Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Category: Who I am in Christ

Freedom in Christ – Part 2

How will knowing who I am in Christ affect things?

Worship

Knowing I am a child of God frees me from being self-absorbed. Magnifying Jesus (focusing on Him) puts everything else in the right perspective.

Show emotion in worship. Remember the woman who wept over Jesus’ feet. God has given us emotions; it’s right to use them when worshiping Him.

Go to war in worship. When I’m shrivelling up inside with fear or rejection or feeling ‘down’ for no apparent reason, I need to choose to worship God. I try to take myself in hand and go to the kitchen and sing. I have to be deliberate about it. And usually the negative feeling either lifts enough to give me some breathing space or disappears altogether like sun on mist.

Truth

Believe that God’s promises are for me, not someone else. Jesus invitation for is for ‘anyone’. If you are anyone, then you qualify.

Renew my mind with truth. Old thought patterns creep up on me when I’m vulnerable. I used to wish I’d never been born or that I could sink into oblivion. Thanks to God persistently showing me how loved and precious I am, I no longer think that way.

All the positive things God says about us are true. Pick a verse like Romans 8:1 about there being no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Instead of thinking negative stuff (lies) about yourself, focus on the truth that God doesn’t condemn you. He loves you and has made you secure in Christ. Focus on the truth until it becomes a part of who you are.

Thinking lies about myself brings condemnation and fear. Thinking truth about myself brings peace and freedom. Training ourselves to think truth about ourselves is an on-going process, but we must pursue it if we are to know anything of the abundant life Jesus offers.

White flowersPurity

Am I living in purity so that I can enter in to everything God has for me? Living in purity isn’t a passive thing.

Giving in to small temptations leads to big temptations, and big things can destroy you. Especially secret things; things you hope no one ever finds out about. I know, I’ve been there. Telling someone you trust breaks the power of sin. The Bible urges us to confess our sins to one another.

The Holy Spirit is the holiness expert. If I’m holy, I’ll be attractive to be around because my life will point people to Jesus.

Fruitfulness

Fruitfulness is not what I do, it’s how I live my life. Believing and living by God’s promises makes me fruitful. The Holy Spirit will grow His beautiful fruit in my character: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

If I am living in grace and am at peace with myself, if I’m living as a daughter of the King and confident of who I am in Christ, then my behaviour will be affected.

 

Based on my notes from a talk by Liz Holden. Used by permission.

Freedom in Christ: Part 1

We are made to live in freedom.

I get upset when I see animals and birds in cages, whether in a home or in a zoo. They are meant to be free.

Before God began setting me free from emotional and mental baggage three years ago, it was like being squashed into a tiny space where I couldn’t breathe. But He had a far better plan for me than that; He has brought me out into a spacious place where I can stand with my arms outstretched and breathe deeply.

Jesus came to bring abundant life. The thief steals, kills and destroys anything good in our lives. Jesus doesn’t want that for any of us.

The key to freedom is identity. It’s vital to know who I am. More than thirty years ago, I was born of the Spirit (became a follower of Jesus). This meant that I had a noble birth.

It doesn’t matter that I was born to working class parents on a council estate, had an average education and didn’t go to university. Why? Because I became a daughter of the King of kings, making me a princess (in the best sense). Nothing can change my position ever. I am fully accepted by God, now and for always.

As a member of God’s royal family, I get to use the front door of the palace and sit on the family seats. I don’t have to creep in like a servant through the back door.

This is His tremendous gift to me. I could never earn His favour. It’s something He gives because He loves me.

Knowing who I am makes a difference. If I have a wrong view of myself, I think that other people see me like that.

LocustWhen the Israelites spied out the promised land, they said: ‘…we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.’ They felt small and insignificant in the eyes of their enemies, leading to doubt and fear. That generation of Israelites never did make it into the promised land.

Jesus’ desire is for us to live in on-going freedom every day. He hides us in His perfection.

When God began having a good rummage in my life, chucking out the rubbish I didn’t need, and bringing me into a freedom I’d never known, it felt as though I was expanding to be the person I was always meant to be. There were unexpected changes: a sudden liking of the colour pink (I’d always despised pink in the past), and enjoying baking and knitting. I also have a freedom in worship that I never experienced before. He is growing in me compassion, resulting in inclusive friendships rather than jealousy and exclusivity.

If you are reading this, know that God is absolutely crackers about you. Ask Him to show you any areas in your life where you don’t have freedom so that He can come and break chains. Jesus wants you to be yourself.

Be content in who you are and in who God made you to be.

 

Based on my notes from a talk by Liz Holden. Used by permission.

Featured image used courtesy of stock images at freedigitalphotos.

I couldn’t love anything more…

I love the film Father of the Bride with Steve Martin. A scene that has come to mind time and again this week is one where the father George buys his daughter Annie and her future husband a quality cappuccino-maker as a wedding present.

(Up to this point, George has struggled mightily with the cost of the wedding, never mind the thought of giving away his only daughter. In the preceding scene, George has a wake up call after being arrested for a public meltdown, and is now doing everything in his power to make the wedding plans go well and to show Annie how much he loves her.)

Back to the scene:

After receiving the gift Annie turns to her dad with adoring eyes and says: ‘I couldn’t love anything more’. She is clearly happy with the gift, but she is also revealing her feelings for her dad. She loves him. As she goes off to show everyone the cappuccino-maker, George – as narrator – says: ‘My feelings exactly’.

Did you realise that that is how God feels about us? He says of us, ‘I couldn’t love anything more’.

The first time I realised this was eighteen months ago. God had been doing a lot of very necessary demolishing and rebuilding work in my life, and He relaid my foundations by revealing Bible truths I’d never properly seen before. When I read Jesus’ prayer in John 17:  ‘You… loved them even as You loved Me’, I actually texted a good friend to ask her if that was true. I was so astounded. Isn’t it amazing? To think that God the Father loves me as much as He loves Jesus. Wow! That is completely mind-blowing! WOOO HOOO!

Just like in Father of the Bride, God has given me a gift – an eternal and abundant life of being friends with Him. This gift is the most expensive present ever. It cost far beyond billions of pounds – it cost the very life-blood of Jesus, God’s only Son. And now He looks at me with eyes full of love and says of me: ‘I couldn’t love anyone more’.

Barbie Swihart

Sandra Heska King - Still Saturday
Faith Along the Way

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God’s Nice and He Likes Me

Last year I felt like a building that was being taken apart for renovation. Everything I thought I believed was challenged; it was as though God was stripping me right back to basics. As I said in my previous post, I had no real idea of who I was, or what God thought of me. Was I even a Christian?

God’s way of dealing with that was to remind me of the time when Moses asked God to show him His glory. God agreed, and He walked in front of Moses, saying:

The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
keeping steadfast love for thousands,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,
but who will by no means clear the guilty…

God wanted me to understand something important. He started with that small phrase: slow to anger.

For two weeks, the Holy Spirit kept repeating those words to me: God is slow to anger. SLOW to anger. SLOW to ANGER. SLOW TO ANGER. Then one day I realised: God isn’t angry with me.

As soon as I had got the hang of that, the Holy Spirit moved on to the phrase: abounding in steadfast love.

I struggled to accept that God loved me. I felt so worthless and unlovable that it was almost repulsive to even hint that He might love me. But He persistently repeated those words to me: ABOUNDING in STEADFAST LOVE.

Coming from a background of believing that although I was saved, I still had to earn God’s favour with an endless list of dos and don’ts, it was a monumental task to turn my thinking and accept that God loved me just because He wanted to. Nothing I could do would ever make Him love me more. Nothing I neglected to do would ever make Him love me less. As Adrian Plass is fond of saying: God is nice, and He likes me.

It was hard to take in and accept that God the Father sent Jesus to die for me because He delights in me and chose to adopt me long before creation.

ButterflyFor weeks, the truth that God loved me unconditionally – or to put it another way, He is nice and He likes me – was uncomfortable. It seemed to flitter near me, occasionally alighting for a few seconds before taking off again, rather like a butterfly briefly landing on a flower before fluttering away.

At the same time as God was using those phrases to rebuild the foundation of my life, I was devouring other passages from the New Testament. For years, I had arrogantly glossed over chapters like Romans 8, believing they had nothing to teach me. But now, my eyes were being opened and I was desperate to comprehend their powerful meaning.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,
but you have received  the Spirit of adoption as sons,
by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.

The verses told me that I am a child of God. That He has adopted me. That is why I can call Him Dad (Abba). But they were just words. Although I have been a Christian since the age of ten, I had never really accepted that God is my Father and those words weren’t real for me.

In sheer desperation, I cried out: ‘Holy Spirit, it says here that You tell my spirit that I am a child of God. Please do that!’

And He did. The Holy Spirit is a wonderful Teacher. The best in fact. Ever since that desperate day last summer, He has been telling me daily that I am a child of God. Jesus’ Dad has adopted me! Jesus made it possible for His Dad to adopt me when He died so that I could be forgiven for rebelling against God and choosing to please myself instead of pleasing Him. Jesus is my Hero!

Knowing who I am – a child of God who is secure in Christ and that God has completely accepted me – has revolutionised my life. I no longer have to strive and put on a front with people. I can be myself, knowing that it doesn’t matter what they think. That is not to say that I don’t have my wobbles, but to know that I am accepted by God and that He truly loves me is more precious than anything else.

I think that calls for a bit of WOOOO HOOOO HOOOOO!!

Image used courtesy of tharkul at freedigitalphotos.net.

Who are you?

If I asked: ‘Who are you?’ how would you respond?

I could give different answers depending on who I was talking to. I remember one Christmas when I was being interviewed as part of a church service: ‘Hi, I’m Mandy, son of Don and Janet,’ I proudly announced. There was a silence before laughter erupted from the congregation, while I wondered what I’d said to cause such amusement.

Later on, I defined myself according to my job or my church ministry:  medical secretary, mobiliser, Sunday school teacher, youth leader. My security was in who I was but since I defined myself by what I did, I only felt secure as long as I had a job or ministry.

But then in 2010, I became ill and ended up losing my job. We had recently moved to a new church, so I had no ministry and the illness kept us from getting involved. I also lost long-term memories as a result of being ill. It was a scary and bewildering time. When you lose your memories, you’re not sure who you are anymore. Thankfully, God stepped in and healed me. But I still had no job or ministry and since I’d always used what I did to define who I was, I went through a confused period of feeling precious and loved because God had healed me while also feeling insignificant and without worth because I had no idea who I actually was.

This was highlighted to me when I volunteered to be part of the small reception team in the church office. Julie the team leader organised a ‘getting to know you’ lunch and suggested that we went round the circle to introduce ourselves. I panicked. The other volunteers were mostly students and all younger than me, and I didn’t want to look a middle-aged numpty in front of them. But I was completely blank. Who was I? It was getting closer and closer to me. My palms were sweating. Then the young woman sitting next to me said that she was a housewife. Oh the relief, because I fit that category too. Without looking at anyone, I softly said: ‘I’m Mandy and I’m a housewife.’ Ordeal over.

Who am IA few months after God healed me, I began working as a medical secretary again. But there was an uneasiness deep inside. I was more than a medical secretary. But who was I?

It wasn’t until last year when Penny, my pastor’s wife, gave me a sheet of statements entitled: Who I am in Christ, that I began to have any idea who I was. Penny advised me to read that sheet aloud every day.

A quick glance told me that it didn’t reveal anything new. It was all things like:

I have been made right with God.

I am a child of God.

I am tenderly loved by God.

I am chosen by God, holy and dearly loved.

These were all truths I had been taught from birth. Ordinarily, I might have cast that sheet aside thinking that I knew it. But God was dealing with some deep issues and consequently I felt fragile. So I read those statements aloud each morning.

Right from the first reading I realised I only believed about half the truths listed on that sheet. Head knowledge of many years had never dropped into my heart. The words I am tenderly loved by God and I am chosen by God, holy and dearly loved were just words, nothing more. Did God love me? Had He chosen me? He loved and chose other people, but surely He didn’t mean me?

During the following weeks and months as I read those statements of truth aloud daily and looked up the Bible verses from which they were taken, the Holy Spirit gradually dropped head knowledge into my heart.

But it wasn’t an easy process. There were tears (lots) and doubts, I was angry, I even thought I’d lost my faith for a couple of weeks. It was hard to accept that God loved me. It was a huge struggle in fact.

I was learning the hard way that if your identity is in what you do or what you have, then that sense of who you are is pretty fragile and can be lost – as was mine through the illness. Our identity must be anchored in something more secure, in something that can never fail or be lost, in Someone bigger than us.

Image used courtesy of Mister GC at freedigitalphotos.net.

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