I was driving into Ellel Grange this week for our weekly team communion. Many different thoughts were passing through my mind, when I quite unexpectedly became aware that the Lord was trying to get my attention! It was as if I was listening in to a conversation between God and one of His people. It was a man who was speaking to the Lord, but it could just as easily have been a woman.
The man was a believer offering up to God everything that was good about his life – all the things he thought God would want and could use. He was really happy to be giving to God his gifts and abilities, his experience, his knowledge, his understanding, in fact everything he thought God would want to use.
But then I saw his crestfallen face, as he realised that what he was offering to God was not what God really wanted! For God was looking over his shoulder at a very dark and hidden area of his life, which he was doing everything he possibly could to hide. “That’s what I really want,” the Lord was saying!
“But,” the man replied, “that part of me is so dirty, unclean, even filthy, surely you don’t want all that? I’m really ashamed of those things. You can’t possibly want those, Lord. You can’t do anything with them.”
But the Lord was persistent, “Yes,” He said, “that’s what I really want. You’ve offered me the good, but unless I have the bad and the ugly as well, you can never be really clean. And you’ll be spending all your energies trying to overcome them and keep that part of you hidden from me! And while you’re doing that you’ll never enter into the best that I have waiting for you! You will always be spiritually tired, fighting a battle that you can never win. Unless you give me the bad and the ugly you will spend much of your life going round in circles, trying in your own strength to deal with them, but failing time and time again and then coming back to me to say sorry – again, but never letting me into the mess. Your prideful independence is your own worst enemy.”
“You see,” said the Lord, “it was the mess that I died for and unless you give it to me it will always be your master.”
“But, Lord, you don’t really understand. All that muck you can see, that’s the real me, it’s filthy, it’s who I really am.”
“Exactly,” said Jesus, “it’s who you really are. But don’t you realise that unless I have you all, you can never be whole. You will always be trying to hide something of yourself from me. You will be choosing to be divided on the inside – cutting the real you off from me. I’ve always known about that bit of you which, because of your shame, you’ve always tried to hide. But don’t you understand that’s exactly why I died – to deal with the stuff that you can never deal with? I bore the shame of your sin – it’s already dealt with.
“I know all about the real you – and I really love the real you. And can’t you see that unless you give it to me, as far as you’re concerned my death was in vain! For here you are, carrying around all that filthy muck and ugliness on the inside, hoping that you’ll be able to keep it hidden and that it won’t get in the way of your relationship with Me. But the truth is this – unless I have that bit as well, you can never have the depth of relationship with Me that you long for. And as long as you are spending so much energy protecting your sin and your pain, you will never know the real joy of what it’s like to be free. Satan loves to exhaust my children by tempting them to fight battles that I have already won.”
I was deep in thought as I pulled into the car park at Ellel Grange. I was acutely aware of the presence of the Lord knowing that I had a message that I had to share. In a few minutes I would be taking the bread and the wine and as I walked towards the building I knew that I, too, had some personal business to do with God. “Lord,” I said, “will you look over my shoulder and tell me what You see. I want you to have it – all of it.”
I have preached on the cross hundreds of times and shared in communion thousands of times, but last Tuesday morning I was privileged to understand at a new depth what Jesus died for. And then as I took communion the Lord showed me how so many people fail to enter into the wholeness and healing that the Lord longs for them to enjoy, because they’re hanging on to unclean trash, thinking that God wouldn’t want it! But the truth is, He really does want the bad and the ugly of our lives, as well as what we deem to be good! That way we really can be whole.
Then tonight, as I was leafing through the Scriptures, I came across this question from the book of Job, “How can a mortal be righteous before God?” Job 9:2. There is only one answer to that eternal question – and that is by being clothed in the righteousness of the eternal Son of God who even loves the bad bits and longs for us to give those to Him – for those are the bits He really wants so that he can change us from the inside out!