Over the past few days, God has granted me some beautiful diamonds from His word that are helping me to remain steadfast right now, in the midst of one of life’s storms.
I was blessed to attend a women’s conference in Owensboro this weekend with some dear friends from church. The speaker was Elyse Fitzpatrick, one of my favorite authors. I was so looking forward to it because I knew what a good teacher she would be, and I knew how my spiritual well had almost dried up in this season of life that involves getting so little sleep and having virtually no time alone. I was slightly disappointed with the way it turned out, because–as one of my friends put it–Silas apparently didn’t like the sound of her voice, and every time she got up to speak, he was fussing within five or ten minutes and I had to take him out. I was, however, able to hear bits and pieces as I stood in the hallway outside open doors or spent time in the nursing-mothers’ room that had a speaker, and when it was all said and done, I realized that even though it seemed like I was hearing very little, the little nuggets I did hear turned out to be diamonds.
The theme for the weekend was “Because He Loves Me” which is the title of one of her newest books–an excellent book on how the gospel should permeate every aspect and every day of our lives. She pointed out how Christians can sometimes become too focused on our sin instead of focusing on Christ. That was an arrow straight into my heart, because of a certain sin issue that I had been dealing with that week, on which I could not stop dwelling. I was so distressed that I had done this particular thing, and distressed over the resulting fallout, that even though I had confessed and repented before the Lord as well as confessing to the offended parties, I was still acting as though under condemnation. But at this conference, Romans 8:1 (“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”) began to resonate in my soul again. Yes, I sin. Yes, I need to confess my sin, fight my sin, repent from my sin, and make restoration where necessary. But my sin is not my record in God’s eyes. My record is Christ. Christ did not sin, and His record became mine the moment I was justified in Him. I am righteous before God–only because of the grace of Jesus Christ.
She developed this throughout the conference, and another arrow struck its target when she talked about our identity. If my identity centers on my being a good mom, a good wife, or in the pertinent situation, a good minister’s wife, then the moment I fail in that area, I will fall apart. The minute she said this, I knew that my identity was centering too much on what I was doing and not nearly enough on what Christ had done. I had spent two solid days in a state of near-despair, falling apart because my identity as a good minister’s wife was now shattered. I was acting as though I had to measure up, to impress God, when in reality every good thing I’ve ever done is a filthy rag. I was ignoring, however unintentionally, the identity of sinless, perfect, righteousness that is mine in Christ. While of course I should try to live a righteous life, I am free from trying to build my own identity of feeble good works. I am in Christ, and His righteous identity is mine.
These points were hammered home even further last night as Clay and I began reading together The Bruised Reed, a book written in 1630 by Puritan pastor Richard Sibbes. In the first chapter there was one sentence that just astounded me with how succinctly it summed up all that God had been speaking to me over the past few days and in my specific circumstances. He says this: “In time of temptation, apprehensive consciences look so much to the present trouble they are in that they need to be roused up to behold him in whom they may find rest for their distressed souls.” Again, I cannot focus downward on my sin and on the crumbling identity that I’ve tried to build for myself, and I cannot focus on the trials I may be facing. I must look up and behold the One who has graciously given me His identity, that I may find rest for my distressed soul. He also says, “And what a comfort is this, that, seeing God’s love rests on Christ, as well pleased in him, we may gather that he is as well-pleased with us, if we be in Christ!” Of course God’s love rests on Christ, and of course He is well pleased with Christ. So if I am in Christ, then God is well pleased with me.
This is the gospel that I am to be living out every day, yet it is only in the past couple of years that I have even begun to comprehend the freedom that is mine in Christ. I am unfortunately still in the sad habit of looking downward and inward, focusing on my failures and on the ways I don’t measure up. Of course I don’t measure up! That’s why Christ died! I must be roused up, look up, lift up mine eyes unto the hills from which cometh my help (Psalm 121:1) and look at Christ! I have nothing in my hand, nothing I can offer God to say, “Look how I’ve measured up.” Nothing. I must look to Christ. I have sinned, and will continue to sin until the day I go to my real home, but Christ’s record is mine, and I will live in that truth this year. I will not look down or in, I will look up to my Rest. I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills and focus on Jesus.
Hallelujah! All I have is Christ! Hallelujah! Jesus is my life!