Rejecting Rejection

The older I get, the more I appreciate “throw away the mold” kinds of people. You know, the ones who are unlike anyone else you’ve ever met. They seem refreshingly unfettered by conformity, living instead in the uniqueness of who they are. If the opinions of others matter to them, it certainly doesn’t show through personal constraint! No, these gems stand out like pearls in a jeweler’s tray of rubies.

Most of us are more conventional, bending our appearance, our actions, and our speech to the unspoken expectations of others. Our desire for approval tempers our expression of individuality. For the Christian, the divide between who we are and the norms of society is even greater, for we have come to exalt God’s ways that are so different than our own. We are, as Peter observed, “strangers in the world.”1 Sadly, in order to “fit in,” then, we stifle our identity, in part concealing Christ who lives in us, which is a shame because, in so doing, we miss amazing opportunities to impact the world around us in profound and eternal ways. Deep down, it is not more sameness people want, but authenticity—they want “real.” People search for liberty in life and certainty in truth. They seek light in their darkness; they crave water for their dryness.

Aren’t all of these things found in Christ? Haven’t we discovered in Him the treasures we all dream about—goodness and kindness, fullness and hope, forgiveness and faithfulness, and mercy and grace? There is no “same old, same old” about Jesus, only fulfillment ever fresh.

How tragic it is when we, in faintness of heart, obscure Jesus before a people longing to behold Him in an unencumbered view. He lives in us not as one to be constrained in our weakness of character, but as one to be proclaimed in the freedom of rebirth in Christ.

When it comes down to it, binding ourselves to the expectations of others is one of the greatest obstacles to our effectiveness as Jesus’ followers. We are accepted, loved, and treasured by the God who knows everything there is to know about us, free to “shine like stars in the universe as [we] hold out the word of life.”2 Then overflowing in this grace, let us exude the life, truth, and love of Christ, not defensively or fearfully, but eagerly and gladly. Let us leave behind our timid pursuit of conditional approval and, instead, strive to show people the full and eternal acceptance they will find in Christ.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. (Proverbs 29:25)

1 1 Peter 1:1
2 Philippians 2:15, 16

Today’s post is an excerpt from Christ in Me. Copyright © 2016 Paul Nordman. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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See today’s Scripture in John 15:18-37.

Where Grace Begins

“I was the one who damaged the car,” I confessed to my friend and his father. Together, they had built it to compete in the Soap Box Derby, and so some of us boys took turns one afternoon riding it down the inclined driveway. Sometime after we put the car away in the garage, however, I went back for more fun, but this time alone. Thinking the car was safely secured, I left it unattended for a moment, only to look up in helpless horror as it rolled down the driveway and into some concrete blocks, snapping a steering cable and tearing a hole in the side of the body. I rolled it back into the garage and didn’t say a word, somehow hoping in my nine-year-old mind that the damage would not be discovered. It was, of course, but I denied any culpability during the questioning that followed. Inside, however, I churned.

It doesn’t take us long in life to discover that truth is an immovable thing. It withstands not only blatant lies, but also subjective opinions and feelings that subtly challenge reality as though it can be eroded by our own desires. Though we cannot see truth, it is an unconquerable champion—we either accept it on its terms or wither and writhe before it in failed rebellion. (When will we ever learn?) Is this a bad thing? No, the immutability of truth is good for us, it is hope for us.

For truth is the starting point of grace. When do we receive forgiveness? Is it when we conceal a matter, or when we openly confess it? When do we abandon our agendas and turn toward God’s, when we coddle our feelings by justifying our wrongs, or when we come to terms with their moral offense and destructive results? And what are the consequences when we declare wrong to be right? The apostle John answers: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”1 In the mercy of God, He beckons to a place called, “truth,” where we confront our sin with confidence, experience God’s forgiveness with joy, and savor His grace in peace.

The apostle Paul taught us “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”2 My friend and his father showed me this love by forgiving me for my carelessness and the damage that came from it. But I can’t help but think they were even more relieved at the dispelling of falsehood and our arrival at the point where truth reigns and grace begins.

Father, your Word is truth. Send your Spirit to guide me in all truth and to put behind me any notion or desire that would challenge it. Inspire me to speak truth in love and to respond to truth with grace, just as you have done with me. In the name of Jesus and in the power of the Spirit, I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is freedom.

1 1 John 1:8-10
2 1 Corinthians 13:6

Read today’s Scripture in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Stride Right

One memorable scene in the Oscar-winning movie, Chariots of Fire, finds Eric Liddell explaining to his sister, Jenny, his deep sense of calling: “I believe that God made me for a purpose, for China, but He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.” Liddell would go on to win the 400-meter event in the 1924 Olympics before devoting the rest of his life to mission work in China. As I think about his innermost convictions, I cannot help but feel what must have been his profound sense of freedom. Running a race or proclaiming Jesus’ love, neither was drudgery to Liddell, rather both were sources of joy, for God had “made” him for these, and he pursued each as one liberated and inspired by the truth of God’s forever forgiveness and indwelling presence.

While few of us are (or ever were) gifted track athletes, all of us have been loosed from the stymying weight of trying to be good enough for God in our own power. Jesus, who is righteous by nature, has truly made us one with Himself, and so His righteousness—His right standing before God—becomes our own. He who atoned for our sins lives in us, so we are completely and forever free to run in Him unfettered by our past and with clear direction for our future. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,” said the writer of Hebrews, “and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith …”1

So, too, we stride with purpose. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,”2 wrote the apostle Paul, for Jesus liberated us not for us to return to the crippling ways of sin, but to empower us in liberty along a fresh course of meaning and impact. “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free,” he wrote, “But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”3

God has made each of us for a purpose. So, as we pace life’s course in a precious freedom of the soul, may we, too, feel His pleasure.

Father, you’ve done so much for me; help me to accept your love and grace. Show me my purposes in life and guide me as I pursue them today. Fill me with your Spirit, so that I do what is pleasing to you and helpful to others. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is freedom.

1 Hebrews 12:1, 2
2 Galatians 5:1
3 Galatians 5:13, 14

[Read today’s Scripture in Galatians 5:1-6.]