I am a sinner.
I am a sinner saved by grace.
These two sentences have enormous impact. One keeps me in prison. The other opens the door.
Thursday I sat in a room filled with international leaders that face persecution in their own countries for being Christians. I honestly keep asking God why I keep being invited to be part of this prestigious group. “Keep showing up.” That’s what I hear from him. My heart stirred within me as I listened to their stories of resilience. They get beat down but they get back up. My heart was on fire within me because I know what it feels like to be judged, mocked, knocked down and excluded for what I believe. I’m an odd duck. I don’t really fit into the categories. You know some of the categories: political, liberal, conservative, independent, inclusive, exclusive, consumer, contributor, rule follower, rule breaker, lover, hater, bystander, joiner, team player, loner, giver, taker.
Some have called me weak in the past because I don’t ascribe fully to one camp or the other. People have identified me as ‘wishy-washy,’ uncommitted and a poor leader. Others have tried to recruit me because they believed me to be an influential leader but to no avail. So, when I refuse the invitation to join in or to fit into one of those categories, I get dropped like a hot rock. No longer interested. It’s painful. But, over the years, I’ve learned how to overcome some pretty devastating disappointments. I was betrayed by my best friend on more than one occasion. I was fired from a ministry job. I was in an abusive relationship for three years. None of these experiences define or limit me. They certainly contributed to who I am but these experiences have not defined me or limited me. Because, in my heart, I believe Jesus opened a door for me.
I believe I am free. I refuse to be limited to my sin or the sin others cast onto me trying to limit who I am. I’ve made horrible choices today and it’s only 9:30 am. I am selfish. I am motivated my by own desires. I have a short-sighted vision for my life. My mind wanders, I get sidetracked and I get bored easily. I don’t listen. I’m disobedient. I will go my own way if I am allowed to go that way…just long enough to recognize I’m in over my head and in need of a Savior. I hate. I love. I am confused. I get angry. I am aloof. I am all this and so much more. But, categorically…I choose to believe I am a sinner saved by grace.
The Apostle Paul says it this way, "Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you." (2 Corinthians 5:16-20 The Message)
I am free. I will stand firm and not allow myself to be burdened by a yoke of slavery. This is good news! No, it’s great news! And it’s for all people. Jesus completely redefined what I value and how I live my life. My identity is found in him. His love compels me.
Do you want to be free?
Do you want a fresh start?
Do you want to settle relationships with others?
Do you want forgiveness for your own sins?
The Apostle Paul encourages us in this way. We’ve been given the task of telling others what God is doing. We are Christ’s Ambassadors. Let him set you free to become friends with God…he’s already friended you.
Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. (Galatians 5:1 The Message)