Wednesday, February 12, 2014

“The Never-Ending Love of God” by Garris Elkins

Recently, in a moment of personal brokenness the Lord spoke a word to me that changed everything. He said,

In the place of your greatest shame and condemnation your most significant act of spiritual     warfare is choosing to believe I still love you.

This word struck something deep inside of me. A new dimension of understanding and awareness emerged.  It has since changed how I do spiritual warfare when faced with personal shame and condemnation.

For the last two months, after surgery to repair a ruptured tendon in my right knee, I have gone through many changes. I was laid up for almost a month.  I entered a season of prolonged rehabilitation.  I had to cancel a number of ministry engagements. Everything was different – all of a sudden, different.

When our routine of life is radically interrupted and we feel physically weakened, our normal defenses can be compromised.  In these times we wear thin and in our thinness we are susceptible to compromise and choices not normally made when we appear to have it all together.  We think we are strong until we become weak. It is in this place of weakness where true strength can be discovered.

At one point in my recuperation something took place and I felt like I had failed God. My failed response to this particular situation became weighted down with shame and condemnation. I began pacing back and forth on our kitchen floor.  Actually, I was limping across the kitchen floor with my leg still in a brace. 

As I paced back and forth, I began to wage war against the lies of condemnation and shame hell was trying to put upon me.  I began rebuking demons and speaking scripture at the lies I was hearing. Then the Lord stopped me mid-sentence.  He said I was to war differently.  I began to sense the power of God’s presence fill the kitchen and then I heard those life-altering words:

In the place of your greatest shame your most significant act of spiritual warfare is choosing to   believe I still love you.

As I continued to pace, I began to declare that God still loved me no matter what had taken place. I felt layers of shame and condemnation begin to peel away.  It was as though the lies I had been hearing had no adhesive ability to attach themselves to me as I began to understand the love of God in a new and deeper way.  I began to feel overwhelming joy and freedom.

Years ago, Jerry Cook, the author of Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness, shared his definition of God’s love. He said,

         “Love is seeking the highest good for another person.”

That simple and yet profound definition is what I now use when someone asks me to define God’s love. 

That moment in our kitchen, as God was ministering to me, he was seeking my highest good.  In that moment of spiritual battle, I needed to experience the love of my Father more than anything else. This was a battle where understanding my highest good, God’s unfailing love for me, would be the most powerful weapon I would deploy.

When Paul described this kind of love to the Corinthians he said, 

         It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”                I Corinthians 13:7-8

In other words, there is never a time when the love of God stops moving toward us.  He always loves. His is a love without failure or cessation. There is never a time in our brokenness when the love of God stops flowing at the point of human failure.

Sometimes we think there are spiritual cliffs of human imperfection where we fall off and believe there is no way back.  This is a lie.  There are no cliffs in the heart of God.  A cliff only exists in our hearts where fear has been allowed to define our relationship with God. 

David and Peter had utterly failed God. Both of them had no way back from their failure except through the ever-flowing love of God.  The love of God, not their promise to never fail again, is what made a way back possible.

We all know David’s story.  In a time of year when kings went off to war, David stayed home.  David should have been with his men on the battlefield. As a result, he made himself vulnerable and fell into sexual sin with Bathsheba. He used his position to force himself sexually on her. He even ordered the murder of Bathsheba’s husband by putting him in harm’s way on the battlefield. 

It doesn’t get much worse than David’s sin. Yet, David was still described as,  “A man after God’s own heart.” In the midst of these horrible sins, God never peeled that label off of David and he never removed from David his place in the lineage of Christ.

In Psalm 51:1-2 we see the heart of David when faced with his failure,  Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

David was appealing to the unfailing love of God – an unceasing love even in the middle of his darkest hour.

David learned the most about the loving heart of God while navigating through personal failure.  This seems to be where God teaches us the most if we are willing to learn. The lesson we learn is that his love never fails to seek our highest good. Our highest good is always the discovery of the heart of God.

Peter was another person who utterly failed. One night Peter denied the Lord three times. As Peter uttered his final words of denial, Jesus looked into Peter’s eyes. Peter was devastated. The scripture tells us Peter ran out into the night and wept bitterly. In his sorrow, Peter fell off a cliff of personal failure and in that moment might have thought he would never find his way back. Peter’s failure was a weapon being formed against him to destroy his calling and destiny.

After Jesus’ resurrection, Peter and some of the disciples had returned to fishing.  One day, as they were fishing, someone calls out to them from the seashore.  At first, the disciples in the boat did not recognize Jesus. Then John said, “It’s the Lord.” Even though he had utterly failed the Lord, Peter knew something about Jesus’ heart. Instead of holding back, Peter jumped into the water, swam to the shore and was the first to greet Jesus.

Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Implied in the dialogue of the text was this – “If you love me Peter, then keep following me. Don’t let this failure be the end. Your destiny and calling is still intact.”  

Jesus wanted Peter to make a choice.  Would Peter be willing to follow him once again?  The future Jesus had planned was still intact and needed an act of faith from Peter in order for it to be reengaged. Peter had responded to Jesus’ heart and now he was being invited into full restoration. In the most catastrophic event of Peter’s life, he would now see the full extent of God’s love.

Isaiah wrote, “No weapon formed against you will prosper and every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of God, and their righteousness is from Me, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 54:17)

We quote the first part of that verse frequently and yet fail to read the remainder of the verse.  What we miss is the part that says God will condemn the voices of darkness that rise up to condemn us. 

If God condemns what is condemning us, shouldn’t we do the same? His love is always flowing towards us and can never be diverted by the dam of personal shame and condemnation. God is inviting his people to rise up and join with him to condemn each voice of hell that tries to rob us of our highest good. That will be our most significant act of spiritual warfare.

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