One scripture in the Bible that has always been a personal favourite of mine is from the book of Romans. Chapter 8, verses 38 to 39 say, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Just take a moment and let that sink in. Absolutely NOTHING can separate us from the love of God. Why, then, do we fall into the trap of believing we, ourselves, can?!
I guess that’s why I treasure it so. I’m preaching to my own heart too. I definitely have a tendency to catastrophize certain things in my head and have the propensity to start going down the route of thinking ‘God couldn’t love me because I’ve doubted Him too many times’. Anyone else familiar with the mindset of, ‘well I’ve messed up too many times in that area so He’s probably fed up with me and won’t be there for me now’, or some other nonsense? Think about it, how often in your life do you start believing and ruminating on the lies of the devil over what the truth of the word of God says about you, and your relationship with Him?
Remember in Mark, when a father runs to Jesus asking for help? I find myself many a time in life praying what that man said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Because, though I hate to admit it, as much as I would love to be an unwavering disciple one hundred percent of the time, I find myself being more of a Doubting Thomas when I don’t want to be—which in the past has caused me to feel guilty and worry that I’ll be deserted by God. What. A. Lie. Thankfully, God’s goodness is not contingent on our goodness. Even when we are unfaithful, God is faithful.
There are a number of times during my walk with God where I’ve fallen prey to thinking that my sinful actions, thoughts or overall weaknesses and shortcomings have then cut me off from God and merited me to walk alone because I’m not worthy of God’s love or being saved. ‘I should have changed by now’, ‘I’m letting God down’, ‘If only I were more “such and such,” then I’d be acceptable’, these thoughts can be such inhibitors and hurdles for running straight back into His arms and discerning that you are truly and incomparably loved.
We are covered
When we make it about what we’re doing, as opposed to all that Christ has already done on our behalf, then our efforts become futile. Instead we need to remind ourselves that when God looks at you and I, He sees His Son Jesus, and the person He has created us to be. When we have made that decision to make Jesus Christ our Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead, what is birthed in us is Gods incorruptible seed, His very nature, His holy spirit.
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.– 1 Peter 1:23
The definition of incorruptible is ‘not subject to death or decay; everlasting. Imperishable. Indestructible.’ Now God is a not a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19), so I don’t think God would have said it if He hadn’t meant it!
Let’s get one thing straight: we have never been righteous on our own, or worthy of the saving grace of God, but that is why it is called Grace!
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace– Romans 6:14
For as long as we are our sinful human selves waiting for our Redeemer to come get us, we will fail, we will sin, we will very much miss the mark. But here’s the good news: we have a God, and a Saviour, who forgive and love us in a way only they can—in a way everybody longs for. I read a timely quote which said, “He’s an ‘I don’t care how far you’ve run, just come home’ kind of God”. Welcoming us home with open arms just like the prodigal son, we too can always run back to our Heavenly Father, and our Brother Jesus, no matter what.
But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified (made right in Gods sight) by his (Jesus’s) blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath from Him.– Romans 5:8-9
God loved us first before we ever loved Him; so of course, if He loved us when we weren’t acknowledging Him or living our lives for Him, do you really think He would stop loving us when we mess up while at least trying to live our lives for Him?
Let’s use the disciple Simon Peter as an example. Recently, my eyes were opened to this part of the Gospels in a way that truly made a mark on my heart. We remember Peter who was so very adamant before the crucifixion of Christ that he would rather die with Jesus than deny Him, just as Jesus had told him that he would.
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me. Peter replied, “Even if I have to die with You, I will never deny You.”– Matthew 26:34-35
Even after this unwavering profession from Peter, later on he does exactly what he claimed he wouldn’t. Isn’t that just classic human nature—we say one thing, which in the moment we really mean, yet don’t stick to our word. A piecrust promise which crumbles under pressure.
Later in Matthew after he had indeed denied knowing Jesus, Peter remembered the word that Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75).
That breaks my heart. Can you imagine the anguish, shame, and guilt Peter must have felt as realisation hit him? He witnessed his beloved friend, our beloved friend and Saviour, brutally beaten beyond recognition and dying a death only we deserve, and he had to live with not only that, but the fact he denied him in the midst of it. I can’t even imagine the heart-shattering depth of his pain and regret in that moment. I can, however, imagine him having some thoughts not too different from our own in times of despair and feeling unworthy to call Jesus our friend.
For me, I relate in that sense where I can get so crushingly disappointed in myself and my lack of faith or follow-through, in something that means so much to me in my walk with God and Jesus, after all they have done for me. Peter ‘wept bitterly’; even now my eyes well up with the tears of overwhelming gratitude for our Saviour and what He went through for us. Still I empathise with Peter’s sheer humanness and the fact that we are so painfully undeserving of the faithfulness of God’s love, and yet He is exactly that to us. He IS love.
The part of Peter’s discipleship I take great comfort in is how even after all that had happened, in the final chapter of John, after Jesus’ resurrection and appearing to the disciples, Peter didn’t allow his failures to stop him from running back to his Saviour and Master.
‘Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.
Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask “who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.
This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.’
I don’t know about you, but I love that. ‘As soon as’ Peter heard Jesus was there, he didn’t bother staying in the boat with his fellow disciples, albeit close to the shore; he unabashedly jumped out of that boat and into the water with eager haste. You can just picture the delight on Peter’s face when he realised his Lord was nearby. Even after denying him, he didn’t allow that to stop him from running back to Jesus, and Jesus certainly didn’t hold it against him. The Lord then instructed Peter to go take care of his flock and feed his sheep. Peter walked with obedience in his purpose, his written contribution to the church Epistles standing true throughout the test of time, instructing and edifying us today.
This is exactly how we should be when we mess up. We must jump out of that boat of shame and negative thinking, repent, turn our face away from sin and run to our Lord Jesus Christ. He is always ever closer than we realise, ready to invite us to sit with him once again, ready to cast a light on our darkness and show us the way. He takes our burdens, our weariness, and replaces them with his peace that surpasses all understanding.
Weeping lasts only for a moment, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). And what is Jesus referred to as in the Bible? ‘The bright morning star (Revelation 22:16)’. In him is no darkness. He is our morning. He is our glorious sunrise bursting over the horizon. Our guiding light breaking relentlessly through the clouds, causing the darkness to bow away. He is our relief. So, we need to stop leaning on our own understanding and strength to be better and allow Jesus to transform our hearts and minds when we saturate ourselves in his light and love, by studying the Word of God.
Drawing near to God
When we run towards God, it is promised to us that He does not turn away—He comes close.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.– James 4:8
Don’t futilely try to hide those raw and shameful parts of yourself, because quite frankly you can’t, so you may as well be vulnerable and let Him work with you just as you are now, at this very moment.
Search me, oh God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting– Psalm 139:23-24
We cannot be tricked into thinking that we are loved by God because of our works, Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it (Ephesians 2:9). God SO loved us even before we loved Him. Our choices may disappoint Him just like they would a parent, but that doesn’t mean His love for us is then cut off, or that He no longer has a plan for your life. His love is not conditional, His love is not reckless as some teachings may claim (reckless means: heedless of danger or the consequences of one’s actions; rash or impetuous; Impetuous: acting or done quickly and without thought or care/impulsive).
That doesn’t sound like the God of the Bible, does it? It may seem reckless to some human understanding, but nothing about God’s love is reckless. It is intentional. It is targeted. It is intricately planned and woven into the tapestry of life and our very being. It is the only thing that fills that void in us and quenches that yearning. It is quite the opposite of reckless. We may be reckless. God never is. I could contend that at times, we confuse our own, and the world’s, definitions of love with God’s love. Worldly personal experiences, where people stop loving you for certain reasons may in turn mar our view of God’s love towards us. That is why we have a responsibility to rightly divide the Word so we are believing the truth and not error.
Take heart, we are not the first or last to let God down. But God, in all His compassionate, loving glory, understands our flesh and loves us still.
You don’t have to be perfect
God isn’t relying or waiting on us to be perfect. He knows us. Our sin and rebelliousness are why we needed a Saviour in the first place. He doesn’t expect once we’re born again that we won’t ever sin anymore. He does however expect us to turn away from our sin and try our best, measuring ourselves up against our only perfect example, Jesus.
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ– 2 Corinthians 5:21
Feeling repentant of our sin isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s whether or not we let ourselves wallow and it then becomes condemnation as opposed to conviction. The Word of God will always convict those parts of us that aren’t aligning with Him, and that’s healthy. The Devil will always try make you feel guilt and shame—there’s the difference. When we are exposed to and experience for ourselves God’s grace and mercy, it makes us want to do better for God and we realise we can’t do it alone.
That is when we can draw strength from the One who takes our burdens, who is our strength and portion. He knows our area of weakness and will gladly transform us when we surrender our brokenness to Him. Where we lack, He does not. Let’s not allow our insecurities to hinder us from developing a more intimate closeness with our Creator. The Creator of the whole universe desires to be in relationship with you—that is how precious you are in His sight. Get to know His love and you’ll get to know Him and His heart for you.
If you want to see the perfect example of God’s love, look to Jesus, for he is and was God’s perfect representative in human form. Jesus said, if you have seen me then you have seen the Father (John 14:9). Ergo, the love that Christ demonstrated and lived out was God’s love for His people…I and the Father have one purpose (John 10:30).
Recall the countless ways Jesus loved those around him during his time on earth. There are many examples in the Bible where God and Jesus had every justification to turn people away and not be merciful towards them because of the way they sinned, doubted or acted out.
Take a look at some for-instances from the Old and New Testament where people royally messed up, and yet God’s character and love did not change:
- David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had Uriah murdered:
In Psalm 51 David cried out, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.”
God forgave David and he rejoiced, ‘Oh what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!’ ‘Finally, I confessed my sins to You and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And You forgave me! All my guilt is gone.’ (Psalm 32).
Though David’s iniquity was great, God forgave him and he went on to being testified by God as a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22).
- Abraham and Sarah attempted to take matters into their own hands:
Being impatient and doubtful of God’s promise and instruction to wait for a son, thinking they knew better than God’s timing, Abraham went on to conceive Ishmael with Sarah’s handmaiden Hagar, bringing about all sorts of strife, which was not God’s will.
Though their disobedience had consequences, God followed through with His promise and blessed them with a son, Isaac, God’s original will and plan, in His timing. “My covenant I will establish with Isaac.” (Genesis 17:21).
- Jonah ran from God:
God had plans for Jonah, but instead of trusting God, Jonah let fear take over and tried to run from Him. Only when Jonah ended up in the belly of a very large fish did he pray, “I called to the Lord out of my distress, and He answered me, out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.” (Jonah 2:2).
All of this could have been avoided if Jonah had obeyed God in the first place; nonetheless, his story ended up being a fantastic foreshadowing to Jesus’ three days and three nights in the grave before His resurrection. Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the fish before God ‘spoke to the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon the dry land.’ When he did finally obey God’s instruction, it saved the lives of more than a hundred and twenty thousand people (Jonah 4:11), those who believed God’s word which Jonah shared through Nineveh. Parallel to Christ’s obedience to God’s will and redemptive work right up to death, resulting in the salvation of all those who choose to believe the gospel of Christ Jesus.
- The woman caught in adultery:
Judged harshly and about to be stoned by hypocrites, Christ challenged the witnesses and said to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).
Leaving our sinful nature behind is a lifelong, daily battle, however, we don’t have to toil in our own strength.
‘But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’– 2 Corinthians 12:9
Let’s find joy in the fact that we have a Lord who wants to walk with us through life and help us back up when we fall.
- Our Lord’s crucifixion:
Christ, hanging on that tree, prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). Even through unimaginable pain and suffering, all for sinners such as ourselves, he still showed mercy to those who mocked and sneered at him. Talk about unrelenting LOVE.
Stand firm in His love
Be encouraged in the fact we are not the first or last to let God down. But God, in all His compassionate, loving glory, sees us and loves us still. God’s not done with us. His love isn’t conditional, it keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). He still has a purpose for you. You and your weaknesses can in no way erase the will of God; being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6) if you’ll press on and not give power to your failures, resisting the Enemy when he attempts to incapacitate you; and fix your eyes on Jesus, no matter how many times over.
If anything, we can now come boldly and joyfully to God with the knowledge that He will forgive us:
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.– Hebrews 4:16
Christ paid it all, He took our place as a sacrifice; therefore we are no longer shackled by our sin:
You have been set free from sin and have become servants to righteousness.– Romans 6:18-19
God knows this doesn’t mean we will never mess up again, but He looks on the heart.
Yahweh is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us…– Psalm 103:8
So then, friend, let us break that mental bondage and stand assured in the fact that God wants us, God loves us, and NOTHING can separate us from Him…not even ourselves.