“This is what the Lord says your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea” (Isaiah 48:17,18, NIV).
I love the simple truth of this passage. Our Redeemer longs to teach us what is best and to direct us in the way we should go. Sometimes when we read passages like this one, we think the direction the Lord offers is for major, life-changing decisions — like whom to marry or what job to take. But the relationship He offers is much more encompassing. He actually wants to be involved in every part of our lives, including our thoughts, our words, our responses, even our attitudes!
God is the designer of life, and He knows exactly the best way to live it. Did you catch the last part of that verse in Isaiah, “If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea”? God wants to lavish our lives with His peace and lead us to those things that are the absolute best for us.
There have been plenty of moments when my sinful nature was in control and hindered the Holy Spirit’s leading. But the more seasoned I’ve become (just a more positive way of saying “the older I get”), the more I’ve learned to embrace my Redeemer and allow Him to be the true leader of my life.
I’ve learned to trust God’s love for me and depend fully on Him moment by moment. He doesn’t always teach easy lessons or lead me to smooth paths, but I’ve consistently experienced the peace He promises in Isaiah 48. And the goodness He brings to my life when I submit to His leadership is worth every sacrifice along the way.
The decision to stop our sinful nature from responding is a moment-by-moment decision. Unfortunately, we will never be able to say, “I am completely Spirit-controlled!” It’s a daily process of allowing the Holy Spirit to fill and lead our lives.
Many of us have heard children’s songs that teach basic spiritual practices. One of those songs goes something like this: “Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow. And you’ll grow, grow, grow … ” (I remember bending down, almost sitting on my heels, and inching my way up as we sang, “and you’ll grow, grow, grow.”)
While those words are simple, their truth is profound. Our Redeemer has invited us to receive His grace and enter into a relationship with Him that will positively revolutionize our lives. But instead of simply considering how external activities like reading our Bible, praying, and going to church can have a positive impact on our lives, I want us to consider what it means to embrace our Redeemer. Since we can do all of the “right” things and not really know Him, I want us to consider what it’s like to lunge face-first, arms wide open into an all-consuming relationship with God. A relationship that will transform every corner of our hearts!
1. Drink in God’s grace.
Every good thing in our lives is from God, and grace is one of the best gifts of all. He literally lavishes us with His grace! Read how Paul describes this truth to the church in Ephesus: “So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and under-
standing” (Ephesians 1:6-8, NLT).
We can allow ourselves to be fully known by our grace-filled Redeemer. Because of His great kindness, we can completely trust Him with every part of our hearts, minds and emotions.
Since He knows us even better than we know ourselves, He is already aware of our every struggle. So why wouldn’t we want to bring everything into His presence? When we do, we give Him the opportunity to redeem, restore and renew every troubled spot!
Embracing God’s grace isn’t something we do one time, at the moment of salvation; we must do it continually. I don’t know about you, but I need His grace in my thoughts, my fears, my insecurities, my doubts, my attitudes … well, some days that list seems endless. But understanding His kindness and grace helps me to know that I can invite Him into every one
of those places. He longs to redeem anything I confess to Him.
2. Receive the fullness of God’s love.
The song “Jesus Loves Me” is etched into my earliest childhood memories. I can remember wearing a white-and-black polka-dot dress with itchy lace, sitting in a small chair in
the Beginners Sunday School classroom, and singing this simple song. Little did I know, at the age of 5, how those three words, “Jesus loves me,” would become the foundation of my
I’ve come to believe that embracing God’s love is completely revolutionary — it absolutely changes us. Understanding the depth of His love calms our fears, increases our faith, strengthens our obedience, and escalates our joy! I’ve learned to trust His love even when my circumstances don’t make sense and situations seem out of control.
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is my prayer for you:
“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God” (Ephesians 3:16-19).
3. Allow God’s Word to shape your thoughts, attitudes and behaviors.
Someone once said that the one time people read for all they’re worth is when they’re in love and are reading a love letter.
I have to ask myself, do I read God’s Word with that intensity? Do I read every word — reflecting on what I learn about God and seeking to understand what He expects of me? Do I allow His Word to examine my motives and penetrate my thoughts and attitudes? Do I read it often enough to allow it to renew my mind?
I don’t know about you, but many things try to influence my thoughts and attitudes. Sometimes difficult personal circumstances or the troubling situations in the world create anxiety. Sometimes disappointing relationships cause us to doubt. Even on the best days, life is full of difficulty. And when our focus is on what is happening around us, it shapes us more than we
would like to admit. I’m not suggesting that we ignore our circumstances or live with our heads in the sand, but we can allow God’s Word to bring us a different perspective — one that is life-giving.
When I read God’s Word like a love letter, it changes the activity from a duty to check off my to-do list to a time of intimate communication. The Bible is God’s written revelation of himself — there He longs to show me who He is, how He sees me, and what is best for my life. Only when I read it like a love letter can I allow it to penetrate my heart, adjust my thoughts, and realign my attitude. This time in His Word becomes the highlight of my day.
4. Be aware of God’s presence every moment.
Sometimes the busy seasons of life leave us feeling frazzled and overwhelmed. When I’m not living aware of God’s presence, I easily become distracted, frustrated, fearful and overwhelmed with the responsibilities and cares of life. And my words and behaviors are always disappointing. However, when I make every effort to be aware of God’s presence, my responses are completely different. Remembering He is there, I can rely on Him for whatever I need in each moment — whether it’s wisdom, insight, strength, love or patience.
God created each of us as unique individuals, and He wants us to enjoy a personal relationship with Him. One of God’s own traits is His desire for intimacy — to dwell with us and be known by us. In fact, the entire Bible is God’s story of seeking to restore His relationship with mankind. From the following verses, we learn about the intimate relationship He desires to
have with us:
Psalm 56:8 — He keeps track of every tear we cry.
Psalm 62:8 — He wants us to trust Him enough to pour out our hearts to Him.
Psalm 63:7,8 — He keeps us close to himself for our protection.
Psalm 139:1-4 — He knows our every thought, word and action.
Psalm 139:17,18 — He thinks about us constantly.
God’s Word is full of promises for those who embrace Him, just like the one found in Hebrews 11 — He “rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” I want to renew my commitment to embrace Him for all I’m worth! I want to drink in His grace, embrace the fullness of His love, consume His Word — allowing it to shape every part of me — and live fully aware of His presence.
My prayer for you is the same.
From Redeemed! Embracing a Transformed Life by Kerry Clarensau (Springfield, Mo.: My Healthy Church, 2012). Excerpted with permission.