When Our True Hero is Not on the Mat

Why You Don’t Need to Get in Shape Before You Begin Training

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

I just returned from a vacation on North Carolina’s outer banks. This has become a special place for my family as it has a variety of unique beaches and seems to be a relaxed and laid back culture. This time we chose to spend with the extended family (21 of us) so there was a lot of fun and food while enjoying the sun and surf for a week.

We often carry a similar faulty mindset when approaching Jesus. A common misconception is the belief that one must clean up their life before they can be accepted by Jesus. However, Jesus himself said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17, Luke 5:31, Matt 9:12). In fact, the Bible is clear that there is no person who is in right standing with God, by his own doing (Rom 3:10). There is no amount of our own good deeds, good intentions, self-denial or donations that will outweigh and override our mess-ups. There are always consequences to our actions and decisions; no neutral ground exists. The payment for sin is death (Rom 6:23a). Sin is any wrongdoing, immoral or wicked act. But God, being merciful, has given Jesus Christ as payment for all of our sin.

Even after knowing all of this, how often do those of us who have been walking with Jesus for years still feel like we are justified or disqualified by our own performance? When we mess up, do we immediately turn to God with the confidence to pray bold prayers? Or, do we allow time to go by before we go to God as though we are in time out? In moments like these, do we think that God favors someone else more than us or that we are unworthy of His love? We often are quick to disqualify or demote ourselves out of shame and guilt. Shame and guilt are accusations that do not come from God but from the enemy. Instead, God convicts our conscious to lead us to repentance. Repentance is turning away from our own ways and turning to God and His ways. At the root of shame, guilt and performance is self-focus; it takes our eyes off God and turning them to ourselves. It is a trap where we dig ourselves into a deeper and deeper hole.

It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. —Ephesians 2:8-9

God does not show favoritism. — Romans 2:11

None of us can clean up our lives on our own. At times we may be able to improve on the surface in limited areas. We think that creating new habits, exerting stronger self-will, or being in a different environment and with different people will finally be the doorway to experiencing fulfillment and becoming the person we want to be. Instead these “improvements” become temporary or knee deep. In time, we discover that we have exchanged one addiction for another, traded one infatuation for another, or have been running from past hurts and wounds while running toward what we think will bring us contentment. All the while the underlying causes of our dissatisfaction and dysfunction prevail leaving us worse off than when we started.

Jesus, knowing that we were helpless on our own, laid down His own life so that we may walk in full freedom and health, thus fulfilling our debt that we owed for our sin. God then raised Jesus up from death where He is alive and active in our lives today, able to cleanse us from the dirt we have been living in. When we accept Jesus and what He has done for us, we are positioned to access God’s promise of full freedom and life here on earth today and in heaven. Through our faith in Jesus, God promises that He no longer remembers our mess-ups and sin (Isaiah 43:25, Psalm 103:12, Acts 3:19, Eph 1:7, Heb 10:17, Col 1:13-14). Instead we are a new creation in Him and are being transformed to reflect (2 Cor 3:18, 5:17, Rom 8:28).

In Him we have redemption through His blood and the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace – Ephesians 1:7

The understanding that God is on your side, that He is good, and is working everything out for your best is a game changer. It will change your perspective and how you approach life; giving you a genuine confidence, boldness, and happiness. It will open doors to you that were once inaccessible. There is nothing you can do or cannot do that will make God love you or accept you less or more. You are loved and accepted just as you are.

The decision to humble yourself, turn to Him to receive His forgiveness changes your life. It is in this place that God says He exchanges your filthy rags for robes of Jesus’ righteousness (Isaiah 61:10, Zec 3:4) and has seated us in heavenly realms with Himself (Eph 2:6). By your faith in Jesus you are made righteous. You are made His representative, His warrior, and His son/ daughter (2 Cor 5:20 & 6:18, 2 Tim 2:3-4). God promises to never leave you or abandon you (Deut 31:6). You have an ongoing choice to make: whether you are going to believe God at His word and receive His offer or be dictated by your emotions and believe the lies and accusations of the enemy that keep you in a life of perpetual bondage.

May this be a year that we each come up higher and go deeper in His Truth so that we can fulfill our individual and collective purpose. Come to Jesus as you are. No matter where you are in your walk with Him, or if you have not yet begun, just walk through the door and get in the mat. The rest will follow. You will be strengthened and empowered. Watch as chains fall off and miracles follow. Enter God’s presence through praise and thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4). Take your position as God’s warrior serving a greater assignment. Jesus says He will go before you and God’s glory will trail behind you as your rear guard (Isaiah 58:8, Mtt 26:32). In the end, as you persevere and do not give up, you will hear of a well done, good and faithful servant.

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