His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)


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Just as I am

Okay, full disclosure time. As you may know, I’m a devout Christian, a Jesus freak. I love Jesus and God intensely, and they are top on my list of priorities in life. My greatest desire is to surrender my entire self to God and let Jesus live through me. Deny myself, surrender to God—a phrase that used to scare me, yet now it’s my greatest craving.

BUT, I’m also just a typical person, whatever that is. My life is full of problems. I don’t like work. I wish I had more money. My relationships are plagued with typical flaws, most minor, others not so.

I like to drink, alcohol that is. I’m not picky—wine, beer, and I haven’t yet tasted a hard liquor I don’t like. Sometimes I drink too much, and later, I’m not too sorry for it. Oh, and yes, I sometimes have impure thoughts (I’ll leave the nature of those to your imagination). I don’t think I would trust someone who claims they never have impure thoughts. Hey, we’re all broken, even those who pretend to be more holy than human.

Oh, and my mind tends to wander far from God at times. Well, most of the time actually. Every day I try to keep my mind more on Jesus and less on the world around me, but I fail. Every day I try to “do as Jesus would do,” but I fail. Every day I try to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and body, but it feels like I fail there too. I guess I’m just a messy Christian.

After knowing the totally human me, and later learning how much I love Jesus, new friends often look at me funny, like I’m a science project gone wrong, or a schizophrenic odd couple. On the outside, I don’t look like what they would expect from a Jesus freak.

BUT #2, all of my faults don’t seem to get in the way of my relationship with God and Jesus. I’m so grateful that God is in the forgiving business. No matter what I do, or how far my mind drifts away, God is always there, waiting for me to look back at Him. Oh, I tend to sense His displeasure with my behavior sometimes. But I also sense He’s more pleased with the fact I return my attention to Him, than He is unhappy with my thoughts or actions.

It all boils down to this: God and Jesus accept me just as I am, no matter what. And I love them all the more because of it. God also loves you just the way you are.


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The Wild Child and the Unusual Parent

One day God bought himself a huge ranch, with a massive house, several barns, and lots of rich, fertile land. It was like a garden. And then God invited his adopted children to move into the ranch house with him.

One of the adopted sons eventually got bored with ranch life. He craved something more exciting. Now being an adopted child of God, this son knew that when God died, he would inherit his portion of God’s wealth (okay, God can’t really die, but this is a made-up story, so please stick with me). Anyway, this son went into God’s study where he found God looking at the newspaper, frowning at what he was reading. The son then demanded his share of the inheritance.

Okay, at this point it helps to understand something about the country where God’s ranch was. The people there had strong beliefs about family. Families were powered by mutual respect and love. And to ask a parent for your inheritance, before the parent was actually dead, was the same as telling the parent you wished they were dead. The society there even had laws intended to punish people who showed such intense disrespect. This greedy son now faced the death penalty. All God had to do was call the police, and the son would be hauled away. But God didn’t do that. Instead, God gave the son what he asked for (yep, I don’t get it either).

So with a backpack full of money, the son took off for the big city – Las Vegas. Many parties, prostitutes, and wild nights later, the son was broke. Unable to pay his bill, he was kicked out of his lavish hotel room. Now he was on the streets, learning what it was like to be homeless… in Vegas.

Eventually, he overcame his resistance to admit his mistakes, and decided to go home, back to the ranch. He figured he wasn’t worthy to be treated like a son (got that right), and decided to ask God if he could just be one of the ranch workers. At least he’d have a place to sleep and regular meals.

He begged enough money to get a bus ticket to a town near the ranch, but not enough for an Uber ride from the bus stop to the ranch. So he had to walk the final 15 miles. Now that was a long, humiliating hike. He really dreaded seeing God again. But his empty stomach pushed him on.

He came up over a rise and entered the long, shallow, grass-covered valley where the ranch house was, still about three miles away. Within a minute or two, he noticed someone coming toward him – it looked like they were running. He was scared. Was this person sent to chase him off God’s land? He was so hungry, and tired, and as he imagined being turned away, he started to cry. He almost fell to the ground, but the little pride remaining kept him on his feet.

He started walking again, rehearsing his apology speech. He really didn’t need more rehearsal – he’d been working on it for over a week. But he felt he needed to keep his mind busy, or he’d start crying again.

He’d practiced all kinds of excuses, but now decided to give them up. It had to be easier to just admit how wrong he was and ask for forgiveness, and a job.

Within a few minutes it became clear that the approaching runner was actually God. Wow, he runs pretty fast for such an old man. But at the sight of God, the sons dread turned to absolute despair. How could he face God again, after telling him he wished God was dead? This was too much. The son collapsed to the ground and began sobbing – any remaining pride left him, running down his cheeks, mixed with tears. In an instant, God was upon him.

God dropped to his knees in front of the son. With one hand, he reached out and gently squeezed the sons shoulder. With the other hand, God lifted the sons quivering chin and looked into his tear-filled eyes. There was no anger in God’s gaze – only love. God then pulled the son to him and hugged him. With tears in his own voice, God said, “My son, you’re alive! I had given you up for dead.”

There were no questions. There was not condemnation, no blame, no guilt-trip. Only love, and forgiveness, and joy. And then, God threw a big party for his lost child who had come back home.

 

(Blatantly lifted from a story Jesus once told. Yep, the Prodigal Son.)

 


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The Question Is…

How do you feel about forgiveness? Is it hard for you too? Is it hard for you to forgive other people? What about yourself – is it hard to forgive your own mistakes? For me, my mistakes can ruin a good day.

Okay, now what about God? How do you feel about His forgiveness of your sins? Do you believe all your sins will be forgiven? Well, all the mistakes you’ve ever made have already been forgiven by God. God’s forgiveness is immediate and unconditional.

So the real question is not about what God’s reaction will be when we make mistakes (His reaction is a given), but what will our reaction be? Knowing about God’s forgiveness is one step; accepting it is a bigger step. That’s where faith comes in.

So let’s say you have the faith to accept God’s forgiveness of every mistake and sin that has infected your life – past and future. What will be your reaction to that vast amount of unconditional forgiveness? God hasn’t asked anything of you, except that you believe in and accept His unconditional gift. God accepts you just as you are. Will you accept Him, and His forgiveness? And by accepting, how will that make you feel? (Okay, I’m trying to lead you down a path to overwhelming gratitude. Please forgive my awkwardness.)

Oh, and when you accept God’s forgiveness, you’ll finally be able to forgive yourself, and others. Isn’t it a bit ironic that one of the biggest burdens in our life can be our lack of ability to forgive? God wants to free each of us of this burden.

Final thought: Our sins were forgiven a long time ago, by Jesus dying on that cross and paying the penalty for all sins. How do you feel about that? (Okay, looking for profound gratitude again.)

 

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

 


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More Than a Holiday

In the USA, this weekend we celebrate Memorial Day. In addition to devoting some thought to all those people who sacrificed their lives for our country, how about if we devote some thought to the one person who sacrificed His life for humanity. Memorial Day … let’s make it more than a US holiday this weekend. And for me, I want to make remembering Jesus’ sacrifice more than a holiday thing; I want to make it a way of life.


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The Heaviest Load

A grudge is a heavy thing. You can sometimes recognize people who have been carrying a grudge for a long time – they look weary. But our natural human pride resists efforts to forgive. Pride likes to show off its bulging muscles by carrying heavy grudges all day.

Yet forgiveness comes from humility, the enemy of pride. And humility, not being a natural human trait, comes from outside ourselves. True humility is the humility of the Spirit of Jesus, shinning out from within you. It’s not your humility people would see, but His. And maybe Jesus’ humility can spill out of you and shine on those around you – those who carry heavy grudges. Maybe His humility can lighten their load.

Is there someone in your life who cannot forgive you for something you did or said? I wonder how heavy their grudge is. Do they look weary to you? For anyone who cannot forgive you, consider for a moment the weight of the un-forgiveness they carry.

And if you like, please share you thoughts on this in the comments below. Thanks


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It is Finished

The pain is constant. Searing. It feels like I’m on an ocean, and the waves of pain are crashing over me. When I lift up on my legs to breathe, the waves crash into my feet, up my legs and into my core. And then, when my legs give out and my full weight again falls on my arms, the waves crash into my chest and back, and my dislocated shoulders, and my arms and hands. And my skinless back rubs against the harsh wood of the cross. There is no escape.

Yet what feels worse than the pain is this feeling of being alone. Surrounded by this growing crowd, yet I don’t feel His presence. My Father is gone. I’ve never known this before, this emptiness, this parched, vast void of emptiness. It’s crushing my soul. The pain of the whip and the cross becomes numb next to this feeling of being so alone. Yes, I still feel the pain. It’s still there, sharp and mean. But its intensity is being overpowered by the agony of this aloneness, the agony of my Father no longer here with me. Oh, my humanness is shattered by the pain of the torture they whipped and pounded into me. But my spirit is collapsing under the weight of this emptiness.

“Father, why have you forsaken me?”

Yet I know why. It’s the sin. The sin of the world is upon me.

The pain is fading now, it’s becoming softer. It’s starting to feel more like a dream than real. And the light is fading; the sky darkens. The end must be near.

There, opening up before me, is a dark, lightless pit. Empty. Alone. This devouring emptiness is spewing from there… the very pit of hell. The presence of my Father is nowhere. Over there, toward the city gate, I see people and earth and sky. I see God’s creation. But this pit before me – there is nothing. No Father, no creation, just void. Hell; absolute emptiness, gaping wide, reaching for me. So dark, and hungry. It ravages me. It consumes me. It’s pulling on me, adding its dead weight to my dying arms. It’s rising up to grab me and pull me down, gripping me in its ravenous maw. With my death it will have me. It will swallow me. That inky, thick, black fog of dread and evil; it’s flowing over me. I’m drowning in the smothering dread of hell. I cannot breathe!

The pain is gone. The nails are gone. The cross is gone. I’m falling… into hell. All light and life are gone.

“It is finished.”
(An excerpt from a book I’m writing. Copyright 2015, CJ Penn)


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The Last Guilty Man

I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, am the last guilty man. For I became guilty of the sins of all humanity. I carried the burden of all sins through the streets of old Jerusalem and up that hill, where I paid the final penalty… the death sentence for my guilt.

Guilt died with me. There is no more guilt. It was my guilt that set you free of your guilt. I am the last guilty man. This is the truth.

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

 

 

(Originally posted on Dec. 4, 2015)