by Susan Thomas
I’ve heard it said that the most important thought you will ever think is what you think about when you think about God. Not only is that a potential tongue twister (try to say it three times in a row fast!), it is a VERY true statement.
Our view of God will change how we live our lives.
If we believe He is an angry God with His heart set on our destruction, we will run as far away as we can to hide from His wrath. Or we might determine to win God’s approval and favor by trying harder to make right choices and achieve His mercy. If we believe God is indifferent and feels apathy towards us, we might deem Him irrelevant to our lives and decide we must find our own way.
In our moments of pain or crisis, we will look to anyone and everything except our Creator because we believe He simply does not care and will not help. But what if we are wrong? How does God feel about us? The accurate answer to this question is crucial. Thankfully, the Bible shows us God’s heart for us.
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36, NLT)
He had compassion on them.
Compassion. The very word means “co-suffering.” Compassion is an emotion felt far deeper than even empathy or pity for someone. Compassion is the ache felt throughout your whole being on behalf of another. Compassion creates a desire to help alleviate the suffering of someone else.
Jesus felt compassion because of our lost and confused state. He loved those people in that crowd, and He loves us today. Not only does Jesus love us, He has the power to completely rescue us. He does not bring partial healing or a portion of help. As we believe and receive Him, God promises to save us fully for all eternity.
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16–17, NLT, emphasis mine)
God feels compassion for you. God loves you. And this, my friend, changes everything. Instead of running away, we run to our Great God. When we believe our God loves us, we cry out to Him in our distress. We talk with Him as we face daily challenges. We trust His heart for us, and we follow His lead. We thank Him for every good thing in our lives and commit to love Him back.
Understanding how God feels about us will change how we feel about others. As a counselor, I want to have the heart of Jesus. I want my life to look more like His every day. Yet I also am to remember that I am not Jesus. I must know my role and understand His role. Distinguishing the two is of utmost importance. We help others most when we understand who is the real Savior in every situation.
I cannot save others, but I can point them to the Savior. I cannot heal others, but I can lead them to the Healer. I am not to judge others, but I am to speak the truth in love. I am not to detach from others, but to love them with the love of Jesus. I am not to feel apathy, but I am to have a heart of compassion that moves me to help.
Only when we understand how God feels about us can we flourish in our relationship with Him. As we remain in His love and experience His compassion, He will unlock our hearts to love others.
Will you pray with me?
God, please change my heart and life. I desire to understand your love for me. I want to comprehend the compassion you feel towards my life. Thank you for moving on my behalf to rescue me, heal me and help me in every way. Please help me to love you back and follow you daily! Give me a heart for others that follows your design. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
by Paul Tripp
When I got married, I didn’t understand grace. I had a principle-istic view of Scripture that caused me to bring a law economy into all of my relationships.
The central focus of the Bible is not a set of practical principles for life. No, the central theme of the Bible is a person, Jesus Christ. If all you and I needed was a knowledge and understanding of a certain set of God-revealed principles for living, Jesus wouldn't have needed to come.
I think there are many Christians living in Christ-less relationships. Without knowing what they're doing, they construct law-based rather than grace-based relationships. And because of this, they ask the law to do what only grace can accomplish.
The problem with this is that we're not just people in need of wisdom; we're also people in need of rescue—and the thing that we need to be rescued from is us. Our fundamental problem is not ignorance of what is right. Our problem is selfishness of heart that causes us to care more about what we want than about what we know is right.
The laws, principles, and perspectives of Scripture provide the best standard ever towards which our relationships should strive. They can reveal our wrongs and failures, but they have no capacity whatsoever to deliver us from them. For that we need the daily grace that only Jesus can give us.
We must not simply hold one another to the high relational standards of God’s Word, but we must also daily offer the same grace that we've been given to one another so that we may be tools of grace in the lives of one another. Our confidence is not in the ability we have to keep God’s law, but rather in the life-giving and heart-transforming grace of the One who has drawn us to himself and has the power to draw us to one another.
When we live with this confidence, we look at the difficulties of our relationships not so much as hassles to be endured, but as opportunities to enter into an even deeper experience of the rescuing, transforming, forgiving, empowering grace of Jesus, the One who died for us and is always with us.
Three mentalities—each an essential building block for a healthy biblical, relational lifestyle. Each require the honesty of personal humility, and each encourage us to be reconciled to one another and to God again and again and again.
The Christian’s Purpose
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.” John 1:6-8
Mark Twain may have been at least partially right, that “the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” But his proverb has nothing in it of the eternal, without which all purposes and discoveries come to an end. So with an added spiritual dimension, I will say that the two most important days of my life were in being born again and then discovering why. Why a holy, righteous God would inhabit my darkened soul, lighting me from within like the glow of radium – so light is not something I have, it is something I am. I know, because that is the name Jesus gave me, “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).
In the first chapter of Genesis we read, “And God made the two great lights – the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night – and the stars.” As the fixed point of our solar system, the sun’s bright corona gives light, warmth, growth, and energy as its incandescent blaze effaces all other lights, the moon and stars dimmed by its effulgent lamp. It rules the day. But what will illumine the night when the sun withdraws into its chamber? The moon, the lesser light who with the reflected rays of the sun can make distinguishable roads and signs that help disoriented people find their way home in the dark.
I was saved for a purpose. I was saved not only to enjoy God (now and forever), but also to represent Him, to glorify Him, to reflect His light to a world groping in humanistic darkness so they could see clearly a Savior Who is the way, the truth, and the life. I wasn’t saved for myself. I was saved to encourage the people of God and to illumine the road Home for the lost. I was saved to rule the night.
As John Piper says, “That’s the plan. The Word and the Life and the Light are coming into the world. But they are not going to conquer this darkness the way a bolt of lightning brightens the night. They are going to conquer it by lighting millions of cold, dead human torches with the oxygen of the gospel and the mysteriously spontaneous combustion of the new birth. And that gospel will come through human witnesses.”
So, as human witnesses of the glorious gospel what lessons can we learn from that which would otherwise be a blank orb hanging in the sky without the borrowed light of the sun? There is really only one. The moon knows what it is. Dust. Just dust. But it is composed of particles (none of which are organic which means it is thoroughly lifeless) including various kinds of glasses, making it highly reflective. Likewise, Christians who are “highly reflective” know their frames are dust and depend entirely on the Spirit of God through time in the Word and time on their knees to walk in a manner worthy of their calling. As lesser lights, they know that “the one who plants and the one who waters is nothing but the One Who causes the growth is everything.” They count others as more important than themselves, living gladly to make others glad in God.
They are happy to serve, using the gifts God gave them build up and minister to the body of Christ. They are good listeners. They see themselves as conduits of God’s love, not receptacles. They forgive because of all they have been forgiven. They deflect unjust remarks and ill treatment by others to the One Who judges righteously. They are honest. Their speech is seasoned with understanding and kindness. They know they are the lesser to magnify the Greater.
But above all, they are grateful. Eternally grateful that God would take a person, dead in their transgressions and sins without one particulate of life, and not only regenerate them to newness of life, but to adopt them as His Own child, bestowing all the riches of the glory of the inheritance of the saints upon them. Christians who live for the glorify God are in constant wonder of the condemnation they deserved and humbled adoration of the One Who set them free.
Humility comes from the word, humus, which simply means dirt. Dust. But oh, how it catches the divine rays of God’s glory and love and mercy and goodness that witness to the lost in this present darkness. Dear saint, never for a moment entertain the thought that you have no purpose. You have been chosen by God to shine the rescuing beam of His light into the deep caverns and pits of those trapped in sin. Is there a greater value to assign to one’s life than being a part of redemptive history? A redemption that means heaven instead of hell? Eternity has no end, nor will the results of fulfilling your purpose in ruling the night as you cast crowns at the feet of the Lord Jesus in glory (Philippians 4:1; I Thes. 2:19).
Might that be our great occupation. Shining. Reflecting. Illumining. Rejoicing. Because we are infinitely happy to be saved, redeemed, accepted, and destined for mansions palatial with eternal joy and the very presence of the Lamb. Might we lose ourselves in the glory of God, un-eclipsed by pride, full face to the Son and “let our light shine before men so they can see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.”
On several occasions I spoken on the topic of sexual abuse and the shame associated with it. Shame is such a pervasive part of any kind of abuse or any sin. What has profoundly impacted me as I’ve thought about all this is how my brothers and sisters are overwhelmed by the sin of sexual abuse and the shame that accompanies it.
Driven Undercover by Shame
I’ve also thought a lot lately about my own shame. I have a propensity to want to hide or depersonalize my pain by distraction—just not being real with people. Shame leads me to a place where I can’t even worship without self-consciousness.
Shame is universal and started in the garden of Eden. God covered our shame over and over but Christ absorbed it once and for all at the Cross. We get that intellectually, but those who have been abused hear other voices—voices of condemnation and humiliation. Their shame seems so much deeper. It can easily enter the soul like deadly venom. Shame drives us undercover, but the cost is great. We can hide so well. God calls us out of hiding, asking us to consider, “Where are you?”
Slaying the Goliath of Shame
Shame can be such a giant. God wants us to be victors, but how are we to slay the Goliath of shame? It is only through Christ’s blood and His divine power that we dare enter battle. We dare not cower or in our fear give way to the god of this world. Satan wants to keep us from the freedom found in Christ and the power found in forgiveness at the cross. Christ despised the shame of the cross and slayed the giant for us.
Imagine if David had dropped his slingshot and run. David was mocked, tried on the wrong armor, but then remembered who he was and that the battle was not his. He was not alone. Taking one small smooth stone and the courage mustered from his zeal for God, he faced Goliath, dropping him like a giant redwood. But he did not just knock him out; he cut his head off!
Shame can come and go, until you have a funeral and forgive once and for all. Just think about that. What would it be like if we knew the power of God to overcome shame? Jesus despising the shame of the cross, bleeding, naked and in soul pain, took on the shame that was ours.
There is nothing that robs the perpetrator of haunting our memories or possessing our soul like our identification with the passion of Christ. We are so much more than what has happened to us. We need to reorient our whole identity with His life in us. We have to finish the journey going from the garden to the cross, from being overwhelmed at the garden to being victorious at the cross, defeating death and shame forever. Not that we would be rid of our pain… not necessarily… but that the pain would be redeemed pain.
There is Therefore Now No Condemnation
Satan hates this truth… that pain can be used for God’s glory. Satan hates it and will lie to us so we look away from Christ. Yet, even the most heinous sins of our past will be redeemed for the glory of the only one worthy of our worship and for our good!
Just think about the word redemption. Our self-condemnation serves no godly purpose. It is Satan’s trick to keep us from freedom. A cheap ploy to rob us of the deep conviction and then the even deeper mercy that gives peace.
A Personal Invitation: From Victim to Victor
Come to Christ, confess, weep, receive His love, and rest in Him. Perfect love drives out fear. Rebuke the lies, listen to the voice of Truth, and receive the comfort of His Spirit. Don’t give your perpetrator, Satan, one more moment of satisfaction. Remember, he who conceals his sin will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes his sin will receive mercy (Proverbs 28:13). If you were abused, you did not bring any shame on to yourself. However, you are living under it if you identify more with being a victim than with being a victor in Christ.
Confess any bitterness, release the shame, and quit hiding from God. Hiding in itself is a sin. Come into the light. He will replace with righteous robes those flimsy fig leaves that keep you in humiliation and fear. He will redeem your pain—over time you will be healed at a soul level.
You will be a mighty instrument of redemption for others. Others will see and praise God. We need you. Your courage, your story, your vulnerability will surely be used to purify and give hope to many. God will shine once again through you, and His glory will be revealed through the cracks left as a reminder that we are but jars of clay.
The Association of Biblical Counselors (ABC) exists to encourage, equip, and empower people everywhere to live and counsel the Word, applying the Gospel to the whole experience of life.
Encourage: ABC provides a fellowship of believers committed to life transformation through the Living Word.
Equip: ABC promotes training in biblical counseling and points to resources that deal biblically with all of the issues of life.
Empower: ABC provides excellent materials for growth in Christ and for use in effective biblical counseling.
To find out more, visit the Association of Biblical Counselors website.