You’ve taken the steps to be a Christian (click here for last week’s article on the journey from spiritual death to eternal life), but you worry you’re missing something. You wonder why you feel more aligned with the label “sinner” than the status of “righteous man/woman.” You’re even feeling like you’re just not as good as some of the other Christians you know. Why is this and what can you do?
Reason (any of the following may apply to you)
- You struggle with shame (the sense that something is wrong with you)
- You dwell on your failures more than on His faithfulness
- You live in a performance-driven world
- You haven’t been a Christian long enough to have experienced significant seasons of purification
Commit to daily (maybe sometimes hourly or minute-by-minute) remembrance of what is true.
Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:
1. Last week you were encouraged to read Ephesians 2:1-10 daily. Now you’re challenged to memorize verses 5-10 in your translation of choice. Hiding these Words in your heart will remind you:
- You were at your absolute worst when He resurrected you with Him
- You have citizenship in heaven with the Savior of the world
- One of His constant activities is to show you grace
- You didn’t have to lift a finger to make any of this happen
- There is good assigned to you now – all you have to do is receive it and live it out faithfully – by His doing
2. Become convinced that your feelings of inadequacy are just that – feelings. Not fact. If you experience the Spirit of the Savior living in you, then you’re plenty good enough. In fact, having Him in you is the key to being and becoming the most good anyone can be. When you doubt this, see number 3. And repeat as needed. The Holy Spirit will enable you.
3. Be aware when shame, the enemy, the world, and/or your raw nature are messing with your thoughts and feelings about who you are. That’s when you know it’s time to recalibrate yourself to the truth (such as Ephesians 2:1-10): Christian, you’re a masterpiece!
Examples of Societal Norms of Generations Past:
- Kids would stay outside all day (parents often had no idea where) until the supper bell rang
- Smoking was as common at dinner parties as hors d’oeuvres
- Public places were segregated based on race
Significant Norms Today:
- Most people can be found with a device in their hand or pocket at all times
- Comfort is highly valued
- A spirit of entitlement is widespread
- Dress codes of any kind are rarely considered necessary
Christians have always had to figure out how to maintain a Biblical worldview while functioning within society. Great Biblical commentator, Matthew Henry described it this way: “By going about our worldly affairs with heavenly holy hearts, mixing pious thoughts with common actions and having our eyes ever towards the Lord, we take Christ along with us wherever we go.”
To deal with today’s norms in this way, a practical plan is helpful.
Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:
Technology is permanent and Christians must appropriately adjust. In the same way that you contemplate a reasonable bedtime and healthy food intake, it’s crucial to learn, model, and teach device etiquette. The next generation in particular is desperate for interpersonal skills that will always be lacking if face-to-face communication isn’t practiced. Additionally, and equally important, is for owners of devices to be encouraged to decide for themselves when to take breaks from technology regularly and consistently in order to spend quiet time in nature and with the Lord and His Word.
The quest for comfort has produced an epidemic of laziness and self-centeredness. Yes, students work hard in school, but often endurance isn’t what’s being celebrated and there’s no concept of paying one’s dues. Rather, the thinking upon graduation is that good income is deserved and work is only a means towards getting a well-deserved break. This spills over into other areas as well, such as making eating choices to be comforted rather than to be fed. This focus on personal comfort is not Biblical. Those who follow Jesus have a charge to build His Kingdom while leaning on Him for energy and sustenance. Those who have taken hold of this hard-working mindset must go out of their way to demonstrate the awesome strength of God at work and show a life of living for Him and others. Further, at times it may be appropriate to point out to someone how living for the kingdom of self is leading them away from the purpose of their existence.
There is a growing “you owe me” attitude towards well-off people and institutions. Millennial employees of large companies, as an instance, can be so blinded by entitlement and the god of tolerance that they have no idea they are stealing and asking their customers to take part in their thievery when they give them free food and drink, etc. It never occurs to them that by giving away their company’s merchandise to their customers on the premise of kindness, they are simultaneously disregarding right from wrong, and robbing their employers of their rightful income. Their hearts have been made beautifully tender, but lack of truth in their lives has made the approach faulty. It’s crucial not to engage in these “acts of generosity.” Those who understand truth must be constantly looking for ways to teach it and spread it to the ones who are constantly hearing from media that there is no truth.
Once lifestyles became more casual, a steep, slippery slope was introduced. Girls who are accustomed to less coverage and seeing pictures of female bodies all over social media find it not so difficult to send nudes to males who request them. Sloppiness abounds in this modern world with regards to modesty, male-female interactions, and sexuality. The ramifications to brains, human development, marriages (present and future), and relationships with the Lord are serious. And this is not effecting just a tiny portion of the population. Promiscuity is widespread. Immorality today is no respecter of age, gender, income level, school, or religion. Acknowledging the pervasiveness of this is the first step. Adults cannot avoid this subject. Youth must be protected and equipped for when (not if) they become exposed. Most importantly, the vision for God’s design for the body, relationships, and sexuality must be cast with passion and inspiration.
These are the norms of this age and many Christians have gotten out of balance…Can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? (Prov. 6:28)
But Christians serve a Redeemer who offers hope, grace, and repentance for those who are ready to learn how to be in the world without being of it. Blessed is the one who listens to wisdom, watching daily at her gates, waiting beside her doors. For whoever finds wisdom finds life and obtains favor from the Lord. (Prov. 8:34-35)
When Christians talk about Stephen’s story of martyrdom, understandably a lot of focus is on Stephen’s final hours, when he saw Jesus in heaven. But there is a larger picture (Acts 6-7) of this man who was chosen by the disciples to help carry out their work.
His qualities were as follows:
- Cared about widows
- Had a good reputation
- Full of faith and the Holy Spirit
- Full of grace and power
- Accomplished the work of God in the lives of others
- So wise that others became jealous and resentful
- Displayed the face of an angel when he was being attacked
- Had a detailed comprehension of everything God had done through history
- Boldly rebuked his abusers and declared them to be the enemy of God
- Fixed his eyes on the majesty of Jesus (even when his stoning was imminent)
- Asked the Lord to forgive his vanquishers (even while he was dying)
So, do you think he would have made good “boyfriend material?” If you had been standing next to him during the hostile rally, would you have been appalled that not only was he not defending himself, but was even provoking his adversaries by accusing them of being “stiff-necked” and “resisting the Holy Spirit?” Or would you have been proud of him?
Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:
Examine your values and desires when it comes to the purpose of a relationship. As hard as it would be to see your boyfriend Stephen give his life for Jesus like that, how willing are you to make that sacrifice? You can do this by looking to see how much your focus is on you and your felt needs versus being in a relationship that will most glorify God.
Review the list of qualities you have been looking for in a guy. It would be hard to find a better “catch” than Stephen, yet defending Jesus at all costs might not have been a feature on your ideal boyfriend list. What could motivate you to modify your list?
Look back at your support for Biblical masculinity. How have you encouraged the men in your life to be more like Stephen? Or how have you discouraged males in your life from being more like him?
Acknowledge His example.“The blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” (1 Jn. 1:7b)
Think parents don’t have much influence? Think again. In a recent poll of active Christian teens, the majority of them communicated the following:
- When they see their parents reading their Bibles, they are more apt to read theirs
- They ask their parents questions about the Bible far more than they ask friends or teachers
- They want politicians and leaders to read the Bible
- They believe reading the Bible makes them feel closer to God and gives them hope
- When they see people out in public with their Bibles, they feel happy to know a believer was around them; it strengthens them; and they like that the sacred still matters to some people
- Christian teens struggle to find time to read God’s Word because they’re so busy; but they wish there was time to read it more
- As you might expect, the next generation often uses technology to look up and read Scripture
Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:
- Encourage youth to listen to an audio Bible when they don’t have time to sit and read. Model this for them as well. Some good times for this may be while applying makeup, putting away dishes, riding in the car, etc. Ask your weary students if you may quietly read Scripture over them until they fall asleep. Or read passages out loud when they are upset or confused. (Nehemiah 8:8)
- Don’t totally replace your print Bibles with digital copies because kids who follow Jesus need to see adults pouring over a Bible. (2 Tim. 3:14-15)
- Pray for and help busy young people find creative ways to prioritize spending time hearing from God through His Word. Encourage them to schedule this important activity into their agendas or phone calendars until it becomes second nature to them. (Romans 10:17)
- You know teens are always looking at those devices, so why not share with them via text, email, or social media what you are reading in your Bible right now? And even though they are a product of the technological age, who doesn’t love to receive something special in the mail? Why don’t you write a verse on a card and put it in the mail to a special teen right now? (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)
Foul language echoes up to heaven because it’s a soul issue.
First, the release of a bad word reveals an opportunity for emotional growth. Those who are emotionally mature know how to control strong and negative emotions…are able to specifically express feelings in a gentle tone…receive help from the Lord in being calm and comforted…and aim to resolve conflict through peace, love, and respect. Despite what culture celebrates, the regular use of profanity qualifies as a mark of low emotional IQ, which contributes to struggles in relationships and overall functionality.
Second, impure word choices are a reflection of this culture’s disregard for sacredness. There are words used by Millennials today – that if Gen X-ers had said them – their mouths would have been washed out with soap by their Baby Boomer/Silent parents. Even some preachers use words in their sermons today that were considered inappropriate just 30 years ago. Consequently, Christians – people who are supposed to reflect Christ – are struggling to maintain holiness because of crass surroundings.
Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:
- Determine to raise your emotional IQ so that you can be mature in relationships and in life. (Luke 2:52)
- Practice truthfully acknowledging and lovingly expressing your feelings.
- Have a plan when facing the temptation to curse. This might include asking friends or colleagues if they could refrain from using certain words when you are around. Assume full responsibility by telling them that you have a goal not to cuss and you know you’ll give into it if you keep hearing those words.
- Decide what to do with strong emotions such as anger or frustration.
- Spend time in God’s Word studying negative emotions such as worry, and learn how He wants to take on those feelings for you.
- Do a word study of “mouth” and “tongue” in Psalms and Proverbs to understand the seriousness of language choice.
- Discover how to respond to others in soothing, encouraging, and emotionally kind ways.
- Train your feelings to follow the leading of Truth.
- Desire more holiness. (1 Pet. 1:15-16)
- Elisabeth Elliot wrote, “The wholeness of the Body of Christ is the holiness of the Body…as each individual member grows in holiness, the Body grows in holiness. And this matters to God.”
- Notice how even phrases such as “binge watching” “hijacking” and “suicide/kill myself” are carelessly tossed around without sensitivity to people who truly suffer as a result of binging, hijackings, and suicides. Those aren’t necessarily “bad” words, but they’re not necessarily used in good and holy ways. Choose words with care, thoughtfulness, and self-control, and you’ll grow in godliness.
- Discover God’s attributes, take in His Word, and let Him help you feel, act, and speak more like His Son.
- Be willing to be the student or colleague who never lets a bad word slip. It’s a fact that people will notice and some will be inspired.
His demands always direct us to what’s good for us: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Eph. 4:29)
No matter how hard you try, there’s just something that makes you feel not quite at rest with yourself. You just can’t seem to ever fully be at total peace. You know that if you trace this unsettled state to the source – you’ll find that it has to do with your view of the way you are, or the things you’ve done. And that leaves you with three choices. 1) You can go before yourself as your own judge, restating your guilty sentence every time you think you need to hear it. 2) You can deny or justify the issues so that you won’t have to live with the aching guilt. 3) You can get acquainted with self-compassion.
Biblical Starting Point:
Choice One: GUILTY SENTENCE: If you realized just how free you are because of Christ, there would be no condemnation for you. (Rom. 8:1-2)
Choice Two: AVOIDANCE: If you could face the uncomfortable facts, you’d be confessing, repenting, and enjoying the gift and freedom of forgiveness – not living life as a lie. (1 Jn. 1:8-9)
Choice Three: SELF-COMPASSION: If you could focus on the truth that God is the only person you know who is called the “Father of compassion,” then the notion of approaching Him could soothe and calm you. (2 Cor. 1:3)
Keeping Room Tips:
So how can you find SELF-COMPASSION?
1) Balance the scales. You are not meant to live under this kind of judgment. You are right that you are a sinner who needs to confess and to be forgiven. And it’s true that you are not good enough to fix your sinful condition without the death and resurrection of Christ. But it breaks His heart to think of you wearing a scarlet letter when He died so that you could wear a crown.
2) Give yourself a reality check. You’re putting all this energy into protecting yourself from facing the facts about your problems. Nobody has it as together as you’re trying to present yourself. Shift your focus to accurately admitting your faults and weaknesses, and then allow the Lord to help you move out of this place of denial.
3) Learn how the Gospel works. The gospel is not a book of words and it’s not just a religious idea. It’s a saving Person who pours compassion out of heaven into those who latch onto Him for dear life. Decide this is your course to a guilt-free, denial-free life. And for the first time, put your feet up and just relax, really relax.