The Freedom of Life With Jesus

By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Hebrews 10:10

Understanding our identity as Christians is so important to living in grace. I’ve mentioned before that we are saints who sin. What do I mean by that? It means we are justified. Through the cross, we are sanctified. Jesus did it all in one perfect sacrifice.

Now we are invited to receive grace. Here’s an amazing thing about receiving grace. We begin to live in trust, and that increases us in grace.

I’ve learned so much about this. I have experienced the grace that comes from trusting others in who they are. I have experienced the grace that comes from trusting others with who I am. I’m not talking about the person that I intend to be, always feeling great and never having a problem or a bad day. I’m talking about the real person, the person I truly am.

This has been a lesson in freedom! It’s very freeing to be able to say to people, “This is who I am.” It allows me to mess up and not feel ashamed. Think about that. We don’t have to live in shame! This is huge! We can live in trust.

This is huge because I’m not perfect. I fail. I mess up. I have bad days. I cuss every now and then. Sometimes I get irritable. Sometimes I get frustrated. Sometimes I blow a fuse.

But I can trust my wife, my close friends and my children to say, “I know you messed up. It happens. It doesn’t change my opinion of you. I love you.”

I receive their grace, and it sanctifies me.

Jesus is the reason I can trust people with my imperfect self. He took all of our shame to the cross. Then He resurrected! He gave us new life!

Now, the same Spirit that lived in Him lives in me. Now, because of His death and resurrection, I am a righteous man. I am holy because Jesus is holy. He has set me free from sin and death. There is no condemnation! (Romans 8:1-4)

Through the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, we are righteous and holy in the eyes of God.

With this understanding, we can look at each other in trust. We have to! When we live in trust, we understand what it means to say that we have been sanctified. We are saints that sin.

That’s different from the identity of sinners that have been saved. The two perspectives are completely different. When you think of yourself as a sinner, you’re scared of sinning. You’re scared of being less than perfect. You know you have been saved, but that just feeds the shame of your sin.

When you live Biblically in who you are, then everything changes. God looks at you and He doesn’t see a sinner. He sees His precious child who is righteous and holy.

That’s why you don’t need to hide in your shame anymore. You’re sanctified! So when you mess up, that’s it. You mess up. You’re not perfect, because as long as you are in the flesh, the flesh will sin. So when you mess up (and you will), you say “I’m sorry” and then trust that you will receive grace. Not shame. Grace.

This is the freedom of life with Jesus. Now you have the freedom to say, “This is who I am,” and do you know what will happen? You will receive grace!

When shame starts causing you trouble, banish it. Say, “No! I am righteous!”

You will only be speaking the truth!

Out of the Cycle of Failure

And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. Luke 15:20-24

We trust God. We trust that God sends Jesus to save us. That’s what Christians do. It’s part of the gig, right?

But do we trust God in all things? Most of us would say yes, we do. But do we, really? All the time? God says that we are holy and righteous, but do we truly trust that? When we mess up, what do we do? We crawl into a little hole in shame. When we come out, we try to double up on righteousness to make sure we cover for our failure. And then we feel like we fail doing that. It’s a cycle of failure!

We get caught in this cycle of failure, and then we don’t feel like God is close by. So we try even harder to make ourselves righteous. “I’m not fasting enough.” “I’m not praying enough.” Or we go to church and someone asks us, “How often do you do your Bible study? Did you read your Bible this morning? Did you get into the Word of God? Is your intimacy with Him there?” We start to fear that we’re not enough for Him.

Intimacy with Christ will increase your ability to feel close to God. I have no doubt about that. Meditating on the Word of God is huge. But meditating on the Word of God will not make you more righteous and more holy. It does not matter how much you do it. Only the sacrifice of Christ can make you righteous and holy.

It’s really hard for us to wrap our minds around the idea that Christ earned our holiness and righteousness, and that it’s free to us, no performance necessary. It’s hard to grasp, because everything else we do is performance-based. Jobs, games, sports, it’s all performance-based. It’s hard to trust God when He says that we are holy and righteous because it’s such an incredible gift. We want to perform so that our actions will prove to Him that we are worthy. But God has already told us that we are worthy. We are new creatures in Christ Jesus. God says, “I made you new. Now you are holy and righteous. That’s who you are.”

No longer do we have to say, “I messed up today. I’m a terrible person.” No. Now we say, “I messed up today. I did! But I have God and He has already forgiven me. He loves me and smiles on me, His prodigal son.”

God is the dad running across a field when He sees you, knowing that you messed up. God knows that you messed up and yet He still throws His arms around you, puts a ring on your finger, puts a robe on your body, and says, “Let’s feast! You’ve come back! Awesome!”

That’s God! That’s Jesus. Trust Him. You are righteous and holy.

Getting Unstuck from Shame

It’s so important to find a few people that you can trust with your true self. Men, you need to find just a few men who will know you and protect your heart.

I had a profound experience of that when I trusted a teammate and talked to him about watching porn. I confided that I didn’t even understand why I did it. It was so freeing when he didn’t judge me.

I told him that it started when I blew a game in Houston a few nights before. I gave up a homer to lose the game. I joked that a Houston homer is a cheap homer. It counts, kind of, but it’s Houston. You only have to hit the ball 215 feet. You should only get half a homer if you hit a homer there!

It was just a joke. The guy hit the ball. I’m the one that lost the game.

After giving up the game, I went back to the hotel, mad at myself. I was lying there and I got bored. And I just did it. My wife’s beautiful and I love her so I couldn’t understand why I did it.

So there I was, sharing my shame and frustration with my teammate, and we talked all the way through an entire Cincinnati rain delay. I’m sure there were other guys that walked into the lounge while we were talking. I didn’t see them, but I’m pretty sure they did a U-turn when they heard this conversation!

But for me, to have someone to talk to who would listen to me and dialogue with me and help me work it through was unbelievable. In the course of that conversation, the amount of trust I had with that man was unbelievable. It was awesome. Why? Because I could reveal some of my weakness without shame. Without being scared. Without being judged.

Without someone telling me, “Oh man, you know, I’m going to pray for you.” Sometimes that feels like a brush-off. Not this time. This time, somebody listened.

For the first time, I felt that I didn’t have to act holier-than-thou. I was the chapel leader, but I didn’t have to put on an act that seemed appropriate to the position. I didn’t have to be that guy that writes books, talks about Jesus, and speaks in churches. For the first time, I felt like I could actually reveal that I was weak, and it was okay.

It freed me. That night, I experienced exactly what I had been learning, which is that you need to trust other people with you. If you do not trust somebody with who you really are, you will never mature. Not ever.

By maturity, I’m not talking about a 15-year-old boy becoming a man. I’m not talking about getting gray hair. I’m not talking about being 70 years old. 

I’m talking about maturing as a human being. I’m talking about our souls maturing. I’m talking about our spirits maturing because we trust somebody with our true selves.

If you don’t trust somebody, if you hide your weakness and shame, then you will not mature. If you have an area of weakness and are too afraid to tell somebody about it, that weakness will keep you immature.

It will get worse. It will hurt you. It will cause a lot of issues in your life. It can crush you.

The solution is trust. More on this next time.

The Birth of Trust

Last time I started telling a story about a rain delay in Cincinnati. I told a teammate that I had watched some porn the night before. He had just spoken forcefully and with wisdom about the dangers and damages of leaving magazines like Maxim around. So I felt like I could trust him. And I really needed to be able to trust someone. I needed to get it off my chest.

I had recently been learning a lot of concepts about what it means to hide in shame and be afraid to reveal myself to people. We get afraid because we think we are going to be judged. That’s why I was afraid to trust anyone with my shameful secret.

I was afraid to tell my wife. I had told her before, and she had handled it really well, but I was still afraid. What if the day came when she didn’t handle it well? I was worried about that so I was afraid to tell her again. I was nervous, and I didn’t want to hide anymore.

One of the things I was learning is that you need to find somebody you can trust. You need to be able to reveal who you really are, and you need people in your life for that. A man needs to be known by a few men. We don’t need to be known by everybody, but we’ve got to be known by a few.

Maybe you’ve heard about men’s retreats. These men’s groups are all about understanding what it means to be known by a few. I felt like I wanted that. I needed it.

So after what he said about the magazine, I took the risk. I told him, “Frankly, I don’t know you. You just seem like you understand. I think you get it. I’m going to take a chance on trusting you. I’m going to throw it out there and see what happens.”

So I just came out and told him that I’d watched porn the night before.

He sat there, and at first, he looked like he honestly didn’t know what to do. But he did. He knew exactly what to do. He talked to me. He helped me. He let me trust him, and I learned how good it feels to have someone you can trust.

Basically, I trusted someone with a personal failure, and he didn’t judge me for it. He helped me. He made me feel protected.

I found out how it feels to reveal who I truly am, and to be truly known. This is so important. All men need a few men like this. All people do. We have to be able to protect each other.

I’ll continue this story next time.

A Confession in Cincinnati

I want to tell you a story.

I think it was 2015. I was sitting in the clubhouse in Cincinnati because the game was in a rain delay. There’s rain in Cincinnati, right? There’s always rain in Cincinnati during the baseball season. It is the worst. With that much rain, you’d think they would build a domed stadium. You’d think they might say, “We’re probably going to experience rain delays 50% of the time, so let’s build a dome.”

Well, they don’t do that, so players spend a lot of time sitting around the clubhouse. You’d think that if rain delays are such a predictable thing, they would at least provide players with things to do. They could make it more comfortable by creating opportunities for guys on the team to hang out and do things.

They don’t do that, so being stuck inside the clubhouse during a rain delay is really miserable.

There’s a little area in the back of the Cincinnati clubhouse with food, a television, and a couple of arcade games. There’s candy and junk food and a couch or two. It isn’t big enough to fit the whole team, so we can’t all go back there together.

One day, I was bored. We didn’t know what was going on with the weather. So I went back there and sat down to watch television. One of my teammates was already there. We sat there watching something aimless like golf, or maybe another baseball game. Whatever it was, we sat there just watching for awhile. Then he threw a Maxim magazine at me.

He said, “Man, I’m tired of this garbage. It’s everywhere we go. It’s so hard to ignore it. It’s so hard to not be around it. It’s so hard to not look at it. Everywhere we go, man! And I know people say, ‘Just don’t look at it. It’s your choice to have self-control and all that.’ Well, what about us? We don’t really have choices. Here we are in the clubhouse and it’s right there.”

He continued, “Some people don’t understand that the pictures featured on the covers of magazines like Maxim trick our minds. Those pictures aren’t just on the covers, too. They’re all over those magazines. When we see them, those pictures get thoughts and concepts going in our minds whether we want them to or not.”

He said, “People don’t understand that the second you see an image, you can look away. But you dwell on it whether you know it or not. Some men don’t choose to understand this. Some men just don’t want to understand. But you’ve seen that image, and all of a sudden its effects can start unraveling, say, later that evening. It frustrates me. Do you know what I’m saying?”

I looked at him and said, “Yeah. Yeah, I’m kind of tired of it too.”

We went back to watching the television. Then I looked over at him and said, “I watched porn last night.”

He looked at me. He said, “What? Are we seriously going to do this right now? During the rain delay?”

And I told him, “I don’t know. I just know that I’ve got to get it off my chest.” After what he’d said, I felt like I could trust him.

I’ll continue this story next time. See you Thursday.

A Story Behind Every Face

God builds relationships of trust with us, and in those relationships, He heals us. He teaches how to parent our children the same way. How about if we do it with each other?

In case you don’t know the story, the Bible tells us that one day, Jesus rested by a well after walking all day. He was in Samaria, and lots of people in Jesus’s time had a pretty low opinion of Samaritans.

So when a Samaritan woman came to the well, she was surprised when Jesus asked her for a drink of water. “How is it that you’re talking to me?” she asked Him. And Jesus told her that He was going to give her living water. He said,

“Everyone who drinks this [well] water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst — not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” John 4:13–14

Think about that day. Jesus sat at the well with the Samaritan woman and told her all about her life. “You’ve had five husbands,” He said. “Now you’re living with a man you barely know. You have an issue with your self-esteem! Believe in who you are, and know that I am God.”

I can imagine what she thought. “Man, this guy has told me everything I’ve ever done, and He still loves me.”

That’s right! He loved her. He sat there with her at a well, and asked for water, and then told her, “Drink the water I give you and you’ll never thirst again.”

I think most of us hear about a woman being married five times, and we can’t help but judge. We also speculate! It’s pretty natural to do it. I mean, who has five failed marriages? There must be some kind of mess there!

But that’s not what Jesus did. He helped her. He said, “I know your pain. Five marriages adds up to five large wounds. That is causing you to live with a man whose name you don’t even really know. And he doesn’t know you. You’re just living with him. You’re trying to figure out some sort of security. And now you’ve got women talking behind your back on your way to the well, because they think you’re the town whore.

“You’ve got all these condemnations coming at you, but man, I just want to give you living water. I love you. I created you! I love everything about you.”

He looked at her and said, “I will give you living water and you will never thirst again. That’s what I will give you, because that’s what you need.” There was no judgment there. He just let her know.

What is the lesson here? Well, how should Christians help sinners? “Sinners” includes pretty much everyone, including ourselves. How should we relate? Should we box people on the ears with our Bibles?

Here’s an idea. How about loving on them? Isn’t love better than judgment?

How about trying to figure out why they are not living the way they do? Maybe, like the Samaritan woman, they are struggling with wounds of their own.

When you understand that, it will keep you from judging. When you <emtruly seek to understand the drama of a person’s life, and then love on them just as we see Jesus do, you won’t judge. You’ll figure out how to help them.

You’ll help them get that living water, the water that quenches their thirst.

The church needs to do a whole lot more of this. It’s changing, but we need to do more, because there’s always a drama unfolding. There’s a drama behind every face. Why not look at somebody and really see them? Why not ask them what’s going on? The answer will probably surprise you. It will probably reveal an opportunity to love on them and help them.

The point is to create relationships and provide help. When one of my sons is acting out, my initial impulse is to get angry with him. But I don’t. Instead I try to figure out why he is acting out. What lies behind his behavior? How does he feel? What story does he want to tell? What is hurting him? If I can fix that hurt, then the acting out stops.

That’s what Jesus did. He did it with the woman at the well. He did it with the prostitute. He did it with the woman caught in the act of adultery. He didn’t judge any of them. He even said, “I’m not going to condemn you.”

Think about that. Jesus was the only one that had the authority to condemn people, but He didn’t.

That’s why people came to Him.

When we can learn to do that, people will come to us.

New Wineskins

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.” Mark 2:22

I want to parent my sons the way God parents me because God is the ultimate parent. I want to reflect everything He does as my Father into my children’s lives, as their father. I’m just a man, and I will make mistakes, but God is perfect and loves us perfectly. So I can always look to Him in order to understand how to love my children the best way that I possibly can.

You cannot put new wine into old wineskins, because the old ones will break. We have new wine now, so we must use new wineskins. Jesus gave us a new way of understanding what it means to be in the kingdom of God. It means grace, peace, and mercy. He said, “I’m paying the price for all of you. Now you are forgiven. So don’t continue to punish yourselves! I paid a heavy price to protect you from punishment.”

So I hang with my sons and build relationships of trust with them because that’s what God does with me as my Father. God forgives me. He knows I’m not perfect, so He doesn’t punish me when I mess up. That wouldn’t make any sense!

Instead He says, “Look, I know you’re going to mess up. In fact, you’re probably going to have your hand slapped from time to time. Life is like that. And even if you get a lot of breaks in life, you’re still going to feel some kind of sting when you mess up. It could come from the law, like getting a speeding ticket, or from society, when you break one of those many unspoken social rules. You will. Everybody does. I am not going to condemn you. The crucifixion took care of that.”

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split. Matthew 27:50-51

The curtain ripped to show us that there is a new process here. In this new process, God says, “You’re my precious child. You’re in my family! And in my family, everyone is forgiven. When you mess up, I’m going to love on you. I’m also going to teach you. Trust me. I’ll train you up. I’ll make sure you know what’s right. And I’m going to tell you to go and sin no more.

“But I’m not going to punish you. That’s not how it works. I’m going to forgive you and love on you.”

That’s why I raise my sons with no condemnation. I don’t condemn them because condemnation creates fear, and I don’t want them to fear me. I want them to look at me and love me, knowing that I loved them first. It’s not easy. I don’t always do it right. I mess it up! Absolutely!

God says perfect love casts out fear, and God is perfect love. Therefore, where there is God, there is no fear. There is no fright. We aren’t scared when we are with God. We might feel a reverential fear, because God is the almighty creator after all. But there is no fear in the sense of being scared in His presence. We have no reason to fear that He is going to strike us down when we mess up.

We don’t have to fear, and neither should our children.