…..Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior……..
Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you……..
When I was four years old, decked out with a cowboy hat and holstered six shooters by my side (and terry cloth tank top with corduroy shorts (Hey, it was 1980)), I tugged on my mom’s shirt and told her I wanted to ask Jesus into my heart. At age 10, I was baptized.
….I didn’t know truly who Jesus was . . . I initially desired Him because I was scared of hell (yes, my church at the time did well in teaching about hell to 4 year olds). This time up to college I call my “Pharisee years”; because of church, because of my upbringing, I learned how to “walk the walk and talk the talk”, yet I can surely say I truly didn’t know Jesus.
When I was 22, I was pressed by the Holy Spirit to go forward and commit my life to Him . . . surrender to the One who was truly my source. I wasn’t any different than most others at college, and not being under my parents umbrella allowed sin to saturate me. So that day in 1998 I truly saw something about God I had never seen before.
…..I still didn’t know who Jesus TRULY was, but this surrender profoundly affected me.
At age 36, I was spiritually debunked. Caught in sin and just miserable in my relationship with Jesus, I repented and desired to make my relationship with Him true. About a half year after that, God floored me; not in an ‘angry father’ way; not in a malicious, contemptuous way; but with the purest of love. A love that I had heard of since I was a child, but never fully grasped. Prior to 2013, I was living as if God loved me, but when I sinned, that love dwindled. I was living in shame, desiring to hide in the dark . . . because when you don’t grasp the love of God, you still are comfortable with hiding. But the beauty of God is that when He has you and you hide, He makes you miserable (which, contrary to how it sounds, is a very good thing! (check out Psalm 32: 3-5)).
Here’s how He showed me love: He brought me to Romans 3 (mainly verses 10 through 18). Of all chapters in the bible, He brought me to the one that showed me that I was depraved, that I was rebellious, that I was unrighteous. But through this, He created the baseline . . . of all the years I was His, I was finally broken enough to see that He loved me even when I was all of what Romans 3 described. I saw the great chasm between Him and I, and how my sin separated me from Him (Isaiah 59:2). Then I saw how His love bridged that chasm. I saw that He knows who I am . . . He knew from day 1 how I would be . . . . and He STILL rejoices and sings over me (Zephaniah 3:17).
Throughout our life, we come upon seasons God uses to grow us. In these seasons, He shows us His love for us, yet in our ignorance or even rebellion we end up overlooking the very thing which will draw us closer to Him. For me, the years of rebellion came to a head and God was finally able to work. My pigheadedness finally broke and I was able to see the truth He was showing me all throughout my life. I see these events I spoke of as major milestones in my faith. God showed me aspects about him during these times which did change me as a man and as His child.
Am I still a sinner, yes . . . I need to consistently remember His love for me. I still echo the heart of Paul in Romans 7 where, “The good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice”. But shame has taken a back burner. As you go on reading Romans 7 Paul asks who will deliver him from this body of death . . . . then he goes to the source of love: God through Jesus Christ our LORD! Shame drives us away from God, away from fellowship, away from healing. So instead of walking in that shame, I walk in Gods truth. That’s exactly what Psalm 26:3 says,
“For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, and I have walked in Your truth”
What about you? Have you witnessed His lovingkindess? Have you tasted and seen the goodness of our Lord? Or have you lost your first love (Revelation 2:4), walking in your strength or in shame instead of walking in truth?
However you have been walking, you need to know this and hide this deep in your heart . . . God loves you! There are many things in this world that will draw our affections, but as we realize the love of God more and more, the quicker we see that those things don’t satisfy. Isaiah 43 is just one set of verses that shows Gods love for us, it’s ribboned throughout His Word . . . He loves you!