The Greatest Invitation

The Greatest Invitation

The door is WIDE open. The invitation is extended to all. There is a global call for all of mankind to yield to the everlasting love of God through surrender, repentance, and worship. It’s simple. It’s not complicated. It’s not hard. It was never intended to be. God loves ALL. He hates sin because it separates us from Him (Isaiah 59:2), but He loves ALL. He wants ALL. He is calling ALL. He sent His son for ALL (John 3:16). Salvation is available to ALL. Don’t let anyone lie to you and convince you otherwise.

There is a global call to repentance because God’s kindness is indeed meant to draw us to repentance (Romans 2:4). He’s not this vengeful, tyrant king who just seeks to strike us down for every little mistake. I once had this misconception of God and I’m sure I’m not alone. Before truly understanding the nature of His love, my focus was simply trying to stay out of sin to avoid “punishment”. This is legalism and Jesus did not shed His blood as the ultimate atoning sacrifice for our sins for us to adopt a legalistic response to His love. Once we really accept Jesus into our hearts as our Savior, allowing His love to fill hearts, and His Spirit to fill ever fiber of our being, our love for Him drives us into righteousness and holiness (2 Corinthians 5:21), which are the characteristics God seeks to mature us in. In other words, His love makes us want to live our lives and conduct ourselves in a manner that is pleasing to Him, and when we stray from that standard, we feel deep conviction. We will never be perfect, but Jesus is perfect, and He sacrificed Himself to reconcile and reinstate us back into the place in which God originally (and always) intended for us to dwell – in His perfect will through relationship (2 Corinthians 5:16-20).

So many feel that they aren’t ready. I did at one time. In fact, I was scared that giving my life to Christ meant forfeiting all enjoyment and living a dry and boring religious life where nothing is allowed. Who would want that? I spent years with my focus on everything but God. I tried to justify myself by being “good” rather than trusting in the power of redemption that is able to change my heart and life. I experienced one of my greatest breakthroughs when I finally learned to stop depending on my own strength and depend on His. I stopped trying to fix myself. My focus shifted from merely trying to avoid sin to allowing the love of God to heal my soul. I learned to accept the freedom that His Spirit brings (2 Corinthians 3:17). I learned that repentance is not just about a vocal proclamation, but yet it is the position of the heart turned to allow God (through His Holy Spirit that lives in us) to help us turn from sin. A good way to describe it is this way: If you’re sitting in between two people and turn your head to the person at your right, the person to your left is out of your site. You cannot look both ways at the same time. It’s impossible. So, when we choose to turn to God, we turn from sin because God is the polar opposite of sin, which is evil. Because we’re human, we will mess up and make mistakes, but by the atoning blood of Christ, we’re acquitted of the wages of sin which are condemnation and death (Romans 6:23).

As God’s children, our commitment is to Him, not sin. Got weaknesses? We all do. I’m far from perfect. But I’ve learned to lean into the truth that God’s strength is truly demonstrated in my weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9). In other words, when I’m struggling, when I fail, when I’m weak, God’s strength will always fill the gap to complete me so there are no deficiencies. He makes me whole. I know that He can surely do what I cannot. This is what I aim to rest in each day, and His Spirit helps me (Isaiah 41:10). I have experienced the power of God at work in my life that severed chains of sins I simply did not have the power to destroy. If we could fix ourselves, addiction wouldn’t exist, nor would many of the other issues that plague humanity.

This is the greatest invitation: to ascend beyond our human nature into a divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4) through the ultimate relationship provided through salvation. Only Christ could have done this. Only Christ would do this.

This is the greatest invitation.

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The Gift That Keeps Giving

Love. It’s the foundation of our faith and salvation. It’s because of love that God sent His one and only son to suffer for our sins, providing the gateway to redemption and salvation (John 3:16). Because of love, God was that eager to restore mankind back into His arms, where we were created to be. Love is the greatest commandment – actually, it’s twofold. The absolute greatest commandment is to love God (Matthew 22:36–38). Then the second greatest commandment follows – to love each other (Matthew 22:39). 

I have always been one to hold grudges. I’ve always been one to take offense quite quickly. I can remember the details of an offense that happened 10 years ago as if it just happened today. I can recall what was  done and said, how it was done and said, etc. Most of all, I can recall the intense anger and hurt it induced. I’ve always been one to internalize, so I wasn’t always good with expressing my thoughts and feelings. Needless to say, rather than working through relational issues, it was far more convenient for me to just cut people off, leaving no room for further hurt or offense. No conversation, no mediation. I just simply disconnected. Of course, rumination kept the cycle of resentment and anger in full motion. When I examined this attitude and behavior through the truth of God’s word, I realized that I was in agreement with darkness through disobedience, and in the great danger of sin. This is greatly displeasing to God, and should in no way ever be taken lightly (Romans 6:23). 

If we don’t forgive others, God will not forgive us (Matthew 6:14–15). Yikes. If we claim to love God but hate someone…well…we actually don’t love God (1 John 4:20–21). Again, yikes. God’s requirement for us to love is nonnegotiable, and I think that’s because God continuously pours out so much of His love on us through His immeasurable grace and mercy. Christ is available to all (no one exempt), and when we except Him into our hearts, He fills us with His Holy Spirit. How sweet! He literally abides in us, helping us to walk in the obedience of His ways. In fact, love is the first stated fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). So, this tells us that love is a choice we are more than capable of making. Simply put, we can make the choice to love and forgive others because God has extended immense love and forgiveness to us. It’s the gift that keeps giving. 

Because I know me, I have to make the daily decision of drawing closer to God through prayer, worship, and His word. He’s the only, and I mean the only way I can walk in the love He has called me to walk in. Again, I have always been one to hold grudges. Letting go and forgiving does not come naturally for me. It just doesn’t. Unfortunately, I am a pro at harboring anger, but this isn’t God’s way. It is quite displeasing to Him. So, I must start my day with prayer and worship and I must make the daily decision to choose what is right and pleasing to Him. Lately during my morning prayer, I have been verbally committing to the Lord, “I choose love. I choose forgiveness. I choose joy. I choose grace.” When I commit myself to these things before God, I’m being proactive. So if someone ticks me off (which will happen throughout life), my heart and mind are already set to choose God’s approach. This not only helps me to treat people better, but it also helps me to feel better. Above all, it pleases God and keeps me focused on Him, which keeps me in peace (Isaiah 26:3).

When I think about God’s grace, my heart warms. There have been times when I have willfully sinned, and yet received a blessing instead of punishment. Now I need to make a strong disclaimer here!!! I am in no way implying that God rewards sin. He does not!!! I am, however, emphasizing how God has spared me from the wrath and punishment I deserved. His kindness and patience is meant to draw us to repentance (Romans 2:4).  In other words, there’s something heartwarming about being spared from the punishment we deserve, and it makes me want to do better. It brings deep conviction, making me want to turn from any and everything that offends and grieves Him. God deeply loves us, and He wants us to come closer to Him. He wants more than just religious routine. God wants a relationship. So, He lavishes us with so many amazing gifts, like His love, grace, and mercy.  Because we are also called to give, He expects (and helps) us to extend these gifts to one another. They are truly gifts that keep giving.

When someone wrongs me, I remember that I have wronged others in the past. I remember that I also have flaws just like anyone else. I remember that I cannot judge or hold anything against anyone, because God is not holding my sins against me. I think about how God loves me unconditionally, and He gives me the ability to love others because He loves me. His grace spares me from the punishment I deserve, so I can spare others instead of holding their wrongs against them. At the end of the day, we all need room for err. Grace helps me to keep my eye on the beauty in others. Grace helps me to look past flaws. Love drives me to embrace the beauty in others because God embraces the beauty in me. Of course the temptation to steep in anger and resentment arises from time to time. But I am training myself not to yield to it. I choose to reflect upon and extend the gifts that keep giving, which enrich my peace and joy.

Thoughts and Feelings

I believe that some people are born with the natural tendency to lean more on the positive side, taking on more of an optimistic perspective. Others have to work a little harder to stay on the optimistic side. I am one of those who often have to put in a tad bit more work to see the bright side of things. 100 great things can happen in a day, but all of my attention can tend to shift to the one annoyance – a molehill turned into a mountain. It’s a trait that I legitimately hate.

We all have weaknesses and flaws, so there is no shame at all. The awesome news is Christ gives us a NEW nature (2 Corinthians 5:17). It doesn’t mean all of our issues vanish overnight. That would be too easy, and we would gain very little strength without perseverance. When we have Christ, we have issues, but our issues don’t have us. We may struggle from time to time, but we trust that everything (even our faults and failures) works out for our good in some way according to the perfect will of God (Romans 8:28). We know that we can get through anything with Christ (again, according to His perfect will and plans) because He gives us the strength and He makes us victorious (Philippians 4:13; Romans 8:37). With all this being said, I think it is safe to conclude that deliverance is participatory. God will help us (emphasis on help) but He won’t enable our laziness or passiveness. He does require our participation.

Negative thoughts. We all have them from time to time. Some of us hang on to them WAY longer than we should. Here is the liberating reality – WE DON’T HAVE TO. Sure, negative thoughts will pop up in our minds here and there. We will have encounters and experiences that will induce negative thoughts and emotions BUT we have POWER over them (2 Timothy 1:7). Also, it’s great to know that self-control is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). We don’t have to sulk in our negative emotions and thoughts. We’re human. We will feel them, and it is healthy to acknowledge and address them, as internalizing is toxic; however, we must be sure not to prolong our occupancy in negative thoughts and emotions. We can’t stay in them. In fact, we’re not supposed to take unresolved anger into the next day (Ephesians 4:26), but thankfully God extends immeasurable grace that spares and empowers us through failures and mistakes. I have slept on anger and awoke to it more times than I care to count.

It’s amazing how our thoughts and emotions effect our physiology. There are numerous scientific studies that show a correlation between anger, resentment, pessimism and various diseases. This is why it is so urgent and important to capture toxic thoughts and emotions, address them, express them in a healthy way, take them to the Lord in prayer, worship to shift our attention from the negative to God, and intentionally think something GOOD and life-producing. In the book of Philippians, Apostle Paul gives us pretty solid instructions for how to think. We’re to trust God with what’s wrong (through prayer and worship) while keeping our minds on things that are true, lovely, and beautiful (Philippians 4:4-8).

God is inviting us into His rest and peace. Peace is also a fruit of the Spirit, so as Spirit-filled sons and daughters of the Most High, we have everlasting access to it. Peace should be our default, and it can be. This is the power of God. This is why Jesus hung on the cross and rose three days later with all victory. This is why He wants us to come to Him with EVERYTHING. He knows every thought and emotion, and we never have to feel ashamed or embarrassed to bring them to him in prayer because He loves us and beckons us into His presence where there is fullness and joy (Psalm 16:11). So, we can overcome our negative thoughts and emotions by dealing with them in a healthy way through open and honest communication, prayer, worship, and intentionally deciding the think something good and live-producing. We must continuously work with the Holy Spirit to renew and cleanse our minds and hearts from day to day. He is there waiting for us. We just have to meet Him. That’s how we continue on in PEACE and JOY. That’s how we live awesome lives.