Category Archives: Who we really are

What Cinderella Taught Me about the Body of Christ

“Would who she was—who she really was—be enough? There was no magic to help her this time. This is perhaps the greatest a risk that any of us will take: to be seen as we truly are.”

With that phrase Disney’s most recent Cinderella (2015) distanced itself from the animated version of my childhood.  I watched as the unloved stepdaughter emerged from the attic, coming face to face with the prince of her dreams and the memory of her night of escape. She didn’t know if the glass slipper in his hands would fit without her fairy godmother’s spell. Would her deepest longings come true? Or would the magic be lost—forever?

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We can empathize with Cinderella’s gamble: It is risky. What if others see who we really are deep down inside? Will they see our struggles and oddities and decide we’re more trouble than we’re worth? Will they catch a glimpse of our insecurities and walk away before they are entangled in our issues?

Will we be enough to keep them from turning away? Continue reading What Cinderella Taught Me about the Body of Christ

“From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel”

I don’t think I have ever highlighted a book as much as I did this one. There are so many books available that are helpful, interesting, or timely—and then there are books like this one. Written as if someone has been watching my every move. And reading my journal. And guessing my thoughts.

Don’t Forget Grace!

For Christine Hoover, life as a church planter’s wife came with a long to-do list and the guilt found in not completing it. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t live up to what she knew God must want from her. There was always another person needing something. Always another mess to clean up. Always another activity to add to her plate.

“This was my understanding of what it meant to be a Christian: If I do good things, then God is pleased. If I do things wrong, then he is angry. This is actually the basis of every religion on earth except Christianity, this idea of a scale where the good must outweigh the bad in order to be right with God. I had religion down pat, but the religion I practiced wasn’t true and biblical Christianity.”

It was a light-bulb moment: the grace we are given for salvation is also given for every day of our lives. Once we come to Christ for salvation, He doesn’t send us back out to face our daily lives alone and in our own strength. There’s grace for that. And this grace changes everything!

“Paul also made it clear that our response to the initial invitation is no different than our response once we’re at the table: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Col. 2:6). In other words, just as we received the invitation to the table by faith, we are to continue receiving from Christ each day by faith.”

Try as we might, we will never fully stretch our minds around this truth. We are accepted, loved, and welcomed—no matter what!

And so are the people around us.

Not Meant for That

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that when we live by the goodness gospel we live by others’ opinions. After all, if our worth is found in what we accomplish, those accomplishments must be recognized and applauded in order for us to feel validated. This aim-to-please-and-impress-and-outdo attitude stands in contrast to the true gospel, but the solution isn’t to avoid people altogether.

In the beginning, God said it wasn’t good for man to be alone. While the crux of that passage has to do with marriage, its implications reach into humanity as a whole and are echoed centuries later by Paul’s illustration of the church as a body. We need each other. God gives us relationships and community for our mutual good.

Not for judging each other. And not for judging ourselves based on each other.

“[We] assent with our mouths to being followers of God but in reality we are followers of man. We are people-pleasers. We are people-impressers. We are also people-judgers…I know, in fixing my eyes on others, that I am turning from the ocean of approval and belonging found in Christ to a puddle of imperfect love found in people. But sometimes the approval of others drives me, and it drives me right into anxiety, fear, and self-sufficiency.”

Living by popular opinion isn’t living. When we fully recognize the freedom we have through God’s grace, we won’t want to measure ourselves by anyone else’s standards ever again. We are freed from all of that—forever.

Free!

Read that last sentence again.

Can you believe it? Seriously! This story of free, unmerited grace is real. And it’s your story. My story. Sometimes we forget the wonder of grace in its daily-ness. But that daily-ness of grace doesn’t cheapen it; it strengthens our dependence on it and proves it’s always enough.

“Normally when I think of gaining freedom, I think of charging forward in battle or fighting to be released from ties that bind me. But this is a freedom that has already been won for us. We simply walk by faith out of the open jail cell and rest in what has been given.”

So, so much has been given to us. No need to worry about being good enough anymore. No need to return to our own weak efforts. We have abundant and unbelievable grace, and it will always be more than enough.

“So we rest in what’s been given. We receive what’s been given. We respond to what’s been given. We’ll never go back to our pitiful, man-made goodness gospel, thinking it can give us life. We know the truth: Christ is our life…This is the gospel: not that we are right with God because of what we do but that we are right with God because of what Christ did for us.”

You Are More Than That One Thing!

She was talking about someone we barely knew, the mother of a little girl in our class. Two-year-old Molly was adorable, hilarious, sweet—and highly opinionated and emotional. We admired her parents for calmly working with her through every meltdown without giving in to her fits. But after babysitting Molly and her brother, my fellow toddler teacher was telling us that Molly’s mother had confided in her that she felt like she wasn’t patient enough with her own children, that she wasn’t being as good of a mom as she should be.

“Are you kidding me?” another teacher asked. “She is so patient. Have her spend some time with me and I’ll show her ‘not patient.’”

“I know,” my friend agreed. “She’s a great mom.”

“It’s like no matter how good of a job she’s doing, there’s this one thing they aren’t as good at and they focus on it,” our third teacher friend continued about another mom who also doubted her own parenting skills. Her eyes widened as if she was talking to one of the moms right then. “You are more than that one thing!”

Hidden but Real

If there was anyone who could who could build their reputation from their own accomplishments, it was Paul—the apostle, the author of many New Testament books, the pioneer church planter, the eventual martyr.

“Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death” (2 Corinthians 11:22-23).

But there was more going on inside him. Paul had his problems. He had his failures and shortcomings that weren’t as obvious as his achievements, but they were just as real.

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing… 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (from Romans 7:15-24).

Paul—the evangelist, the writer, the preacher, the sufferer—had his own inner struggles. His own failures. His own defeats. Every day. How did this giant of the faith reconcile his daily reality with what he knew to be true? How did he live with the knowledge that he wasn’t good enough?

Free in Every Way

The following paragraph opens Romans 8 with these life-giving words: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1).

No condemnation. No condemnation.

None.

If we are in Christ, no one can condemn us. Not even us. Not for any failure, shortcoming, or mishap that has happened in our lives—or this morning.

Don’t miss this: Paul grounded his worth in accomplishment, yes, and he definitely based his identity on complete perfection. Just not his own.

“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:2-4).

We have been set free in every way. In the deepest ways. That freedom bought by Jesus’ perfect sacrifice fills every nook and cranny of our lives, overflowing in a steadfast hope that, no matter how we fail or how often we fall, we will come out victorious. We already are.

“If God is for us, who can be against us?…Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us… [W]e are more than conquerors through him who loved us­” (from Romans 8:31-39).

Enough

Even though we all have areas to work on, they do not define us. We’ll never be “enough” and not one of us will ever have a perfect day. And that’s okay, because He is enough. Enough to fill in the gaps. Enough to bring strength from weakness. Enough to redeem our biggest failures—and even those thousand little ones that just won’t go away.

When our accomplishments are drowned out by the loud reminders of all we’ve left undone, we can tell our weary souls that it is finished. Not by us, but by Him who knows our steps, our thoughts, our failure—and loves us anyway. Nothing can change that. Not even that one thing.