This is the 9th blog post for the series A January of Unwrapping Hope.
Have you ever read a passage of Scripture that you have read before, but it’s as if you’re truly seeing it for the first time? Last night, as my sick daughter lay curled up asleep next to me, I felt drawn to open my Bible to 2 Corinthians: 3 and read it by the dim light my phone could provide. I read it weeping inwardly. You see, for the first time I read it truly, truly unveiled into a bold new Hope and all-embracing Love.
The Lord has steadily been opening my blinded and hardened heart to receive His Love over the past almost two years. However, this past week something really special has been happening. I’ve been memorizing Matthew 6: 1 -2 and in doing so, the verses have been coming alive for me.
Matthew 6: 1 – 2 (ESV)
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they havereceived their reward.
Where the old hardened heart of mine read these verses as a threat and confirmation of my exclusion from grace, the softening heart began to receive them as a powerful invitation into God’s amazing Love for me. Several other Scriptures I read throughout the week lit up the words I was ingesting and it was as if I was hearing Him calling me, arms outstretched toward me: “Anna, why would you settle for less, when you can have Me? Why exhaust yourself expending your actions and words to prove your worth, when with Me all you have to do is lean into Me, letting me, gently and reassuringly lead you further and further into the amazing, fearfully and wonderfully made daughter I have made you to be?”
Until this week I’d “known” all this in my head, but I kept having to remind myself of it, trying in my own strength to live by it. I hadn’t truly digested it. I still felt this strong urge to “prove” myself, as this nagging inner voice enslaved me to self-condemnation. And then this week, the Lord again and again gently opened my heart. I began to receive His Word as a Letter of Love, each Word I read breathing more and more life and light into me.
Instead of being fearful of His disappointment, I saw His outstretched arms of grace. Instead of holding onto the reins, frightened if I let go all would crumble around me, I slowly began unclenching my fingers and opening them, palms empty before Him.
I have written of the need to do all this, as I found myself returning to my old ways of control, and of my desire to do so, but it is only clothed in the power of the Spirit-breathed Word that I have been empowered by God to begin doing so. It feels as if a weight is being lifted off my shoulders.
Am I “healed” from the enslavement of performance? That I cannot say, but I can say that where I fall backward, the Spirit-infused Word of God has the power to pick me back up and gently lead me forward, unfastening any load I have placed upon my shoulders. And I can say that in these past two years, the Lord has been leading me forward, further and further AWAY from the terror of His wrath, AWAY from the fear of man, AWAY from the fear of His disappointment, AWAY from inner condemnation and further and further INTO the glorious riches of His Everlasting Hope and all-embracing, gently-leading Love. For (2 Corinthians 3: 17 – 18, NIV):
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Therefore, we of the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3: 3, NIV):
show that [we] are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
And so clothed in the confidence of Christ (2 Corinthians 3: 6, 12 – 16, NIV):
He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life…
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord,the veil is taken away.
Listening to this children’s praise and worship song today, I sung it with gusto, believing every word that left my mouth:
All About Jesus, Sovereign Grace
Every word of Your Word is true
They were all breathed out by You
Your Spirit wrote through men
Like a pen in the hand of a God Who knew
That we would need to know
How much You love us so
You wrote it down for us forever, Oh
From Genesis to Revelation
There’s one story of Your great salvation
It’s all about Jesus, oh, it’s all about Jesus
Shoutin’ out from every page
There’s one Hero that’ll save the day
It’s all about Jesus, oh, it’s all about Jesus
Every word of Your Word gives light
Like the sun that shines so bright
It leads us day by day to
The One, the Way, the Truth, the Life
And every time we read
You give us what we need
To grow in grace and know You better, Oh
It’s all about Jesus, even from Eden, we read
The serpent would be crushed by a seed of Eve ‘cause
All glory belongs to the Son
Every story pointing to the Holy One, like
When Abraham put Isaac on the altar
He pulled the knife, but God, he never falters
Faithful to His promise He would provide
A substitute ram for the sacrifice, now
He gave commandments so we could see
His holiness and our desperate need, then
There were so many temporary sacrifices
None of them were perfect, no, but Christ is
The prophets spoke and they were not liars
God would send His very own Son, to be
Messiah • Rescue, redeem, restore, reclaim
Every saint loves His holy name, cause
He died on the cross to take our place
The final substitute and eternal grace
Then He rose from the grave and up to the throne
Until He comes again, to gather His own!
Music and Words by Jon Althoff
Note: The image for today’s post was taken by my five-year-old daughter in the back of the car…Like me (and her sister), she loves the sun breaking through the sky.