“For God so loved the world that He gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 NKJV
Shortly after the passing of my mother, a long-time family friend took me to dinner. He has known me since I was an angry, depressed sixteen year-old who did not trust that God could love me. In my estimation of myself back then, I was unlovable. While I am not that person today, he knew my history with my mother and wanted to make sure I was OK.
He strategically turned the conversation to my relationship with my mom, commending me for taking her in and caring for her, despite the past. This was a segue into a conversation about his theory regarding the times in which I was raised and how that generation of parents had adopted a belief that criticizing their children would be a catalyst for them to behave better, work harder, strive higher. Whether his estimation of her behavior was accurate or not, I appreciated this attempt to make sure I could forgive my mother.
I had forgiven my mother and was at peace with her long before she came to live with me. What I needed was reconciliation with myself. If God forgave my sins when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, then I needed to forgive myself for them. Fortunately, in the three years since that evening, I have learned how to hold back on beating myself up when I transgress and go to the Lord in repentance, then eventually forgive myself.
After weeks of seeking a topic for this devotion I had come up with several ideas, but none were panning out. With only a few days until the deadline, the verse John 3:16 popped into my head. When I opened my Bible to make sure I had the correct wording, I continued past to the next verse and saw why God led me there. John 3:17 tells us, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” NKJV. I was raised in condemnation. I had not understood that God does not condemn me every time I sin if I am truly repentant. 1 John 1:9 assures us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
When Jesus walked the earth he recognized people’s potential. He did not condemn, but gently let them know they needed to turn from their erroneous ways. He invited a hated tax collector to dine with Him, and spoke firmly, but kindly to the woman at the well. He forgave the apostles even when they fell asleep in the garden, abandoned and denied him. His response to the adulteress’ accusers was, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” John 8:7. NKJV. There were no stones thrown that day, not even by the one qualified to do so. If Jesus is not going to throw stones at us, we should not throw them at ourselves.
Recently I asked the Lord to show me transgressions He would like me to be rid of. He gently pointed out my propensity to be critical. I was grieved I could still be that way after all these years. Nevertheless, it is not the way I want to think and behave as a believer in Jesus Christ. We have been created in the image of God and that is how I want to experience others. I want to love them as they are, because fault-finding does not do them or me any good and does not glorify our Lord. While I am deeply saddened to know that I still fall short in this area, Jesus has much more patience with me than I have with myself. I need to focus on Him, for as 1 John 2:1 states, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” NKJV. Not only does Jesus forgive, but he will ‘advocate with the Father’ for us. Wow! If He treats us with such loving regard, should we not do the same for each other?
It took me a long time to stop trying to hide my sins from my heavenly father, like He didn’t already know them. My former self believed I needed to become perfect. My attempts at that missed the bull’s eye all the time. My self-esteem waned and I often wanted to give up trying. Fortunately, my tenacity kept me going, and I came to understand that God’s mercy is new every day. I am a work in progress, and “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1
Paul tells us in Philippians 3:20-21, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” God sent us His only Son, so we would not be condemned, but if we believe in Him will have eternal life with Him.
“But He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 I am so grateful. Thank you Jesus for all you have done and still do for me.