Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Guest Post - On God's Opinion of Us (by Dave of Pure Grace Gospel blog)

My good friend and fellow blogger Dave N. has written a wonderful note on the loving acceptance of God, and how His opinion of us sets us free to live loved..and I wanted to share it here.  These thoughts have encouraged me so much, especially the idea of God praising us and being so well-pleased with us, and the idea of leaving behind old lying voices of shame and enjoying the freedom found in God's acceptance - freedom to be ourselves, to live life with joy, to accept ourselves and others!  Hope you all enjoy this note from Dave:

On God's Opinion of Us
by Dave N.

We just need to be forgetful people.  So many believers are consumed with past mistakes but Paul specifically says:

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, FORGETTING those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

Paul says, "This one thing I DO....FORGETTING...."  This is a very important practice we should follow.  We are to forget what is past but never forget what manner of man/woman we are in Christ Jesus.  We are not to walk away from the Law of Liberty forgetting our glorious image we truly are (James 1:24) but we truly have died to the Mosaic Law.  The Mosaic Law will always point a finger to condemn but the Law of Liberty only speaks glorious freedom. 

When we focus on our sins is when are considered "blind" and have "forgotten" that we had been forgiven of past sins (2nd Peter 1:9).  So many believers are consumed with some sin of the past (5 minutes ago or 5 years ago).  This is why the author of Hebrews stated there is "no more conscience (remembrance) of sins" (Hebrews 10:2) because of the once for ALL (behold the Lamb of God which taketh AWAY the sin of the WORLD) sacrifice.  God remembers our sins and iniquities "no more" (Hebrews 10:17).  If God remembers no more then we are to "forget."  We are to forget what we were or what religion claimed we were and behold who we forever are as sin has no room for display in our thinking.  We are what He is and not what we do. 

"God has just been showing me this, how important it is not to pass judgment on myself (or others)"

This is where freedom truly lies. Romans 14:22:

"Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth." 

Paul said this about himself in 1st Corinthians 4:3:

"But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I JUDGE NOT mine own self."

Paul went on to share how the Lord judges in verse 4 but we know that there is no "condemnation" in Christ Jesus and that is why Paul said in verse 5 "...and then shall EVERY MAN have praise of God."

The glorious thing about the gospel of grace is that the verdict was already passed before you or I even committed a single act.  We are justified, sanctified, and washed.  The problem with behavioral modification teaching is that we are constantly looking for approval by our performance.  Every person who says, "I am a good person" is probably telling the truth but such a statement means that they are hoping that God will one day pass the same sentence upon them by their performance.  Performance oriented thinking leads that person to keep assessing themselves before God where they live in a state of condemnation (Oh God, I did that sin again). 

People live backward lives because of religion.  We do not perform to gain God's approval but we perform because of God's approval.  Even when we "think" we are huge failures is to know that we are always "accepted in the Beloved" (accepted = well pleasing).  We can be assured that when we are judged by the Lord that "we shall have praise of God."  Acceptance always precedes behavior.  Love always precedes behavior.  God loved us when we were sinners and Christ died when we were enemies.  We are that special to God.

Remember, we always sin but we are NEVER to associate them to ourselves as they can no longer define us.  People who worry over their sins or performance before God will be a slave to low self esteem.  God highly esteems us and that means that if we never do another good work for God is to know that we remain highly esteemed.  We are and always will be well pleasing to Him.  We shall have praise from God.  We are the trophies of His grace.  He is forever proud of us. 

It's sad that much of our lives are spent trying to gain approval of others.  I cannot tell you how many times I daydreamed making myself into something I was not as I would picture the world around me rolling out the red carpet.  I cannot tell you the freedom of forgetting those things which are behind (either good works or my sins) and simply living in the reality that I have all things in Christ. I no longer strive to gain the worlds approval. 

No believer has it better or worse than us as we all are complete in Christ.  I do not need the world to pat me on the back.  I do not need to esteem myself better before others more than I ought.  This is why pride goes before a self esteem fall. When we seek to live up to a certain worldly or religious standard then experiencing a emotional fall is to be expected.  This is why so many believers hate themselves and call themselves, "A good for nothing Christian."  This is why so many doubt their salvation because of the religious standards (law/bondage) they strive to follow and when they fail is when they experience an emotional fall that wears them out.  It even wears out the legalist who continually performs and seems to be doing a good job at maintaining his/her religious duties but inwardly they are burning out..

We cannot live up to religious or worldly standards or we will ultimately crash.  Depression is often due to failed expectations.  We live trying to be accepted but that acceptance is almost always based on appearance/performance.  It is when we see God's loving hands embracing us is when we can lovingly embrace ourselves and those around us.  We can embrace flaws.  We finally allow chaos to be a part of our lives as we can live without things being perfect.  We can finally relax and simply be ourselves.  We can take off the religious masks and be the very person we are.  We can live life loved. 

I am aware of my flaws but I no longer hold them against myself.  My poor self esteem was due to trying to live up to religious/worldly standards.  I now forget those things that are past and that includes my so-called righteousness as but dung for the excellency of Christ.  I now see myself robed in the excellency of Christ and am satisfied. 

The key to victory is throwing out those religious/worldly expectations and live free.. "Cast out the bondwoman and her son and live free!!!!"  Living free lies outside of religion, law, and this present world.  We cannot be bound to any of those things because they come with expectations/standards that follows with condemnation for failure.  The world, the law, and religion are critical and judgmental of themselves, people, and their environment that will affect us the same way if we follow.  We are not to be conformed to this world (world often refers to the religious system) but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  Beholding our glorious image in Christ transforms us into that same glory (2nd Corinthians 3:18).

We are to follow Paul's advice and not care what people think of us.  Let's not judge ourselves.  The one thing that we are to do is forgetting what is past.  I like how the New Life Version translates 2nd Timothy 2:15:

"Do your best to know that God is pleased with you. Be as a workman who has nothing to be ashamed of. Teach the words of truth in the right way."

Do your best to know that God is pleased with you but performance, past behavior, or even people's assessment of you has no place in knowing whether or not God is pleased.  


Dave N.

6 comments:

  1. Hi Sparrow,
    I have a dear friend who suffers terribly because of a mental illness and it’s plain for all to see that he has the lowest self esteem. He can see this in himself too, but feels powerless to overcome it – all he can do is wait it out. I would say that he IS powerless to overcome it in his own strength, but he must wait on our Lord to heal him, however long that takes, and then, little by little. While he waits, we walk alongside him and hold his hand as best we can.

    I have another close friend who suffers terribly from low self-esteem because of the religious views which he was indoctrinated from even before he was 5 years old. He still carries some of that burden today, learning only recently, to turn from it as soon as he can after he finds himself venturing there. A daily struggle. But his struggle is not alone, his battle is not his own. Though it’s true that every man feels his burden to be the heaviest.

    Just as I need to be reminded of God’s promises until that very seed is sown in my heart and that in turn grows up and bears fruit, (and none of that by my own efforts, for in my worst of times even these dear old friends seemed to have deserted me!) I need to grow into this “forgetful person” which the Lord would have me be.

    It seems to be so often in my life that I can see where I want to be, or where I need to be, or would like to be, but cannot get there. Sometimes that path seems so close, almost as if I could reach out and touch it and it’s only then that I see that there is actually a great ravine in between. Our Lord says, Patience, trust in Me, take my hand and we will get there. There’s no quick fix, but do not despair, in the darkness Jesus’ light shines out all the brighter and the sound of His voice all the sweeter!

    I don’t believe that there’s one practice which we ALL should be following. Jesus alone is the Way and His Spirit will lead us to the Father’s lap by as many different routes as there are people in this world.

    I just wanted to say this because it might be hard reading for someone, like me who is still suffering from low self-esteem.
    Patrick

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  2. Woolly, thank you for what you shared and the kindness and gentleness in your words..I feel you understand what it is like to have low self-esteem and you are so accepting and caring towards those of us who do. I feel a solidarity with both your friends, having suffered from low self-esteem and shame most of my life..and still feeling it many times, still having that weight now and not feeling it is totally gone from my life..in fact, it is what caused my depression and many other struggles, and God has been loving me through all that in this past year, just beginning to heal my heart in so many ways..and you are absolutely right, for those of us who suffer from low self-image, there is not one practice we should all follow, Jesus is such a personal friend and Savior and He will work in us with a personal touch unique to each one. I hope that nothing in this post or any other sounded harsh, if so, please let me know and I will edit things, because I want this blog to be a safe haven, a place where people will always feel understood and uplifted, never shamed or pressured. God loves us all so much and He will show us how special we are to Him without us having to do a thing. He puts no pressure on us at all, just loves us where we are, as we are. I want to do the same. Thank you for all you said here, I say amen and pray that all of us with low self-esteem will feel His arms around us today, holding us, loving us, whispering His gentle acceptance to us!

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  3. Hi Wooly and Sparrow,

    What I had written was originally an email I sent. What I shared with one person might not be something others necessarily need but I believe the message is very important. I turned that email into a very long blog.

    Some of us have different fruits to offer different people. One might offer apples but another oranges. The apple is helpful to one but not so much the orange. I believe we all bear fruits that another person might find spiritually nutritious to their particular situation.

    My purpose was to show that religion has made many of us spiritually insecure. Most of my efforts was due to low spiritual self-esteem and that was why I now talk about it and what delivered me from performance oriented (low self-esteem driven) religion. I constantly was living in fear, doubt, and depression. I was always trying to counter the negative feelings with behavioral modification, good Christian music, and reading a lot of scripture. All my efforts always ended in failure and my feelings of failure convinced me that my opinion was God's opinion of me.

    You are correct, "I don’t believe that there’s one practice which we ALL should be following" as I even mentioned at the end of my blogsite that the things I shared on this subject are not to be viewed as a recipe for success. The moment we view it that way then we have gone right back into a performance mentality and when the performance fails then we suffer an emotional hit (confirms our low spiritual opinion of ourselves).

    I have found that things that truly helped me did not always help someone else. The message God had for me was not what He was seeking to convey to another person. I counseled one lady and something I said transformed her life but to me it was so insignificant but it was a message God wanted her to hear. Again, you are correct that there is not one practice we should all follow.

    I do find that forgetting what is past is crucial. Also, doing our best to know that God is well pleased with us can only be possible when the past is forgotten. It's hard believing that we are well pleasing to God when we are focusing upon our wrongs. It is a growth process as you said. It is just like clogged arteries that took years to get that way so unclogging arteries will not be achieved overnight ("no quick fix").

    I suffered spiritual low esteem terribly thanks to my religious upbringing. My past still tries paying me frequent visits with its terrible smelling death robes (old identity labels). I did not overcome it overnight but it took me a long time to shed the particular religious beliefs that kept me bound. My experience was that the more I become convinced of the love and acceptance of God the more I started to step out by faith. As I grew in grace was to see more and more of my own fig leaves (performance to gain acceptance) disappearing. It was with every fallen leaf that my spiritual self-esteem grew as I bathed in the sun (Son) of God's love.

    The love of God fills us up and it runs over into other areas of our lives. It is amazing how it affects every area of our being and there is no limit in this life.

    My blog on the subject was to hopefully cause some to question whether their doubting salvation, struggling with a sense of distance between them and God, or even feeling guilty just might be due to spiritual low self-esteem. It was for them to see if what they believe about God as taught by religion is not currently fueling the insecurity they sense. I then was hoping to replace the religious thoughts with the fact that one is well-pleasing in the sight of God. When our efforts are spent, "Do your best to know that God is pleased with you. Be as a workman who has nothing to be ashamed of. Teach the words of truth in the right way" then knowing we are well pleasing replacing all that shame we had been experiencing.

    My email is always open for a chat.

    Blessings to you both!

    Dave

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  4. Dave, thank you so much for all your thoughts..you know what it feels like to have low self-image caused by religious upbringing, and I know your heart is so pure in just wanting to love people and help them to see God's love for them, see their true value. I know you would never mean for your words to have any other effect than to love people and build them up. I wanted to make sure that no sensitive soul who came here would feel anything condemning coming from my words, and I'm sure you feel the same. We just want to spread the love of God and never bruise another heart, especially one that's already been so bruised by religious lies and low self-image.

    I think you make such an excellent point, that perhaps lots of the low self-esteem we think is the problem is really just an effect of the real problem, religious lies. Take away the religious lies and replace them with the glorious truth of our belovedness and the wounds and low self-image start to go away! I think God loves soothing hearts and loves just bathing us in love and washing away the lies. He is so wonderful at that! As I read what you wrote it made me realize, hey, there is nothing wrong with me, I don't have a self-esteem problem, I'm not messed up - I've just been lied to, and people who have been lied to get distorted and troubled ideas in their heads and just need to hear the truth! It makes me feel so strong and happy and normal to think about it that way!

    I write a lot of things on the blog to myself, because I have struggled with low self-image and performance-based acceptance and a fear of God being angry with me..and so I write things that God is teaching me, things I know I need to hear, as He brings healing to my soul. So this idea that there is nothing wrong with me at all, well, it is just sinking in in a new way!

    There is really nothing wrong with us! We really are amazing, beautiful, perfectly loved and perfectly made children of God, innocent and sweet before Him, fresh as the first day of creation! And there is not something 'wrong' with me because I haven't seen truth that as clearly before now..it is just that I was lied to, and it takes time for the truth to sink in! There's no shame in that! There's no shame in being wounded! We are innocent, we are just little children who have been deceived and of course we disliked ourselves and acted in some crazy ways due to the lies we were told...anyone would do that if they really thought they were worthless orphans, sinful and dirty and disgraceful to God! Yet now we discover the truth - we have been His dear ones all along! all along we've had a place of belonging, where we were wanted, adored, and affirmed! All along He's been delighting in us, loving us, accepting us! All along we've been so clean and perfect to Him, so innocent and sweet! Finding this out makes me feel so safe! So happy! So satisfied! So HOME! Makes me relax and actually start to love God, love others, love myself! The truth is so delicious, isn't it! Thank you Woolly and Dave for your important and enlightening thoughts on this subject!

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  5. Dear Dave, please believe me that I am so sorry for making you have to type out all those words. You are quite right about the apples and oranges and I guess I was hurting that day and thought that I needed to hear the opposite of what you were saying!!! :-) (Pears are my favourite fruit by the way!) I truly wish you peace and a wonderful day! Many blessings,
    Patrick
    Dear Sparrow, I think I can be that 'sensitive soul' my wife tells me that I'm over-sensitive. I took it too close to my heart, but Dave, Sparrow it helped me all the same, So thank you both and anyone else who has prayed about this too. (sometimes we can make it so difficult for ourselves!!!)
    Patrick

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  6. Patrick I do not think you are overly sensitive and I don't even believe there is such a thing, as if it is 'bad' to be a sensitive soul. We all honestly take things and receive things in different ways and with differing perceptions. That is okay and to be celebrated, I believe! I am very sensitive myself. That is why it is so important to me that noone ever, ever be hurt or wounded or feel condemned by anything they read here, it is so important to me that this be a safe place for people to come and read about God's grace and love and feel 100% safe, valued, understood and affirmed - lifted up and never torn down in any way. So I hope that anyone who feels troubled by anything they read here would always let me know so I can change the wording of what's written or somehow amend things. God is safe, never scary. God is love, He never harms or wounds us. God is grace, He never pressures us, makes demands of us, judges us or punishes us. God is light and in Him is no darkness (no dark side, no mean or angry side!) at all! So I want this blog to be a blog of pure light and love too, reflecting His character! He has always and ever been PURE LOVE to me, and I know that's who He is and want to share that here. So thank you for your comment, it was needed and appreciated, and I am sure Dave feels the same and would never want his words to harm or wound but only to build up and affirm people. Blessings to both of you my brothers! Isn't this a great fellowship of grace and peace we have here? I am so thankful for each and every one of you and for the wise words you share, I learn and am uplifted so much by you all!

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May the amazing grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, and the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. 2 Co. 13:14