Tag Archives: Forgiveness

Girls with Gusto: A Clean Heart

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CleanHeart

Photo by Ashley Jones, 2016.

 

I’ve been writing a book for young women called Girls with Gusto. It’s about our mission as Christians and the eight major steps we take on our spiritual journey.

With each chapter, God has been working on me, pulling me closer to Him. It’s a wonderful reminder that I serve a living God who is interested in my well-being and desires an intimate relationship with me. But that kind of growth often brings growing pains.

 

A Clean Heart

Step One in the Christian journey is A Clean Heart. In this step, we learn that we’re sinners in need of saving. We discover God and accept His mercy and the sacrifice of Jesus. Then, God’s Spirit comes into our heart and cleans it out, making us new.

Eventually, we mess up. Like the prodigal son, we seek after the flashy, sexy things of this world, and we lose touch with the deep and meaningful ways of God (see Luke 15). If we’re to hold onto our faith, we have to come back to God and seek forgiveness. Then, He goes to work cleaning out our hearts again.

That’s the raw truth, a summation of Scripture. My own experience is harder to tell.

 

My Story

I always believed in God, even as a small child. I never had a true conversion experience, other than my baptism at age 13. I remember the feeling of a clean heart, white as snow.

At some point in my teens, I started going off-trail, detouring from the path God had outlined for me. When my grandmother passed away when I was 21, I didn’t know how to handle it. I was overcome with grief and depression for years, and I didn’t know how to rely on God. Instead, I got married so I would have someone to lean on. Of course, that didn’t work out, and I found myself divorced at 24 years old.

Robby and I have been married for five years. I now have the love, friendship, and security I searched for as a young woman. And I know that God is the one who provides us with all things—whether directly or through other people. I thank Him every day for what He’s given me.

Because of that, I tend to forget about my past and just focus on the present and look forward to the future. It sounds healthy, but it’s not always helpful. When I was writing about Step One, A Clean Heart, God showed me that He can use my past for His glory. It can be an important part of my testimony, and I shouldn’t deny it or shy away from it.

 

An Excerpt

So, I rewrote that first section. I still included the meat of Scripture but, this time, I told it from experience. I trust this honesty and transparency will resonate with readers; that it will show them what faith looks like in real life.

Here’s an excerpt from my manuscript:

Because of this situation, I know a few things I wouldn’t know otherwise. For example, I can tell you that the loneliest place on earth is inside a broken marriage. The hardest thing to hear is “I don’t love you,” even when you realize you really don’t love that person, either. And, even in the 21st Century, there is a stigma to divorce that follows you wherever you go, especially church. 

At twenty-four, I was the prodigal daughter. I had to humble myself, crawl back to my Father God, and ask for forgiveness. I had to come back here, to Step One, A Clean Heart…. 

In [Luke 15], we see that the father loves his son because he is compassionate and merciful. In the same way, God loves us because of who He is. It has nothing to do with our own efforts, no matter how domestic or diva they may be. This is great news, because it also means that He loves us even when our efforts fail. Even through grief, mistakes, and divorce. 

Our value, then, is not determined by what we do but by the God who values us.

 

Your Testimony

If you’ve tucked away your past mistakes, I want you to know that God still sees them. If you haven’t asked for forgiveness, then do so today. Start your life anew with a Clean Heart before the Lord.

If you’ve already received forgiveness, then there’s no need to hide what has been forgiven. Let the Lord show you how and when to share your story so that it can bless others and bring Him glory.

I’ll be honest with you: it’s not easy to share something painful. But I can assure you that it’s worth it, to live free of the past and to encourage others to do the same.

The Judge Who Knows You

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The Defendant and the Judge

I heard a story on the radio the other day. Apparently, it captured the hearts of many, because it continued to be broadcast on the nationwide news for a while. (Click here to view the video.)

It seems that a man in Miami, Florida, was brought to court on allegations of burglary. At some point during the hearing, the judge asked the man if he had attended a certain middle school. The man then recognized the judge as a former classmate and began to cry and say, “Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness!” over and over again.

The judge told the court that he “was the nicest kid in middle school. I used to play football with him, all the kids, and look what has happened.” The defendant continued to cry, probably amazed that she remembered him and had such good things to say about him.

The judge told the defendant, “I’m sorry to see you here, sir,” which made him cry even more. At the end, she told him, “Good luck to you, sir. I hope you are able to come out of this ok and just lead a lawful life.”

Crosses found behind a little church in Juliette, GA. (Photo by Ashley Jones)

Crosses found behind a little church in Juliette, GA. (Photo by Ashley Jones)

I think the majority of folks who liked this story probably can’t articulate why. Was it because a white, female judge was being kind to a black, male defendant? Was it a social study on how two people raised in the same community can end up down such different paths? Was it that the judge said anything at all, when she could have just kept quiet?

I believe the real story here is that this is a reminder that we all have a Judge. Our Judge is not some nameless, faceless entity that will decide our future with an impersonal downward swing of a gavel. No, our ultimate Judge is God, and He knows us.

Psalm 139:1-6, NAS  O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it.

All That I Have Done

I love the story of the woman at the well, John 4:1-43. This is a rich chapter, so there’s a lot we could focus on. What is jumping out at me now is the fact that Jesus knew all about this woman. He had never met her; in fact, Jewish men didn’t hang out with strange women at wells. Nor did Jews hang out with Samaritans, in general.

However, Jesus knew all about this woman. He gently, but strongly, let her know this when He told her to go and get her husband. She replied that she had no husband, to which Jesus said “you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband.” (John 4:18, NAS)

Undoubtedly, this had to give the woman quite a jolt. She said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.” (verse 19) Then, she tested Him with some religious, legalistic details. Jesus eventually told her that He was the Messiah they were waiting for. The woman had heard enough. She went into the city and told the men, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ is it?” (John 4:29, NAS)

In verse 39, we read “From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all the things that I have done.’”

Prepare to Meet Your Judge

When we’re children, we try to deny what we have done. We say, “No, I didn’t eat the candy,” all the while covered in chocolate. We couldn’t hide from mama then, and we can’t hide from God now.

So what do we do? David tells us to get our hearts right with God:

Psalm 139:23-24, NAS   Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious

thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.

Sometimes, we don’t realize when our thoughts have gone astray. Like David, we can ask God to tell us, to bring it to our awareness when we are starting down the wrong path. (I wonder if anyone had a warning word for the defendant before he went down a path that led him to that courtroom.)

And what do we do when we meet our Judge, the One who knows all that we have done? What is our defense? Do we just stand there, hopeless in our grief over what we should have done with our lives?

Not at all! We know that Jesus already paid the price for our sins. There is nothing more that we must do but believe on that fact and accept Jesus’ sacrifice:

Romans 10:8-11, NAS  But what does it say? “The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”– that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”

Are you trying to hide your sin? You may be able to hide it from man, but you can’t hide it from God. There is nothing too bad or too shameful that you cannot take to Jesus in prayer. He’s already died for it. You may as well accept His sacrifice and forgiveness thankfully and move on, living a life that honors Him.

God used the woman at the well, a woman who was living a rough and shameful life, to bring about the salvation of her city. Imagine what you can do for His kingdom!