The original plan was not to do a chapter by chapter break down of Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined (by Jonathan Merritt), although thus far I kind of have, as such I am going to stop and wrap this thing up today. There are so many great thought provoking pieces in the book from Jesus’ baptism and the question of what it might have symbolized to finding Jesus in sacrilege, dealing with tragedy, fighting the impression of God’s absence in your pain. There is a great piece on the community of the church and what that means, I have written on community many times before and I’m sure I will again. There is a great section looking at the use of sheep and the shepherd that will radically change your thought process.
It wasn’t my intention to paint myself as some kind of victim when writing my thoughts, all though in some respects I certainly I was. Those incidents were just the things that came to mind, more the things that happened to me to cause my brokenness rather than the choices I made as a result of my brokenness (a revelation previously that cured much of my guilt struggles). It is written that he who is forgiven much will love much, I think the same is true of the one that is healed much.
The past is the past, for me it is dealt with, it no longer holds a controlling influence in my life. However my story is still my story and if my brokenness or my stupidity can help just one person, then it is not for nothing, this is the reason I share things. While I didn’t really learn anything new about the actual incidents from my past itself when revisiting, finally understanding that God was there with me through it all was worth the price of admission itself.
The great thing is that when we are connected to God, truly in relationship with Him, He can make all kinds of miraculous changes to us. The pain of my past is no longer an anchor that I drag behind me, it is my story, it is my history, but it does not define me. I found healing in Jesus, He brought me to the place and to the people that He wanted to use to help me and it has been an incredible journey. Getting healing is not easy. Facing your demons is a challenge, but when compared to experiencing the pain of being in those challenges it is nothing. Sure it hurts for a while, it is certainly not fun, but if you have survived what caused the wounds, you can certainly survive the healing. Once you survive the healing, that’s it, it is healed, there may be more to work on, but that is it, no longer a festering wound, but a scar that can point to your history. Now you get to face the next challenge of figuring out how to live life without the wounds you have used as a crutch or an excuse for your behavior for so long, that is a whole other kind of challenge right there.
The life of faith is not to be one of an introspective self-help course. There is of course a great need for personal healing in order to be fully free. However if you remain in the introspective process you will become trapped by a religion and not experience the freedom offered by salvation. Instead press forward through your infancy as you become healthy, this may take days or this may take years. However, there will come a time, a clearly appointed time if you listen to the Lord, when it is time for you to move forward into maturity.
For all the wonderful guidance and revelations in JIBTYI, life it always seems to come back to the things I know to do, no matter what book or what sermon. Keep your focus on God, make time for God, and guard your heart (be careful with how you live your life, one wrong step easily leads to another). Do these things, live life well and it will make sense. It may not go the way you would like, but if you are deeply connected to Jesus, if you have His peace, if you can find the joy that Paul writes about, then life works. This to me is the secret to the free life, the life after healing, the life free from the bondage of simply surviving.
It is not always easy to keep pressing, it’s not always easy to keep wanting to. It can be difficult at times to keep your focus on God when life is happening all around you. Sometimes you will forget, sometimes you will royally screw up, but He will use that, He uses all things. Sometimes we have to be reminded (hopefully briefly) or our capacity to fail and of how much we still need to be in relationship with God in order to focus, and really start to make progress. It is important to keep moving forward because any attempt to stay still will result in stagnation, attrition and a general reversal of progress.
The fun part is that this journey looks different for all of us. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. We have to find what it means to be us, what it means to honor God with your life. Striving for some unattainable level of excellence, of righteousness, is not pursuing God, it is seeking to glorify oneself and leads down the path to become a Pharisee. God is glorified when we are authentic, not when we try to pretend to be what we think the world says that we should be.
We are called to a life of honor, a life of love, a life of mercy, a life where our faith is displayed by our deeds. For how can you truly say “I believe” if your faith and belief does not spur you into a way of life that was foreign to you previously. Instead of anger and judgment, offer love and grace. Instead of hiding behind business and stimuli, consciously make the effort to be aware, take time, even a short time to be still. For it is in the stillness that you will be refreshed and directed, not when the volume of your life is so loud that you can hear nothing around you.
When your story does not bring you to your knees anymore, when your relationship with God is healthy, then you are really ready to start using it. That is not to say you could not use it before, but when you reach some undefinable level of maturity, then it is time to really move. Your testimony is your story and the gospel of your life is a story that should be shared. People are desperate for community, deep meaningful relationships. Being authentic and transparent is the way to share your story, not with window dressing or exaggeration, nor recklessly. If you are a believer and want to lead people to Jesus, you should end with the bible, not begin with it, you begin with your story, you begin with a relationship. Most people who do not know Jesus will run from a “religious nut job”, however they will run to a genuine friend, so start with coffee, certainly not judgment. When that friendship allows you to share your story of redemption, that is when the seed is sown to allow it to become their story of redemption.
Now please don’t think that I am trying to somehow minimize the bible, the bible is unspeakably important, it is the written word of God, living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. However the bible is rarely going to draw in a pre-believer, the bible is where you take them after you have built the relationship. We need to be careful not to minimize God to a book, yes it is His book, but He is so much more than the bible, when we limit Him to just the bible we do Him a great disservice.
Community is something that must be built and entered into, not demanded on odd moral grounds. It is the purpose of life, it is the greatest way to bring honor to God, it is not just for us, it is a legacy that will be left.
Community is built on relationships, great relationships are built on mutual respect and compassion. Compassion is the choice, not the obligation, to enter into someone’s world & feel the intensity of their life, to share their pain, to offer a plan for relief. Not because you had to, or it was the right thing to do, but because you need to, you want to, because you love enough, because you are loved enough, because Jesus will always be better than you imagine.
The previous posts related can be found here: