How to Glorify God with Our Memories

I am 29 years old. Several years ago I first spoke the words, “That happened a decade ago,” and it was the strangest sensation. Now I’m starting to reminisce on things that happened fifteen, even twenty years ago, and it’s flat out kooky.

Another development I’ve noticed in recent years is the influx of nostalgia. In high school and college I had fond memories, but not many were nostalgic. Now ten seconds of Secondhand Serenade reduces me to a puddle of reminiscent goo.

Memories have power, and what we dwell on will invariably shape our emotions, attitudes, and beliefs (Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:8). Because of their unique power, we must be intentional with how we use them. Thankfully, God’s Word gives us much direction on how we can channel our memories for good.

Voluntary or involuntary?

Memories are complex. Some memories flood our minds involuntarily, such as those triggered by abuse or trauma. In these cases, much healing and help can come through the guidance of a therapist or another medical professional.

However, many of the memories we fixate on are voluntary, within our ability to control. In fact, God commands us to be intentional with our memories and even selective with what we choose to dwell on (e.g., Deuteronomy 6:12; 8:2; Isaiah 46:9; John 14:26; Acts 20:35; 1 Corinthians 11:24-26; Ephesians 2:11-13). Just as we are to take our thoughts captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), so too are we to take our memories captive.

How can we ensure that the memories we fixate on bring glory to God and life to ourselves and others? Consider five questions to help you determine whether dwelling on a particular memory is helpful.

1. Does dwelling on this memory deepen my gratitude?

Gratitude is the crown jewel of recollection, turning good memories into ongoing blessings (Proverbs 10:7). C.S. Lewis put it best in Out of the Silent Planet:

A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking, Hmán, as if pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing.

God created memories to consummate the joy of praiseworthy moments and to lead us into grateful praise (Philippians 4:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). This gives us a quick test to determine whether dwelling on a particular memory is profitable: Does replaying this moment in your mind lead to gratitude for what you once had or discontentment for what you now have?

Interestingly, the tenth commandment (“Do not covet”) applies here. We tend to think of coveting as inordinately longing for something someone else has. But a more subtle form of coveting is inordinately longing for what we once had (or wish we once had). Both forms must be repented of—and both are best combatted with gratitude.

2. Does dwelling on this memory deepen my hope?

Remembrance is the linchpin of hope. Much of our disorientation in life is a product of forgetfulness—forgetfulness of who we are, who God is, what Christ did, how God views us, where we came from, or where we are going. Conversely, it is when our memories are most saturated with these realities that our hearts are most full.

Arguably the best way to combat inordinate longings for the past is to remember that our best moments in life are mere appetizers of what is to come. We don’t need to cling to an appetizer when the main course—of similar pleasure but greater fullness—is coming.

Often we think our longings are pointing backward when in reality they’re pointing forward. The ultimate fulfillment of our longings won’t come by going back to the past; they will come through God’s provisions in the future (Psalm 16:11). Rest in this hope!

3. Does dwelling on this memory deepen my commitment to truth?

George Ball observed, “Nostalgia is a seductive liar.” Often our memories play tricks on us, tempting us to believe that the past was better than it actually was. Solomon warns us of this danger in Ecclesiastes 7:10, “Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”

The ultimate danger of feeding nostalgia is not the immediate pain of longing for the past, but the damaging effect that it can have on our beliefs. Dwelling on skewed memories (whether exaggerated positively or negatively) can twist our view of God, others, and ourselves. We must catechize ourselves with God’s Word, not with our nostalgia. Memories will fail; God’s Word won’t (Matthew 24:35).

4. Does dwelling on this memory deepen my love for others?

Memory is gasoline without favoritism; it will fuel the fires of both bitterness and love, wherever we choose to pour it. Every time we dwell on someone’s past sin—replaying the memory of their offense again and again in our minds—we water the seed of bitterness in our hearts and it grows. This may feel good for a moment, but it always ends up harming us in the long run. It has been said that entertaining bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die, and this is certainly the case with dwelling on bitter memories.

Meanwhile, intentionally recalling the good in others (and God’s mercy and love toward us) is one of the best ways to stir up love and compassion in our hearts (Luke 6:35-36). Just as God loves us by not keeping our sin on the forefront of his mind, so we are called to love others by filling our minds with praiseworthy things (Philippians 4:8).

5. Does dwelling on this memory deepen my love for the Triune God?

Remembering is at the heart of our communion with God and our liturgy as the Church. Preaching, singing, and reading Scripture help us remember the words and promises of God (Psalm 119:11; Proverbs 7:1-3). Taking communion helps us remember the person and work of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:24-26). Observing baptism helps us remember how we were brought from death to life by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 6:4; 8:11).

Ultimately, God gave us memory to aid our love for him, our appreciation for what he has done, and our anticipation of what is to come. Let’s be faithful to use our memories for these purposes—for God’s glory and our good.

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Blake Glosson is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and republished by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn)Challies.com (Tim Challies)Moody Radio (Dawn and Steve Mornings), and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Read “Overcoming Fear of the Future” here.

Read “Special Needs and the Goodness of Dependence” here.

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a reply in the box below.

Christian, You Are Fully Known And Fully Loved

There is perhaps nothing more desirable than to be fully known—completely seen and understood—and yet still loved. As Ed Welch put it, “To be truly known with nothing to hide … is life at its best.” 

Yet, while the prospect of being known brings excitement, it also instills fear. As Tim Keller put it, “To be known and not loved is our greatest fear.”

This paradox of emotions is what prompts us to be transparent up to a point but to stop short of full disclosure. We seek to share enough of ourselves to make us feel like we are loved and accepted for who we really are, but not enough to risk being rejected. Some walk this tight rope for decades. Yet, deep down, most of us sense that we were created for more.

To find clarity amid this paradox, we must understand where our desire comes from, where our fear comes from, and how the gospel speaks unrivaled hope into this clash of emotions.

Exploring Our Desire

While Scripture doesn’t tell us much about humanity before the fall, the Holy Spirit does give us two words to help us understand our sinless condition: naked and unashamed (Gen. 2:25). In other words, before sin, humans lived in the blissful freedom of being perfectly known and accepted by God and one another, without any fear or shame. Fully known, fully loved.

This glorious state is not only our origin; it’s also our destiny. One day we will know and be known fully, in a world of perfect love (John 17:3; 1 Cor. 13:12-13).

The first step in finding clarity amid our conflicting emotions is to recognize that our desire to be fully known is not sinful, but rather a healthy longing to relate to God and others in the way God intended. It is a God-given expression of our humanity.

Exploring Our Fear

After sin entered the world, our state of “naked and unashamed” was immediately replaced with a state of “hiding and afraid.” In the words of Adam, “I was afraid because I was naked. So, I hid” (Gen. 3:10). In the blink of an eye, the thought of being known morphed from a comfort to a threat. Tragically, this became the new normal.

At the heart of our fear of being known is a fear of rejection. And the most painful form of rejection is not being rejected for something we did, but for who we are. Notice that Adam does not say, “I was afraid because I ate the fruit.” He says, “I was afraid because I was naked.”

Adam’s sin plunged him into a deep sense of personal inadequacy and unworthiness. His sin created a separation between him and God and between him and Eve (Isaiah 59:2). He tried to repair this brokenness by covering up his shame, but it didn’t work. Even with his self-made covering, he still felt afraid (Gen. 3:8).

We’ve all felt this. Even in the moments that we think we’ve successfully hidden our flaws, we still don’t feel secure. In fact, hiding often amplifies our insecurity and anxiety (Proverbs 10:9). If hiding cannot give us the freedom we long for, what can?

The Gospel: “I know you and I still love you”

Perhaps there is no more comforting word in all of Scripture than the word “still” in Romans 5:6-8:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly … God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Notice the recipients of God’s love: weak, ungodly, sinners. Next, notice the timing of God’s love: God loves us while we are still weak, ungodly, sinners.

This passage corrects at least two common misconceptions about God’s love. First, it makes it clear that Christ’s death didn’t “persuade” the Father to love sinners. That is not the gospel. God does not love you because Jesus died for you; Jesus died for you because God loves you! Second, this passage reaffirms that God is not waiting until you “do better” to start loving you. His love doesn’t fluctuate with your always-changing performance. According to Romans 5:6-8, God loves you perfectly, even at your worst.

The beauty of the gospel is not that we are strong and sinless, but that God loves us and rescues us while we are still weak and sinful (which, in turn, motivates and empowers us to pursue new obedience). As A.W. Tozer put it:

Jesus Christ came not to condemn you but to save you—knowing your name, knowing all about you, knowing your weight right now, knowing your age, knowing what you do, knowing where you live, knowing what you ate for supper and what you will eat for breakfast, where you will sleep tonight, how much your clothing cost, who your parents were. He knows you individually as though there were not another person in the entire world. He died for you as certainly as if you had been the only lost one. He knows the worst about you and is the One who loves you the most.

God’s message for you is this: I know everything about you. I know you are weak. I know you are ungodly. I know you are sinful. But I still love you. No, not after you clean yourself up. Not after you are glorified. Now.

True freedom

True freedom comes not when we have successfully hidden; it comes when we realize that we have been found out, but are still accepted, through God’s gracious love and forgiveness. Through faith in Christ—and by living in continual, true repentance—despite our weaknesses and sins, we can once again enjoy the freedom of being fully known and fully loved.

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Blake Glosson is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and republished by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn)Challies.com (Tim Challies)Moody Radio (Dawn and Steve Mornings), and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Listen to “Fully Known, Fully Loved” here.

Read “Special Needs and the Goodness of Dependence” here.

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a reply in the box below.

Special Needs and the Goodness of Dependence

April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day and April is World Autism Month. Learn more about how you can participate here.

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Our culture is infatuated with the idea of independence.

Toddlers grumble “I don’t need your help!” while clearly needing their parents’ help. The preteen glows with excitement when he gets to ride his bike to his friend’s house by himself for the first time. The young CEO scoffs at the thought of delegating tasks that he can do himself.

From a young age we all begin to crave independence. The more independent you are the more successful you seem. Asking for help is seen as a sign of weakness, laziness, or even deficiency. But is that really true?

Unpacking Independence

We can describe independence as being free from outside control or not needing someone to complete a task. This, by itself, is a good skill that we should all seek to cultivate.

However, whenever we idolize independence to the point that dependence is seen as a bad thing, we have stepped too far—even into unbiblical territory.

We were never meant to do life or to fulfill our lives’ purposes on our own. In fact, we were actually created to be dependent. Contrary to popular belief, dependency is not a result of the fall. We know this because even before sin entered the world, God declared that “it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). Humans needed helpers before we ever even sinned.

Special Needs and the Goodness of Dependence

This is my seventh year in special education. Every year I teach, I learn something new about the beauty and wisdom of God’s design through those with special needs. My students are great teachers!

Recently, I have been learning about the goodness of dependence. I’ve noticed that many of the same principles of dependence that help my students in the classroom also help believers in our walk with Christ. Below are three principles for healthy dependence that extend beyond the classroom and into the Church.

Principle #1: Ask for Help

Special education teachers continually reinforce the importance of asking for help. Student needs are real, constant, and always changing. While we can’t expect students to know how to do everything, we can teach them how to react when they don’t. Come to me. Tell me what you need. Remember I’m here to help. These are all phrases we use to remind students that we care for them and that there is no shame in needing assistance.

As teachers, we really mean that. We are not aggravated when students ask for help; we are actually excited when they use their resources!

Our joy stems from two places. First, we remember our students’ frame (i.e., children who have special limitations), so we are never caught off guard when they need our assistance (cf. Ps. 103:14). Second, as teachers, we have the power to help, so we are eager to do so! Because we love our students—and because we have the ability to help them—it brings us joy when they come to us for aid (cf. Ps. 50:15).

Principle #2: Lean Into Structure

Special education students are highly dependent on structure. This structure may come in the form of behavioral expectations, environmental setup, a predictable daily schedule, and so forth.

Structure helps students manage expectations and remember what they’re looking for in different contexts. These systems are not meant to hold students back or to make their actions robotic, but to give them pathways to thrive. 

Without exception, it is within the context of structure that we’ve seen student creativity flow, emotional regulation occur, and communication flourish. When students embrace their dependency on structure it does not diminish their quality of life—it noticeably enriches it (cf. Ps. 19:7-11; John 10:10).

Principle #3: Remember the Reward

I’ve learned through the years that there’s a very important (and quite beautiful) distinction between a reward and a bribe. Bribing is giving someone an incentive for an action that only benefits the briber. Rewarding is giving someone an incentive for an action that may or may not benefit the giver, but always benefits the recipient.

The tasks we give in the classroom are designed to give students a more productive and fulfilling life. When a student completes her math assignment or practices reading, this benefits her.

Of course, my students—like all children—don’t always understand why these tasks are good for them (or how it will benefit them for decades to come). What often motivates them is not the task itself, but the reward they get when the task is completed. 

We don’t shame the students for this, nor are we disappointed that they are dependent on the reward. In fact, we frequently encourage students with statements like, “Remember what you’re working for” or “First math, then free choice.”

Not only are we happy to reward students once they complete their tasks, but we actually encourage them to use these rewards as motivations (cf. Matt. 6:1-4; Gal. 6:9; Col. 3:23-24; Heb. 11:6; Heb. 11:24-26). Whenever they do so, they demonstrate faith that we will provide what we’ve promised. This benefits the students and honors the teachers.

Christ: The Ultimate Model of Dependence

The ultimate reason why the dependence that we see in the classroom is so beautiful is because it mirrors Christ’s dependence.

Even though Jesus was perfect, he still made a habit of asking for help from God and those around him (Mark 3:13-19; Luke 5:16). He used structure to know God’s Word, to spend time with God, and to be around God’s people (Luke 4:16). And through it all he remembered the reward that he would receive (and share with all who believed in him) once his task was completed (Heb. 12:2).

Those with special needs have much to teach us, and they are not the only ones who benefit from dependence. Jesus himself thrived not by avoiding dependence, but by embracing it—and he calls us to do the same.

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Kassie McDowell is a teacher for Mid-Valley Special Education Cooperative. She holds a M.A. in special education from Aurora University and a B.S. in communication sciences and disorders from the University of Mississippi.

Joni and Friends is a ministry committed to bringing the Gospel and practical resources to people impacted by disability around the globe. Learn more about how to support this ministry here.

Learn more about autism and special needs here.

Read “How (Not) To Pray With A Hurting Loved One” here.

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you—leave a reply in the box below!

How (Not) To Pray With A Hurting Loved One

Note: This article is also published on The Gospel Coalition.

Praying with a hurting loved one is one of the most powerful ways to encourage her (Eph. 4:29; 1 Thes. 5:11), to sympathize with her (Rom. 12:15), to carry her burdens (Gal. 6:2), and to bring her into the presence and benefits of Christ (Ps. 145:18; Heb. 4:14-16).

As Charles Spurgeon remarked, “No man can do me a truer kindness in this world than to pray for me.”

Yet, there are a few common mistakes we can make when praying with others that can hinder the impactfulness of these moments. Below are four and how we can avoid them.

Mistake #1: Praying “fix it” prayers

Imagine your friend Sally just learned some bad news. She is really hurting. After she explains what’s going on, you offer to pray for her. What should you pray for? Consider the difference between the following prayers (and ask yourself which example sounds more like your typical prayers):

Prayer #1: Lord, help Sally to seek you. Help her to be consistent in her Bible reading and not to forsake spiritual disciplines. Help her to exercise regularly, meet with believers often, and maybe even talk to a counselor. Help her to keep Jesus at the center of her life and to focus on you instead of her circumstances. Amen.

Prayer #2: Lord, my heart hurts for Sally right now. Give us the strength to trust you even when we cannot see what you are doing. You have promised to be near to the brokenhearted, so make your nearness felt. You have promised to be a refuge in times of trouble, so let Sally feel your protection. O God, we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Prayer #1 is simply a “to-do” list for Sally. We might call this a “fix it” prayer. Notice that in this prayer, the primary person you’re asking to do things is actually not Jesus. It’s Sally!

Meanwhile, prayer #2 enters into lament with Sally. We might call this a “prayer of intercession.” The primary person you’re asking to do things is God himself.

There is certainly a time to give advice, but prayer isn’t the place for it. Prayer is not a free pass to share your opinions with the other person while pretending to talk to God (this is manipulative and the other person will feel it). Rather, prayer is an opportunity to join arm-in-arm with your loved one, to call on God to act, and to bring your loved one’s emotions and needs to God when she might not have the strength to do so herself.

Mistake #2: Skipping listening

Another common mistake is to jump to prayer too quickly, without taking time to listen and ask questions first. If we skip this step, our prayers will lack compassion and might even be misguided. One of the best ways to cultivate compassion and understanding is by asking searching questions before offering to pray. How are you feeling about this situation? What are you struggling with the most? How is this impacting your faith? How exactly can I pray for you?

In intercessory prayer, your job is to represent the person you’re praying for. You must be able to accurately enter into her emotions and needs and to communicate these things to God on her behalf. Your intercessory prayers should leave the other person feeling like, “She gets me.” This won’t happen unless you first take time to listen.

Mistake #3: Neglecting God’s promises

There’s perhaps nothing we need to hear more when we’re hurting than God’s Word. God’s Word gives grace to the broken (Acts 20:32), guidance to the lost (Ps. 119:105), hope to the hopeless (Ps. 119:114), peace to the fearful (John 16:33), satisfaction to the hungry (Ps. 81:10). When you pray, don’t depend on your words alone—pray the word of Life itself (John 6:68; Acts 5:20; Phil. 2:16).

My personal favorite passage to pray over hurting friends is Psalm 143:6-12. If you don’t know how to pray for a hurting loved one, open up your Bible and pray these verses for her. This prayer asks God to provide his presence, love, direction, deliverance, teaching, Spirit, protection, and salvation. Many other Psalms serve as ready-made prayers for hurting souls.

Mistake #4: Forgetting follow-up

When a loved one shares something vulnerable with you, she is entrusting you with one of her most precious treasures—her heart. Following up not only communicates that you value her; it also reaffirms to her that you are a safe person to entrust herself to.

A useful habit is to set a “follow-up with [insert name]” reminder on your phone for 2-3 days down the road (the best time to do this is immediately after the initial conversation ends). Don’t rely on your memory alone. A visual reminder helps protect us from being blindsided by the busyness of life and by the temporary lapses in memory that all of us are susceptible to.

Reflect Christ

Praying with a loved one is a powerful means of grace and a precious gift of God. Let’s steward this gift well by using it to reflect the person of Christ—who enters into our emotions with us (John 11:32-36; Heb. 4:14-16), who listens well (Ps. 66:19-20), who speaks words of life (John 6:68), and who never leaves us alone in our suffering (Ps. 34:18; Heb. 13:5).

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Blake Glosson is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and republished by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn), Challies.com (Tim Challies), Moody Radio (Dawn and Steve Mornings), ChurchLeaders.com, and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Watch or listen to “Hope For Suffering Saints” here.

Read “Repentance That Leads to Death” here.

Featured image photo credit: MILKOS VIA GETTY IMAGES

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a reply in the box below.

God’s Heart in Hosea

“What makes life worthwhile is having a big enough objective, something which catches our imagination and lays hold of our allegiance, and this the Christian has in a way that no other person has. For what higher, more exalted, and more compelling goal can there be than to know God?” — J.I. Packer, Knowing God

Hosea is a gem. Tucked between Daniel and Joel, Hosea is a multifaceted exploration of the character of God in a judgment-fraught book.

From a bird’s eye view, Hosea looks like a hopeless minor prophet, full of faithless people and pending doom. And I’ll admit, Hosea does have these elements in plenty. However, a deeper dive reveals glorious truths about God’s heart for His people—truths we desperately need to hear as sinners and sufferers living in a world that can often feel hopeless.

During a recent study of this book, three precious truths about God’s character struck me in new and acute ways: God is a passionate husband, a kind father, and a zealous king to those He calls His own.

1. God is a Passionate Husband – He Relentlessly Pursues His People

Hosea begins with a startling command. God instructs Hosea to take a wife of prostitution—one who would be unfaithful to him—and He calls Hosea to love her relentlessly (Hos. 1:2). This mandate served as a picture of God’s relationship with His bride, the Israelites. Although the “land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord” (Hos. 1:2), God pursues them anyway. Hosea was to model this faithful love.

Consider how remarkable Hosea’s response must have seemed to his wife. Rather than cutting her off in anger or rejecting her—the typical response of a forsaken husband—Hosea woos his wife with tenderness and compassion. He redeems her and brings her home (Hos. 3).

Here we get a glimpse into one of the most dazzling aspects of the character of God: The Lord pursues His people with kindness and tenderness, ready ­and even plotting in advance to shower mercy on repentant hearts.

The Lord pursues His people with kindness and tenderness, ready ­and even plotting in advance to shower mercy on repentant hearts.

Notice how God describes His merciful plans for His bride in chapter 2:

“And in that day I will answer declares the Lord, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth, and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel, and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people;’ and he shall say, ‘You are my God’” (Hos. 2:21-23, emphasis mine).

And again, in the last chapter of Hosea:

I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon; his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon. They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine; their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon” (Hos. 14:4-7, emphasis mine).

God is relentlessly committed to the good of His bride, and He will pursue her with His love not only until she is safe, but flourishing (Hos. 14:7).

2. God is a Kind Father – He IS the Good of His People

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hos. 11:1).

God’s love for His people is not only that of a passionate husband but also that of a kind father who loves His children, more profoundly and completely than any earthly example.

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them” (Hos. 11:3-4, emphasis mine).

This is the heartbeat of God’s pursuit of His wayward people. Because He is their only good, He longs to draw them back to Himself. “What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah?” (Hos. 6:4). God’s appeal to His people is that of a heartbroken father.

This is the heartbeat of God’s pursuit of His wayward people. Because He is their only good, He longs to draw them back to Himself.

The Israelites were charging down a destructive path, a path that seemed prosperous and advantageous from their perspective. The nation declared: “I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink” (Hos. 2:5). In other words, they were seeking good apart from God. The people did not know that it was He who provided the grain, the wine, the oil, the silver, and the gold in the past (Hos. 2:8), and He alone would provide good in the future.

How often I find myself in the Israelites’ shoes, sprinting eagerly toward idols promising life, pleasure, and good things, only to realize these idols are liars moonlighting as joy. Oh Lord, forgive us for this foolishness! As a testimony to the ludicrousness of idol worship, Hosea writes, “My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles” (Hos. 4:12).

Ultimately, true joy and life cannot be found apart from Christ. Throughout Hosea, God uses the prophet to plead with His people to turn from life-draining idol worship to life-giving Himself worship.

In their song, “In Christ Alone,” Stuart Townsend and Keith Getty touch profoundly on the all-encompassing spring of life that can only be found in Christ.

In Christ alone my hope is found; He is my light, my strength, my song;

This cornerstone, this solid ground, Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

What heights of love, what depths of peace, When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!

My comforter, my all in all—Here in the love of Christ I stand.

3. God is a Zealous King – He Makes Himself Known to His People

After much patient pleading, still Israel strayed from God, going about the motions of religious duties with hearts positioned toward false gods. Ultimately, unrepented sin will lead to discipline (Hos. 5 and 6), although God takes no pleasure in it.

Hosea ends with a final plea to the Israelites to return to the Lord, but the rebelling nation turns a hardened heart and closed ears. In 722 B.C., they fell into the hands of captors.

Despite Israel’s unfaithfulness, God refused to forsake His bride. While sin temporarily blinded Israel and promised false safety, ultimately, captivity would serve as an effective and much needed wake-up call. Here we are reminded that God often uses unpleasant, uncomfortable circumstances to bring us back to Himself and help us know Him better.

With repentant, softened hearts, God’s people could finally say:

“Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth” (Hos. 6:1-3, emphasis mine).

Praise God that He passionately pursues each of His children, despite our unfaithfulness. Let us press on to know Him more!

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Johnna Wahrman is a guest contributor for this website. She is the happy wife of Andrew and mother of Anberlyn. She is passionate about writing, music, great books, and Jesus.

Read “Repentance That Leads To Death” here.

Read “Am I Sinning? Six Questions To Help You Navigate Gray Areas” here.

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you—please leave a reply in the box below!

Repentance That Leads To Death

Note: This article is also published on The Gospel Coalition.

“And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.’” —Acts 11:18

Repentance is the lifeblood of every Christian. Without it we cannot enjoy freedom or fellowship with God—or with one another—in the way God intended. As Thomas Brooks put it, “Repentance is a continual spring, where the waters of godly sorrow are always flowing.”

Yet, there is an extremely common misinterpretation (and misapplication) of repentance that does not lead to life and freedom, but actually leads to death and slavery.

I know this from firsthand experience.

When we think about repentance, many of us rightly think about the phrase “to turn away.” That is, in fact, the definition of the Hebrew word שׁוּב (pronounced “shoove”). To repent means to turn away (or turn back) from something and to turn to something else.

But where we often go wrong is in what we turn from and what we turn to.

Turn! Turn! Turn!

Fill in the blank: Repentance is turning away from ____________ and turning to ____________ . Which two words did you pick?

For me—up until recently—I probably would’ve said that repentance is turning away from sin and turning to righteousness.

But a brother in Christ reminded me of something a few months ago that has deepened my hope and joy in repentance ever since. He said, “Repentance is not primarily turning away from sin and turning to righteousness; repentance is primarily turning away from sin and turning to Christ (cf. Luke 1:16; 1 Thes. 1:9).

This is a subtle yet incalculably important nuance. One version of repentance leads to death; the other leads to life. One version leads to slavery; the other leads to freedom.

Subtle difference, enormous implications

If we believe that repentance is primarily about turning away from sin and turning to righteousnesswith Christ omitted from the equation—then every time we repent, we actually perpetuate and deepen our commitment to legalism. If we think the chief end of repentance is a behavior—not a Person—then every time we repent, we reinforce an anti-gospel message which says that our hope is in our own ability to “do better” next time.

Consider the vastly different outcomes of these two versions of repentance. If our response after we sin is, “God, I promise I will do better next time!”, then our hope is in ourselves, and we are on a fast track to despair (Romans 7:18-24). But if our response after we sin is, “God, I need you—give me a fresh measure of Christ and all of his benefits!”, then our hope is in our perfectly faithful God, and we are on the path to joy, peace, and yes, sanctification (Romans 7:24-8:6).

But what about holy living?

If you are particularly sensitive to antinomianism, you may be suspicious of this notion of repentance. By making “turning away from sin and turning to Christ” the primary mark of repentance, do we throw out the importance of pursuing new obedience? By no means! (Romans 6:1-4). In fact, just the opposite.

Consider how the Westminster Shorter Catechism defines repentance that leads to life.

Q. 87. What is repentance unto life?

A. 87. Repentance leading to life is a saving grace, by which a sinner having truly realized his sin and grasped the mercy of God in Christ, turns from his sin with grief and hatred and turns to God with full resolve and effort after new obedience.

If we were to nuance my friend’s statement using the language of the Westminster Divines, it might look something like this:

“Repentance is not turning away from sin and turning to righteousness; repentance is turning away from sin [with grief and hatred of it] and turning to Christ [with a resolve and effort after new obedience].”

The difference between these two definitions of repentance is not that one includes a pursuit of righteous living and the other does not. Rather, the difference is that one makes righteous living the primary focus and the other makes knowing Christ the primary focus.

Ironically, when we make “sinning less” our primary goal in repentance, we often overanalyze ourselves to death, get caught up in despair, and fall flat on our faces. Yet when we make “knowing Christ” our primary goal in repentance, we often get caught up in his beauty and find ourselves bearing the fruit of sanctification (John 15:4-5).

Free to fixate on your Savior (not your sin)

Believer, God has fully taken care of your sin in Christ—meaning you are free to take your own performance off the throne of your heart and to allow Christ to have his proper place. As Robert Murray McCheyne memorably put it, “For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.”

May this be our battle cry in every area of our lives—repentance included.

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Blake Glosson is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and republished by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn), Challies.com (Tim Challies), Moody Radio (Dawn and Steve Mornings), and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Watch or listen to “Forgiveness” here.

Read “Am I Sinning? Six Questions to Help You Navigate Gray Areas” here.

Read “Three Powerful Lessons From “American Underdog” (Kurt Warner)” here.

Source of modern version of WSC Q&A 87: R S Ward, Learning the Christian Faith : The Shorter Catechism for Today (Wantirna, 5th ed, 1998), cited in The Westminster Shorter Catechism in modern English with Scripture proofs and comments (online), 8 March 2022 <https://matt2819.com/wsc&gt; .

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a reply in the box below.

The Only Person Who Can Complete You

“For in Christ all the fullness of the deity dwells in bodily form. And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” (Colossians 2:9-10)

If romantic films had a “most iconic lines” list, Jerry Maguire’s melodramatic words to Dorothy — “You complete me” — would undoubtedly be near the top. (Dorothy’s response — “You had me at hello” — might crack the list, as well.)

Infinitely cheesy and the source of countless memes and GIFs, Jerry’s words are enough to make us all cringe or laugh (and then to quickly toss this line into our “too good to be true” mental trash bins).

But Mr. Maguire does not get enough credit. He actually had the right words — just the wrong person.

According to Colossians 2:10, there is one person who can complete us — Jesus Christ. However, Jesus is the only person who can complete us.

Why is Jesus able to do what no other human can?

Other people — friends, family, spouses — can give us all kinds of good things: love, companionship, support, inspiration, fun.

Unfortunately, no other person can give us the life we desperately long for. No other person has that kind of authority.

But Jesus does.

Notice the end of verse 10: “And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority.”

The reason why Christ can complete us is because Christ is God. Verse 9 says that “in Christ all the fullness of the deity dwells in bodily form.”

Because Jesus Christ is both man and God, he has the authority to do what no other human can do.

  • Other humans can give us love; only Jesus can give us life.
  • Other humans can shape us; only Jesus can save us.
  • Other humans can complement us; only Jesus can complete us.

May we rest fully today in our only true source of life, salvation, and completion.

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Blake Glosson is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois. You can find more of his work at The Gospel Coalition.

C.S. Lewis on finding your “real self”

Here are C.S. Lewis’s final words in Mere Christianity:

But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away ‘blindly’ so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality: but you must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.

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Blake Glosson is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois. You can find more of his work at The Gospel Coalition.

Here are three powerful quotes from the latest C.S. Lewis film, The Most Reluctant Convert.