Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Sometimes, I read that and this is what I actually hear:
“Jesus came and proclaimed everything wrong with me and how I’m messed up and now I have to submit to the inevitable fire and brimstone.”
I don’t know what Gospel that is, but it’s not the one that Jesus came to preach. He never talked of a condemning Father; He talked about the welcoming arms of the Father who just wants His son home, even after he’s hurt Him. He’s the God who lets the sinful, broken woman in the elite party and says of her that her many sins have been forgiven (Luke 7:47).
So often, we withhold from Him because we don’t know who He is. We think He’s mad at us, we think He’s going to condemn us. That’s so not His reality.
This isn’t some watered down, sin-supporting false inclusivity. He shows us the reality of our sin on the cross; the wages of sin are death. (Romans 6:23) But He’s the one who has taken on condemnation, so that we don’t have to. We can show Him our hearts and know that allowing ourselves to settle in close to Him is not going to result in the destruction of our hearts, our dreams, and ourselves. This is the Gospel that we get to believe in.
God is not mad at you.
Believe in the Gospel. I get to believe that He cares enough about me to send His most beloved Son to suffer and die. For me. I so often just gloss over that…but how could that reality ever become old?
I get to believe that grace completely covers me and there’s a radical love present that’s crushing every single fear. I get to surrender to Love who has come after me.
Speaking of surrender, we get that wrong a lot, too.
Surrender is so often portrayed as this submission to what is going to hurt. It’s like we equate surrender with “God, I give you permission to make me unhappy. I give you permission to be mean to me and I promise that I’ll smile and say it’s fine.”
Surrender. “Okay, I’ll stop wanting and I’ll just let you disappoint me.”
That’s so not God, that’s so not the Gospel, and that’s so. not. Love.
Surrender: giving into His will. His will?
“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
His will is literally our well being. And sometimes, yeah, it’s hard or it might even hurt when we have to let go of something that we’re settling in. But His intent is not to hurt; His intent is to heal and bring us into intimacy with Him. He wants to be close with us. That’s why He’s wrapped Himself in flesh and bone, why He laid down His life. What else does He have to do to prove His love?
This past fall, I was hit by how I had been settling pretty hardcore in an area of my life, for a significant amount of time. I called my brother and was kind of in despair about the shape of my heart. I had this whole big list of plans for repentance, things I was going to do to heal myself, because that’s what I should be doing. I should mention that this was months after stepping out of this unhealthy cycle, months after repenting. But I just couldn’t come to terms with the reality that grace had paid the debt…
He told me to stop over-complicating it. Repent, and keep going.
You just did a thing. A human thing, because you’re human. You’ve repented. Grace has covered it. It’s time to keep going.
THAT’s what it is to repent and believe in the Gospel. He doesn’t want us to just sit in whatever it is that we’ve done, whatever it is that we’ve settled in. He wants us to acknowledge the disorder, apologize, be forgiven, and then believe in the Gospel that sets us free. The Gospel that says we’re not slaves, we’re children.
THIS is surrender: that He wants to give us the fullness of joy, the fullness of life, the fullness of Himself right now. Surrender isn’t Him taking, it’s not giving Him permission to come in and stab our broken hearts. Surrender is Him reordering, Him restoring, Him radically giving us Himself.
Just sit in that.
Sit in the reality that you’re good. That you’re good, that you’re enough exactly where you’re at right now. Your Father isn’t mad at you, and He’s not looking to punish you. He’s enabling you to step out of lesser things– whatever sin, whatever settling that is for you. He’s giving you grace to know your worth, your identity. And His reality, His power.
So, let’s ask God to show us who He really is. He’s a good Father.
Let’s ask Him to remove the labels we’ve placed upon Him as one who comes to stone. He comes to bind up the brokenhearted, to set the captives free. To take those in freedom to deeper freedom. He’s never finished; there’s always more.
Maybe allow this Lent to be about not becoming what seems unobtainable, but letting the God who has made Himself attainable become who He’s always been in our lives. Not projecting our experiences with fragile human love onto His infinitely good, perfect love, but receiving Him on His own terms.
And when you do human things, you get to repent and believe in the Gospel— believe that Love has come in close. Never to leave. Believe that you’re worth dying for. That’s what He wants you to believe. Believe that you’re good. Believe that you’re forgiven.
He’s not going anywhere. He’s here, and He has so much more.