The gospel is the most beautiful thing on the face of the planet. And a lot of people believe it – including me. But what I’m finding as I live my everyday life is that while I believe it, I often struggle to live it. One of my go-to prayers comes from the desperate father on the road: “Oh Jesus, I believe – help my unbelief.”
If we are the lovers of God, but we don’t understand this love letter to a hurting world – to our own hurting hearts – how much are we missing?
How then should we live?
There is no fear in love. There is no shame in love. There is no need to control, because you are perfectly safe. This outlandish, radical, crazy-good promise that yes, you were utterly broken, but BECAUSE GOD, because God Almighty loves you more than he loves life, more than he loves the stars, more than he loves the angels and the burning sun and the endlessness of time, more than anything he created – He was willing to DIE before he lost you. You are completely covered. Heaven and earth couldn’t move your identity, couldn’t change your worth. God’s time-altering, life-shattering WILL is that you would be with him. Hand-picked. First choice. Never revoked. Never displaced. Never challenged.
Because who could stand in front of that burning love and question it?
And yet… I do.
I say yes, Jesus loves me, and I pray the gospel prayer and then I turn around and sin – and that’s not even the thing that bothers me so much. God planned on the sin, planned on the brokenness – actually, He really enjoys loving broken people and working their healing. Your sin doesn’t freak God out. Your sin doesn’t challenge his love. He already took care of it. “It is finished.”
But he left you free will. He left you the choice to receive, because if he didn’t, how could he give the gift? And what I find is that it’s after I sin that I don’t believe the gospel. Instead of saying “Lord, forgive me,” and thinking nothing of it after that – instead of fully trusting that yes, God’s forgiveness is in full and my sin is completely wiped out, I try to pay for it again.
Yes, I could be counted among the ones who spit in the face of Jesus. Because I carry the sin and guilt and I have the gift, yet I try to pay him for it – and we often call it “humility.” We call it “righteousness,” and “piety,” and “walking the narrow road.” We punish ourselves as if Jesus wasn’t enough and we’ve been told it pleases him.
My heart burns angry when I think about it. How many of us believe this watered-down gospel in which God kinda loves you if you beg and you plead and you try really hard – but you’ll never really make it, so at best he’ll be mostly disappointed…but you’ll still get into heaven. Just barely. Just because God is love and he can’t go back on his word.
THAT IS NOT THE GOD I KNOW.
And I’m crying tears that that’s not the God you know, either. That we would all come to a deeper knowledge of how much God freaking loves you. Like, crazy, radical, relentless, JOYFUL LOVE. Because he didn’t have to. He really wanted you. It was his good pleasure.
You don’t have to prove your worth to God. Your worth is set in the fact that he made you with His own love, gave you a part of His own heart, lived and died to bring you back into His home.
We serve the God whose greatest pleasure, greatest joy, is loving broken people.
That’s me. That’s you. We have cause for so much JOY.
Someone floored me with a statement that tore my heart and rebuilt it on firmer ground:
“The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17). We hear a lot of teaching about the first two, and we strive for them. But we don’t hear a lot about joy. And here’s the thing – if we don’t have joy, we miss out on a third of the kingdom.”
We turn down a third of the kingdom we could have right now?
God never intended for us to carry pain instead of joy. And while pain is unavoidable… suffering is optional. We are meant to be like God. And honestly, God is one of the happiest people I know. He sounds like laughter and waterfalls. He created beautiful things. He has a twinkle in his eye. He adores his children. And he aches for them to know it.
So you want to know what my biggest struggle is?
I’m too freaking comfortable in my own pain and control. I would rather try to pay for my own sin in small ways than recklessly abandon myself to a love so big it says they don’t matter.
I’m not saying I’ve got it. But I’m saying… I really want to experience the full kingdom of God. And I believe that we can. I don’t think we have to wait for heaven and try to make up for own shortcomings in the meantime – righteousness, peace, and joy come for us NOW. The Kingdom of Heaven is here. It’s in YOU.
Yeah… we’re all a little broken. We’re all going to try to take what God bought back from him sometimes. But I want to encourage you, I want to fight alongside you – I want us both to hand those things back to Jesus and dance.
I want us to be broken and whole and the happiest, most joyful people around. I want us to be the most compassionate, the most understanding, the most free. I want us to be able to walk through a shattered world and have our very presence put things back together because we have Jesus with us.
I want to believe the full gospel, the radical gospel. God is building a Kingdom of Joy for us, for broken people…
For people with whom he is well pleased.
If you’re where I’ve been, and you need a new understanding of joy…Leave a comment. I’d love to pray for you.