WE ARE NOT CONDEMNED.

image

Did you hear that? NO CONDEMNATION.

No matter what you have done. No matter how terrible, you are not condemned. If you belong to Jesus Christ, then when God looks at you, He sees purity. And if He sees purity, then He cannot condemn you because He has nothing to condemn you for.

This is probably one of the hardest Truths to believe.

As a teenager I was what I call a “serial dater.” I was that girl who had a different boyfriend every week, sometimes a few at a time that didn’t know about each other. On the outside, I acted proud of this. I loved that I knew how to wrap any boy around my finger. But on the inside, I was terribly ashamed. I was empty. I was lonely.

At the time, I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ; I wasn’t even sure that He existed. But I knew that what I was doing was wrong. I didn’t even care for these boys. I just loved that with a boyfriend, at least somebody cared for me. But then I would date them for a week & realize that they didn’t really care for me, they just wanted something from me. Thankfully, I cared enough about myself that I never gave them what they were looking for. But I still felt like I did. I still cried myself to sleep every night over the shame of even giving whatever I did give them.. going however far we even went. Sometimes I would just feel shamed I kissed a boy because I didn’t even like him. I felt guilty for leading them on out of my selfishness. My list of sins just grew longer & longer, & it tore me apart inside.

Yes, I literally wrote down everything & kept it hidden. I wrote down every single name of every boy I had ever kissed, how many times, what else we had done, EVERYTHING. Talk about condemnation! I feared someone would find that list, but for some reason I was obsessed with remembering everything. I chose to write it all down because I wanted to remember everything. I was choosing to stay covered in my shame, & to stay fearful about others finding out the real me. If only they knew all I had really done. It didn’t matter what I hadn’t done.

Thankfully when I was 18 years old, I met Jesus. His love gripped my heart & I finally threw away the pages of sins I had kept for so long. He forgave me, so I forgave myself. He freed me from the shame I felt for so long.

But even now, 12 years later, I still find myself doing the same thing sometimes. Okay, maybe I don’t keep a list of sins in my journal anymore, but I surely do keep them. It has become more of a mental note now. I choose to hold on to all the ways I wrong people. I choose not to forget the pain I’ve caused others. I choose to dwell in feelings of shame. And in all of this, I am the one condemning myself. I am the one labeling myself as a failure, a cheater, & a liar. In all of this self-condemnation, I am forgetting that there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ! NO CONDEMNATION! NONE!

Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.”

In my darkest moments as a follower of Christ, I looked up one day at a cross hanging on a wall at a store where I worked. Literally, in one tiny blip in time, the Lord reminded me of this very Truth, in a way that I will never forget:

Remember that list of sins you’ve been collecting? I knew it. All the ways you’ve hurt other people, all the ways you’ve hurt yourself, all the way you’ve hurt me: I knew it all. I took my place on that cross already fully aware of every sinful bone in your body. Nothing surprises me. Nothing fills me with regret. Nothing will ever make me change my mind. I loved you then, & I love you still. You are my Beloved Daughter, whom I’ve forgiven, whom I cherish, whom I’ve washed as white as snow. There is no condemnation for those who belong to me, & Beloved, you are mine.

When Christ hung from that cross, He stared you straight in the face & said “this is for you, my child.”

WE ALL HAVE SOMETHING WRONG WITH US.

image

Heal me, O Lord, & I shall be healed
Save me & I shall be saved
For YOU are my praise.
~ Jeremiah 74:14

We all have something wrong with us. 

I know, that may sound a little harsh, but hey, it’s true! We all have some way in which we need to be healed. Whether it’s a physical disease or ailment, a relationship that needs healing, or something from the past that has caused emotional or mental stress, we all need some sort of resolution or peace in our lives. I’m sure something has already come to mind for you that you’d love God’s healing hand to touch.

One of the great things about God is that He is absolutely RELIABLE. His very Name is Rock. He is constant, never-changing, & always True. Our God speaks one word & moves a mountain from here to there. You better believe that if you want to be healed, He will do it, & you will not have to ask Him twice.

I love that I can count on my God’s Word to always be true. I love that He is loyal. Once He makes His mind up about something, it will not change. If He decided to save me once, on the cross, than I know I can count on Him to continue to save me over & over again. I wish I didn’t need Him to; I wish I could just be perfect & get everything right the first time. But alas, I am imperfect, I am sinful, & I need His healing continually in my life, & so do you.

In these 12 years as a follower of Christ, I’ve definitely experienced His healing several times. But most recently, I experienced it coming out of a very dark & lonely place. I was hurting. I was lost. I was trying to fix every imperfection in my life on my own & thought I had the answers. I thought I was honoring God In my service to Him & in my personal time spent with Him. But I was struggling. For years I questioned every move He was making in my life. My heart became untrusting towards Him & I stopped being obedient when His answer wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I lived in fear, & because of that, I fought hard to stay comfortable, & eventually God knocked every wall down that I tried to hide behind. In my brokenness, I realized that I needed healing that only HE could provide.

It was in those moments that I had to accept God’s healing, & one thing I learned through that very hard & painful process, is that His healing is something that is always offered to us — we simply have to choose to embrace it. I had finally come to the end of trying to fix things myself & made the choice to turn it all over to Him. He is the One who knows everything about me.. the One who died on the cross even then knowing all the mistakes I will ever make.. the One who has all the answers & knows exactly what I need. He is my Provider.. my Redeemer.. my Healer.

Looking back on that part of my life now, it almost seems like a movie, but a very real one with emotions & memories attached. But I can surely tell you, the girl who made all of those decisions before is not the same one who inhabits this body. The girl sitting here writing these words is not the same one who broke God’s heart. That was a different girl — a girl caught in the darkness.. a girl who was lost, lonely, & seriously doubting her First Love. But this girl now, the one writing all of this, she is REAL. She was broken & bruised, but she is redeemed, she is loved, & has a calling upon her life. She lives & breathes & cries & smiles. She raises her hands to the Lord as she sings & she writes prayers of hope in the secret places. This girl is me. I feel alone sometimes but I am never lonely. I know that He is always with me. I have doubts, but I don’t hide them anymore — I confront them. I ask questions & seek answers. I embrace my imperfections & strive to learn from them. I love my quirks, I don’t hide them. I have learned to cry, to scream, to laugh aloud, & to just be free in Christ because I see His fingerprints all over me, all over my life, & all over everyone else around me.

And this is what it means to be undefined. To simply be. To look to Jesus to heal. To look to Him as a reason for singing, for praise. For He is not just worthy of it, but He IS our praise. Becoming undefined is all about releasing every sense of self to Jesus. It’s about focusing less on who I am or who I am not, & focusing more on who He is. The Healer of my soul. The One who Saves. & He will continue to be these things forever & always. He heals us. He saves us. & in doing so, He becomes our praise.

WE ARE BEING RESTORED.

img_0677For a while now I have been wanting to write this next post. God has been stirring this message in my heart for several weeks now, but I just didn’t feel ready to write it until now. Also, life has been really busy, & working 65 hour weeks doesn’t really lend itself to blog writing. I literally have had no time or emotional energy to even just sit down for a few hours & flesh out on paper what God has put in my heart. But I am pleased to finally spend some time sharing this message with you. I am ready to finally write it, & God is ready for you to receive it. It starts with a familiar verse from Jeremiah 29

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

The simple Truth is this: the Lord has plans for us. Only He knows them. Sometimes we may only see glimpses, but we can always count on the fact that His plans are for our good, full of hope, & a bright future.

On my journey towards becoming UNDEFINED, I got to this place where I realized exactly who God is — a loving Father who chose to save my life from the death that I deserved. I began to realize the beauty of the Gospel — that Jesus would choose to die on that cross for the specific sins that I have committed & will commit. He could stand there before me & list out every single sin by name, but would still choose to bear the cross to save my life. It’s as if He looks me in the eyes & tells me, “Jillian, Beloved, you are worth it.”

At first realizing this brought me to tears. I can remember the first day I heard God speaking this into my heart. He completely took over every part of my senses. He broke my heart down & spoke into it. “Beloved daughter, I have a future & a hope for you. There is life after this. Remember, I knew this would happen & I still died for you. There are plans in the works. There always have been. I will restore your heart. I will rebuild your dreams. I will reset your life.”

Oh, my gracious, Abba Father!

He was there all along! He heard me when I cried out to Him, heart full of fear & darkness. I have done some terrible things that I thought have ruined the course of my life. In those moments, it was hard to see that anything good could come out of something so destructive. Sometimes we feel as if we have screwed up so badly that there is no hope for us. But I am here to declare from personal experience, that there is hope for the hopeless!

When we call upon the Lord, YES, our Amazing God hears us! But He doesn’t just hear us.. He also answers us! He responds to our searching for Him. He comes to our aid. He doesn’t leave us; He is there. He doesn’t hide; He wants us to find Him. He LETS us find Him when we seek Him. & when we do find Him, He restores our soul. He restores our fortunes. Everything that is valuable to us that we have mishandled – He restores it ALL.

And I think that has been the missing piece to this message. I could sit here all day & write about how God does these amazing things without ever having experienced it myself. But just this week God has written some pretty amazing pages in my story, & now I can confidently declare that our God is a God of not only redemption, but also RESTORATION. Things have begun to come full circle. My sin was washed white in my moment of repentance, but God did not leave it there! He has gradually wiped the slate of my life clean & provided me with some pretty amazing fresh starts: some amazing new friendships, a new apartment, a new job, & who knows what else is next!

Our lives are meant to be a story of God’s redemption, restoration, & relentless love. We must let Him write our story, & nobody else.

WE ARE BEING REDEEMED.

img_0675There’s a song by Lauren Daigle that I started listening to towards the beginning of my journey toward becoming UNDEFINED. It is a song that for several months I just couldn’t sing without crying. In her lyrics, Lauren writes,

Oh the beauty of the King
You make righteous those who seek
You have written and redeemed my story

He has written and redeemed my story.
He will make me righteous as I seek Him.

Hard to believe.

But these are promises that we can find all over God’s Word. Lauren wrote these lyrics because they are true, not just about her, but about all of us. He is redeeming His children. He has a plan for our lives.

One of my favorite chapters in the Bible to find God’s promises is Jeremiah 31:

  • He is our God & we are His people / I am His daughter! (verse 1)
  • He will grant me His grace in the wilderness (verse 2)
  • He has loved me with an everlasting love (verse 3)
  • He has remained faithful to me even when I wasn’t faithful to Him (verse 3)
  • He will REBUILD me (verse 4)
  • He will lead me back to Himself (verse 9)
  • He will KEEP me & take care of me (verse 10)
  • He will ransom me & REDEEM me (verse 11)
  • I will be radiant over the goodness of the Lord (verse 12)
  • I will be full of life again! (verse 12)
  • He will make me brave & strong! (verse 12)
  • He will turn my mourning into JOY! (verse 13)
  • He will comfort me. (verse 13)
  • He will trade my sorrows for gladness. (verse 13)
  • I will be SATISFIED with His goodness. (verse 14)

The progression of these promises in this chapter shows me that we must first come to recognize exactly who our God is before we can recognize who we are. He is our God, therefore we are His children. He gives us grace & loves us faithfully & rebuilds us when we completely shatter our lives. He continually leads us back to Himself & takes care of us & rescues us from the terrible decisions we make on our own. Then, this pivotal moment when God redeems us! It changes everything! Only then can we become radiant, full of life, brave, & strong. We become joyful, comforted, & full of gladness instead of sorrow. He satisfies our souls through His redeeming love!

This lyric by Lauren Daigle perfectly describes this process of recognizing REDEMPTION:

First, we realize who He is – an absolutely stunning King.
Second, we realize who we are – sinners in need of being made righteous.
Third, we realize who we can become – REDEEMED!

It is only recently that I have come to a confidence in redemption, that I can finally sing this lyric & not cry anymore. I believe that He has redeemed my story. Maybe not all the way yet, but He is redeeming it with every breath I breathe. He wrote every chapter of my story, even the chapters where I felt like I was scribbling over His rough draft. Nope, even in those chapters He was still writing, working, redeeming. & He is writing still! Every day. Every moment. Every breath.

We are being redeemed! Believe it, my friend. Yes, even your story is being redeemed. Before we can continue on in this journey towards becoming UNDEFINED, we must have a confidence in the REDEMPTION that is going on all around us. We must be able to sing this lyric without tears of doubt that the words ring true about us. We must sing these lyrics as a declaration of the promise that we are, right now, absolutely REDEEMED. The process to finding this confidence in REDEMPTION begins with recognizing who God is & letting His promises shape our hearts.

{Listen to Lauren Daigle‘s song Salt and Light!}

WE HAVE BEEN CHOSEN

For many people, the decision to follow God with their lives was not a single moment. The idea was cultivated over time, & finally came into fruition when the heart was ready for that kind of commitment. But for me, the decision to live for Christ was made in a single moment. And in that moment, I chose to love a Savior that sacrificed His life for mine. I chose to love Him, & in that moment, He loved me back. For the first time, someone that I chose to love actually loved me back!

For years I have thought back on this moment as the moment I chose to follow Jesus, which is often what our moment of conversion is described as. But in this journey to becoming UNDEFINED, I have realized that I have been chosen by God long before the moment that I chose Him. That was the moment I made the choice to follow Him, but He had chosen me all along.

But You, my servant,
Whom I have chosen,
You whom I took from the ends of the earth,
& called from it’s farthest corners,
I HAVE CHOSEN YOU & NOT CAST YOU OFF.
Fear not, for I am with you;
I will strengthen you; I will help you,
For I, the Lord your God,
Hold your right hand;
It is I who say to you, “Fear not,
I am the One who helps you.”
~ Isaiah 41:8-13

I don’t know about you, but when I read this, I kept asking God, “Chose me for WHAT?” It made me realize that most of us spend our Christian lives in pursuit of the answer to this question. Each & every new phase in life is decided based off of our striving to figure out what we may have been chosen for. We try different jobs or careers all in an effort to find this answer. For years this has been my story. I continued on asking God this question, but He just continued to give me the same answer: “I HAVE CHOSEN YOU.” It frustrated me because I expected a different answer. I thought He was ignoring me or maybe He wasn’t answering because He didn’t have anything specific in mind. But in the process of becoming UNDEFINED I have finally come to realization to what it really means.

God just wants us to focus on Himself, & the fact that HE CHOSE US.

Until we are able to embrace this Truth & believe that God truly has a plan for us, we need not focus on trying to figure out what that plan is. We need to just bask in the light of the Truth that HE HAS CHOSEN US.

He chose us. What does this really mean? It means that He continually finds us in all of our hiding places & brings us back to His feet. He finds us behind every wall that we build for hiding & brings us out into the light again where we can face our fears with Him. He calls us out of these dark places. He does not cast us off or leave us in these places to die. Even at our most wicked or sinful moments He wants to keep us around. We run & we hide & we build walls because we have too many fears. They cripple us. But He tells us not to be afraid. He promises that He is with us, that He will give us the strength we need, & that He will help us.

We need not be afraid of approaching His feet. We need not be afraid of opening His Word. We need not be afraid of what the future holds or of what the consequences will be for whatever we did. We need not be scared that we screwed up His plan for our lives. Instead, we must focus on what we know to be Truth, no matter how hard to believe, & we must thank Him for being a God who chose us, & who continues to choose us every day. Until we grasp the Truth that we are God’s child, chosen because He loves us, we will never know the answer to the question of why we are chosen. But we can rest assured that WE ARE CHOSEN, & He does have a plan for our lives. There is nothing we can do to screw up that plan, whatever it is. & we need not spend time wondering what it is either, because He will do it, & it will be far more than anything we could have imagined for ourselves. In fact, it has been unfolding since the moment He CHOSE US as sons & daughters.

WE HIDE BECAUSE WE ARE AFRAID

We all accumulate identities throughout our life. Some come from our families, some come from our classmates, our professors & teachers, or even our friends. Others come from pressures we put upon ourselves, or even from pop culture or idols that we have never even met before. We all have a long laundry list of identities, some positive & uplifting, & others totally degrading & negative. The fact is, whether we think we’ve put things behind us or not, or whether we even agree with the things that are whispered at us, each whisper becomes an identity that gets tossed into a bowl full of other identities that, pieced together, all become part of one main identity – how we define ourselves. They shape the way we think, the way we act, the way we pursue others, the way we make decisions, & even the way we view God. & most commonly, each identity shapes the way we HIDE.

Now, the very principal of hiding lends itself to fear. One would not be hiding if one was not fearful of something. Take Adam & Eve in the Garden for example:

When they heard the sound of GOD strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from GOD. GOD called to the Man: “Where are you?” He said, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked. And I hid.” (Genesis 3:8-10 MSG)

They hid because they were scared. They were scared to experience God’s reaction to their sin. They were scared to face the one they had sinned against. They were scared to find out the reality of how they were now viewed by God – the identity He was now going to give them.

Don’t we do this? We hide because we are scared, & we hide from God for the same reasons as Adam & Eve did. We are scared to face Him after some decision we made that we know was not in obedience to Him. We are scared to experience God’s reaction to our sin. We hide from Him because we fear that new identity that He has for us. & it’s the same with our friends & family. We hide from our friends because we are scared they won’t be friends with us after they find out what we did.. who we really are.. or at least who we really think we are, anyway. We hide from our families because we know our parents will punish us or our sister won’t want to hang out anymore or because we know we will let them down & we just really wanted to make them proud of us..

We hide because we are scared. We fear rejection, abandonment, pity, loneliness, being unloved. We fear any of our past experiences happening again. Those experiences that already added to the way we view ourselves, whether positive or negative. We put them behind us; we don’t want to go back there again! & so in response to our fear, we hide. These identities that have followed us around for years cause us to fear, hide, & live in such a way that diminishes all that God has made us to be. We hide our true selves from everyone, even Him.

We let our identities & our fears become our idols. We let them become what shapes our every decision. They either keep us in our shells or push us out into the unknown. They direct our steps; they guide us on our journey. We lean on them in hard times & in times of success. We find every answer we need by looking to our fears & identities for explanation. The positive ones become comforting. The negative ones become motivation to be better. They all become shackles around our ankles.

We can’t follow God wholeheartedly if our heart is being defined by all the identities we’ve been carrying around for years!

We forget that God is in control of our lives. He already has a wonderful plan for us – one that is far greater than we can ever imagine for ourselves. & God even has His own identity for us – one that isn’t based on anything besides His love for us & this amazing plan He has designed. God’s identity is the one that is True about us, & only His. It is an identity that we will come to understand only after we first become UNDEFINED. I hope you’ll continue to journey with me to get there.

WE ARE ALL HIDING

img_0654-3We all have things in our past that we aren’t proud of. We have things about ourselves that we wish we could change. We have moments that we wish we could erase from our memories. We have hurts that completely wrecked our lives. We have storms that have completely knocked us off track. We have fears; we have doubts; we have anger. & most importantly, we all have identities that we believe about ourselves that cause all of these things to surface at different times in our lives. These identities hold us back because..

we make our decisions & live our lives as a response to what we believe about ourselves.

Something we all have in common is that WE HIDE. Someone reading this is saying to themselves “yes, I hide all the time, every day. I am afraid of what will happen if people really know who I am.” I think it’s probably the majority of us who feel this way. But someone else reading this is thinking “That’s definitely not me. I don’t hide. I am who I am & I don’t care what anyone else thinks.” Well I’m going to call your bluff on that one, Reader. Because I was that person, too. I thought I lived my life trying to cultivate authenticity & openness in every relationship. & then one day it’s like everything hard in life came to a culmination & I felt like the waves were crashing over me & I was drowning. I realized that nobody else knew what had been going on in my heart but me & God. I realized that the entire time I was frustrated because I thought everyone around me was so inauthentic & fake all the time. I wanted to shake them & make them just be real.. open up.. stop hiding. But I realized that even I was hiding. I was trying to make people go to the place that I wasn’t even willing to go myself. & I was lying to everyone about how I really felt about myself.

Through the process of seeking redemption & forgiveness from the Lord for all of this, I realized that I had to stop hiding. I had to face the reality of the identities that I let take over my soul, & had to let God heal each & every one of them. When you lay every single morsel that you have at the feet of Jesus, you can’t hide anymore. He knows it all already, & He takes every single tiny shatter of a piece from you & holds them carefully in His hands.

There is no room for hiding before the face of Jesus. He can take our identities & help us understand them until we get to a point where they don’t define us anymore. We become UNDEFINED. & this is where the next step in our journey begins. I can’t wait to bring you with me on my journey towards becoming undefined, & I can’t wait to see how God undefines you, too!