He has made me glad!

So often as a Christian I feel like I lead a defeated life. I know that I am saved, but I hold on to the guilt. I still feel I have to make myself good enough before God.I think to myself – I could pray more, witness more, spend less money etc. [1]

However, recently I was reminded of the beautiful picture in Leviticus 16 of the two goats on the day of atonement – the goat of the sin offering, but also the live goat, which was lead into the wilderness to ‘bear all… iniquities on itself…’ (Leviticus 16:22). The goat of the sin offering took the penalty and the live goat dealt with the guilt. Not only has the Lord bore the penalty for my sin, but he has taken away my guilt! So don’t let the devil let you live a defeated life.

Now I know that this does not negate our responsibility to ‘walk in the spirit’ (Galatians 5:16) and ‘work out our salvation’ (Philippians 2:12), but we need to remember that there was nothing in us to start off with that made us worthy of salvation.I was reminded by one of my memory verses this week that it’s ‘not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us…’ (Titus 3:5).

Not only has he saved us, not only has our guilt been atoned for, but now He wants to use us for His work. David reminds us in Psalm 103 v 14 that the Lord ‘remembers that we are dust”, yet He wants to use us… ME… YOU… for His work. What a privilege!

Over the past twelve days, while we’ve been on our mission awareness trip to Italy, we have seen the Lord use us in ways, ‘beyond…we could ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us’ (Ephesians 3:20).

Many of you will no doubt be familiar with the song, ‘I will enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart’, which I think you could say became our theme song while we were away – it goes like this:

I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart;
I will enter His courts with praise.
I will say this is the day that the Lord has made.
I will rejoice for He has made me glad!

I have returned home from this trip with a very glad heart!

‘Glad heart’ reason number 1:

Before we went we prepared a bible study, a drama and some songs. We prayed that the Lord would prepare the hearts of those we would meet and He exceeded our expectations!

We stayed in a youth hostel in Naples with refugees from many African countries – each with their own story to tell and each needing to hear the story of the Gospel. We had the privilege of sharing with them about the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. We didn’t have this privilege just once, or twice, but three times! When you give the Lord what you have He will use it for His glory! How amazing that one day people ‘from every tribe and language and… nation’ (Revelation 5:9) will bow before the Lord.

‘Glad heart’ reason number 2:

We met such warm-hearted Christians in churches in Naples and Rome. Now, despite having prepared some songs to sing, admittedly we are not the world’s most talented singing group. Amusingly after singing a marvellous (I use this term very loosely) rendition of ‘This little light of mine’ (a true classic) we discovered that the entire church appeared to be descended from Pavarotti; such was their level of tunefulness. I need say no more.

We experienced true Italian culture in this church – everyone spoke at the same time, there was much excitement and in the words of Emily, “Being Italian is really tiring!” This was one occasion where I really longed to stand in a queue (in the rain), with a cup of Earl Grey, whilst talking about the weather in order to reaffirm my ‘Britishness’.

However at the end of that evening we were wished ‘Happy Pizza!’ and I was very thankful for their hospitality and their love for each other and the Lord. They were a small church, but exciting things were happening. There was a couple there whose son had become a Christian and they simply wanted to know more about what had brought about this change in their son’s life.We couldn’t speak the language, but we most definitely spoke the language of the heart. There is an instant connection with brothers and sisters in Christ no matter where you are in the world.

‘Glad heart’ reason number 3:

We saw a nun with a selfie stick. #truestory

‘Glad heart’ reason number 4:

We got mosquito bites and survived them. We experienced an earthquake… and survived it. (Artistic licence is permitted with the exaggeration… it makes for better reading.)

‘Glad heart’ reason number 5:

We ate pizza with potato as a topping. Yes… potato. Let me tell you, this is an Irish person’s dream.

We experienced amazing hospitality. I hadn’t realised that olive oil and balsamic vinegar can transform lettuce into the most delicious dish on this planet (apart from potato on pizza… obviously). However when your hostess tells you that she did it all for the Lord… well that makes your day, not to mention that it brings a tear to your eye.

In order to work off the bread, pizza, pasta and gelato… we walked… a lot. I’m pretty sure that had I been wearing a Fitbit it wouldn’t have been able to cope.

We missed tea. (This time I am using the royal ‘we’, as I may have been one of the few who missed tea.) Don’t get me wrong, I love coffee, but I have discovered that the Italians do indeed treat the Americano with some scorn.

‘Glad heart’ reason number 6:

We were humbled by the Lord on numerous occasions and reminded by Him that we were working within His plan – it was not just a matter of us asking Him to rubber stamp our itinerary.

On the first day the weather meant that we couldn’t give out literature as planned. However Luca (who organised our week in Naples) didn’t try and push his own agenda, but just took the opportunity as it arose to speak to some of the men in the hostel and it was amazing that we were able to share about our faith. Time and time again we saw the Lord take our plans and use them for His purpose.

In the words of Morgane, “I just love how God interrupts us!” and interrupt us He did… reminding us that we were doing His work!

‘Glad heart’ reason number 7:

We saw many facets to mission.  On one occasion, when giving out some christian literature, I gave leaflets to two people who wanted to speak to me about it, but due to the language barrier I wasn’t able to have a conversation with them. That morning my bible reading had been in 1 Peter, where Peter exhorts us to always be ‘prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you’(1 Peter 3 v 15) and I was little frustrated that I couldn’t communicate. (I refer you to blog number two – learning the words for ‘man’, ‘woman’, ‘boy’ and ‘girl’, did not come in useful!)

Nevertheless I was able to direct them to an Italian speaker in our group who was able to speak with them. After I got over my frustrations, it struck me that this was a picture of how the Lord can use many people in order to facilitate mission – mission is not just about those at the ‘coal face’ of church planting. It’s a privilege to support others.

‘Glad heart’ reason number 8:

We met many missionaries who have a real passion for the city of Naples. I am often guilty of glamourising the work of missionaries; however each one made it clear what the realities of mission were for them.

I think I could sum up their message as this: Know the Gospel. Know the culture. Know and love the people… and this will help them come to know the Lord. Should this not make our hearts glad?

‘Glad heart’ reason number 9:

We ended up in Rome and we walked on the Appian way. We walked in the footsteps of the apostle Paul who, even when writing from a Roman prison, could say, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!’ (Philippians 4:4). This was a man who at the end of his life had a glad heart. Paul knew he was a guilty sinner, but he didn’t let the guilt keep him from being used by his Lord. Instead, he could say in victory, ‘forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of Christ Jesus’. (Philippians 3:14).

The guilt is gone and He has made me glad!

[1] https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2016/10/18/should-christians-feel-guilty-all-the-time/

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