “righteous ones,” as he himself carries the burden of their sins. Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly— the best of everything, the highest honors—Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch, because he embraced the company of the lowest. He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many, he took up the cause of all the black sheep. -Isaiah 53:11-12

Those who belong to Jesus are not responsible for the debt of their sin. He is not embracing the ‘highest’, He embraces the ‘lowest’ and that is how He is honored. (That blows my mind and will probably be another blog post.) He carries the dead weight of the outcast, the imperfect, the flawed, the broken, wanting, poor, wretched and wrong and that is how He is ‘honored.’ (Are you getting that? Jesus is honored by embracing the worst, not the best. I really will have to dig into that later in another blog.)

In trying to be good, whole and sufficient on your own, what does that do to His honor? (In light of that scripture.)

We’re used to hearing about the effects of grace pertaining to the desires of our heart changing and certain habits or tendencies being roped in, but we’re not used to hearing this story in order. We try to look at the effects and perform the role in order to receive the cause. (Grace, love, mercy change people. But people look at the changes it makes and start faking them, hoping they’ll keep themselves in grace, love, mercy. Sort of a ‘fake it till ya make it’ mentality. It’s a loaded thought, but it’s what makes me giddy.) It’s my goal to get you to look at this in order. First thing’s first otherwise the whole system is corrupted by human effort. (If all of the attention is on what a ‘Christian’ should look like, then people will be using that as their standard and goal, not Jesus. I might need to write another book…)

If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That’s not a holy promise; that’s a business deal. A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise—and God’s promise at that—you can’t break it. -Romans 4:14-15

We have to approach ourselves and others with the essence of the Gospel, the cause of righteousness (Jesus, because of what He did, makes you righteous. Not doing righteous things.), and not the residuals that are entirely personal and dependent on you or another’s personal journey. (People are too different for others to be stereotyping them. You can never size up a person’s relationship with God by anything humanly perceivable with certainty. It’s disgusting to even try. If you are focused on what Jesus did, then you won’t have time to focus on what anybody else is doing. Nothing can trump grace, so just focus on that.) Paul referenced this line of thinking, the order of things, when he said:

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV



9 Comments on “the order of things”

  1. 1 Julie R. said at 5:46 am on April 7th, 2010:

    I waited a few days before I commented on this because it was so deep and heavy.

    I wanted to read some scriptures and let God talk to me as I pondered what you have written. I admit to feeling VERY overwhelmed by this post. I am still not entirely sure I understand what you are trying to say. But I am searching and trying to find it out. any more light you could share on it would be great.


  2. 2 Serena Woods said at 5:59 am on April 7th, 2010:

    Sure, Julie. I'll go through the post and put additional thoughts in blue italics. 🙂

  3. 3 Julie R. said at 7:23 am on April 7th, 2010:

    Yes!!! Thank you sooo much that helped immensely !! And I look forward to your future post about Jesus embracing the lowest of the low. That reminds me of something I read once, written by Caedmon's Call. In the liner notes of a CD inspired by a trip to India, it stated

    “Hinduism tells them (the Dalit) they are worthless, with no hope for change, and the caste system only reinforces these lies. So when they hear the truth about God – that He loves them, He made them in His image, and that Jesus came to die so they could be with Him – they are overcome.”

    Please understand I'm not hocking the CD. I believe that sometimes God brings something to our remembrance for a reason. The phrase "lowest of the low" brought back what I had read about the Dalit people of India.

    John 4 says that Jesus drank after a Samaritan woman at a well of water. A well where she did not belong socially because of her "caste" and engaged in conversation not only with a "man" but with a man who was from higher caste. Not only does He stop to drink while she is there, He drinks from the same pitcher and then He offered her everlasting water.

    Can you see how beautiful this picture is??

    Christ FIRST broke down the "social taboos" then He told her about everlasting water.

    I can't wait to hear what you bring up next!!

  4. 4 Bob :-) said at 4:15 pm on April 7th, 2010:

    I read it without the blue words:-) and I totally get what you are saying. Yay for me 🙂 Today, at least.

    As a former believer of the "I have to take all these steps" before I can really be redeemed" party, I learned the hard way that my lack of belief in Jesus being the only way was making things worse. Instead of healing, I became more depressed, more angry, more hurt.

    And thankfully, finally, more aware that I was broken because I was a sinner and that fact was an inevitable course of human life. A rite of passage if you will that I had to accept and embrace before I could truly turn to the Cross.

  5. 5 Serena Woods said at 4:35 pm on April 7th, 2010:

    I like your thoughts, Julie R. 🙂

    Bob 🙂 (Ha!): yes!

  6. 6 Julie R. said at 12:23 am on April 8th, 2010:

    So does Bob get a cookie for understanding it before you had to dumb it down for me? LOL

    I am seriously just kidding here, Bob. I think its awesome that there are those who have total understanding of a message the first time through… I usually have to order the CD if it was a spoken message or re-read the

    printed one. Many times I have to go over it more than once. But I don't know as if I would change it… to be honest God knows I have an ADD mind when it comes to things that require focus on Him…If I got it the first time while I was studying, then I would never settle long enough to hear what it is He is trying to tell me…

    Thanks again Serena for helping me out!!

  7. 7 Serena Woods said at 4:33 am on April 8th, 2010:

    No problem, Julie. 🙂 And don't feel too bad, 'bob' was just telling me how she usually had a hard time understanding things the first time around. Beef jerky, remember? 😉

  8. 8 Julie R. said at 6:37 am on April 8th, 2010:

    I do remember the beef jerky!! So then yes, pass Bob a cookie…she really does deserve it!! Looking forward to earning mine. hahaha 🙂

  9. 9 Bob :-) said at 11:18 am on April 8th, 2010:

    Yes Julie, I had just told Serena that I usually have to read her posts several times because she really makes me think, and makes me realize how much I need to learn, and I love that.

    As for this one, I got it because I have lived it. I know exactly where she is coming from because I've walked that road 🙂

    And I would LOVE a cookie!

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