Sunday, November 15, 2015

Running on Empty: What's True About God & You (Part 4)

This is the 4th week in our Sunday series, "Running on Empty," by Fil Anderson. If you missed the first three, catch up here: 
  1. The Condition of Your Soul
  2. Hearing the Voice of God
  3. The Fear of Insignificance

Part 4: What's True About God & You

Walk into any Young Life club and you’re bound to find people who look happy, confident, and secure. But, inwardly, some are confused, frustrated, frightened, guilty and ashamed to reveal themselves to others—secretly crying out for someone to love them as they are.

I suspect the same is true with any group of Young Life volunteer leaders and staff. Yet, seldom does a person have the courage to expose his or her deep needs with a seemingly self-sufficient gathering of competent people. And that’s a crying shame!

Why is this sort of pretending so common among followers of Jesus? Are we so blind that we can’t see how pretending drains every ounce of our integrity? When will we finally acknowledge that Jesus insists on meeting us where we are, not where we pretend to be?

Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the starting point of authentically living in Christ, not because our life in Christ immediately mends all of our brokenness, but because we can then stop seeking perfection. Instead, we seek Jesus, the One who is present in the brokenness of our lives. It’s not until we reveal our desperate neediness that we discover who Jesus really is: a loving, accepting, kind, and forgiving Savior, Redeemer, and Friend.

Acknowledging the fragmentation of my life is the single most painful and difficult admission I’ve ever made. It’s also the most freeing and hopeful thing I’ve ever spoken about myself. Discovering the need for authenticity has led me to develop trusting relationships with friends who invite the real me to come out of hiding.

Today I’m convinced that God loves everyone unconditionally and with unimaginable depth, persistence, and intensity. His love overflows and stretches beyond any limitations we might try to place on it.  God’s love, in a nutshell, is like none other in the world.

It’s for this reason that we can affirm with unrivaled certainty that God loves us as we are and not as we should be, since none of us will ever be who we should be. Do you believe this? Can you say with conviction what the apostle John wrote: “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love”? (1 John 4:16). God’s love is the substance of our faith and a fantastic summary of all that we must believe about our true identity.

Jesus offers to be a constant companion--a friend who’s patient, kind, gracious, quick to forgive, and whose love doesn’t keep score. He says, “I’m no longer calling you servants…No, I’ve named you friends” (John 15:15). St. Augustine says, "A friend is someone who knows everything about you and still accepts you."  Jesus loves us with our ideals and disappointments, our heartaches and our joys, our successes and our failures. 

Authentic discipleship requires knowing three things:
  • Our self as deeply loved
  • Our self as deeply sinful
  • Our self engaged in a lifelong process of being restored.
Confronting these essential truths makes it possible for us to know ourselves as we are known and accepted by God.
  1. Do you believe that God loves you as you are?
  2. What are you doing or refraining from doing in order to grow in your friendship with Jesus?
  3. Spend a few minutes each day this week reflecting on this paraphrase of Romans 8:35-39:
I may fall flat on my face; I may fail until I feel old and beaten and done in. Yet Your goodness and love is changeless. All the music may go out of my life; my private world may shatter to dust. Even so, You hold me in the palm of Your steady hand. No turn in the affairs of my fractured life can baffle You. Satan with all his braggadocio cannot distract You. Nothing can separate me from Your measureless love-pain can’t, disappointment can’t, anguish can’t. Yesterday, today, tomorrow can’t. The loss of my dearest love can’t. Death can’t, life can’t. Riots, wars, insanity, non-identity, hunger, neurosis, disease—none of these things, nor all of them heaped together can budge the fact that I am dearly loved, completely forgiven and forever free through Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son.

Fil Anderson is a spiritual director, conference speaker, writer and retreat leader. He served on the Young Life staff for 25 years. Fil and his wife Lucie live in Greensboro, NC and are parents of 3 adult children. He is the author of Running on Empty: Contemplative Spirituality for Overachievers and Breaking the Rules: Trading Performance for Intimacy with God. 

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