I had some social media fun with the picture above helpfully proclaiming “YOU ARE HERE”. As if I could be anywhere else while I was, well, there.
But as you probably already suspect that picture produced some musing that begat today’s blog. For years I wandered spiritually wondering where I was on my journey. Was I going to Heaven? Was I a good, bad, or indifferent Christian? Was I loved? Was I significant? The question of where I was as a follower of Christ and who I was as a person consumed and confused me.
The always present Enemy answered the questions above on a regular basis. Probably not going to Heaven. Definitely a bad Christian. Not really loved or bad things wouldn’t happen to you. Totally insignificant. The following is a little excerpt on this topic from my latest book Waking Up Slowly.
For too many years I believed the accusations, without considering the question that Philip Yancey asks.
Sociologists have a theory of the looking-glass self: you become what the most important person in your life (wife, father, boss, etc.) thinks you are. How would my life change if I truly believed the Bible’s astounding words about God’s love for me, if I looked in the mirror and saw what God sees?
I am learning to look into the mirror and see someone that I accept by faith and not by my feelings. I see a saint. That’s right. Many (maybe most) of Satan’s accusations are true. But what I now see is a man who is a saint. I found forty references to saints in Paul’s writings in the English Standard Version. From his additional descriptions, I am pretty sure that the recipients of his letters were not always behaving like saints. They were saints because of Christ, and not by meticulously following the law.
God sees those who trust Jesus as righteous, no matter how many accusations are thrown at them. Amazing.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 1:3-5, NLT)
That is my (and your) identity as a follower of Jesus. Holy and without fault in His eyes. I will be accused again, probably sooner than later. But I am learning to simply say this to myself: “That is not who I am anymore. I am holy because of Christ.”
When I forget that truth, I allow doubt, confusion, shame, and sadness to creep in. Not leaning on the finished work of Jesus as my strength and identity sets me up for a frustrating masquerade of faith.
There may be no element more important to living fully in the moment with God than accepting that I am loved by Him right now just as I am. That is so counterintuitive to how “love” so often works in my experience. I have talked with too many men who justify their extramarital relationships by saying they deserve more than their current marriage provides. It always hurts my heart because those they hurt deeply do not deserve to be wounded by betrayal. I try to never forget what I said on that July day more than forty years ago to my bride. I made vows to Joni Lynn Banks before God. I did not sign a contract with escape clauses based on my happiness at any given point in time.
The world speaks a different love language. “I will love you while you are attractive.” “I will love you when you make me happy.” “I will love you when you do what I ask you to do.” Human love almost always includes conditional elements. That is not God’s love.
The Lord your God is in your midst; he is a warrior who can deliver.
He takes great delight in you; he renews you by his love; he shouts for joy over you.
(Zephaniah 3:17, NET)
The attributes of God’s love are mind boggling. It is personal. You and I can relate to God the Creator of the universe as our Father. Think about that. I mean really think about that. I am conditioned to believe that if something seems too good to be true, then I am being deceived. That is what Satan would have me believe. But the stunning radicality of grace is that what seems to be too good to be true is more true than I can imagine.
(Reprinted with permission of Tyndale Publishing, All Rights Reserved)
So where am I today? No matter what my physical location might be I have both feet firmly planted on the foundation of my identity in Christ. I am putting my full weight on His Grace. No matter where I am that is who I am! And it is a really peaceful place to be after all these years.