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one of the best habits we can cultivate

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I know what is said about making a new habit: it takes 21 days. But what if a lifetime is needed?

There is one habit I have been forming (yes, still forming) consciously and intensely and clumsily in my adult years of loving God, and that is girl, fix. your. eyes. on. Jesus.

Make a mistake? See Jesus, and know His forgiveness.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14

Fall in love? See Jesus, and know His way of loving and being loved.

Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. John 15:9

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Struggle with a weakness? See Jesus, and know His grace is sufficient.

He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:6-8

Hurt by a loved one? See Jesus, and know His comfort and gentleness.

The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Psalm 46:1-3

Wrestling with your flesh? See Jesus, and know His plan and vision for eternity.

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freedom is more than an optimistic sentiment

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While seeing friends in North Carolina we visited the Billy Graham library. Walking amongst items and testimonials of those Graham served alongside and those to whom he served up the transforming person of Jesus, I couldn’t help but marvel at the gift of my own salvation. Standing a few feet from where his and Ruth’s bodies now lay within a well-kept garden, a surprising word came bustling up through my soul: free. 

When I think of freedom, I think of wild horses bounding across an open field. I think of a rushing river, never stagnant. I also imagine its opposite: chains or a prison cell. Living freely felt bold and risky, and held at my arm’s length. For a rule-follower, freedom seemed unsustainable, untethered from anything solid. It was many years before I realized what freedom is Christ truly meant. Hint: it’s not simply an optimistic sentiment. 

Peter, a disciple of Jesus, challenges us to “live as people who are free… living as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16). Freedom is the way of life Christ purchased for us with His death on the cross. It’s not a special level we reach as we mature. It is not a temporary state reserved for the days we feel victorious. The moment we believe Jesus as Savior and Lord we become free people.  

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

John MacArthur says, “God’s gift of redemption brings salvation from both sin’s oppression and sin’s consequences—and one day from its very existence.” For us to live enslaved to our sufficiency, or fear, or success, or inability is like God presenting His gift, and us refusing to accept it. 

He says, You. Are. Free.

And our lives respond with, I’d rather not.  

My path to embracing freedom has been slow and a bit challenging. Why? Because for a long time I worked for God as if an employee, instead of receiving, as His child, all He wanted to be and give. 

In His presence is fullness joy, but as a worker bee, I struggled to hear His kind voice, to find His loving eyes, amidst the flurry of my efforts to please Him. I battled the lie that since God had done such a miraculous and wonderful saving of me, it was only right that I should respond with something in return. Freedom was transactional, elusive, sometimes foreign and oftentimes out of reach. 

I’ve long known the facts of freedom, but once my soul yielded to the tangible freedom Jesus held out to me, I took a step toward joy I’d never known before.

Living free is a continual coming to His glorious throne, knowing rest for my soul, whatever the circumstances. It is the gift of His presence in prayer and the Bible, no matter how faithful (or not) I feel, as a daughter enjoys the company of her Father.

To embrace our freedom, we must accept the unchangeable truth that we are in Him and He is in us. It is accepting what He says about us as true no matter what. We’re free to live by faith and not sight – “a life of joyful reliance on what God does for us, not what we can do for God” (John Piper). Our freedom identity stabilizes us when we’ve made mistakes, when we’re hurt by another, or when life threatens to unravel us. We’re free to enjoy creation and the Creator, free to walk closely with His Spirit. We’re free to love and be loved, to depend on His sufficiency every moment. We’re free to act on confidence in Him over insecurity in ourselves, free to confess and to forgive. And like Billy Graham, we’re free to speak the Truth boldly, surrender our passions to God’s purposes, and as we breathe our last, say ‘gain’ (Philippians 1:20-21).

Can you see freedom in your life? If not, what is stopping you? 

 


 

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

–Charles Wesley, “And can it be that I should gain”

What Resting in God Isn’t

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Lord, thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee. Saint Augustine

I am learning (slowly and clumsily) real soul rest in God. Rest – by grace through faith putting expectations and doubts and desires into His hands. Rest – connecting to Jesus as my source of joy, peace, and contentment in the mundane and mighty. Then, there are ways I think my soul is resting when it actually isn’t, so I flesh those out here.

Resting in God is not mustering up right answers we think we need.

Resting in God is not copying someone else’s personality or passions because they seem “better.”

Resting in God is not striving for acceptance from the world. 

Resting in God is not keeping busy to escape the loneliness, insecurity, or fear.

Resting in God is not fighting for a position of worthiness.

Resting in God is not anxiously living to be everything for everybody.

Resting in God is not working to constantly prove ourselves.

Resting in God is not tackling life alone.

Resting in God is not blindly walking through the day restless or overwhelmed.

The Christian life is a life of day-by-day, hour-by-hour trust in the promises of God to help us and guide us and take care of us and forgive us and bring us into a future of holiness and joy that will satisfy our hearts infinitely more than if we forsake him and put our trust in ourselves or in the promises of this world. And that day-by-day, hour-by-hour trust in God’s promises is not automatic. It is the result of daily diligence and it’s the result of proper fear (and awe of God). John Piper, italics added by me

To rest in God is to embrace His unfailing love for you.

To rest in God is to believe His words about you.

To rest in God is to trust that when life seems uncertain, it’s steady in His hands.

To rest in God is to find joy in His presence in the mundane and the mighty.

To rest in God is to know genuine peace in times of stress and worry.

To rest in God is to be upheld by His sufficient grace and power.

To rest in God is to position yourself beloved in His family.

To rest in God is to choose confidence in Him over the weakness in yourself.

To rest in God is to experience His fullness.

To rest in God is to cultivate listening ears to His voice.

To rest in God is to worship Him wholeheartedly, and be inspired.

To rest in God is to fear Him and live in awe of Him.

As we seek to be the church in this world, let us not seek to pursue abiding satisfaction and spiritual purpose by gazing inward or by probing the cauldron of mixed motives and fickle emotions that lie within the recesses of our hearts. Instead, let us simply remember what our hearts were created and redeemed for: to look outward in faith and to rest in the finished work of the One who loved us and gave Himself for us (Gal. 2:20). Scott Anderson

What does it mean for you to rest your soul in God?

 


 

We leave for Utah in a week!

(Photo of Bryce Canyon by Laura Agustí on Unsplash)