I was listening to Tullian this morning.  His sermons are balm for my battered soul. Do you know that critical über-nanny who has perfected the knack for getting one to feel bad? Her thinks she lives in me – her name is ‘old slave-driver SELF’. I forget to keep kicking her out, now that the Holy Spirit lives in me.  Apparently the HS is such a gentleman that He waits for ME to act as a proper hostess should and show the ‘no-longer-welcome previous resident’ the door.

Anyway, Pastor Tchividjian loves to talk about Grace and I love to hear podcast sermons about Grace.  I can’t get enough of this topic.  I feel like a perpetually starving man whenever I am fed Gospel Grace.  I think it’s because I have lived so long in the Land of Law: “ Do this! Do that!” to be an okay Christian.

But what I heard this morning set me free…..for a spell.  Tullian was talking about how fruit is produced.  You don’t exhort a small apple tree seedling, “Grow some apples!”  Instead you water and fertilized the roots.  Likewise (per Tullian’s analogy), we shouldn’t command…..manipulate…… guilt……or browbeat ourselves OR other Christians into producing fruit (good works of joy, love, service…..).

Instead we should feed the roots of faith with the truth of the Gospel – the account and details of what Jesus has already done.

Tullian said that the more we examine ourselves to see if we are growing, we actually DON’T grow.  Christian growth happens when we take our eyes OFF of us and put them on Him!

All of a sudden I FELT the lightness of relief.  I actually HATE thinking about myself.  I get SICK of thinking about myself.  I spiral down DEPRESSED thinking about myself.

Then it occurred to me:  Maria – you don’t HAVE to think about yourself.  In fact it’s biblical NOT to.  Paul says we are to think about things that are “TNR PLA EP” (I actually say out loud – ‘tenor play, extended play’ to remind myself to think of topics that are True, Noble, Right, Pure, Lovely, Admirable, Excellent and Praise-worthy)

Recalling those attributes of topics worthy of meditation, I immediately responded, “Well, I’m certainly not Pure – only Jesus is – that’s a no-brainer!”

Then I realized, “then I don’t even QUALIFY to be on the hot topics list– whew!”

The last category of items to ponder is praise-worthy.  That fits well with the book I am slowly savoring, “one thousand gifts” by Ann Voskamp (read the book!)   Filtering my thoughts to allow only what is praise-worthy eliminates criticism and complaining and sets my eyes to look for beauty, blessings and miracles.

And what about problems, people and events about which I’m concerned and obviously have no control?  Paul has that covered.  We’re to cast them in our Father’s lap, thankful and confident that He can take care of all of them. We delegate them to God and look for His guidance and direction for action steps we are to take today.  If we are unsure, we talk to Him as we make the wisest choice for the moment, confident that He IS directing us to take the proper actions necessary for right now.

It’s far simpler than I make it out to be.  Here are some Gospel facts I want to swim in:

  • Keeping my eyes on Jesus, the blessed controller of all things
  • Christ in me, the hope of Glory
  • Forgetting all that is past….since there is now no condemnation
  • Walking and following the author and perfector of my faith
  • Setting my mind on things above where Christ is
  • Washed clean, no more robes of SELF, in my new birthday suit, clothed comfortably with HIS robes of righteousness, held in place with the belt of truth. (any lingering layers of self-righteousness just make the belt TIGHT)
  • Boasting only in Christ
  • Overflowing with thanks for having been chosen from before the creation of time
  • Qualified before time to be an inheritor of the eternal, imperishable treasure

What do you find praise-worthy?