The Good News

I once heard someone say that unbelievers will recognize Christ followers and be drawn to Him by our joy, kindness, goodness, and selflessness. In seasons of anxiety or depression or difficult situations, I’ve found myself confused and thinking there has to be more to it than that.

There have been times when embodying these trademarks of being a Christ follower felt like pulling myself up by my own bootstraps and scraping up the very last ounce of joy or kindness or goodness or selflessness I could possibly find within myself, or manufacturing it in a way that felt so wrong and inauthentic when I couldn’t find it. Many people who do not call themselves Christ followers seem to have all those traits and, oftentimes, represent them much better than me and my fellow believers.

In light of all that, what distinguishes us as Christ followers? How will people know we know Him?

The answer finally hit me.

It is not our joy or our kindness or goodness or selflessness that makes us who we are as Christ followers. Just the opposite — it is our brokenness. Our doubts, mistakes, insecurities, and shame.

How can we, who are so broken and imperfect and messy, possibly call ourselves Christ followers? THAT is the gospel. The good news. We are so broken and yet so wanted and accepted by Him.

It takes full admittance of how selfish and unkind and messed up we really are to see how much we really need God.

Knowing we can be fully broken and fully loved by Him is what distinguishes us.

When we truly believe, in our cores, how loved we are by Him in spite of every messy moment of our lives, then we let Him closer to us. The closer we let Him get to us, the more we are empowered to be joyful and kind and all the good things (because it’s Him, not us). His love changes us from the inside out.

But the good traits? They’re not the point. They’re the side effects of being close to Him.

The point is the brokenness.

There is no true love unless the one who loves has seen your brokenness in its fullness. He is love itself and can only offer true love, so the brokenness is an essential part of it all. A love like that is why we call ourselves His. A love like that is why we follow Him.

How will people know we follow Him and be drawn to Him?

In our brokenness, we heard of a love like this, offered free of conditions, and we couldn’t help but come running to the One who offered it.

Let us boast of our weakness, for it is our strength (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Let us be known by our brokenness.

Free

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Today marks 14 years since I decided to follow Jesus. I was sitting in church on Easter and the pastor explained salvation in a way that clicked in my 7-year-old mind. After I made the decision, I remember feeling the weight of sin’s power lift away. I even felt physically lighter inside, like I could float away. That first day, I knew there had been a change in me and He was present in my life.

In the years following that, I slipped into the belief that yes, He had saved me that day, but after that, it was up to me to keep it that way. Following God was an exhausting duty I put on myself to be good. It was miserable to live with the belief that I could never fail and, when I did, God was watching me in utter disappointment. Of course, I constantly failed.

I lived in a relationship with Him but it was cold and distant, strangled by fear and shame.

He didn’t let me stay that way, though. He met me where I was. When I was about 15, I was sitting on the rug in my room like I always did to read the Bible in my dry and lifeless way — to simply check it off my to do list to appease Him and get on with my day. Dry and lifeless was how everything felt when it came to following God. What was the point?

That specific time, there was a moment when it felt like time stood still and I felt as if He said, “I just want to be with you.”

That was the point — to be with Him. The point of following Him had been choked away by my dependence on myself. In my self-righteous pride, I was making it all about me and what I did, whether that was good or bad.

Take away all the good works, all the attempts to never sin, all the striving to please, all the things I thought would make me worthy, and there was just me. And my flaws. And my messes. My weakness. My fear and my shame. That’s who He wanted. That’s who He loved.

He wanted me to spend time with Him as that true, utterly powerless version of myself. Then, He would be the one empowering my life and giving me the ability to choose the good. The pressure was off of me because He had taken it that day I decided to follow Him.

I was free. I just didn’t know it.

I still wrestle with attempting to live life on my own, the way I want to, in my own strength, every day. It’s only when I stop wrestling and let Him fight for me that I find true freedom — freedom to follow Him imperfectly. Freedom to mess up every day, but still be with Him and still be loved by Him.

And that’s the point. That’s what it’s all about.

P.S. This is actually the short version. The version with all the details is in the works, so stay tuned.