Renewed

Some of us begin our spiritual journey searching for relief from pain or difficult circumstances. Others are looking for direction or meaning in life. These can be powerful motivators to explore new options and initiate change, to find a different and better path. They may lead us to a personal relationship with Christ, even if that was not where we expected our journey to lead. For a while, that new relationship brings new awareness, positive change, and motivation to begin or continue doing what is good and right. We experience far more life than we have experienced before!

But we cannot sustain Christian growth for an extended time with personal fulfillment as our motivation. If we want far more life to last a lifetime, our motivation must become our love for God. As our relationship with Him matures, our perspective on Him naturally changes. We grow to see Him less as Santa Claus or a cosmic vending machine — someone who gives us what we desire if we perform correctly. Instead we recognize His character and the reverence He deserves. Here are a few examples of His name and titles that reveal His character:

  • Yahweh (Usually translated “LORD”, this means “self-existent one” or “He who brings into being”. Yahweh is God’s name, just like my name Shari.)

By Wisdom Yahweh laid the foundation of the earth. By understanding he established the heavens. (Proverbs 3:19, NOG)

  • Elohim (title meaning almighty or all-powerful):

In the beginning Elohim created heaven and earth. (Genesis 1:1, NOG)

  • Elyon (title meaning supreme or most high):

…Your name is Yahweh. You alone are Elyon of the whole earth. (Psalm 83:18, NOG)

  • El Olam (title meaning everlasting):

Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? El OlamYahweh, the Creator of the ends of the earth, doesn’t grow tired or become weary. His understanding is beyond reach. (Isaiah 40:28, NOG)

  • Adonai/Adonay (title meaning master):

The priests who carry the ark of Yahweh, the Adonay of the whole earth, will stand in the water of the Jordan. Then the water flowing from upstream will stop and stand up like a dam. (Joshua 3:13, NOG)

  • El Shaddai /Shadday (title meaning all-sufficient sustainer):

…The breath of Shadday gives me life. (Job 33:4, NOG)

  • Roeh (title meaning shepherd, friend):

Yahweh is my Roeh. I am never in need. (Psalm 23:1, NOG)

He who brings into being. All powerful. Supreme. Everlasting. Master. All-sufficient sustainer. Friend. Those terms describe Someone worth getting to know! Not just because of what He can do for us, but because of His own merits. They describe Someone who deserves our respect. Someone we can learn from. Someone we would do well to emulate. And God does want us to emulate Him! The Old Testament and Jesus’ first recorded sermon both include this instruction:

…I am the Lord your God. I am holy, and you must be holy too! (Leviticus 19:2, CEV)

But you must always act like your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:48, CEV)

Of course, humans are incapable of living a completely sinless life. We are born with a sinful nature that desires to do our own thing and be our own boss instead of giving God His rightful place in our hearts and lives. (Romans 3:23, James 4:17) Fortunately, when we accept Jesus as our Savior we receive a built-in “righteousness guide”, the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38, I Corinthians 6:19). From that day forward, God the Spirit lives inside of us, giving us the power to overcome sinful thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and actions (2 Peter 1:3). But the change is not automatic; we must reclaim control from our sinful nature.

“…Live your life as your spiritual nature directs you. Then you will never follow through on what your corrupt nature wants.” (Galatians 5:16, GW)

Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect. (Romans 12:2, NCV)

We know that we are being directed by our spiritual nature when we display His characteristics: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Any time we do not feel or display those traits, we are being directed by the corrupt nature. We can try harder to push it aside, but sometimes our effort is not enough to create permanent change. Instead we must be changed from within through a new way of thinking.

We change our thinking by changing our core beliefs. Sinful thoughts, feelings, and actions reveal core beliefs that are still spiritually “corrupted”. But we can “follow the feelings” to bring them to the light. First, we recognize what negative emotion we are feeling. Then we ask ourselves why we feel that (i.e., what do we believe). Which may lead us to another negative emotion; asking “why” again reveals another belief. When that back-and-forth reaches a belief about our identity or God’s character that disagrees with the Bible, we have exposed our corrupt thinking! Bringing to mind God’s truth — His perspective, words, and actions — at that moment allows us to renew that part of our mind for God. When presented with a similar situation in the future, we will be able to respond as God would! It can be a slow, painful process to find and replace corrupt beliefs. But it is worthwhile because each step of that process yields far more life: becoming more like God!

Sisters,
What initially prompted you to seek out God? What prompts you now?
How would you describe your friendship with God? Is it one-way or two-way?
Which name or title of God is most meaningful to you? Why?
How do you feel about being more like God? Any hesitation or reluctance?
Do you experience negative feelings regularly? Are you willing to try “following them” to renew your thinking?
Praise God for allowing you to keep growing far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

New Master

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22, NIV)

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. (Romans 7:21, NIV)

When we accept forgiveness through Jesus Christ and God becomes our new master, we want to do what is good and right. But sometimes our desire to obey is not enough to overcome sinful beliefs, habits, and actions we learned under our old master, Satan. Instead of instantly removing all those, God has chosen for us to work together to change them.

Too often, we think the sin is the problem. “I need to stop overeating when I am upset. I need to control my compulsion go shopping after a bad day. I need to stop turning to erotic media or masturbation when I am lonely.” So we tell ourselves (and others) we are going to stop sinning…and we fail.

Sinful thoughts and actions are symptoms of an underlying belief about ourselves or God that is untrue. They reveal an area of our mind that is still being influenced by our old master. Far more life is not overcoming a specific sin, rather it is consistently being who our new master made us. Our new nature cannot sin. Conversely, our old nature cannot live righteously. Whenever we sin we are operating under a part of our mind that is listening to our old master. 

But returning to the new nature is more than simply saying, “I am not going to do that anymore” or “I am going to listen to God instead of Satan.” The Apostle Paul instructs us to overcome sin in this way:

“…Be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you can work out what God’s will is, what is good, acceptable and complete.” (Romans 12:2, NTE)

Uncovering what we are feeling and thinking when we sin is the key to overcoming it. We can do this in the moment we catch ourselves sinning or later. The process is the same in either situation.

First, we must recognize what negative emotion we are feeling when or just before we sin. For example, “I am stressed.”

Next, we ask why we feel that, what we believe in that moment. “I have so many things I need to do and not enough time.”

This may be true or not true. Either way, we dig deeper by asking how that belief makes us feel. “Overwhelmed.”

Ask ourselves why we feel that way, what we believe about this. “I cannot do them all.”

Again we ask how that makes us feel? “I feel like I am worthless.”

We may have to go back and forth between what we feel and why several times. When we uncover a belief about our core identity or value that disagrees with God’s perspective, we have found the trigger Satan used to master us!

Holding up that belief, “I am worthless”, to God’s Word proves it false. The Bible reveals truth. “God does not see me as worthless. I am created in His image. He bought me with the blood of His Son. He is preparing a place for me in Heaven so I can live with Him forever. He loves me. I am valuable to Him.”

When we renew our minds with truth, we find far more life in our new master. Our old master’s influence is removed from that area. It is possible we will never be tempted to engage in that sin again. But it can take time to make new habits based on our renewed mindset. When we catch ourselves in that sin, we can thank God for helping us recognize we were listening to our old master. Then recalling God’s truth empowers us to say “no” to the enslavement of old beliefs, thoughts, and actions and “yes” to being a slave to righteousness.

Each area of our mind that is renewed deepens our understanding of our new master. But far more life is more than a logical understanding. Far more life desires a close relationship with Him. Far more life wants to experience His love, joy, peace, goodness, faithfulness, and more. Far more life grows in love, not just knowledge. Far more life recognizes that serving God and yielding to Him is a delight, not a decision.

Being enslaved to God is a blessing. It offers freedom we never dreamed possible. We find pleasure in righteousness rather than in sin. We find pain relief in God rather than in sin. He transforms our beliefs, thoughts, and habits so we are free to live reverently and righteously, enjoying rich fellowship and bringing God glory. 

We live as slaves, either to sin or righteousness. Far more life recognizes that being a slave to righteousness is the best life possible. It embraces our new master and reaps holiness.

Sisters,
What emotions, thoughts, or feelings are warning signs that you are listening to your old master, Satan?

Take a minute to try the mind renewal exercise. Use a recent sin as your starting point.
Which list of words describes your relationship with Christ: “ideas, truth, choice, logic, decision” or “experience, treasure, relationship, love, delight”? What barriers keep you from embracing the second list?
Think of how you have been blessed as a slave to righteousness. Thank God for those blessings of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo Credit: Jennifer Marsh

Overflowing with Grace

Think of a time something happened that you were eager to tell others. I bet you could hardly keep it from bubbling out! I feel this way when my hopes or dreams become reality or when something good happens unexpectedly. But the biggest, most exciting thing we will ever experience is God’s saving grace! He wants us to freely share that good news through words and actions that show how He changed us.

God is able to make all grace overflow to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will overflow in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8, EHV)

All grace. All things. All times. All you need. Every good work. Wow, God is serious about this! But notice the verse begins “God is able…” Being filled with His grace and power — and overflowing with good works — is for our best, but God does not force it on us. Far more life is letting God’s grace fill us to overflowing. We know we are overflowing with grace by the changes in our thoughts and feelings. Others know by the changes in our actions.

One person in history was perfectly filled to overflowing with God’s grace: Jesus. His thoughts, feelings, and actions were always in line with God’s. The gospels are full of incidents where people experienced His grace in action. The Bible records how those in His hometown responded:

Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. (Luke 4:22a, NLT)

Overflowing grace makes you stand out! Jesus stood out because He was different. Our natural human reaction to challenging people and situations is defensiveness, anger, callousness, or other sinful responses. But when we live in the power of the Holy Spirit, we — like Jesus — are different. We have power to respond with gracious thoughts, feelings, and actions. Those are moments of far more life.

There are times we bite our tongues and put on a fake smile. That is better than spewing ugliness, but it is not grace. The grace that is evidence of God’s work in our lives is expressed as compassion and kindness. It is the result of a renewed mind, as described in these verses:

Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes. (Romans 12:2, TPT)

God’s grace transforms us, first changing our beliefs and thoughts, then changing our feelings and actions. The gospels illustrate this with the account of a woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Just watching this made the disciples uneasy, but Jesus explained:

“…The great love she has shown proves that her many sins have been forgiven. But whoever has been forgiven little shows only a little love.” (Luke 7:47, GNT)

This woman understood that her sin was great, but she also understood that God’s grace was greater. Experiencing the depth of God’s grace inspires us to show others grace. When we realize how many sins we have committed and how much God has forgiven us, our love for Him increases. This inspires us to show grace to those around us.

When my children were young I got tired of giving them the same instructions over and over. But one day I realized God did not become impatient or angry about giving me the same reminders over and over. Recognizing God’s grace toward me inspired me to show my children grace; I decided even if I had to give the same instructions every day for the next 18 years, I would do so with love and kindness. The result was far more life in my own heart and in my relationship with my children.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10, NIV)

God has a beautiful, satisfying and perfect plan for your life! And He offers you overflowing grace for each step of that plan. Far more life embraces God’s purpose and seeks to fulfill it. His plan for you is unique; no one else on the planet can do the specific good works He prepared for you. But these works are not hidden; there is no reason to fear you will miss them. Instead, when you focus on understanding and living through His grace, those good works will natural flow out of you. Frequently your good works will benefit the people you regularly interact with. At other times you will have a strong desire to love and serve those facing a particular struggle or a particular people group. Often your good works will be linked to a particular skill you possess, so you will be happy to do them. Some of these works are actions that reveal God’s work in our lives, but they can also be words that share God’s grace.

The grace that overflows from us can help others find far more life, too. We have a wonderful opportunity to be a fountain of His grace. And experience another aspect of far more life. Try it out this week!

Sisters,
Are you overflowing with grace? If not, what barriers are blocking the flow?
How do you feel about standing out for overflowing with grace?
Do you think God has shown you a little or a lot of love? How does this impact the love you show others?
How are you seeking to fulfill God’s purpose for your life?
Focus on letting grace overflow this week and share far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso