We all have baggage when we come to the Lord. Nobody comes to Jesus whole, but broken. We have all suffered traumas that affect the way we look at and feel about things. Some of them are the result of other people’s choices, some we have inflicted on ourselves.
At the cross, as we repent of our sins, and fully commit our hearts and lives to love, honor, and please our Heavenly Father and Jesus our Savior, we lay the burden of our guilt and shame down. We bury that old sinful self in the watery grave of believer’s baptism, and emerge from the water a new creature in Christ Jesus. Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. There is no record of sin against us. We are wholly loved, fully accepted, completely clean!
So that’s it, right? Case closed. Just smooth sailin’ all the way to glory! Would that it were so.Alas, no. It’s never long after we are born again, that we come to the very painful realization that the flesh does not die all at once. Our position in the Lord becomes absolutely perfect as soon as, and as long as we abide in Him. Our condition in the flesh, however, requires a long and painful process of struggling and overcoming. In fact, it requires us to crawl up on the cross every day, and put our old sinful nature to death- moment by agonizing moment- for the rest of our natural lives.
Paul talks about this very thing in Romans chapters seven and eight. He expresses deep grief and profound anguish at how his sinful nature in the flesh, the body of death as he calls it, keeps dogging his every step and causing him to fall short of perfectly pleasing the Lord. He wonders what could possibly save him from how persistently vile and selfish his behavior continues to be. He concludes that only Jesus’ sacrifice, that precious blood shed for him on Calvary’s cross, is powerful enough to make him completely clean and perfectly worthy of God’s love and acceptance. Praise God for His breathtaking mercy, infinite love, and amazing grace!
O.K. so if all of this sounds like a theology lecture to you, all wonderfully objective and academic; hold on. It’s about to get real.
So, I just returned from a wonderful, spirit-filled Feast of Tabernacles celebration in beautiful Searcy, Arkansas. The highlight of the eight day-long festival is our Last Great Day evening praise and prayer service. It seems like all of the worship, teaching, and fellowship leading up to that evening prepares a place in our hearts for the Lord to work through the Holy Spirit on that night. We have consistently seen healings and deliverances. It is very powerful.
This year, the Lord directed our Pastor to have us hug one another and say, “You are completely clean, and stand blameless in the presence of God.” It was God’s message to each of us individually, and not just something nice to say. Although my flesh was a little uncomfortable with all of the “hugginess,” I have learned that it is vastly better to do what God says, and not what I am naturally comfortable with. His way is always better. I have often regretted quenching His Spirit, and never once yielding to it.
It was all going very well, and the Lord was saying wonderful things to me through my brethren as well as to them through me. Then, after about an hour, I returned to my seat and stood quietly there waiting for whatever would come next. I hadn’t gotten to everyone, but with so many of us, I never do; and I figured I had blessed and been blessed by the right ones as God was directing the evening.
Then my Pastor came to me where I was standing and I knew that it was time. My flesh was nervous because, what do you pray for your Pastor? What if you say something stupid? I beat my flesh down with faith and walked over to him. As I went to embrace him, I started to put my head on his chest (he’s about six inches taller than me). To my surprise, he took my face in his hands and started to lift my gaze towards him. Also to my surprise, I resisted, trying to point my head back down. This happened three times. Finally, I realized as my heart trembled and I became aware that I was harboring guilt and shame of which I had been completely unaware, and allowed the Lord through my Pastor to tell me that I was clean and that He loved me. I was undone.
Here’s the thing, no matter where we are in our Christian walk, we all still have a little brokenness to heal, a little trash to take out, a little more nourishment of truth to take in. I grant you that the more extreme your personal history is, the more profound your need probably is. But, to be fair, if we are measuring the distance between where any one of us is at the moment, and the fullness of the stature of Christ, the difference between each of us is negligible by comparison.
Now I happen to have known about my need to believe God’s love for me, especially in light of events in my early years. Moreover, I have made consistent, earnest efforts address any lies of the devil (you are not loved, you are not worthy, etc.) by actively rehearsing the truth of what God says about me in His word (you are a new creature, there is no condemnation for you, I love you so much that I gave my son for you, etc.).
Even so, no effort on our parts, Herculean as they may be, will remove our need for a “right now” word from the Lord spoken in the power of the Holy Spirit. He can do more in a divine moment, than we can achieve in a natural lifetime of work. Isn’t that wonderful?!
Our need to hear God’s voice, and feel His touch will never diminish. As His children, we do not outgrow our need for Him by perfecting ourselves. If anything, the more we mature in Him, the more acutely we realize our need for His presence.
So, I just wanted to share this experience with all of you as a testimony to God’s goodness, and the power of His Spirit working in our lives-and the incalculable value of yielding to it. I pray that you are encouraged by it.
May you be blessed and the Lord receive all of the glory!