The Lord is moving. It is definitely a new season, at least for me.
I feel as though I say that frequently, but it’s always true because He’s consistently changing us from glory to glory, and His mercies are new every morning to make that changing possible.
However, it never ceases to amaze me how subtly religious thinking slips in that undermines how merciful God really is. Somewhere along the road, during this past year, I got the impression that there is a threshold of perfection one needed to cross after sinning before grace takes effect. In my head, I knew that wasn’t true, but I couldn’t get my heart to believe it. I knew it wasn’t true on God’s end, but it was like a personal penance I was paying, as though condemnation was a prison cell, and I needed to shut myself in there for a while to truly have mourned my sin to be able come back and be restored. Perhaps it started as an attempt to guard against licentiousness, but it ended up in pride. In pride, I believed I needed an extra sacrifice to supplement Christ’s, not grasping its sufficiency.
While I believe God desires a broken and contrite spirit, He does not include shame in that definition. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
It’s taken a lengthy process of releasing things I was clutching, and experiencing God’s mercy and grace over and over and over again, but I can say for sure in my heart that I know His mercies are never-ending and His faithfulness endures forever! He is showing me that He is an extravagantly patient God. During this process, I received a card from a friend with this quote on the front:
“Before God could bring me to this place, He has broken me a thousand times” — Smith Wigglesworth
It was a sweet testament to my struggle because every time that brokenness had come, it was a sense of His piercing tenderness and love, never accompanied by accusation or shame.
But last week, a verse from 2nd Corinthians was burdening my heart that I finally decided to look into. I realized that I’d been thinking about it for about a month or so, but I finally grasped it for my own on Saturday.
“…for He says, ‘At the acceptable time I listened to you; and on the day of salvation I helped you.’ Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation'” (2nd Cor. 6:2).
I am once again remembering the phenomenal reality that grace really is as wonderful as it sounds–that salvation is immediate and Christ’s work on the cross is truly complete. There is no cleansing of my own that will prep me for His, and His comes immediately.
Beyond grace for sin, it is a safeguard for our souls to keep us out of sin, not because of religious duty from fear, but because of the joy of never wanting to leave His presence. I’d experienced this before for a season. Sometimes the Lord withdraws after these seasons to take us to deeper places. I feel as though this past year has been that for me. Now, I sense that He has given me a key to be able to walk in this attitude more consistently, even in those times of drought.
This verse sparked it my understanding, and then I happened to pick up Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God. I’m so encouraged by this book! It’s made me remember that the Lord has made Himself so accessible, so available to us. He’s made every provision for us to come to Him. He has justified us and is sanctifying us. As Paul explains,
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).
Brother Lawrence caught the beauty of this verse in the daily practice of centering His thoughts and actions around the love of God’s presence. When he strayed from it, he “simply,” “quietly” brought His spirit back to focusing on God. I’m amazed at how often He uses those words–as if it were that simple. But I’m amazed to find that it CAN be that simple! And somehow I made it really complicated for myself. Brother Lawrence didn’t want to do anything that would take him away from God’s presence. The simple joy of loving Him consistently guarded his thoughts and actions because He desired never to be parted from Him. At IHOP, I’ve heard it called “Happy Holiness.” The Psalmist who wrote 119 grasped this as He spoke lovingly and longingingly of the law of the Lord and the blessing of those who keep it.
It really is a practice, and not always immediate, but it’s been such a joyful process to rediscover again and again and again the promise that I can freely and easily reconnect with the Lord whenever and however I stray. He really is as good as He says He is. Truly, now is the day of Salvation, even this very moment. I hope this is encouragement for you. There is more, but it will have to wait until next time.