The Very Best News {when your Facade has Crumbled}


Olivia and I took a walk on a Sunday afternoon. The beach was mostly deserted except for walkers tracing the edge of the shore with their footprints. Her little five-year-old feet ran ahead of me scattering sea gulls who stoically faced the gusts of wind coming over our shoulders. Sand stung our bare skin as it lifted off the sugar white dunes. Hurricane Irma was far to our south but the sea was already rocking as the outer bands of the giant storm stirred the gulf waters. 

Olivia was collecting treasures---pieces of shells and crumbling sand dollars. 

We didn’t find any intact shells. Everything we encountered on our walk was broken. I thought about how many people’s lives are like those sand dollars. Fragile from years of being caught in storms that have overtaken them, their hope eroding as they endure hard things they aren't prepared to handle.

The forecasters said we’d be on the edge of the impact. We decided to stay. If the officials said evacuate, then we'd go. We face choices every day as to how we will live? How will we live when storms threaten? 

Even as I was present with Liv, I thought of days when I walked the beach with no answers to those questions. I’ve weathered a few storms since then. I’m learning to live in the kingdom that cannot be shaken. There is a Teacher like no other.

When Jesus laid aside his glory to live among us, He showed us that he is not only the source of eternal life but his life is the example of how we are to live in eternity now. He showed us how to live during the days our feet walk the dust of this earth (or the sand by the sea as the case may be). Come. See. Listen. Learn. Jesus showed us what life was always meant to be. He came as Light—to show us the truth about God and our relationship to him. He took our sin to the cross—his perfect life exchanged for our sinful one, his death for our salvation. Those who receive his life become citizens of heaven.

The problem is we often default to live in the world rather than in the kingdom of heaven. When the world gives us what the world has to give, we stand around baffled asking the question of the age. Why? The answer is obvious but we don’t like it. We, along with the rest of mankind, have chosen our own way—the wide path that leads to destruction. Why is the world falling apart? The answer to the why question is that we have walked away from God to live in our selfish ways, ways that end up affecting our lives and the lives of others as well. 

The enemy hates it when we turn to Christ. He loses us when the Holy Spirit marks us for eternity. Satan is scrappy. He knows how easy it is for us to continue to live in our old ruts—ruts that have the potential to keep us spiritually defeated and lead us to act in ways that hurt others and defame the name of the One whom we have confessed as our Savior. The last thing the enemy wants us to do is to set our hearts toward transformation. He doesn’t want the world to see Jesus in us. He may not keep us out of heaven but as long as he is ruling the earth, he is intent on keeping us in the service of his kingdom.

That is why the reformation of the heart—an intention toward character formation into the image of Christ—is essential to victorious living on the earth and to living out the testimony of the truth about life. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we learn to live Christ’s life. We don’t have to live under the power of this world. We are humans, who above all other created things, have been given the ability to choose. We can live in the fullness of life when we submit to learning from Christ, growing in the knowledge of God’s Word, and seeking his kingdom above all else. If we choose otherwise and take our eyes off Jesus, we’ll believe the lie that roars about us in this age: do what is right in your own eyes. 

This intent on transformation isn’t about getting the outside of life right. We are tempted to manage life by focusing on the outside. When life gets tough and our outsides crumble, we leave ourselves open to the ridicule of others who rightly call us hypocrites. The renovation of the heart happens on the inside. An outside job will never suffice—white washed tombs is the descriptor Jesus uses for those who looked good on the outside but inwardly are wasting away. 

The reason many Christians fall into this trap is that we, like all humans, are bent toward needing to control. We want to decide how we are going to look to the world around us. It doesn’t matter whether our facade looks like piety or like freedom. If the heart is not transformed, we are living a fragile existence. I know this is true because I lived it. I lived carefully managing my outward appearance. It looked mainly pious— devoted wife, super-mother, servant to non-profits and Bible teacher—user of cloth napkins instead of paper. My facade crumbled.


The good news is that I was put back together. In hindsight, I see that God wanted to give me more, much more than I wanted for myself. I wanted a safe, tidy way of living where I could control outcomes and perceptions, but God wanted to give me life. This life would mean accepting risk. He wanted me to be open to relationships of love that could hurt me deeply but had the potential of giving me the fulfilling and purposeful life for which I was created. He knew that if I would receive a heart of flesh, a heart that was vulnerable, tender, and that understood control is an illusion, I would find comfort, hope, and the security I deeply desired.

The means to the transformation of the heart is the grace of God. The only way to have our hearts and our lives transformed is by receiving the riches of Christ. The word grace sounds mysterious. It confounds us. Why does God give us what we don’t deserve? Why would He lavish such gifts to people like us? The answer is because he loves us. His love is not the “you’re funny and make me laugh” kind of love and it is not the “you’re cute and you turn me on” kind of love. God’s love is pure and unconditional, the kind of love that dies for another.


Psalm 85 is a song and a prayer. Prayer is always the place to begin when we set our intention toward the eternal kingdom. There are no more powerful prayers on earth than those recorded in God’s revelation to man. These are the prayers that God answers. 

Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation toward us!
Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your steadfast love, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
and righteousness looks down from the sky.
Yes, the Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him
and make his footsteps a way.  (Psalm 85:4-7;10-13 ESV)

It seems so intimate all this talk of love and grace. We are not comfortable with that kind of vulnerability in this postmodern age. We withdraw from love because we don’t want to get hurt. But when we pray this psalm we open ourselves up to the embracing nature of God. Righteousness and peace kiss. The first step toward holiness is the receiving of love. Incredibly, what seems like something we would welcome becomes the hurdle we must face and overcome—to be enveloped by the love of God.



Is God’s love too much? We know what love feels like from a human point of view. What in the world will we do with perfect love? 

The only way to hold God’s love is to become a vessel. God calls us to join him in His work as ministers of reconciliation in a world quaking with despair. We when let God love us, and love through us, we come closer to who we were always meant to be. We hand out cold cups of water. We live like Jesus. We love like Jesus.

“… now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:26-29 ESV)

Let the earth shake and also the heavens. There is an eternal kingdom and there is a way to live in it now. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. He is the Way. This is the very best news—the gospel truth.

Comments

  1. Thank you. Too true. And so important.

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