The cross!

I don’t want to seem to be undermining the resurrection.  As the Bible shows, Jesus raising from the death shows the power, the wisdom, the sovereignty of God, etc. (Acts 2:24; Romans 4:24, 6:4; Colossians 2:12, etc.). But today, I want to talk about the cross.

When praying today, it came to my mind that the cross of Christ was not a reason to cry. Sometimes, Good Friday, the death of Christ is seen as a moment of mourning, a reason to be sad while it is a reason to rejoice and praise God.  The cross is, among other things:

  • the power a God (For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18);
  • a reason to boast (But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14);
  • the mean of reconciliation with God (and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. Ephesians 2: 16);
  • our redemption (And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,  by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Colossians 2: 13- 15);
  • God’s victory (Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Hebrews 2: 14-15).

The cross was not a weakness of God. It was a proof that He was God, the Author of life, the One who holds all things in His hands, the Master of everything. It was a demonstration of power, mercy, love and sovereignty. As Peter said, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:27-28)

I don’t understand everything about predestination, but I know something for sure: Christ dying on the cross was not a failure, a defeat. God wasn’t sitting there, crying and waiting for Sunday morning to happen. He was reigning and victorious, totally sovereign and righteous, totally merciful and God. As the song says: “My soul does magnify the Lord and my spirit praises His name for death could not hold Him captive; even in the grave Jesus is Lord; for death could not hold him captive, even in the grave Jesus is Lord”.

Yes, even on the cross, even in the grave, even dead and buried, even nailed, and mocked, even pierced, Jesus was Lord!

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Self- esteem (4)

Who has believed what we have heard? And who has the arm of the Lord been revealed to? He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him. (Isaiah 53: 1-3)

A few days ago, I was thinking of people who rejected and despised me, feeling the pain anew, when this scripture came to my mind. And it was good. Knowing that Jesus, the Author of life and faith, the One without sin, the perfect and holy One was despised and rejected comforts me, brings me some peace.

The past is the past. I cannot change it, but I can stop feeling guilty and trying to become that person who will never be rejected and despised again. And that is where what Jesus went through makes all the difference. What did He need to do to be accepted and respected, to have men’s esteem? Change? But changed what? Perfection? It helps to understand that when people reject and despise you, it is not because you don’t measure up, it is because they don’t measure up. Because like you, they are sinners in need of mercy.

Yes, I am not a beautiful soul every day. I am a miserable soul every day in a way or other. I sin more than I would like to. However, if someone rejects or despises me because I am a sinner, it is just that they have forgotten who they are. Just like I forget who I am when I reject or despise people because they are not who I think they should be. And I am not talking about someone refusing to repent. And even then, there is no place for reject and contempt. The goal is their repentance, not to act as if they were unworthy of us.

How many people have you cut off without taking the time to speak with about the sin that makes you distance yourself from them? How many people did you look down on because their sins were not the same as yours?

Thinking of Jesus being despised and rejected helps me understand I am not a problem even though I have issues. But it also helps me understand that others are not problems even if they have issues. And even when they treat me badly I should love them because that is what Jesus did for all who despised and betrayed Him, for you, for me, for all of us as the verses 4 to 6 of Isaiah 53 say: “Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.

No, you are not the problem, but neither are others. We all have issues, problems, those things called sins, and Jesus took care of them in love, with kindness, compassion, mercy and patience.  So who are we? Needy and loved people whom the King of kings, the Holy One pursues with love and will never reject.

Remember what the Lord said: “and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37.)

 

Love, grace, and freedom!!!

One of the consequences of having a low self-esteem is the tendency to be someone else, to behave in ways you never thought of. You try to be that person people would love and appreciate and want to be with. And at the end, you don’t know who you are, what you like, and what you want. You have become a people-pleaser and have ceased to be the person God intended you to be.

But God gave a remedy for that emotional and spiritual sickness as He did for all the other ones. When He sent Jesus to earth to bear our sins and shames and sicknesses; when Jesus chose to give His life for our healing, He offered us that remedy. He offered us reconciliation with the Father, the boldness to enter the throne room with confidence, the freedom to be ourselves even at our worst. Since He paid for us and gave us His righteousness, we can just be ourselves before God as we are being changed into Christ’s likeness. Yes, we are disciplined. Yes, our actions have consequences. But yes, they work for our good. And yes, God does not discipline us out of anger, but to make us share in His holiness.

It is not easy to accept that aspect of grace. Salvation, we get it. But the rest? Our past, our experiences, sometimes our parents and siblings, people around us, circumstances, etc.  cry that it is too easy. And we live as if God would be angry at our failures, and even at our differences; as if He would be mad at us every time we don’t do what He expects us to do, the way He expects us to do it. There is no place in our lives to be trained by God’s grace to become more like Christ. We should already be perfect. And that is not the worst. The worst is all the rules and regulations we have and apply in order to please God. In our mind, God can easily be that another person who would never accept us if we don’t behave in a certain way; if we are not a certain kind of person. We forgot that Jesus died for us when we were weak; when we were enemies of His Father. We forgot that He loved us first. We forgot that He pursued us before we even thought of loving Him.

But when we remember, when we accept this incredible grace, we are free. Free to be ourselves; free to just be because we are totally and completely welcomed and accepted in Christ.  And if the Ruler of the universe, the perfect and holy One, the One who judges and provides, the only One who matters accepts us, we can begin to stop trying to belong and to be loved at any cost. We still need fellowship and love and friendship and affection, but not at any cost anymore. Yes, it is not perfect. We still struggle with low self-esteem and acceptance, but now we know the truth that sets free and, more than ever, we are becoming that amazing person God created us to be.

And if you are not there, no worries. He is already there and will bring you there because it all depends on His power that is perfected in your weakness.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them… But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

(Ephesians 2: 4- 10; 13-22)

 

 

 

 

Speaking of God’s generous

I have been trying to see God’s generosity (Him doing more than I need) in my life. And it occurred to me that I was quick to forget His greatest act of generosity.

We needed forgiveness. We needed redemption, but surely we didn’t need to be adopted, to become children and heir. That is more than generosity. It is a crazy generosity. He gave us what we needed and didn’t deserve (we call it grace), and then give us what we would not have dreamt of.

Grace can be difficult to understand and to accept, but that kind of generosity is just impossible to understand. Some may accept it, but for me, it is not even about accepting that gift, it is about believing and standing in awe. No wonder without faith, we cannot please Him.

Doubting God’s love and grace is natural. Not doubting is faith. It is supernatural. And it is what is required from us. It is what we bring in the equation of salvation. We are saved by grace through faith because God’s holy love is beyond understanding.

In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:4-14 NIV)

What a love!

Love so high!

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5: 6-11 ESV)

What a love! It is not just about being loved without reasons, it is about being loved despite all reasons. We were sinners, unrighteous. We had no desire to be with God, no desire to do His will, no desire to glorify His name, and He decided to find a way to be with us. He decided that He would fight for us and paid the price required to save us and bring us under the canopy of His love.

That is love! I confess I don’t understand God’s love most of the time. I don’t understand why and how He does what He does. My life seems to be an example of Romans 11:33, “ Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” But when I doubt, when the ground shakes under my feet, remembering that He loved me that way, when I was against Him, quiets me.

That is what His love does. That is true love. A love despite and even if. A love that takes the initiative, always.

Self-esteem according to Christ(1)

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. (Isaiah 62:3)

Self-esteem or confidence in one’s own worth or abilities is very trendy. How we assess our worth, how we judge ourselves and our attitude toward us are deemed to be the reason we success or fail.

I have a very low self-esteem and many people tried to help me view myself differently in the past. I tried different things on my own. But even if there were some improvements, there was no radical change.  Then Christ came into that weakness of mine. He began to teach me what true self-esteem was and how to assess myself.

He told me things as:

  • You are a sinner.
  • You can do nothing apart for me.
  • Everything you have (skills, qualities, beauty), you received them.
  • You are an unworthy servant.
  • You are undeserving.

But also:

  • I planned you.
  • I chose you.
  • I love you with an everlasting love.
  • You are the apple of my eyes.
  • I died out of love for you.
  • I will never forsake you or leave you alone.
  • Through me, you can do anything.

It is not always easy to believe those last truths. But I know that when I completely do, I will be able to walk with my head held high, outside and inside.

Yes, my success and my failure depend on my self-esteem, but not on a self-esteem based on my abilities or qualities, on a self-esteem based on who Christ is and on whom I am in Him.

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

 

 

Finding beauty

But even when I was seeking for God’s true beauty, I did it all wrong. I worked hard to attained perfection with my own strength. I was tired and frustrated, and sure that God did not love me or was not fair. Until I heard Him whispering “grace”. Grace is the key to true beauty. Grace gives strength to be a seeker. Grace gives eyes to see, a heart to understand. Grace shows the source of beauty. Grace helps us rest on beauty, the real one.

When life is ugly, when people seem more horrible than before, grace leads us to that place of beauty, where love reigns and where mercy abounds; where we are welcomed as we are and changed to be more like Christ. Grace gives strength to keep going when your heart does not want to beat anymore. Grace says, “You are welcomed, protected, guarded, loved and taken care of… always!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” … (Revelation 21:1-6)

 

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. (Isaiah 62:3)

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)