Grace, Loving Others, Relationships, Uncategorized

The Perfect Christian

A few years ago, I thought my faith was strong, until I encountered a friend who acted like an enemy. I didn’t know how to deal with her desire for competition and rivalry. Instead of putting my faith into practice and responding with kindness, bitterness took hold. As I went to God for help, He taught me that withholding mercy in relational strife doesn’t lead to peace. Instead, as hard as it is, we’re called to love others even when they act hurtfully.  

In Matthew 5:48, Jesus said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That command seemed impossible and daunting in my situation until I truly understood what it meant.

Teleios is the original Greek word in this passage for perfect, which when translated, means complete, full grown, having reached the end. In essence, He’s calling us to be completely mature in faith, fully grown up in love. Notice this word has nothing to do with making mistakes. It’s about reaching completion. 

In Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus showed us what this looks like: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45 ESV). 

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Our faith is complete, in part, when we love our enemies and pray for people who’ve wronged us. When we do so, Jesus says we demonstrate that we’re children of God. This is the type of love our Father modeled when, despite our sin and rebellion, He sent Jesus to die for our sins.

Praise God that our Father’s love for us is complete and perfect, despite all our blunders and moral failings. Knowing that makes me want to be more like Him. This means, when our neighbor is rude, we don’t retaliate. If someone betrays us, we forgive. When others come against us, we pray for them. And with each act of mercy and grace our faith is more Teleios, more complete, more perfect, just like our Heavenly Father.

How has God perfected your faith lately? Who challenges your patience or takes rather than gives? Pray for them and give grace knowing your loving actions will build your faith.

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Grace

Hitting Pause to Rest

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Do you feel as if summer is moving much too fast? Did those lazy days you planned, when June first rolled around, get swallowed up in business an hustle? Do you wish you could simply hit pause, turn on some praise music, maybe grab a great book or go for a slow, leisurely stroll?

We do, too! That’s why we’ve decided to slow things down this month in order to quiet our hustle as we learn to rest.

Today, we’re intentionally resting in grace. What does that look like for you?

For us, it means releasing our mistakes and regrets. It means allowing each new day to be precisely that–new. A new opportunity to laugh, to love, to connect with God and others, and to lean deeper into, you guessed it, grace. It means trading our striving for surrender, our guilt for all we have or haven’t done for celebration for all God’s doing, at this moment, in us. It means celebrating His grace revealed in others, too, and entrusting our loved ones into His hands.

It’s focusing on how God is leading us today, knowing tomorrow will come, in His timing. It’s embracing all today has to offer, knowing He’s always right beside us.

Here are a few of our favorite verses. Choose one to prayerfully consider this week as you rest deeper in God’s love and grace as well.

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.

For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

Grace

Moving From Guilt to Freedom

I was a mess during my teen and young adult years. I blamed everyone else for my self-destructing life: If my circumstances hadn’t been so chaotic, I never would’ve dropped out of high school. If certain interactions hadn’t been so painful and unstable, I never would’ve turned to alcohol. And if so-n-so hadn’t said such-n-such, I never would’ve reacted as I had.

This type of victim-mentality robbed me of the strength to change and distanced me from God’s mercy and grace. To experience the freedom of forgiveness, of being absolved completely, that Christ offered, I first needed to grasp my need for it. Click To Tweet

I had to honestly evaluate not just my life, not just my outward behavior, but my sinful heart as well.

Honest self-evaluation is hard. Admitting our sin truthfully, not only to ourselves, but to God, can feel even harder. It takes great humility to acknowledge what God already knows—that we’re worse than we’d imagined and are helpless, in our own power, to change. Often there’s an additional challenge that often holds us in fear when we could be living in the freedom of grace: we’re afraid of rejection. Scared of being cut off entirely. Because that’s often what we’ve experienced from others.

An acquaintance grew up in a controlling household where love was conditional and tied to behavior. When she acted a certain way and others were pleased with her, they welcomed her close. When she disappointed them, she was disregarded and pushed away.

Maybe that resonates with you. Many of us have experienced similar interactions, whether with family, friends, or with our significant others. As a result, we can unknowingly carry a similar expectation into our relationship with God, and we likely aren’t even aware we’ve done so.

Here’s where God’s different. Whereas others might say, “You messed up. You blew it,” and cuts us off, Christ said, in essence, “You messed up, and I’m going to draw you near.” Click To Tweet But He did even more than that. When He stretched out His arms wide and died on the cross for our sins, He said, in essence, “Sweet daughter, you really made a mess of things. Of your life, your relationship with others. Your relationship with Me. And so I’m drawing near.”

Whereas others might say, “You messed up. You blew it,” and cuts us off, Christ said, in essence, “You messed up, and I’m going to draw you near.”Our Savior’s love is different than any we’ve ever known. Click To Tweet

When our sin separated us from Him, Christ took the first step to bridge that gap. Click To Tweet He took the first step, then the next, and then the next after that, pursuing us with His last breath, quite literally, to welcome us in. This demonstrates, where sin abounds, as serious and destructive as it may be, God’s grace abounds all the more, for God’s steadfast, unshakable love never ceases, and His mercies truly are new each morning (Rom. 5:20, Lamentations 3:22-23).

Scholars believe Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, wrote that last phrase, shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem. He’d spent a good chunk of his adult life warning the Israelites to turn from their idolatrous ways and back to God, but His children persisted in their sin. And after generations of rebellion and idolatry, they were finally experiencing the consequences.

Jeremiah, a prophet who loved God and had remained faithful, witnessed the destruction of his beloved homeland. The city and their beloved temple had been reduced to rubble, and the people became destitute.

Mourning all that had been lost, Jeremiah didn’t say, “Why me? This isn’t fair, God.” No, instead, he said, “See, O Lord, how distressed I am! I am in torment within, and in my heart I am disturbed, for I have been most rebellious.”

This from the man who could’ve prayed, “I, only I, have remained faithful.”

Scholars debate whether he was speaking of his own sins or of those made by the nation as a whole, but regardless, we know he sinned. According to Scripture, we all have. We’ve failed to live and love as we should, whether we’re harboring selfish thoughts or displaying selfish actions. I do both a thousand times each day, and when confronted with my wretchedness, it’s tempting to divert blame. To justify and make excuses, but though doing so might feel “safe” in the moment, it only leads to increased bondage.

To find freedom, I need to take an honest look at the sin-wrought rubble of my life, focus on the love and goodness of God, and like Jeremiah did in the next chapter over, cast myself upon the One whose mercies never fail.

Because “the Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the One who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly on the salvation of the Lord” (Lam. 3:25-26).

Let’s talk about this! Have you received the forgiveness Christ offers and the freedom that follows? If not, and you would like to learn more about finding ultimate and eternal absolution, please contact us HERE. If you’ve already experienced God’s cleansing grace, are you walking in that? Or are you interpreting spiritual distance that isn’t there, that Christ died to remove? How might remembering His reaction to our sin help you rest more deeply in His embrace, not just when you’re acting in a way that pleases Him, but when you mess up as well?

Join our online book club to learn to rest, daily, in God's grace! Click To Tweet

Book club inviteWe want to help you live in the freedom of God’s grace! Join us for a five week online book discussion club to discuss the Ragamuffin Gospel, a book that was truly transformative in Jennifer’s life. You can find the book HERE.

From the back cover:

A Furious Love Is Hot on Your Trail! 

Many believers feel stunted in their Christian growth. We beat ourselves up over our failures and, in the process, pull away from God because we subconsciously believe He tallies our defects and hangs His head in disappointment. In this newly repackaged edition—now with full appendix, study questions, and the author’s own epilogue, “Ragamuffin Fifteen Years Later,” Brennan Manning reminds us that nothing could be further from the truth. The Father beckons us to Himself with a “furious love” that burns brightly and constantly. Only when we truly embrace God’s grace can we bask in the joy of a gospel that enfolds the most needy of His flock—the “ragamuffins.”

This club will be hosted on our Facebook Group and through Zoom video. Contact us HERE for information on how to participate.

Plus, we have fun news! Our 90-day devotional is now available!

Cover image for Bible study devotionalDrawing Near: 90-Day Devotional:

Each day, God beckons us to Himself, calling us to rest in His love and grace. As we do, He heals our hurts, overpowers our fears with love, and restores us to the women He created us to be. This 90-day devotional, written by women who are learning themselves to live anchored in God’s grace, will help you deepen your faith and grow your relationship with Christ.

Buy it HERE.