Updated: Sep 20, 2019
When my husband brought Bella home, I was quite reluctant to have a dog. I’ve never been a dog lover and to be honest I was quite fearful of dogs. At first glance I immediately noticed how cute she was. A coal black and snowy white long haired chihuahua puppy. I thought to myself, “Cute but I won’t be taking care of her.” Unbeknownst to me I would be taking care of her sooner than I thought.
One day while I was alone at home and I was “in charge” of taking care of Bella. I went to where she was and she’d tangled herself around her leash. I mean I don’t know how she got wrapped up like that. The leash around her little leg, and one back leg stuck near the collar. I immediately panicked and called my husband and told him that she was tangled up, stuck even. In a frenzy I said to him, “this poor little puppy is all wrapped up will you be home soon?” My husband let me know that he wouldn’t be able to take his usual break and he told me, “You are going to have to do it”.
As I got off the phone, I looked at her and saw her defenseless, her struggle, fear, her desperate need of help and pursuit to break free and my heart was suddenly full of compassion for her. Fear and hesitation diminished as I very carefully untangled her precious little body from the leash. All I knew was I had to save this poor beautiful, but feisty pup that had bound herself and was struggling to break loose on her own to no avail.
I tell this story because it reminds me of how sometimes we tie ourselves up and bind ourselves with the burdens of shortcomings/missteps/falling short/sin. Don’t get me wrong, sin is very serious business and holiness is still in order and in fact required. But I also know how it feels to beat yourself up for days because of sin. Mainly because I was raised in a worked based legalistic doctrine so sometimes the residue still rises to the surface and I have to tear it down or else it leads to extreme guilt, shame and an unhealthy fear of God making Him seem unapproachable. When we fall short and with laser-like focus/meditate/ wallow/and rehearse our sins over and over until it grips us we fall prey to condemnation, extreme guilt, depression, and discouragement.
To receive divine forgiveness, we must confess our sins and repent. God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. We all know this but after this there should be a REST. This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15) To truly rest in the finished work of Christ we must be mindful of our focus. True repentance does not focus on the sin it focuses on the Forgiver of sins and the One who died for our sins and the penalty of them.
Sincere repentance is godly sorrow and remorse which causes a change of mind and change of behavior in alignment with God’s will. We have to keep our eyes on our Redeemer for it is the goodness of God that leads to repentance. Let’s look to Him.
Then Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let Me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your soul.” (Matthew 11:28-29) This is a familiar portion of Scripture but when we look at it through the lens of repentance it brings fresh encouragement. The burden of condemnation is heavy, in fact it’s torment because it’s not meant for us to carry. Heartfelt conviction, yes, leads us to restoration and hope, sets us back on the right track, but never condemnation that keeps us stuck in a dark place, stagnant, hopeless, and prayer-less. No way. We don’t have to keep beating ourselves up about whatever it is. Jesus was already wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. We can now accept His gracious, loving and merciful invitation and the Door will opened and we will find rest for our souls.
Abide in Jesus
Once we come in through the Door we are invited to stay/remain/abide and rest assured in the Vine. “Yes, I am the Vine, you are the branches. Those who remain in Me and I in them will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in Me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. (John 15:5-6) When we make the Vine our abode and rely on Him for nourishment, strength, and guidance we will produce the fruit of holiness. Not perfection but progression in holiness for without it no one will see God. The process of sanctification is taking place while abiding. A pruning of all that is not like Him that we may produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
Jesus is the only Way and apart from Him our efforts are fruitless. We are like branches thrown away. Tossed, fighting against the winds, exhausting, frustrating ourselves and withering. Blowing anyway the wind blows instead moving in the wind of the Spirit.
Remain in My Love
I’ve had my struggles understanding the balance between the Lion and the Lamb. The wrath of God and the love God. Often wondering where is the balance? Then one morning a light bulb lit up inside me and it spoke “love”. Love is the balance. Jesus says, Remain in My love. His love melts the hardest of hearts. God’s perfected love casts out all fear. His gracious love is the source of our love reciprocated to Him. We love Him because He first loved us. Discipline, correction, rebuke, and conviction are all springs from the river of His love just and His faithfulness, blessings, mercy, grace, kindness, and forgiveness.
We don’t have to work for His lavish love. Just receive it. His love captures our whole being and all we want to do is please Him. But KNOW that if we stumble and fall, His hand is outstretched still. Don’t torture yourself or fall for the enemy’s devices to keep you bound, to keep you shameful and unworthy to go to your Everlasting Father. The enemy is the father of lies and don’t believe anything he says. God’s Word is true and authoritative. Believe that with all your might. Stand on the Word and don’t come down.
When we remain in the Vine we remain in His love and His love covers all sin. We don’t have to live debilitated lives overcome with extreme guilt magnifying sin. Instead, magnify the Lord who is able to make all grace abound toward you and keep you from falling.
Yes, we are to be sensitive to sin because it separates us from God but we are no longer slaves to sin. No longer entangled but loosed by our Savior and Redeemer and empowered by the Holy Spirit. His life was made an offering for our sin. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Hallelujah! Sin has lost its grip on us! No longer bound!
I reflect back to my pup Bella distraught, helpless, scared and exhausted but still fighting to break free from her entanglement. She couldn't rescue herself. In like manner, God sees all your going through and He cares deeply. God already foreknew every struggle, every sin, every hidden thing and STIILL loved us so much that He gave His only begotten Son for the atonement of our sins.
Take comfort and encouragement in the Word: “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn
the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned but he who does not believe is condemned already.” (John 3:17-18a)
Christ came to set us free- not do whatever we want because that would lead us back into slavery. I encourage you to "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." (Galatians 5:1) No more self entanglement and then trying to unravel by human effort. Except His precious gift of grace by faith and be free IN Him. His provision is enough. So go ahead. Rest beside the still waters and may times of refreshing come from the Lord.