“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” ~ Romans 5:8
One of the hardest concepts I struggle with is the reality of God’s forgiveness. I was raised in the church, so the story is very familiar to me: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so….” But the reality of that story – of a God who so loved a corrupted creation that He spilled His own blood to win us back to Himself – that’s a wonder that baffles and amazes me so that I can hardly believe it sometimes.
The Enemy is always out to steal us from God. Even when we become His by grace through the death and resurrection of Christ, the devil works feverishly to distract and accuse us, to steal the joy and communion that God offers us. He is acutely aware of the sin nature that haunts us on our journey through life, and makes the most of it at every opportunity. He counts on the fact that it is always easier to convince people that what they see is more real than what they cannot; but the Bible says the reverse is true:
“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:18
The devil never wants us to look beyond our own noses. When failures confront us, he not only draws our attention to our own shortcomings, but mockingly displays every past failure as well, and inspires us to imagine endless mistakes in the future. When trouble comes our way, he wants us focused on the problem, rather than the promises of God. When doubts assail us, he’s quick to produce illusory “proof” that God is not there, or at least that God’s not who He says He is.
Those who are in the world are easily caught up in the mindset that only that which we can see, feel, taste, smell and audibly hear is real; everything else is myth or imagination. And a struggling Christian can easily get drawn into the same error when discouragement and frustration pull our eyes from Jesus.
For all his power in this world, the devil’s games have changed little: he was a liar from the first, and always will be (John 8:44). In the Garden of Eden, the first tactic he ever used was to take the truth of God and distort it. There he challenged Eve’s understanding of God’s simple rules, restructured God’s words to mean the opposite of what He said and presented a temptation of the senses that overturned the knowledge of truth in Eve’s mind: presenting the tangible as more desirable than the intangible.
This method worked so well, that he uses it still today. Every sin and the stumblings that lead up to it is a repeat of the same pattern: denial, distortion, and a short-term reward offered for grasping with the senses instead of clinging by faith to the promises of God.
- “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” ~ Isaiah 41:10
- “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father’s hand.” ~ John 10: 27 – 29
- “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” ~ John 8:36
- “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” ~ Romans 8:1
- “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform [it] until the day of Jesus Christ” ~ Philippians 1:6
- “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me?” ~ Hebrews 13: 5-6
- “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:7
The list goes on and on. In spite of our repetitive failings, in spite of our utter hopelessness to be as good as God intended us to be, His strength and grace and love overshadow every distraction and weakness with a light that will nourish and guide us all of our days if we dare to walk in it. Even when the Enemy has us so shortsighted that we stumble at every step, God’s arms are still there: still holding us up—because His Truth never, ever fails. It never changes, even when discouragement keeps its reality hidden from us. God is not suddenly powerless simply because we have lost our strength to believe in His provision; He can and will bring us through, and lift our eyes to see His glory again.
“And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Has the LORD’s arm been shortened? Now you shall see whether what I say will happen to you or not.’” ~ Numbers 11:23
Salvation as a work has always begun and ended with the power of God. In strength, it is not up to us; so when our strength fails, it is God who upholds us – and He can never fall. So our most fundamental work is simply to choose to believe Him, to accept His promises and His Word as more real than the problems and failures that confront us every day.
I love the story of Peter walking on the water to Jesus because it is a pattern I often see in my own life (Matthew 14:22-33). In a burst of courage, Peter believed in the power of Jesus and did what no man other than Christ has done – walked on water, through a violent storm no less! But once he was out there, the storm distracted him so that his faith wavered, and he began to sink into the squall. In terror he cried out to his Lord, and immediately Jesus did the work of reaching out to bring Peter to safety; and countered with nothing but a gentle rebuke. “Why did you doubt me?”
Why do we doubt Him? Why do I doubt Him? I have walked with Jesus now for 17 years; I have not drowned once. I’ve gotten pretty tangled up in my fears, and some days I succumb to the depressing accusations of Satan; but He has never accused me, never railed against me, never punished me for my failings. In fact, his tender mercies and persistent forgiveness are what makes it so difficult to grasp the reality of His love some days. It would be easier to understand if He got mad sometimes and beat me for being stupid; but God does not answer to our small understanding and is true to Himself always.
“And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.” ~ Exodus 33:19
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.” ~ Psalm 51:1
What we see and feel and touch and smell and hear with our ears is temporary; it all rots, it all fades, and one day it will be destroyed by fire to make way for a world that will never corrode or decay. Don’t let Satan use transient trash to distract you from the truths of God. What we know in God’s Word, what we hear in our hearts from His Holy Spirit, what we see through a mirror darkly are the things that are eternal and true. Living this reality is the challenge – and unspeakable joy – of every Christian.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” ~ Psalm 103:12
Contributed by Joelle Heilemann