Sometimes I wonder if God programs the shuffle feature of my iPod. The shuffle seems to have an uncanny ability to dial up a song that resonates at challenging moments in the journey. On a recent walk the phenomenon repeated. Dog friend Hannah was oblivious to the fact that her biped buddy was walking with a spiritual limp. Squirrels and new things to smell were delighting her on this day.
I, on the other hand, was feeling a bit sad. Ministry was frustrating. Schedules impossible. Old weaknesses exacerbated by a whirlwind of activities and distractions. The old voices took their cue and started in…
This isn't going to work.
Who thought you could do this?
Why don't you just get out now and save a shred of dignity?
Why waste your time? No one appreciates you.
And then this song came up from a group called Sanctus Real.
Well the past is playing with my head
And failure knocks me down again
I'm reminded of the wrong
That I have said and done
And that devil just won't let me forget
The next admission is slightly embarrassing. My reaction reminded me of comedian Ron White when he thought a televangelist was speaking directly to him as he watched from a beanbag chair. "Hey…these guys are GOOD!"
The next verse and the chorus was the message I needed to hear. Again.
In this life
I know what I've been
But here in your arms
I know what I am
And I don't have to carry
The weight of who I've been
Cause I'm forgiven
You know what is so cool about the Word (Jesus) becoming flesh? He understands our experience. Jesus had to deal with the voice of the devil. Three times He was tempted by Satan (Matthew 4).
All of us hear those voices. The voices from bad experiences in our past. Here is a little tip that I have learned. The voice we tend to hear first in the spiritual battle is the loud one. Listen for the quiet voice. Be still. Pray. Read His Word. The voice of grace says, "You are forgiven." The voice of grace reminds you that those old accusations were crucified with Christ. They are no longer true about you. The voice of grace tells you that you are righteous because of Christ. My friends at Truefaced ministries say it well. Those voices of past sin and failures and hurt are no longer who you are. God is no longer interested in changing you. You have already been changed into a new person because of Christ. You are a Saint. Imputed with righteousness. God is now interested in each one of us maturing into what is already true about us.
That requires learning which voices to listen to and believe. The voice of grace reminds you that…
…there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you... (Romans 8, NLT)
There is a wonderful phrase found in the last stanza of Forgiven that I guarantee you the enemy never wants me or you to hear and especially to believe.
When I don't fit in and I don't feel like I belong anywhere
When I don't measure up to much in this life
Oh, I'm a treasure in the arms of Christ ‘cause
I'm a treasure in the arms of Christ. Wow. I am going to place that phrase on my mirror and dashboard and fridge and heart. And to those other voices I respectfully remind you that you can stifle yourself. That is not who I am anymore. I'm forgiven.