Trying to be a better Christian? This is for you.
Over and over and over…I heard it, saw it. I relived it.
“WHY did I say that? God, I wish I could do it over- and do better. “I’m such an idiot!”
Reliving all my mistakes and bad choices from each day was my subconscious night time routine. I’d top it off with the underlying lullaby that any moment, everyone who knows me will realize I’m not worth their time and energy.
Laying in bed next to my deep-asleep-snoring husband, I’d carefully catalog each blemish so I could tap into that negative emotion to motivate myself to change and do better next time.
And, of course I’d be ready to bring out the entire file cabinet on nights when I needed to convince my husband of what a terrible person I was, and how he and my children would be better without me. Oh, husband, I’m so sorry for the countless times I put you through that same conversation on our couch . . .
I’ll be honest with you: This type of “do better pep talk” made me feel like a better Christian; If I never let go of the fact that I was such a wretched sinner, then it proved I appreciate Christ’s sacrifice and my need for it. (No wonder many religious leaders were blindsided when Jesus, the actual representation of God- full of mercy, righteousness & God’s unique idea of Justice appeared.)
All of that stinks.
Naturally… rotten fruit stinks.
Wanna know why this fruit is rotten? It comes directly from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
This fruit was grown by my own hard work and the sweat dripping off my ‘brow. By agreeing with each of these thoughts I was providing free territory, within my heart, for seeds of the serpent to be planted and provide further “evidence” to debunk the finished work of God through Christ Jesus in my life.
This was one of the ways I tried to ensure I’d transform my life, my actions.
There is a better way
Ever heard the expression “don’t beat a dead horse”? It means there’s no need to keep talking about a subject that has already been discussed or decided. In this case- it was already decided that we were unable to live up to being our own God, let alone our own Savior. So, what in the world was I trying to prove to say that I was so useless? Once, I’ve already become a follower of Christ and a recipient of forgiveness, grace & His Life, isn’t that when the source of my attempt to do better should shift? Of course it should.
Am I the only one?
I’m glad you’re here with me right now because I want to ask you: has there ever been a time in your Christian life when you fell short of what you know you’re called to & you relied on your own grit to ensure you’ll do better next time?
Maybe you didn’t beat yourself up on repeat nightly like I did- I sure hope not ♡. Instead, maybe you decided you’ll read your Bible more, put more time aside to pray or go out and serve in ministry.
You and I both know all of those options can bring about true transformation. . . [here’s where I interject the big. fat. 2 letter word] IF the action is rooted in the complete work of Jesus Christ ALONE.
And, if that’s where the work finds its root, then you’re seeing that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is where, not only your forgiveness & salvation was accomplished- but also the grace and empowerment to make a better choice next time and every “next time” after that.
We cannot forget that we’ve moved into the Kingdom of the Son, full of Light with Love forever enthroned.
Who is your Master?
For sin’s meager wages is death,
but God’s lavish gift is life eternal,
found in your union with our Lord Jesus,
the Anointed One.
Romans 6:23 TPT
So, on the surface, obviously we can see that we aren’t to sin. But, what about our heart motivations and how we perceive our Master? Do we expect our God to be good enough to provide all the resources necessary to do a full day’s work, or are we expected to desperately scour for the means as Pharaoh harshly did the Israelites?
Who is your Master? Well, you’re here reading my letter so that tells me it’s the Living God, full of glory El-Shaddai, Jehovah. The very one who gave His own Self to remove sin so that He can infuse you with His righteousness (Christ Himself), bringing your spirit into union with His Spirit to lead and guide you into all Truth. He is the provider of the very grace that enables you to walk as a Daughter of God.
I could talk about my mistakes, my shortcomings… but, I’ll no longer pretend that beating myself up over them is what makes me a better Christian. Nor will the mantra “More! Better! Faster!” fool me into thinking I’m earning my place in the Kingdom of God- or even paying Him back for what He’s given me.
No. The only true way to transformation is to depend solely on Him. Otherwise, we’ll find the fruit of the “do better” root rotting sooner than later.
The choice continues
We’ve talked about the Tree of the Knowledge of good and Evil & decided we no longer wish to be deceived into trying to earn our godlike status.
Instead, let’s acknowledge we already are image bearers of Christ- our true God by taking wholeheartedly from the Tree of Life Himself.
He already chose you to be a partaker of His Divine Nature. The fullness of the godhead lies within Christ , whom is within you .
This is your hope for change- not just in the twinkling of an eye when your mortal body fades away- but, change today for every choice that comes your way.
You get to CHOOSE if you believe the finished work of Jesus Christ is enough to provide you everything you need for life and godliness… or it isn’t- in which case I’m sure you’ll come up with something “good” enough.
This is how…
This is where the rubber meets the road (instead of the whip across my back- like the story I shared in the beginning of how I used to do to motivate myself). Jesus Christ’s work is complete.
So, stop rehearsing the lies, start taking captive the thoughts that have anything to do with you needing to help Christ in your salvation at all. (And, please don’t downplay salvation as if it simply means to enter into Heaven when you die…. Christ has given so much more than that. )
No wonder we are called to strive to enter the Rest”. We WILL be tempted to lay down into the trap that our salvation, our righteousness, our “good Christian girl” badge depends on something we can display, something we can do, a certain fruit we can bite into ?. When in reality- ( the reality rooted in Faith, well the author of our Faith to be specific) what makes us a follower of Christ is to depend fully upon His work & His Word that assures us “it is finished”.
But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus,
who became to us wisdom from God [revealing His plan of salvation],
and righteousness [making us acceptable to God],
and sanctification [making us holy and setting us apart for God],
and redemption [providing our ransom from the penalty for sin],
as it is written [in Scripture], “He who boasts and glories,
let him boast and glory in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:30-31
Before I finish, this is how my transformation began…
Finally, as I laid in bed one night, actually unaware of the terrible script I was rehearsing over and over again, a new thought interrupted- “WHAT are you doing?!” It caught me off guard. Those demeaning thoughts were so familiar to me, I no longer paid much notice to them. That question is all it took. I began paying attention to my thoughts, it was interesting witnessing the faithless background noise that undoubtedly played a major role in my day to day actions. I became intentional to hold conversations with myself. I was already acting silly enough as it was, saying one thing in faith with my mouth while my mind was professing good & evil thoughts a mile a minute. Can you say “double-minded”?
So, when I heard myself have a thought that did not align with Christ, His gospel and what He said about me- I rebuked it… out loud.
Here’s what I mean.
I break a glass. My thoughts: “Of course! Could this day get any worse?!”
I say out loud, “No, this is a great day. The glass just slipped. You had an accident, it’s okay. Soon, this will be cleaned up, and there’s so much to look forward to today. God, as I’m cleaning this, please show me what the rest of my day can look like partnering with You”
That was a light example. Here’s a more personal one.
I sin by yelling at my son in anger. My thoughts after I’ve calmed down: “I’m such a terrible mom. I don’t even deserve my boys. I’m gonna scar them forever. Why CAN’T I just stop yelling at them? I bet they just want me to stay away from them because they don’t trust me anymore”
I stop that train of thought as soon as I realize it’s happening and say out loud, “God, I’m so sorry. I have sinned against you and my children. I do not want to behave like that again. I was trying to use anger and fear to manipulate. You gave me a choice and I chose selfishness. Christ, I know you have given me everything I need for life and godliness, I ask that you make my heart more sensitive to discern your voice in moments like those. God, You’re a perfect Father, I want to know you better, and your perfect Love so that my boys see you through me, even in times that I am tempted to become so angry. God, You are compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love (Psalm 103:8). I am one with You, this is what I’m capable of, too. I believe You when you say I have the mind of Christ. I ask you to help me see my sons the way you see them, and see myself as you do. I have been created to do your good works. I turn from the lie that I can hurt others to get my way. Lead me in Your Truth. Please show me how to minister to my son so that this doesn’t affect how He sees you and knows Love.”
This last example is a deep example of specifically turning from sin. The guilt spiral from something like yelling at my son used to send me into a dark and deep pit in which I’d find myself scheming of how to make myself presentable to God, again. In reality, all I needed to do was come before His throne in my absolute time of need and allow the finished work of Christ to cleanse me and equip me to behave like a daughter of God; no more striving.
You see? In my runaway thoughts, I was a victim of my day/sin struggle and the actual good news of the gospel isn’t even present in my processing and deciding how to proceed vs. speaking from a place of believing and expecting the fullness of Christ to be present and my reality being based upon who Christ is and how He’s in union with me. I’m writing you to testify that He has been faithful to supernaturally meet those faith-filled prayers that aligned with His already finished work.
I’ve learned I need to pay very careful attention to my thoughts, for they are the seeds which eventually bare fruit.
Now, instead of tapping into emotions or regrets to motivate me to do better, I’ve learned to tap into, rather turn on the faucet for God’s Grace and finished work to empower me to live like Christ, in communion with the Father and motivated by Love and Compassion.
I encourage you, Sister, to check each thought to determine if you’re relying on your own blood, sweat and tears to make all the difference in your growth, or are you leaning deeper into the mysteries of Christ and believing everything is right within Him, within you and you begin to press in in faith and expect His ability to show up in and through you?
So, please remember: no matter the means to become a better Christian, unless its a total dependence on Jesus Christ being your salvation and He, Himself, being your righteousness you may be bearing fruit from the wrong tree.
Please return to the pure and simple gospel, It is that good. He is that good. And, you are that Loved. Though undeserving at best, we’ve been brought back, redeemed, restored, reconciled. Now, open the eyes of your heart so that He may show you all that He’s already placed within you and humble yourself to listen intently to the thoughts He’s sharing with you to train you how to walk as a Daughter of God, born of incorruptible seed.
The greatest honor we can give God isn’t to try to earn our keep, but to celebrate Christ’s complete work making each of us completely accepted.
“It is Finished”
When he had sipped the sour wine, he said,
“It is finished, my bride!”
Then he bowed his head and surrendered his spirit to God.
John 19:30 TPT
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Ashlynn this is so refreshing and inspiring. Thank you for sharing your heart. ? It is life-giving.
I’m honored to share how He’s changed my life- it’s my desire to inspire you to live your ultimate life in Him, Sister.
You took the time to comment and that means a lot to me, Amy.
Thank you, Ashlynn
Thank you, Ashlynn. I really needed this, since it’s exactly what I am struggling with. I realize that I’m guilty of the same, trying to do it on my own, and beating myself up when I fail. I’ve been praying for God to help me BEFORE I let the anger and frustration take over. He is helping me, but sometimes it just comes so fast and strong, even though I am conscious of being in the wrong, I cant control it. So I do and say extremely hurtful things. My situation is complicated by the reality of ADHD/ Bipolar in my family. Some diagnosed, some not, but all suffering. Thank you for your encouragement, and I would really appreciate your prayer on my and my family’s behalf. God bless you…Christy
Dear Precious in His sight Christy,
I’m praying for you. Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing this. And, it is my honor to share something that encourages you to Rest deeper in His Love for you.
Along with what I shared here, something else I try to remember is to take one breath, just one breath, before I respond. And, in that moment, I have enough time to realize I have a choice to make. Nothing is so important that it can’t wait so long for a response. ♡