No condemnation

I was late. REALLY late. I was supposed to pick up the kids I nannied at 3, but I had been stuck in traffic (and maybe spent a little too much time at Goodwill hunting for treasures). Only back roads stood between me and the daycare. As any good, country-raised Southern girl knows, back roads’ speed limits are… suggestions, right? Well, unfortunately, the police officer didn’t see it that way. When I heard the sirens, I was going 64ish in a 45. The police officer approached my window, I looked up at him in shame. I knew exactly what I had done. “Ma’am, do you know you were speeding?”, “Yes, sir…”. Thankfully, I got off with a warning. Grace. No denying I deserved a fat ticket, but instead of condemning me, the officer gave me more of a “fatherly warning” in a kind voice then let me go. “I’m going to give you a warning, but you need to slow down.” And guess what? I drove away going 40 in a 45 and was extremely late to pick up the kids. Lesson learned.

Have you ever been caught doing something wrong? Something you knew you probably shouldn’t be doing or maybe something you promised yourself you would NEVER do? In a moment of weakness, excitement or pleasure, you gave in to the desire, and it felt SO good until…. You’re caught with your hand in the cookie jar. Going 60 in a 45. You see your mom, you hear the siren. The last person you want to find you sees you for who you really are and suddenly, you feel ashamed.

I read this statement in the footnotes of my study Bible,

 "The gospel is an unrelenting assault on graceless religion, on all the ways we try to avoid grace. It is also a powerful demonstration of the sovereignty of God. God can save anyone, anytime, anywhere. He is not constrained by human intuitions about who is really 'save-able.' Grace confounds our law-saturated, self-accomplishing expectations of what activates divine mercy." 

This was a note from John 8. The passage in which Jesus declares Himself as the light of the world after saving the adulterous woman from being stoned. Let me set the stage a little for those who may be less familiar with the story. A woman was caught in the act of adultery, pulled from the scene, and made to stand before the religious leaders. The custom of that day was for anyone caught in such an act to be stoned (meaning stones would be thrown at her until she died). Enter Jesus. He starts writing in the sand. Most scholars believe that Jesus started writing sins that The Pharisees had committed because when he commands, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” No-one throws. Instead, one by one, they turn and leave. I love the whole story, but the next part may be my favorite. Jesus turns to the woman and says, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She answers, “No one, sir.” Jesus declares, “Then neither do I condemn you. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” No condemnation. Whether it’s stealing a cookie from the jar, breaking the speed limit, or committing adultery, we all have fallen short. We all have found ourselves standing naked before our accusers feeling guilt and shame. But we all have been freed from our condemnation because of Jesus!

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:23-24

There is no no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death 

Romans 8:1-2

1. Only One Judge

The Pharisees did not receive this well. In fact, the message of the Gospel enraged them. Grace confounded their law-saturated hearts, and grace confounds our hearts as well. How can salvation not come from works? How can all these good things we’re doing or have done be for nothing? How can my contribution to the kingdom not result in many coming to know God? Why can’t I be more vital to the work He is doing? Why can’t I choose who I share Jesus with or who He saves? Why do I need to keep praying for my unbelieving friends, family members, or neighbors? Whether we identify more closely with the woman standing helpless before the crowd or the Pharisees jeering with their stones, we all have the tendency to think our sins are not as bad as the other side.

How often are we like the Pharisees? We are guilty of graceless religion. We set ourselves up as the standard and judge everyone who does not live out their faith in the same way we do.. We avoid grace by leaning harder into responsibilities that make us feel important or by neglecting boundaries that would allow us to rest in Jesus. Instead of leaving room for the Lord to work, we push forward. Not prayerfully but pridefully thinking we can accomplish anything we have set our minds to (whether He has set His mind to it or not). We do not trust that God can accomplish His work without us, and we insert ourselves into situations (even good situations like ministry) that He never called us into. Instead of extending grace to others and grace to ourselves, we extend judgment. We are exhausted trying to be good enough, do enough, earn enough, serve enough, BE enough. 

Stop running from grace. Instead, run into the outstretched arms of Jesus. Lean into the knowledge that Jesus and only Jesus can ever satisfy. Jesus and only Jesus can apply His righteousness to our accounts. Only Jesus can allure the lost with His grace. Only Jesus can remove the heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). No matter how much righteousness we accumulate, it is all filthy rags without Jesus’ righteousness applied to our account.

2. Only One Savior

“Jesus is

‘the stone you builders rejected,

    which has become the cornerstone.’

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Acts 4:11-12

Not my name. Not your name. No other name but Jesus.

How are we avoiding grace? How are we using our finite minds to try to rationalize or reason our way through His sovereignty? Can’t wrap your mind around why he would love you? Or maybe, you don’t think your forgivable because your sins run too deep. He is able. He can do it. Whatever it is. Don’t lose heart or forget His grace. Let the mystery of the gospel confound your heart toward praise for all He has done!

We cannot give up hope for the ones who do not know Christ. Remember, the work is all His. We are called to share the Gospel and intercede on behalf of the lost, but we are not called to change or save anyone. When we take on personal responsibility for the salvation of people, we are belittling the Gospel and becoming Pharisees.

“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us”

2 Corinthians 4:5-7

When we take personal responsibility for saving people, we steal God’s glory. When we neglect shining the light of Jesus into the darkness, we are stealing God’s glory. Both of these actions represent hearts that have not been overwhelmed by the grace of God. God shines the light of the Gospel into the darkness of dying souls. He uses us broken, cracked, jars of clay to carry His message. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. We do not proclaim ourselves, but the grace of God that has touched our brokenness and healed our scars!

Personally, I have really been struggling with this truth recently. I have been fervently praying for a few people to come to know Jesus, and after some discouraging conversations, I am tempted to give up hope. I don’t want to pray. I want to “stop giving so much time to something that will never happen.” Very spiritual of me, right? The reality is that the people I am praying for may never come to know Jesus. But is that why we pray? To get what we want? No. We pray for Him to activate His divine mercy. We pray to cultivate a rich relationship with our Father. We pray to grow our faith. We pray because we know our hearts are desperately wicked and in need of divine intervention. We pray because we do not wrestle against flesh and blood (humanity), but we fight a spiritual war. We NEED His help. We pray because we know He is the only source of life. Even as I write, He is encouraging my spirit with His truth and reminding me of His faithfulness.

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

ISaiah 55: 8-11

The first part of this passage is familiar- His ways are not our ways, they are much higher. He has an eternal perspective that allows Him to sovereignly arrange all the happenings in our lives and in the lives of others PERFECTLY. The second part of the passage describes a beautiful analogy. Just as the rain and the snow fall from the heavens and never return, His word goes out and does not return empty or meaningless His words ALWAYS accomplish exactly what He intends them to accomplish! His words will always be successful according to His perfect way and perfect will mentioned earlier in the passage. These words do not mean everyone we share the Gospel with will be saved, but what they do mean, and what we can find tremendous hope in, is that every time we speak the Word of God, it will fulfill the exact purpose of God. We are called to faithfulness, and He does the work.

“[The Gospel] is also a powerful demonstration of the sovereignty of God. God can save anyone, anytime, anywhere. He is not constrained by human intuitions about who is really ‘save-able.'” His ways are higher, His mind is greater, His thoughts are eternal. Let’s abandon every ounce of pride that tells us someone is unreachable. Let’s kill the desire to stop speaking truth because it seems to have no effect. Let’s remember the superabundant grace of God that has touched us and allow that grace to flow out toward others.

The Spirit drew this poem of praise from my heart to my journal as I reflected on the truth found in John 7:

No Condemnation

No condemnation, His blood flows free

Washes clean the sinner’s feet

Prepares a table with the king

Not a stranger, but redeemed!

Oh how sweet to trust His name!

My chains are gone with the shame.

Most blood leaves a stain behind

His blood washes black to white.

Abandon all that defies grace

Can’t you see the Savior’s face?

Can’t you see the thorn pierced brow?

Can’t you see His arms reaching out?

No condemnation does He bring.

He- our suffering, Savior, King

Offers His kingdom and the key

Life through Him eternally!

Oh how sweet to speak His name

Jesus, Jesus

Spread His fame!

Come, bow low at His feet

Pierced through to change our fate.

Leave your accusing words behind

“Pour contempt on all your pride.”

Grace unmeasured flowing out

All are equal where we bow.

Application:

  1. Stop the judgment and start sharing the grace upon grace Jesus has lavished on us.
  2. Stop trying to be good enough. Our mistakes are memorials to the grace of God.
  3. Stop trying to look perfect. God’s grace shines brighter in our brokenness.
  4. Stop trying to change people. Remember, only God’s grace can do that!
  5. Don’t give up on people. Believe in the power of the Gospel.
  6. Stop running from grace and run into the outstretched arms of Jesus.

How to grow a thankful heart

Scripture: Psalm 7:17; Psalm 8: 3-9; Psalm 9:1; Psalm 95: 1-3; Psalm 100: 4-5; Romans 8:1-2, 37-39; Galatians 5:22-25; Ephesians 2:1-2a, 4 and 8; Ephesians 5:18-20; Philippians 2:14; Philippians 4:6-7; Colossians 2:6-7; Colossians 3:15-17; 2 Corinthians 5:7-18; 1 Thessalonians 4:6-7, Hebrews 4:14-16; Hebrews 12: 28-29

Photo by Ashley Williams on Pexels.com

A flock of geese careened into Captain Sullenberger’s plane rendering both engines unusable and creating a precarious situation for all 155 passengers on board. The lives of each passenger depended on the skills and expertise of the pilot in whom they had put their trust when stepping on board. Quietly and calmly, Captain Sullenberger and his co-pilot decided to employ an emergency water landing on the Hudson River. They executed their plan flawlessly and successfully evacuated all 155 people. Sullenberger was deemed a hero. If you have ever seen the movie, Sully, you know this story and have seen the account of these people singing the captain’s praises with joyful gratitude for the salvation he secured on their behalf. The passengers’ hearts overflowed with gratitude to their rescuer because they understood what their fate would have been without him. When people realize someone has saved them from imminent death and destruction, the result is heartfelt thanksgiving and devotion to the one who saved them.

You probably see where I’m going with this. As believers, we have more reason to be thankful than anyone on earth because we have experienced the greatest rescue story ever told! 

How do we grow hearts that express gratitude to God and lives that exude the joy of the Lord? We must cultivate thankful hearts by recognizing who God is, preaching the Gospel to ourselves everyday, and walking in the Spirit. We were lost- dead in our sins and headed for complete destruction, but Jesus intervened.. 

Three Keys to Growing a Thankful Heart

  1. Recognize who God is

Over and over again in Scripture, giving thanks is tied to recognizing who God is. Read these accounts from Psalms:

Psalm 7:17 I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High
Psalm 9:1 I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of your wonderful deeds
Psalm 95: 1-3 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.
Psalm 100:4-5 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.

The Psalms are FULL of declarations of God’s power, wisdom, steadfast love, mercy, righteousness and goodness. When we are struggling to be thankful, we are usually believing a lie about God’s character. God isn’t wise enough to have planned my day well, good enough to have given me exactly what I need, or faithful enough to be with me in this trial. To grow a thankful heart, we must remind ourselves of Who God is. Stand in awe of Who God is… Take a minute right now to worship Him for His power and might, then remind yourself of this truth:

Psalm 8:3-9 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

This God- the righteous, mighty, Creator, ruler, Sovereign, powerful God- created you. He thinks about YOU and cares for YOU. Let God’s greatness and power move you to respect and admiration then let His gentle care and steadfast love lead you to worship and praise. 

Hebrews 12: 28-29 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”

We can give thanks in all circumstances because we trust that God is in complete control and that He is working everything together for His glory and for our good! 

  1. Praise Jesus for what He’s done 

Okay, so we know that God is amazing and beyond our understanding, and for some reason, He allows us to access Him through prayer. Why can we take our fears, hopes, dreams, and burdens before this incredibly powerful God?

Hebrews 4: 14-16 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Because of Jesus. Jesus made a way.. He pathed the highway between us and God allowing us access to the throne! 

Romans 8 and Ephesians 2 are two of my favorite passages in Scripture. I would strongly recommend reading both of these if you want to cultivate a spirit of thanksgiving in your heart. I am going to include some excerpts here, but the whole chapter is SO packed with truth! 

Ephesians 2:1-2a And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God

So let’s take that rescue story I mentioned earlier, remember those 155 people were miraculously saved by a skilled pilot? Now imagine if the pilot had taken a plane full of dead people and brought them back to life then saved them from a crash landing. This is a more accurate description of what Jesus has done for us. We were already dead in our sins, but God in His mercy reached down in love and resuscitated us. He breathed His breath into our lungs and gave us the gift of new life in Him.

Romans 8:1-2 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”
Romans 8: 37-39 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Once we are alive in Christ, we can never be separated from the life and love of Christ. We are one with Him- forever united with his death and resurrection. Nothing can separate us- not imperfections, doubts, insecurities, or problems. Nothing. Let this truth wash over your heart. If we have nothing in this world but Christ, we have every reason to be thankful.  

Colossians 2:6-7 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness
Colossians 3:15-17 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

When we invite Christ and the Gospel to rule our hearts and minds, His peace and presence will develop within us a spirit of thankfulness. 

  1. Walk in the Spirit

When we are filled with the Spirit, the result is a changed life. The result is a thankful heart. We become new creatures when we are rescued by Jesus, but the process of sanctification is life-long. We must grow in grace and grow in the Spirit by renewing our minds in the Word of God! 

Ephesians 5:18-20 says, “but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your hearts to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to our God and Father.
Galatians 5: 22-25 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.

When we deny ourselves, we leave room for the Spirit to work! The Ephesians 5 passage above starts with being Spirit filled then ends with thanksgiving! The two are directly tied. So often in my own life, I want to be thankful, but I don’t put in the work of walking in the Spirit. I try to be thankful without tapping into the source of thankfulness. Any thankfulness we produce on our own will be tainted with selfishness and sin. We owe our gratitude to the good Father. Good gifts from our Good Father are just sign posts to lead us to worship Him (James 1:17)! True thankfulness is always the outward expression of a heart that has been enraptured by the mercy and grace of Jesus. 

Out of curiosity, I read some secular advice on how to be thankful. Interestingly enough, many of the points were biblically based such as “get your mind off yourself”, “when you’re angry, think about all the good things in your life” and “voice gratitude”…  As believers, we have SO much to be thankful for, but we also have the POWER to be thankful because the Spirit is alive within us. Here’s a few ways to practically, grow a heart of gratitude:

Practical Application for Growing a thankful heart: 

The first four of these are biblical necessities, the last three are helpful, but not essential.

  1. Meet with God every day in His Word 

Y’all already know this one, but it really is VITAL. God’s Word is where the renewal happens. He reveals Himself to us and fills us with His spirit as we meet with Him in His Word. The narrative of the Bible reveals countless reasons to be thankful- creation, fall, redemption, resurrection, and new life in Christ.. 

2. Get your eyes off yourself and serve others 

Usually, when I catch myself grumbling and complaining, the root issue is selfishness. In Philippians 2:14, Paul instructs, “Do all things without murmuring and complaining”, so we can shine as lights in the darkness. Earlier in the passage, he reveals the way we resist a complaining spirit (the opposite of thankfulness) is by “looking not on our own interests, but also to the interests of others.” When we put other people’s needs before our own, we imitate Christ who took on human form, served, and died on our behalf. The problem is we get so focused on our own lives and routines, we forget about other people. We grumble and complain because we’ve made ourselves the center of our stories. Extend the hands and feet of Jesus all over your community! It doesn’t have to be starting your own non profit organization. It can be making a meal for a neighbor, sending a card to someone, watching someone’s kids for them, volunteering somewhere.. Please don’t forget, these things are not earning God’s favor. You don’t have to work for God’s love or people’s approval! Serving is the result of a thankful heart that has realized who God is and what Jesus has done. 

3. Shift to an eternal perspective 

Paul talks about contentment from PRISON. He talks about being beaten, oppressed, forsaken, crushed and persecuted, and yet, he says the suffering of this world cannot be compared to the joy that’s coming. (2 Corinthians 5:7-18) After Paul talks about all of those awful things that he experienced THIS is what he says in verse 15 “For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase THANKSGIVING, to the glory of God.” He sees everything he’s been through as glorious because it has led others to Christ. His sufferings have developed a spirit of thankfulness in others. His sufferings have drawn others to worship God. We are commanded to be ready to give an answer to the hope that is within us… If we are never hopeful in bad circumstances, how will others ever see Jesus? Our attitude in difficult circumstances reveals what we believe about God. When we give thanks in good circumstances, the world doesn’t bat an eye. When we give thanks in trials, the world starts asking questions. Sometimes I feel like I have to physically pick up my thoughts and place them on eternity or as Paul says, “take our thoughts captive”. Remember, we are not victims to our thoughts. Jesus has died to redeem our thoughts. He has rescued us from being slaves to our sin. 

4. Start praying and meditating on God’s truth

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Prayer is the way we express gratitude to God. The more we offer prayers of thanksgiving, the more thankful we will become. As we shift our eyes off ourselves and onto Him and others, our view changes to one of gratitude. 

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Meditating is different from reading God’s Word. Let’s not get so wrapped up in checking the boxes on our reading plans (type A people where ya at?!) that we forget to take the truth with us throughout the day. First of all, I want you to know I am not giving you a personal example because I’ve arrived. I’m giving you a personal example because I STRUGGLE with this, but by God’s grace have found a few strategies to help me! On my “thankfulness walks” (see application #6) I take a notecard with a verse on it. I usually just make one a week. I read it while I walk and pray it back to God and meditate on what it means. I keep it with me on my desk at school too, so I can look down at it when I’m feeling a little less than spiritual… Lol In my personal devotions, I write out the verse to help commit it to memory, and by the end of the week, I usually have it memorized! It has been amazing to see how God has used that in my life to develop a more consistent conversation with Him throughout the day. Meditation and prayer go hand in hand. Meditating on God’s Word leads to a renewed mind and thankful heart.

5. Keep a journal as you read and record 5 things you’re thankful for every day 

In Scripture, God commands Israel to set up memorials to remember His goodness. It’s so cool to see how these things develop and change as you grow and God answers prayers! When you record your thankfulness, you can reflect on God’s faithfulness in the past which will inspire thankfulness in the present/future.

6. Tell God those 5 things you’re thankful for every day in prayer

Don’t you love it when someone tells you they’re thankful for you??? God delights in hearing our thanksgiving poured out before Him! Many Psalms were written to do just that. Don’t assume God already knows. Don’t only bring requests before His throne. Bring gratitude and praise. And ask Him to continue to grow that heart of thankfulness. 

7. Tell other people you’re thankful for them

Write a note or send a text. It can be short and sweet, but as you spread thankfulness, your heart will grow! We don’t have to feel thankful before we are thankful. We can tell our feelings what to do and watch as God transforms our hearts! Perhaps you wrote down a person on that list of five things you’re thankful for? Let them know! Maybe pick a day of the week (like thankful Thursday) to always reach out to someone with words of gratitude.

8. Take a thankfulness walk without your phone and talk to God

Sometimes you just need to be alone in nature. No distractions. No music. Deep breaths. Hear the birds. See the sunshine. Watch creation at work. Allow the beauty of it all to wash over your soul and audibly voice your praise to God for who He is! Jesus encourages the disciples to consider the lily and sparrow because creation speaks to the care of the creator. Jesus also practiced solitude with His Father in nature. He prioritized His relationship with His Father over His relationship with his disciples or His service to others. A relationship with the Father is water and nutrients for growing a thankful heart.

So friends, let’s get to know our God. Let’s stand in awe of our Savior. Let’s walk hand in hand with the Spirit. When we delight in His Word, meditate on His goodness, and set our minds on eternity, God- the perfect gardener- will grow within us the most beautiful heart of thankfulness.

Your loving sister,

Charis

How to fight comparison: A biblical perspective

Scripture: Genesis 3, Psalm 139: 13-16, Philippians 2:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12: 14-26, 2 Corinthians 5:2, Galatians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:4

I sent out a survey to the girls in my youth group with the question, “What is the hardest thing about being a teenage girl in this culture?” Overwhelmingly, the girls responded with “comparison”, “body image”, and “beauty standards.” We know comparison is the thief of joy (thanks to good ole Teddy Roosevelt), but even knowing that comparison is a thief doesn’t always keep us from getting robbed.

How do we fight the cultural standard of beauty that is shoved down our throats constantly on Instagram, Tik-Tok, TV, and other avenues? Today, I want to take you to Scripture to find some answers. 

First of all, I want you to know this is something I struggle with too. How can we not struggle? Social media is like window shopping. Each little box represents a glimpse into someone else’s world. The windows are filled with beautiful things- talents, makeup, dancing, laughing… But do you know how window shopping works? Have you ever been?

You walk the streets, gazing into the beautifully dressed windows, wishing you could have what the store offered, but knowing you do not have enough resources to ever get what the store is trying to sell. 

The window displays rarely tell the whole story, though. Behind those beautifully dressed windows lies a whole different world, and when we start looking more closely at the items inside, usually we realize we don’t actually want everything in the store. Sure, the window may be eye-catching, but the contents of the inside aren’t all appealing. You don’t need every size of the same shirt, or the men’s clothes, or every piece of jewelry, and odds are, you don’t even want or like them all!  We pick and choose- we want jeans from this store, a sweater from here, jewelry from here, and the list goes on. 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

We do this with people too. We gaze into their lives, at least, the parts they put on display for us, and we start wishing our lives, bodies, and faces looked more like theirs. We shop in their windows and pick and choose which parts from which people we want, then we compare ourselves to the pieces we have chosen instead of looking at the full picture. We love them and hate them at the same time. 

So why do we do this? Why do we play the game of comparison?

Let’s take a look at Scripture and let truth renew our minds. As I studied Scripture for this topic, I found three recurring themes:

  1. We compare ourselves because we are believing lies about God.
  2. We compare ourselves because we are focused on ourselves.
  3. We compare ourselves because we fear man and want approval.

Let’s dive into each.

1. We compare ourselves because we are believing lies about God.

Comparison started in the garden. Satan successfully tempted Eve to sin because he told her “you can be like God, knowing good from evil.” Eve compared herself to God, and wanted what He had instead of embracing joyfully who God had created her to be. Eve believed the lie that Satan sold her, she took and ate the fruit. Not because she needed it- she had a whole garden full of fruit to choose from for heaven’s sake! But because she didn’t have that fruit, and she wanted it. Eve did not believe that God had given her everything she needed. She did not believe that God, in His goodness, had already created her exactly how he wanted her! 

The Bible says, God has made you fearfully and wonderfully, you should praise Him for the work of his hands (Psalm 139:14). What this means is God created your imperfections on purpose. God created your quirks, personality, body shape, eye color, skin color, and all of it is in His good plan. Do you believe He is good? Do you believe He is perfect? If so, you must be exactly as He wanted you to be. If you are not, He is not perfect or good. Knowing that verse, writing that verse on your mirror, setting that verse as your lock screen are all good things, but they are not enough. We must ask God for forgiveness- deep, heartfelt, forgiveness- for believing that He is not good enough or wise enough or loving enough to create us purposefully. We must delight ourselves in Him and in His goodness. You see, the way we see ourselves is directly related to the way we see God. The closer we grow in our relationship with Jesus, the less tempted we will be to compare ourselves to His other creations. 

Now please, sister, do not mistake my words as a license to over eat, flaunt what ya got, and never do your hair. God has also made us stewards of His creation, and with that comes a responsibility to care for ourselves. In Proverbs 31, the woman is praised for how she cares for herself and her family.

Be balanced knowing God has made you beautifully, so you can marvel at the intricacies and complexity of who you are while still seeking to grow and develop yourself into everything He has called you to be.

Many of us know Psalm 139:14 which I referred to earlier, but have you ever read it in context? I encourage you to go read Psalm 139 in its entirely. Here is a link so you can easily access it https://biblehub.com/bsb/psalms/139.htm

I will include an excerpt here as well:

13 For You formed my inmost being;

You knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise You,

for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 

Marvelous are Your works, 

and I know this very well.

15 My frame was not hidden from You  

when I was made in secret, 

when I was woven together 

in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; 

all my days were written in Your book 

and ordained for me 

before one of them came to be.

WOW. How beautiful is THAT truth? Let it wash over your heart, dear friend. Recognizing God as perfect Creator enables us to praise Him for how fearfully and wonderfully He has made us!

You are fully known, fully loved, and endowed with purpose by a loving Creator. Lay down your self-hate at the foot of the cross, and praise His name for the goodness of His design.

2. We compare ourselves because we are focused on ourselves.

Ouch. Stepping on my own toes here! Philippians 2 is one of my favorite passages in Scripture. 

Here’s what the Bible says in Philippians 2:3-8:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped

7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Our ultimate goal is to grow in Christ-likeness, not people likeness. When we compare ourselves to God, we will quickly realize we can never measure up to that standard. Enter Christ. Who lived the perfect life of servanthood and died the perfect death, so we imperfect people could be redeemed and bring God glory.

We are called to serve one another, and when we get caught up in comparing ourselves to other people, the comparison breeds jealousy and hate, not others-esteeming servanthood. Unfortunately, comparison also leads to gossip and boastfulness as we work desperately to make ourselves feel better by making others look worse. “She may be pretty, but she’s soooo stuck up.” “Sure, her hair is nice, but have you seen her face???” “She only gets so many boys because she gives them whatever they want.” WHY DO WE TEAR EACHOTHER DOWN with hateful words and hurtful comments? Other girls’ victories do not equal your loss. We can cheer our sisters on, knowing that they are accomplishing the good works that Jesus has designed for them. Odds are those girls need the truth of Jesus shone in their lives a lot more than they need to hear words of condemnation.

As believers we are called to love and esteem one another higher than ourselves. If we are truly doing this, we will not be comparing ourselves. We are part of the body of Christ, and each member of this family has a distinct role to play. Some are arms, some feet, some hands, some eyes, elbows, ears, you get the idea. But without each individual member the body could not function properly. Can you imagine if an ear suddenly decided it wanted to be an eye? The ear chose to stop hearing, and tried as hard as possible to start seeing. Try as it might, it could never make seeing work,  but because the ear tried to be an eye, the body lost its hearing and all the members suffered. This may sound like a funny example, but it’s actually found in the Bible! Turns out, we’re not the only people in the history of Christianity that have struggled with comparison.

Read this passage of Scripture from 1 Corinthians 12 and imagine yourself as one of the members written here- the ear, the eye, or the foot: 

14 For the body does not consist of one part, but of many. 

15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.

 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.

 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

18 But in fact, God has arranged the members of the body, every one of them, according to His design.

19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 

20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you.” Nor can the head say to the feet, “I do not need you.”

 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,

 23 and the parts we consider less honorable, we treat with greater honor. And our unpresentable parts are treated with special modesty,

 24 whereas our presentable parts have no such need. But God has composed the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it,

 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its members should have mutual concern for one another.

 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Scripture is clear- you were created by a Sovereign and perfect God to play a special role in the body of Christ. Are you causing the body to be void of hearing, seeing, or walking? Are you so focused on trying to fill another role, that you are causing the body to suffer? Trust today that God knows best, and praise Him for the role, body, personality, and gifts He has given you.

But don’t focus on yourself. Take your eyes and your mind off yourself, and put them on Jesus. As you do this, He will lead you into exactly who you need to be. He will make you aware of the gifts and mission He has given you. As John Piper says, “He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Let’s stop our strivings after what others have and start finding our satisfaction in Jesus.

You don’t feel like you’re good enough. You don’t feel like you can ever measure up to the cultural standards. You feel trapped in an imperfect body. Surprise!!! That’s because you are not good enough, you can never measure up, and you do have an imperfect body. Embracing those things about yourself and letting them lead you into worship of the One who was perfect for you is VITAL in stopping the comparison spiral.

2 Corinthians 5:2 says, “We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing.” The dissatisfaction you are feeling in your body can be turned into worship as God uses it to create a longing for eternity. Lean into that feeling, but do it with eternal eyes. Let your imperfections serve as a reminder that eternity is coming. Your perfect body is coming. Rejoice in that promise!

3. We compare ourselves because we are afraid of what people think about us (Fear of man).

Fear of man. It’s a pandemic. It slithers its way into most every area of our lives. Let me give you a perfect example. I recently started this blog and instagram account. The heart behind it was good- bring God glory by sharing His truth with others. Great concept, right? As good as the intentions were, in a matter of moments, my wickedness and brokenness surfaced. Suddenly, I was afraid. What will people think about this account? What if people think I’m doing it for attention? What if no one likes it? What if no one reads what I’m writing? Maybe I should just put in very little effort. That way, if I fail, I can say I didn’t really try, and I didn’t really care about the account/blog in the first place. Ugh, other influencers are so pretty and have so many followers AND they know how to make reels (I really struggle with talking on video and dancing? HA forget about it.)… Can I really make an impact? Does my voice really matter? Suddenly my pure motives were tainted by my sinfulness. If we were only concerned about what God thought about us, we really wouldn’t struggle with comparison much at all! We would realize all humanity is equal at the foot of the cross. We would look at our fellow humans and think, “Wow! We are all so broken, but God’s grace has covered each one of us. Praise Jesus!” 

Paul says in Galatians 1:10 that he would not even be a servant of Christ if he cared about the approval of people. 

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

Think about Paul’s life- he was the head honcho in the religious scene. People looked up to him. He probably received gobs of praise for his religious knowledge and persecution of the Christians… But when God got a hold of Paul’s heart, he left all that behind. Why? Because the power, joy, and freedom is in Christ. Not in us. When we make ourselves our god, we are left with empty hearts and lives.  “Instead [of fearing man], we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, not in order to please men but God, who examines our hearts” 1 Thessalonians 2:4. God has not given us the treasure of the Gospel so we can sit around on it overly concerned about how people are perceiving us. He has given us the treasure of the Gospel to share it. To shine it. To shout it. Don’t push your light under a bushel, let it shine! 

As a believer, you are seated with Christ in heaven. He has given you a place at His table. He sees you as worthy because of the blood of Jesus. Lean into your relationship with him and lean into loving and serving others instead of comparing yourself to them. 

Application:

Okay, it’s easy to read all that and feel overwhelmed, so here are some practical ways to fight comparison.

1. Get in God’s Word and let Him renew your mind. Meet with Him every day and remind yourself of who He is. Remind yourself of His perfection. Remind yourself that the design of you falls under His perfect wisdom

2. Pick one of the passages I shared above and memorize it. Quote it to yourself every time you’re struggling with comparing yourself to others.

3. Start a habit of praising God for how He created you. Think about your intricacies and complexity and giftedness, then praise Him for it!

4. Find a way to serve others- in your local church, in your community, in your family. When you’re tempted to fear man, ask God for help, then get busy serving. Not because you ever need to earn the approval of man, but because God has given you gifts to use for His glory!

5. Form accountability and community with other sisters in Christ who don’t feed your comparison struggles.

A lot more could be said on this topic, but for now, I pray these words encourage your soul as you pursue a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. As always, please reach out to me with questions and topic ideas!

Your loving sister,

Charis

Living Transformed: My hope story

Living Transformed:
My hope story

Hey, friend! I know you have a million things to do, but you chose to take to read my story- thank you! I pray that this blog, through the power of Jesus, will bless you and fill you in ways the lesser things of this world never could.

I am privileged to spend a lot of time hanging out with teenagers. I have been teaching 8th grade for four years now and am a youth pastor’s wife. Most conversations I have with new people (let’s call them Bob) go something like this:

Bob: “So what do you do for work?”

Me: “I teach 8th grade science.”

Bob: “Ew 8th grade?! What an awkward age.. You must be crazy!” 

Me: **Wonders whether I should get into why I feel like it’s my calling or just say “lol yeah” and move on…**

I may not get into my calling with Bob, but I would like to share it with you! Here’s the thing. When I was in middle school, God did a huge transformative work in my life and every since then, He has given me a passion to share the hope that He gave me.

Imagine a girl in a khaki pleated skirt or Bermuda shorts to her knees, navy blue collared shirt, and Sperry’s. Oh and you cannot forget the tall striped pink and green socks… The things we wear in middle school.

The things we wear in middle school… to fit in, gain acceptance, find identity. Does that really stop in middle school, though? I’ll save that conversation for another blog post. Anyway, despite my high socks and boat shoes, I was not accepted into the cool group at school. Well, at least not accepted every day. I was strung along some days so the girls could compile enough emotional arsenal to shoot me down in the following days.

I struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. These thoughts riddled my mind and crippled my body. I constantly felt inadequate, unattractive, unwanted, and desperate. Why did no one love me? Why did God create me so poorly? Why couldn’t my family be “normal”? Why didn’t any boys like me? Why were my boobs smaller, stomach bigger, eyebrows thicker (thin eyebrows were all the rage back then)???? The list goes on. To make matters worse, I was the pastor’s kid, so I could not possibly have problems. “Paint the smile on your face and carry on”, “You know the answers.. Just stop thinking those thoughts”, “Just read your Bible more” and worst of all “You’re not really saved” were voices that spoke to me daily.

In addition to the bullying at school, I felt unseen at home. Despite having loving parents, as the middle child, I often slipped through the cracks… I remember many days isolating myself to my closet after school and crying as I wrote in my journal- the only thing that would really listen. Now let me pause to say, I understand many little girls have gone through far worse than me, but that does not change the way I felt at the time. I am not trying to share my story for sympathy rather because any story that Jesus is redeeming is beautiful and filled with hope- my story, your story, and her story.

I had no-one consistently speaking truth into my life, and soon, I began believing the lies the enemy was feeding me. The enemy plans a menu of lies speciality suited to our specific sinful appetite- catered just for us. And I pigged out on the buffet- I saw myself as completely unnecessary, unloved, and unwanted.

One day, in an act of complete desperation, I tried to take my life. Deep down in my heart, I didn’t really want to die, I just wanted to be noticed. I wanted someone, anyone to help me. I thought just maybe someone would take my struggles seriously if I acted out in this way. But the problem was, I was looking for hope in all the wrong places- from my parents, my friends, my athletic ability, one day finding my imaginary Prince Charming… I was looking for affirmation from imperfect, flawed, empty sources.

Sure, I was a Christian, but I was missing a VITAL aspect of my faith. I was missing the relationship with Jesus, and I was missing my identity. I was caught up in the dos and don’ts and check-lists of Christianity instead of being obsessed with and captivated by the person and work and love of Jesus Christ! I was not placing my identity in who Christ tells me I am- beloved, cherished, chosen, daughter, redeemed.

Obviously since I am writing to you now, God in His gracious mercy and steadfast love did not allow that suicide attempt to be successful. After that day, I still struggled with the dark thoughts, but the attempt scared me enough to keep me from trying it again. 

“I was missing the relationship, and I was missing my identity.”

The following summer, I went to a Christian summer camp. If you have ever been to summer camp, you KNOW some crazy, indescribable, glorious, “God-things” often happen there. I still remember vividly when that happened for me. The pastor preached on our sufficiency in Christ. For those of you who don’t know what that word means, let me define it for you. Sufficiency means according to Oxford Languages, “the condition or quality of being adequate or sufficient. The adequate amount of something, especially something essential.”

He preached on a passage found in 2 Corinithians 3:5, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” WOW. Floored. Jesus moment. Light bulb. God shined His beautiful word into the darkness of my heart and woke me up to this reality – We can never be enough in ourselves. We can never be adequate in ourselves. We can never get what we need for survival from ourselves. BUT IN JESUS we have everything we need to navigate this crazy life.

2 Peter 1:3 says, “His (God’s) divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” As God promises Scripture will do, that verse transformed my life by renewing my mind. I was 14. Fourteen year old me made a decision to follow Jesus that has given me the sweetest, most joy and hope filled relationship with Jesus. It’s messy and imperfect, and I still have my dark days, but God’s presence is so real.

The reality is, none of us could ever attain perfection. If we could, we wouldn’t need a Savior. Every time we strive after perfection and hold ourselves to that unrealistic standard, we are telling Jesus we don’t need Him. The truth is that only the perfect God- man could ever bare the grief, pain, and sorrow of this world without breaking under it’s weight. Only He could change sorrow to laughing and brokenness into healing. As my pastor says, “Jesus got right what we keep getting wrong”! We will keep messing up and making mistakes, but those mistakes bring us to our knees and reinforce our need for Jesus’ blood and the Gospel every single day! He knows. He knows the deepest longing and deepest depravity of our hearts. AND HE STILL CHOSE US. Let that sink in.

Jesus got right what I keep getting wrong!

– Jay Harlin

 

I am not saying after a prayer, instantaneously all my anxiety, depression and hurt magically went away. What I am saying is over the course of years of pursuing Jesus through his word, delighting in the Lord, failing over and over again, and watching Him pursue me with His steadfast love, He has turned my sorrow into joy. Romans 12:2 Is the verse that inspired the name for this blog- “Living Transformed.” Here’s what that verse says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– His good, pleasing, and perfect will.

Now I’m 25 with a husband, cute puppy, house, big girl job, and guess what? I still feel like that 14 year old girl many times. The days of insecurity, self-hate, and comparison still surface. I am far from perfect. BUT GOD rich in mercy because of His great love has brought me to a place where my brokenness and scars lead to a deeper dependence on Him. Because, like a child, my insufficiency reminds me of my need for Him. Every. Single. Day.

I am very excited to begin this journey with you! I want this platform to serve you and help you grow, so PLEASE do not hesitate to reach out with questions or topic suggestions. YOU have a light to shine for Jesus. YOU were created on purpose and with purpose that only YOU can do. God made you uniquely beautiful. My prayer is that together, we can grow into the beautiful women God has made us to be and shine the light He has given us to shine.

God bless you as you seek His face!

Your loving sister, 

Charis

the Pursuit

From the perfect husband, 

My heart drifts far away

To places I’m ashamed of

To pleasures my flesh craves

Instead of leaning closer

On the One who fully loves

I lean into my demons

That remind me I’m not enough

I stay there til I’m desperate

Til all my my hope is gone

All I see is darkness

Left praying for the dawn

I know I can’t produce it

My lust runs too deep

And my demons cannot help me

Their love is far too cheap

I can’t even cry out

My voice is masked by tears

Why did I leave my husband?

To marry all my fears

Lost in the wilderness of my soul

Suddenly I see light

Who approaches gently?

And penetrates the night.

My Savior stands before me

My husband has returned!

He lifts my fallen head

And speaks to me this word:

My love stretches farther 

Than your heart could ever go

My mercy flows more strongly

Than your mind can ever know

Come with me to safety,

Here, take my hand!

I’ll lead you and protect you

On my blood, you will stand

He allured me with His grace

With words so meek and mild

Not because of my worth

But because He loves His child

My heart is prone to wander

Of this, I am sure

His heart is my salvation

In this, I am secure

— Charis Bauman