Today, Anna is sharing one of the many truths God is restoring in her, since returning as a Prodigal child.
When I came back to faith in 2014, I began praying to God asking Him to reveal how I had become so blinded to His love for me. I wanted to understand how the awful blindfold had grown to cover the eyes of my heart. One of the many things God revealed to me was a lie I had begun to swallow as truth because I let human behavior shape my understanding of who God is.
As a Mama of two girls I can honestly tell you that I do not always love unconditionally. I catch myself requiring my girls to “earn” my love and my grace through obedient behavior. My patience wanes with repeated misbehavior. And it is this conditional, sinful human love that I let the enemy tell me was also representative of God’s love for me: conditional and dependent on my behavior.
But God is at work in my sinful heart, giving me more and more of His patient, kind and grace-filled love in my parenting. A love that does not hold onto offences, but forgetting them completely embraces me and my girls without condition.
This is a dificult concept for our human hearts to fathom. And, I believe, without the Holy Spirit’s leading, impossible. It is much easier to believe we have to earn Christ’s saving love than it is to believe that it is a free gift. Oh yes, we know it as a truth in our mind because we read our Bibles, but do we know it in our hearts?
I Will Put My Spirit Within You
22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land.25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.[a]
- Ezekiel 36:27 Or my just decrees
It is only as our Lord writes His statutes upon our hearts that we can begin to grasp His great love for us. And for this to happen He has to take out our stony heart. It has to die, for Christ’s heart to come alive:
2 Corinthians 4: 11 (ESV)
For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
Or as Peter put it in 1 Peter 4: 1 – 2 (ESV):
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh,[a] arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.
It is suffering, a “giv[ing] over to death” for Jesus’ sake, that will birth the mind, heart and will of Christ in us and our loved ones who have turned away. Without this suffering, our flesh cannot die for the Spirit’s rebirthing: “for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.”
When suffering hit me as a Prodigal, as my Mum lay dying, I suddenly had nothing of true worth to offer anymore. Oh yes, I could offer her comfort, as I bathed, fed and loved her, but I could not keep her alive. I felt completely and utterly helpless, exactly how I’d felt as a little girl unable to protect my little brother from repeated punishment as his heart heaved beneath with unexpressed and unacknowledged pain.
But precisely into this helplessness, into this utter despair at my lack, God breathed in His tender love, compassion and provision. At a point in my life when sleep-deprived depression, grief and utter despair hit me, God showed me who He truly is: a God who loves us just as we truly are – helpless, broken and needy. And He did that even more deeply as those last hours with my Mum returned to haunt me, as PTSD hit and I wanted to die. He broke the idol of Him I had allowed the enemy to create – a terror-inducing, out to punish and kill god. And replaced this idol with who He truly is: my One true friend, who beckons me to keep returning and resting in Him as I truly am, to accept the stunning and absolutely FREE gift of salvation.
Yoking in fear
But then I hear Him speak:
My yoke is light
My yoke is love
My yoke is grace
My yoke is sealed
In Spirit free.
Just Word in you
Live in freed by blood
Shame nailed to Cross.
And so I lean
Back into arms so safe
Breath so tender, sweet
And knowing arms
Around me wrapped.
I bring my anger
My sins here spoken
All weakness poured
All weight released
Bled and raised.
I see their eyes now weep
I hear their hearts here break
And know the grace
Their knees here find
In hands of woven grace.
Christ alone enough
No longer bound
But free in Him alone
And as I continue to suffer for Christ in my obedience to His will, I am seeing the true colors of my human heart – sin – pressed to the surface to die at the hands of Grace. And oh the JOY our Lord is restoring to me in my salvation in HIM alone.
Romans 5: 20 – 21 (The Message)
All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.
Father God, oh how my heart hurts for Your Prodigals who live believing You are someone You are not. Who have fled You believing You are someone who requires them to earn something they could never ever earn. Father God, I pray that You would cause all our hearts – our own and our loved ones’ – to be tilled by suffering to birth the indescribable freedom and joy that is in Christ Jesus alone. Give our flesh over unto death for the sake of Jesus that His life may be manifested more and more fully in us all. And as we and our beloved Prodigals suffer for Your sake, open our eyes to see, feel and know Your tender love for us right there. To receive Your unconditional and independent of our behavior love and grace. A free gift of salvation – the heart and mind of Christ in us – that causes countless actions of love and mercy to flow freely from us, shining YOUR light into this dark world. Thank YOU for Your incredible and free gift of Life. Help us, Father, to embrace it fully no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in. In Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.
Psalm 116 (NIV)
1 I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Lord, save me!”
5 The Lord is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
6 The Lord protects the unwary;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
7 Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.
8 For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
9 that I may walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.
10 I trusted in the Lord when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted”;
11 in my alarm I said,
“Everyone is a liar.”
12 What shall I return to the Lord
for all his goodness to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the Lord.
14 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his faithful servants.
16 Truly I am your servant, Lord;
I serve you just as my mother did;
you have freed me from my chains.
17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the Lord—
in your midst, Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord.[a]
- Psalm 116:19 Hebrew Hallelu Yah