Tuesday, April 29, 2014

For the Forgetful

If you’re anything like me, perhaps you too understand the sheer panic of realizing you completely forgot the butter.   I say panic because by the time you realize you’ve forgotten the butter, the guests are set to arrive in 30 minutes, and the cake should have gone in the oven 10 minutes ago.  Thus now you’re not only running late, but you’re also without one of the most crucial ingredients to ensure a beautiful, fluffy, softly textured cake that will leave your guests ooh-ing and ahh-ing and referring to you as a little Martha-in-the-making.  Hence the flustered panic.  Perhaps you’re a much better woman than I am and receive the small setback as an opportunity to grow in humility, welcoming your guests without a sweet treat.  Often in my case, however, situations such as these do not provoke me to humility as they ought, but instead cause my pride to surge to an all-time high -- right along with my heart rate.

“Setbacks?  We don’t do setbacks.  We don’t do failure.  It’s on.  Google?  Butter substitutes...  Applesauce?  Check.”  

The cake is in the oven, you begin to whip up the icing, when...
powdered sugar.  
Where's the powdered sugar?
"You've got to be kidding me."

At that point, if I'm walking in the Spirit, I tend to receive it as a lesson from the Lord that evidently I'm finding my identity in both my baking abilities and the approval of others.  "Thank you, Lord, that my value is not found in whether or not I can remember the whole list of ingredients at the store nor in whether or not my house guests find my cake to be the tastiest treat they've ever experienced.  My worth is found in the righteousness of Christ.  You are too good to me!  We'll just serve the cake without the icing, and it's going to be totally fine.  Thank you, Jesus, for the peace only you provide -- butter or no butter, icing or no icing!  After all, there is always room to be creative!"

Orrrr you know... the alternative... I choose to walk in the flesh and violently throw the whisk across the kitchen, only to make a mess everywhere and wind up weeping on the kitchen floor or yelling profanities in my head at the stupid cake and the stupid list and the stupid ingredients.  

If only I were kidding... :)  Maybe you can't relate to the butter saga, or perhaps you can.  Nonetheless, one of the realities about the world we live in is that we aren’t perfect, and thus one of the many repercussions of our imperfections is that we have a tendency to forget things.  We can have entire conversations with people and realize at the end we’ve completely forgotten their names.  We forget who was the 22nd President of the United States of America. We forget the capitol of Kentucky.  We forget the passwords that correspond with 1 of our 287 internet login ids.

Test dates, appointments, birthdays, anniversaries...  You name it.  We can forget the most important of details sometimes just because we’re forgetful and other times because we are so consumed with ourselves that we fail to think of anything or anyone else.

Sometimes we even forget who we are.  We experience difficulty and persecution and are quick to forget that all the suffering we face here on earth is only light and momentary in comparison with the eternal joy and glory we will experience with Jesus one day in heaven.

But if I’m really honest... what I forget more than anything else is the Gospel.

It’s almost laughable.  I wake up and spend time with the Lord almost every single day.  I work for a ministry and share the Gospel quite regularly.  I spend just about the entirety of my days talking to girls about who Jesus is and how He has changed my life. And yet the message I need to be reminded most is... who Jesus is and what He has changed my life.

God is so gracious to show us in the Bible that we aren’t alone in our forgetfulness.  Part of our sinful condition as humans is that we are prone to “forget” who God is, His Word, and how He has radically provided for us, delivered us, and changed us forever.  So it makes sense that throughout the Bible, we see people -- individuals and entire groups alike -- for whom God provides mighty victories, conquering armies and thousands of enemies on their behalf.  And the next day they forget Him completely and start worshipping idols as though He never existed in the first place.

Take Noah for example.  Back in his day, everyone had forgotten about God and were only doing awful things all the time.  God’s heart was filled with pain when he saw what had happened to the world He created and loved so dearly.  Disease, death, and destruction were rampant.  Noah loved God, which was somewhat an oddity in itself because no one else seemed to the time.  Perhaps you know the story.  One day God came to Noah and said, “People have filled my world with evil, death, and destruction.  I must stop them.  We’re going to build an ark.  A storm is coming, but I will rescue you, I promise.”  So by the grace of God, Noah built an ark and loaded up with two of every kind of animal and his whole family.

It rained for 40 days and 40 nights and God washed away everything that was destroying the earth. Finally the rain stopped. The sun came out, and everyone was so excited. The first thing Noah did was thank God for His provision and fulfilling His promise to rescue them.  (God is always, always faithful to fulfill His promises.  He's not like anyone else we know!)  Then first thing God did was make another promise to never destroy the world again.  He put a rainbow in the clouds as a sign of His promise and plan.  Though the evil would return because of all humanity's sinful condition, God planned to make a way to save the world through His very own Son -- Jesus.

We read all of this story in Genesis 9:1-17.  Three verses later, just after all of this has taken place -- God saves Noah and his family from the flood.  Noah praises God and glorifies Him.  God promises never to destroy the world again.  And what does Noah do next?  He plants a vineyard and gets so drunk he ends up passed out, naked in a tent.

The very same man who God chose to be a part of His plan to rescue the world gets inordinately wasted just after praising and thanking God for what He’d done for them.

How often do I identify with Noah?  God has provided for me more times than I could ever begin to count, and yet I’m so quick to either take my eyes off of Him and begin to pursue worldly things again... Or I look back at what He has provided for me and think to myself, “Wow!  I did such a good job.  I’m so great.”

I completely forget that it is by God’s grace alone that I have experienced any victory over sin or any joy in my life whatsoever.  

When I forget, what I know to be “true” in my head is not actually real to my heart and whole being. For example I may acknowledge intellectually that God is my provider, yet in my heart I feel as though I must provide for myself. We may know in our heads that God loves us for who we are not for what we do, but we live as though we have to earn God’s love and approval by the way we act and perform on a daily basis.

In his book Judges for You, Tim Keller explains it this way, “Our hearts are like buckets of water on a very cold day -- they will freeze over unless we regularly smash the ice that is forming. Though we know truths about God, we can very easily lose the sense upon our hearts of their reality. We know them, but we don’t taste, or see or feel them. Therefore the other things -- idols -- become more real to our hearts, and we serve them instead.”

While it may seem obvious, the remedy to our forgetfulness is to remember. 

In 2 Peter 1:3-9, Peter reiterates the importance of remembering the Gospel.

"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.  For this reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins."

Take an honest evaluation of your own heart...

Is your heart full of faith or fear?
Virtue or dishonesty?
Knowledge or ignorance?
Self-control or instability?
Steadfastness or inconsistency?
Godliness or worldliness?
Brotherly affection or selfishness?
Love or hate?

So often, my heart is full of fear. I walk in instability rather than self-control. I fix my eyes on worldly things and not godly things. I am quick to respond in hatred and not love.


I’ve forgotten who Jesus is and what He TRULY accomplished on my behalf. Not in that I literally forget -- as though I’ve never heard of Jesus before in my life -- but I find myself living as though I have functionally forgotten the character of God.  When I find myself forgetting the Gospel, I have to be reminded -- over and over and over again. It’s the Good News that SAVED us in the beginning and that continues to strengthen our faith and draw us closer to the Lord each and every day.

I have to remember the Good News that though I was dead in my sins, God made me alive in Christ.  Though I have failed the Lord in every way possible, though I have sought my own glory, though I have willingly enslaved myself to fear and anxiety and so many masters of this world, the Lord loved me enough to send perfect Jesus to pay the penalty for my sin.  He made Him who knew no sin to be sin, so that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God.  Jesus took upon Himself all my rage, all my bitterness, all my distrust, all my anger, all my selfishness, all my pride, all my insecurity, all of my evil.  He took on all the injustice the world would ever experience, so that all who place their faith in Him would be freed from sin and death forever.  Jesus truly did rescue us!

But the best part about the Gospel is that Jesus made a way for us to be made right with God, so we could know Him intimately and experience a personal relationship with Him.  All love, all hope, all grace, all peace, all joy, all victory, all consistency, all stability, all closeness, all freedom is found in God through relationship with Christ.

Even now in thinking on the truth of the Gospel, my heart is refreshed.  My heart is full, remembering who God is, what Jesus has done for me, and why I can trust Him implicitly with everything.  No matter what earthly things I lose or receive here in this life, God has already provided everything I could ever need in Christ.  No matter what earthly things I lose or receive here in this life, God already provided everything I could ever need in Christ.  

So in those moments my heart is full of fear, I must remember Jesus.  Because when I remember the Gospel, in reading God’s Word and reflecting on what He has done for me, all of my fears cease.  He fills me with faith to believe He loves me, He is protecting me, and nothing will pluck me out of His hands.  I don’t feel the need to be dishonest and pretend to be better than I really am because I know that I’m a sinful mess but I have been saved and redeemed and made new by Jesus.

When I remember the Gospel, my ignorance and confusion subside because I know that God has given me the Holy Spirit who will impart to me His perfect wisdom.  When I feel unstable or out of control, I remember that the sovereign God of the universe holds me in His hands.  He has made me His daughter because of what Jesus has done on my behalf.  He imparts to me His power and has freed me from the powers of this world.  When I lack desire to follow through with commitments, I remember that Christ has committed to me forever and it is by His strength and His grace alone that I can lean on Him in order to run the race set before me with endurance and joy.

When I deeply yearn to pursue worldly things, I remember that because of what Christ has done, I no longer have to be entangled by the things of this world.  As illustrious and glorious as they may seem, nothing compares to the glory of knowing Jesus as my Savior and closest friend.  I want to pursue holiness and be like my perfect big brother Jesus.  When I lack brotherly affection, I remember that I was at one point an enemy of Jesus.  I wanted nothing to do with Him.  And even still, He initiated with me.  He pursued my heart.  He saved me.  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  In thinking about how overwhelmingly kind Jesus has been to me, how could I possibly withhold kindness from another?

And finally when my heart feels nothing but hatred and anger and bitterness, I remember that had I been there when Jesus was about to be crucified, I would have denied Him three times like Peter or laughed at Him -- He claims to be God?  Yet as He was dying on the cross, He said, “Forgive them, they know not what they do.”  He has shown me unfathomable love, when I have had nothing but contempt in my heart.  I think about how much He loves me, and I can’t help but want to love others.  I can’t produce the love on my own, but as I surrender my hatred to Him, the Holy Spirit is so faithful to change me and fill me with the very love of Christ himself.

As we dwell in the truth of the Gospel, it will change our lives.  As we walk with Jesus intimately, spend time in the Word, and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to our hearts, we are reminded how much the Creator of the Universe loves us.  As our minds are renewed with His truth, and the truth becomes not only real in our heads but our hearts, our lives will change.  We will be full of steadfastness, brotherly affection, love, and so on.  But it isn't because we just try to be steadfast or loving or godly.  We can trust with faith that Holy Spirit will produce those things in us as we fix our minds on the truth and remember the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

God enjoys you.  
He delights in you! 
He's singing over you.


Lord Jesus, help us to remember the Gospel.  May we constantly remember that though we had nothing to offer you, you loved us SO much that you saved us.  You rescued us.  You made a way for us to know you in Jesus.  Thank you, Lord, for forgiving us of all of our sins and making us new.  Thank you for being our protector.  Thank you for keeping us close to you.  Thank you for never giving up on us.  Thank you for loving me even when I was unloveable.  Thank you for changing my heart of stone.  Thank you for being my best friend, my protector, my provider, the perfect Father, and the steadfast anchor of my soul!

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