Chasing “a little bit better”, Freedom in Restoration

Oh goodness. The title for this last week of study just gets right to the heart of it, doesn’t it?

Chasing “a little bit better”…

How often do I reach for a little bit better when God offers me life abundant?

Why do I do it? Why do I eat the crumbs that fall from the table, taking in a little measly morsel of grace when I go to church, and another measly morsel when I converse with a friend, another measly morsel when I finally, finally apologize after lashing out at my husband?

I refuse isolation in this. I know it’s not just me. So many of us are yoked to chasing just a tiny bit better – feeling better, talking better, acting better-

when God wants restoration for us, instead of better.

Galatians 6:1 ties Galatians 5 and 6 together. Read Galatians 5:22-6:2 as one continuous passage:

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

The fruit of the Spirit may as well be Christ living in me to reach out to you and vice versa.

Can you imagine? God does not tell us to reach out to all the put-together people, all the people who live well and walk well in the faith. He tells us, through Paul here, to reach our hand in and offer help to the hurting, to call out sin where it lives, in you and in me, to be honest, when it’s hard and it hurts, but to bear it together.

Sharing our sin, our disgrace openly, within true community and actual care, is I believe the most powerful weapon we have to combat Satan in our current cultural context.

Our culture says, “Shame on you.”

Christ says, “I restore.”

Our culture says, “You can do better.”

Christ says, “I did it all.”

Our culture says, “Don’t let them see your darkness.”

Christ says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light.”

We bring that light to each other. We carry the Word out and into a world so deeply in need, chasing just a tiny bit better and losing.

The oft left unquoted Word from John 17:15 says,

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 

It’s a prayer from Christ Himself over each one of us. We’re quick to quote the next verse:

They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.

A little bit better feels a lot like God letting us keep our junk to ourselves, keeping us from humiliation, keeping us from the embarrassing stain of our own sin, but He has a bolder, bigger plan:

Reveal it, so I can heal it.

(Ok, I didn’t intend for that to rhyme. 😉 )

Christ prayed for us to remain in the world because He knows that a little bit better doesn’t heal – it only patches. Revealing our pain and struggle, revealing where we have fallen short and mess it all up – that not only leads to our restoration, but it also begins the process of restoration for another.

Can we do it? Can we share some secret shame, so that another can find some bright and glorious restoration?

We can’t cast our pearls before swine. We can’t be transparent where there is no relationship, we don’t bare the burden of sin, the weight of sin with people who would take it and trash it underfoot, but in relationship it’s worth the risk.

Paul states in Galatians 6:1 “watch yourselves…” We don’t want to be tempted and thrown into someone else’s drama of sin, but he doesn’t tell us not to risk it. Christ’s solution to this in John 17 is the Word. If we are going to help another through their shame of sin, we bring the Word in genuine care and concern and we wrap it in our own humility of sin and the restoration we have received from Christ Jesus.

It’s so much better than a little bit better…

It’s life together.

It’s Redemption before our eyes.

It’s Him at work in you and me, and between you and me.

It’s remarkable grace.

Can we be done chasing a little bit better…together? I’ll share with you and you share with me. We’ll bear the weight of sin together, confess together, proclaim forgiveness over one another and experience the fresh and utterly weightless mercy of our Savior…together.

#lifetogether – Connect and send someone this week’s free downloadable Dear 52 card or order the whole set here

Discussion questions:

When have you gotten burnt in a “relationship” that wasn’t as solid as you thought?

How does Christ’s restoration differ from making things a little bit better?

What in your life right now would you like a little bit better, that we could pray with you for restoration instead?

Freedom to walk loved

What does it mean to be good at something?

A good worker

A good musician

A good student

A good mom

A good anything

What does “good” even mean?

Peace, joy, patience, kindness, aren’t all these good? You betcha. But the way we define them and and see them working in our lives may be quite a bit different than the world.

On this week’s podcast, let’s talk about “good” and the good fruits that God works in us. We’ll widen our perspective of fruits and callings, while sticking to the Truth of Scripture.

Looking for this week’s video lesson archive? Find it at the link below –

What is Freedom?

Freedom to walk away

I used to work with offenders.

That’s a terrible way of saying it. Really, I worked in treatment with those who came to me with notes written on their file, like sex offender and domestic violence offender. We used fancy terminology like recidivism and compulsion, but mostly we were concerned with the recurring nature of the problems, the abuse.

I thought, going into it, that I would teach people skills and I would uncover lies; I would advocate for voices that had been silenced. I did, but mostly I learned a lot about others, about myself, and about grace; about what is dirty and clean, what is conceivable, and what is forgivable.

I had to look in a mirror in that work and come face to face with this Truth:

I am capable.

I am not better.

I am not above.

Chief of sinners, though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me.

See, I have a slightly shady past. At this point in my life, I like to follow that up with, “don’t most of us?!” because it’s true. Most of us have struggled at one point or another with one big, bold question and it is robbing freedom right and left, for me, for you, for those who have rebelled, offended, abused, and every person in the middle of all of that-

Am I forgivable?

Until we answer this question our sins will haunt us and our offenses will remain the same. That was a giant lesson I learned. Mental capacity, family structure, employability – all were important, but slightly irrelevant in recidivism, that fancy word that means “Will they do it again?”

Galatians 5:17-21 tells us we have a flesh-and-Spirit war going on inside of us and around us, as believers or unbelievers. Satan wants our souls. The best way he can figure getting them is through the entanglement of shame:

For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Paul lists all of these deep and difficult things that separate us from God, quickly, or slowly over time as they are practiced. When we hate, when we have fits of rage, when we envy, when we act out in sexual immorality, we turn away from God just enough so that we can’t see Truth and then Satan uses shame to keep us turned, believing a lie that this thing, this sin cannot be forgiven.

A funny thing happens, we keep at it. Without a place to turn, we just keep walking straight into the desires of the flesh, into sexual immorality, into jealousy, into discord.

Jump ahead to Galatians 6:1 –

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

In hearing the Word of Truth, in another person opening our hearts and minds to the Spirit’s work, we can walk away…

walk away from shame

walk away from unforgiveness

walk into Light

walk into redemption.

God forgives. He forgives division, He forgives dissension, He forgives sorcery. He forgives orgies, he forgives idolatry. He forgives every dark thing we could encounter and He breathes life into broken hearts who have been abused, used, and tossed aside.

He also gives us one another to fight the good fight and walk away.

Whether your past looks like sexual impurity and selfishness or that of someone else’s, whether you did pretty darn good and avoided rebellion altogether…

You are forgivable.

You are forgiven in Christ Jesus.

You are loved.

He restores. Walk to Him in the Spirit and away from all the junk of life.

Forgiven, Restored, Set Free.

Live free.

Discussion questions:

What sins do you think people label as “worse sins”?

How do labels for “worse sins” rob all of us of the freedom found in Christ Jesus? What part do you see shame playing?

What darkness have you seen Christ overcome in your past or around you that shines His Freedom into your life?

 

Finding Help and Healing:

If you need help and healing for sexual abuse or assault go to https://www.rainn.org/

If you need help and healing for domestic violence go to http://www.thehotline.org/

Find help and healing for porn addiction and sexual compulsivity at https://www.xxxchurch.com/

Find help and healing for violent behaviors in a specialized local treatment program. You pastor can help you find a local one, pray with you, and offer ongoing spiritual care and confession.