I have a wise, old friend; currently rocking life on the other side of the world, but for some months he lived just around the corner from me, and played the role of friend-who-sorts-me-out-and-points-me-back-towards-Jesus-when-I’m-having-a-crisis – and he played it well. He reminds me of grace, and wakes faith up in me, and challenges me to keep my eyes on heavenly things, when all I can see is how much the ground is shaking below me.
On one such crisis moment morning, we sat in the living room that he shared with lovely friends, drank tea, ate cake and talked about money. I can’t remember exactly what the crisis was, but the feeling around it was a cloud of oh-my-goodness-how-irresponsible-am-I, how-am-I-ever-going-to-be-trusted-with-anything-when-I-can’t-even-be-trusted-with-money, I-can’t-believe-I’ve-done-it-again. Maybe you can relate to this heavy-hearted feeling of guilt and shame: this is my fault, I messed up, I did something stupid and now I can’t go back. The kind of feelings that you would never let show on your social media, or that you cover up with a smile and a roll of the eyes; but that bubble under the surface and stop you from stepping out for fear of messing up again.
The reason I tell you this story, dear reader, is that I might be your crisis-friend right now, as you sit reading this on the train or in your room or at your desk. We prayed together, and then he asked me to imagine that Jesus was sitting next to me on the sofa, listening to my conversation; he asked me what I would say to Him.
I thought for a second. “I’d ask him how I get out of the situation that I’ve ended up in”.
“And what would Jesus say?”
I stopped, and closed my eyes, and in that moment I felt God drop the answer to my question into my heart:
You don’t have to. I’ve already sorted it.
In that moment, my friend spoke words over me that no-one had ever said to me before, words that everything inside me was screaming that I didn’t deserve. You haven’t messed up. You’re not a mess. God forgave you on the cross and he’s not taking that back for this. You don’t have to get yourself out of the mess that you’ve made – He already has, and he’ll bring that into completion.
I can already see the “yeah, but..” forming on your lips: yeah, but I got myself into this situation; yeah, but you don’t know what I’ve done; yeah, but this whole mess is too much to be solved just like that.
But hear this, friend: you are His son, you are His daughter, and with you He is well pleased. That’s the end of the story – that’s the whole truth, it’s the only thing that He’s thinking of you, as you sit there right now: He’s not tutting and picking you up again, He’s not laughing, He’s not ashamed of you. He’s not going to trust you with any less than He is now, He’s not going to take things away from you because you can’t handle it – that isn’t the heart of my God, and it’s not the heart of your God.
There’s a verse in Romans, that I have heard spoken about lots – maybe it’s familiar to you:
“There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23a)
That verse has been preached widely, to try and explain the reason that we all need God – but it’s only the first half of the verse. Stop here, and this says that we are all broken. Stop there, and this says that we are all rubbish, that none of us are good enough, that we all need God because we’re just sinners who have fallen short. Stop there, and we are powerless and unworthy; on a level ground with everyone else, because we’re all pretty rubbish. But there’s a second half to the verse, that has so often been cut off but that brings truth to that lie:
“… and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23)
The second half of that verse completely wipes out the condemnation that comes in the first half. If we are justified freely, and redeemed by Christ Jesus, that means that the part of us that has sinned and fallen short is gone. Wiped out. Puff. Sorted. Done. Justified freely – we are all on an even playing field because we are all redeemed, all set free, all whole because of the redemption that we find in Christ Jesus.
There’s no yeah, but in that. What this means is that God doesn’t see you as a mess that he needs to pick up off the ground; he doesn’t even see you as someone that he only likes because Jesus likes you – he sees a holy, blameless, free person, and oh my goodness does he love you.
If that lie in your head right now is saying that you’ve messed up one too many times, you haven’t – he forgave you on the cross before you were even around to do anything. If there’s something telling you that it’s too late, that you’re dirty, that you’re irresponsible or a bad Christian, I give you full permission to tell those thoughts where to go, because you were justified fully and freely by a God who sent his Son to die so that He could know you.
“For he chose us in Him, before the creation of the world, to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Ephesians 1:4)
Good news, kid. He had his eye on you before the creation of the world – he’s looking at your heart, and he’s got it. You are in Christ, and therefore you are holy and blameless.
He chose you – he wants you; he hasn’t got that wrong, and he didn’t make a mistake – God says you are my son, you are my daughter, and with you I am well pleased.
You don’t have to do anything.