Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: sin

Awake

When Jesus woke up on Maundy Thursday, I wonder what was His first thought?

He knew that day was going to bring His last meal with His closest friends, betrayal by one trusted friend, arrest, desertion, rejection and pain. I can’t begin to imagine. On days when something big is hanging over me, I’m in and out of the loo, feeling tense and jittery and wishing I was somewhere else in a different time. Jesus was waking up to the worst day in the history of the universe.

We get a glimpse of how He feels in the Garden of Gethsemane. Three times He begged the Father, ‘If there’s any other way, please take this cup of suffering away from Me. But not My will, Yours be done.’

If there was any other way of dealing with sin and bringing people back into relationship with God, the Father would have spared Jesus. But while other religions may acknowledge our problem of sin, none of them are able to deal with it. The only way was for God the Son to die in our place, representing us, and take the full penalty of what we deserve.

The Father is kind and loving and wise; He would never have asked His Son to die in our place if Jesus was one of many ways to God. He isn’t mean and cruel! No, the only way to deal with sin was through the shedding of blood.

And so Jesus got up and walked into His arrest and a night full of trials and torture before ending up nailed to a Roman cross for an excruciating six hours. Not just the physical agony, but the terrible, terrible spiritual cost of facing the darkness alone and taking an eternity of Hell on Himself so that I wouldn’t have to.

Why did He do it? Because this is how God loves. My place in God’s family is the most costly thing in the universe, and Jesus willingly paid for it. He went to the cross for the joy of having me as His friend.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Isaac Watts – Hymns and Spiritual Songs 1707

Deny

Two people have been on my mind today, both of whom participated in the first Easter.

Simon Peter was one of Jesus’ closest friends. I like Peter. He frequently opened his mouth before engaging his brain and generally jumped in with both feet. Peter blurted out deep spiritual truths that could only have been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit, at other times he got it badly wrong.

Peter had an inkling that Jesus was about to walk into a whole load of trouble, and was determined to stick by Him.

Yet when the key moment came, Peter bottled it. He denied he knew Jesus. Peter’s heart must have broken when he realised he’d let his Lord down. I can identify a little bit with him, can’t you?

The other person who has been on my mind is Mary of Bethany. She too was a close friend of Jesus. She, with her sister and brother, showed Jesus warm hospitality whenever He came to their village, and He spent time in their home in the week leading up to His arrest and execution.

Mary used her two ears more than her mouth. She listened to Jesus. She pondered what He was really saying and what was the meaning behind His words.

Jesus had been open with all His close friends about His forthcoming crucifixion, yet only Mary seemed to grasp what He was saying.

A few days before His arrest, while Jesus was relaxing with friends over a meal, Mary anointed Him with expensive perfume (the value was around a year’s wages). She recognised who He was, and knew He was about to die. She may not have understood everything He’d said, but she wanted to pour out her extravagant love for Him.

Jesus loves a loyal, loving heart. He insisted that Mary’s beautiful act of worship be remembered wherever the gospel is taught – even more than 2,000 years later in a blog post.

The wonderful thing is that Jesus dealt with both Peter’s and Mary’s sin on the cross. Peter may have denied Him when He most needed a friend, but Jesus still didn’t turn His back on Peter.

I’m glad that Jesus knows we are prone to stumble along behind Him at times, often getting it wrong, occasionally getting something right. I’m so very thankful that my dearest friend Jesus died so that I could call Him friend, and so that He could call me friend. He is the most magnificent person who has ever lived, and I’m thrilled I can call Him mine.

If you’re reading this and don’t know Jesus, He is inviting you into a relationship with Him. Please leave a comment below or contact me via Twitter if you’d like to know how you can do that.

 

 

Keziah’s Diary: Treasure

You saw me in my childhood,
Lost, alone, sullied, rejected.
And You gave me full acceptance.

You saw me on the street corner,
Beautiful, empty, desolate.
And You gave me peace and joy.

I was a prostitute,
Unworthy, unlovable.
You said my value was above the price of rubies.

You saw me in my sin,
You came to rescue me.
Oh what sacrifice was Yours,
To woo me back and make me pure.

You saw me in the darkness,
And Your love shone so bright.
I’m forgiven, I’m a child of light.
All because of You.

I’m loved.
I’m chosen.
I’m forgiven.
I’m accepted.

Jesus, my treasure.

Beloved

God makes promises to those He loves and calls some surprising people ‘beloved’:

He grants sleep to His beloved.

King Solomon was called beloved by God despite sinning by having lots of wives and mistresses.

God delivers His beloved.

The Father sent His beloved Son to earth to save us.

John, once nicknamed ‘son of thunder’ by Jesus because of his quick anger, later became known as the ‘disciple Jesus loved’. John was secure in knowing who he was in Christ, in comprehending the love of God which casts out fear.

By the Spirit’s help, I too am beginning to know who I am in Christ, that I am loved and accepted by God. I wobble frequently. But regardless of what I think or feel, the facts don’t alter. I am loved by God.

You may think you are unlovable, that you’re not worthy of being loved. The promise God makes to you is, ‘You who are not beloved, I will make My beloved.’

 

Remember

There are things that God remembers and things that He chooses to forget.

God remembers individuals. The Bible includes lists of names that make up family trees and the ancient nation of Israel. I love that all kinds of people make up Jesus’ family tree – children conceived in incest, affairs and adultery, prostitutes, asylum seekers and refugees. We might be inclined to look down on such people, but God wasn’t ashamed to include them in His Son’s family tree.

In Hebrews 11, various heroes of faith are named for commendation.

When Jesus was a man on earth, He promised that God remembers when we offer even a glass of water in His name so that He can one day give us a reward.

God values individuals. He knit us together in the womb and has good plans for our lives. If Jesus was still a man on earth, you would be the kind of person He would sit and have a coffee or a beer with. He loves you more than can ever know.

But God also chooses to forget: the Bible says that when we’re truly sorry for wrong things we think, say and do, God promises not to remember those sins against us. This is only possible because Jesus took the penalty for all of our sin so that we wouldn’t have to.

I love this God who remembers my name and chooses to forget my sin.

Not Ashamed

Hood up and head down, he quickly checked the sign. Yes, he was in the right place. He slipped inside the double doors, hoping no one had seen him. Despite the friendly ‘hello’ from the lady at the reception desk, he would not make eye contact. He handed over his form and was directed through the inner doors where the smell of toasting bread and fresh coffee wafted over him. Without looking at anyone, he perched on the edge of the nearest chair and prayed his parcel would arrive quickly. But what was this? A friendly face approached and sat beside him.

‘I’m sorry,’ he blurted, ‘I’ve never used a food bank before. I’ve worked all my life. I’m not sponging. I lost my job…’

‘It’s okay.’ The face smiled.

Twenty minutes later he left with his head up. He had enjoyed homemade cake and hot coffee, he hadn’t been judged or criticised, and had an invitation to pop back anytime for a drink and chat, maybe even join the game of Scrabble at one of the tables. There was no need to be ashamed of his situation.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

She eyed the white van with lilac butterflies and Jesus is Lord printed on its side in dismay. She’d heard of these people. She kept her head well down and hoped she hadn’t been noticed. But the van stopped across from her and two friendly-looking women jumped out.

‘Hi there! Are you okay? Would you like some hot chocolate or a cheese roll?’

‘I’m not working y’know!’

Who was she kidding? Why else would she be loitering on a street corner at one in the morning? She was in her twenties but could pass for forty. That’s what a life of alcohol and drug addiction will do for you. She was too ashamed to admit she was working, too ashamed to accept their offer of friendship and sanctuary on the back of the van. Just plain ashamed.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

ASHAMED: the dictionary gives two definitions – ’embarrassed or guilty because of one’s actions, characteristics, or associations’ and ‘reluctant to do something through fear of embarrassment or humiliation’.

I guess we’ve all been in situations or done things that make us want to curl up and die of shame. I have. Times when I’ve said the wrong thing, or been manipulative, or indulged in something I wouldn’t want anyone to find out about.

AshamedOr maybe something has been done to you that has made you ashamed, even though it’s not your fault. For years, I was ashamed of the fact I couldn’t have children. It’s no one’s fault, but I still felt ashamed.

The great news is that we don’t have to stay ashamed and guilty over what we’ve done or of the situation in which we find ourselves. Regardless of what is causing us to feel ashamed, there’s a way to be rid of it. That way is a person: Jesus. When He died, He took ALL of our shame – every single bit – on Himself and it died with Him. He took our shame, and in return He gives us His purity and right-standing before God. There is nothing left for us to pay. When we accept His gift of peace and joy and righteousness, He sets us free from sin and shame. That sounds like a fabulous deal to me!

When He was a man on earth, Jesus was nicknamed the ‘friend of sinners’. He was friends with poor people. He fed those who were hungry. He healed the sick. He laid His hands on people with disfiguring skin conditions. He hung out with prostitutes. I don’t know if there were drug addicts in first century Palestine, but if there were, you can guarantee Jesus was their friend. He welcomed those who were outcasts and downtrodden, and showed unconditional love. He took their shame away because He loved them.

I love that He loves the little people like me!

God doesn’t want us bowed down with shame there is no need for us to bear. Jesus came to give us abundant life. If you know Jesus, He has already set you free from sin and shame. So believe what He says about you and say thank you!

Jesus is not ashamed of you:
He calls you brother or sister.

God is not ashamed of you:
He calls Himself ‘our God’ and He has prepared a safe, secure place for us.

I love that when I’ve screwed up yet again, God isn’t ashamed of me. He will never wish He hadn’t bothered with me, will never wonder if He made a mistake in loving me. He still calls me His child and exults in the fact that He is my God. WOO HOOO!

Linking up with Fellowship Fridays and

Womanhood With Purpose

 

Photo credit

My Problem, His Problem

A month after my eighteenth birthday, I qualified as a medical secretary and started working for an ENT surgeon. Mr G commanded quite a presence and I was somewhat in awe of him (I remember my hand shaking the first time I tried to take down shorthand!). Although I’d had two years’ training at college, I felt that I knew nothing. It didn’t help that his previous secretary (who’d left to have a baby) had been super-efficient with beautiful handwriting, and was respected and liked by everyone. But one thing Mr G said in my first week helped to calm my nerves and give me confidence that doing this busy and responsible job was possible.

‘If you make a mistake, don’t try and cover it up. I want you to tell me so that I can sort it out.’

In that one sentence he declared our partnership. My mistake was his mistake. He aligned himself with me – and he had the knowledge, power and experience to sort out any cock-up I might make.

What set me off thinking about my eleven happy years with Mr G, was something my pastor, Nick, said yesterday in his sermon:

God has made a covenant with us. He has committed Himself to us so that whatever affects us, affects Him. A bit like with me and Mr G, my problems become God’s problems.

Of course, our biggest problem is sin and when God chose to commit Himself to us, He had to make sure that this problem got sorted. Jesus – the Son of God – chose to become one of us so that He could pay the penalty (death) for our sin, and offer us forgiveness, freedom and peace with God in its place. Wow.

There is one condition: don’t cover it up. To get God’s help, I have to confess my sin and tell Him about my problems. It’s like it was with Mr G. Trying to cover up a mistake was pointless because not only was it likely I’d get found out but the problem wasn’t resolved. And I was left worrying about it. Hard though it could be (especially when he peered over his half-moon glasses at me), it was always better to come clean and tell him. The problem could get sorted, the situation was diffused, and I had peace of mind.

Thank You God for loving me and committing Yourself to me. Thank You for taking on my problems as Your problems, and for working them out for me. There is no God like You!

 

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