Iwas once tempted beyond measure.
(I mean, c’mon, who are any of us kidding here — we’ve all been tempted beyond measure a thousand, countless times.)
But don’t bother whipping out the measuring tapes because, yeah, this kind of temptation defied being contained or numbered or tamed.
It was a temptation that wooed my wounds in the middle of the night, that curled around my membranes in the dark like tender comfort that ended up cutting off shavings of my heart, that consumed my thoughts like it could slurp down my resolve like a slushy in the middle of a late-spring heat wave south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
There are temptations that can feel more like they will be completions.
I let my dreams wander like a lost bird winging and circling for its own kind of home.
You can feel like if you just give into what you want — you’ll be given the joy you’ve always wanted.
That’s the popular tripe they’re hawking out on the streets and Facebook streams these days, and I confess, I once just about bought that pre-packaged little sound byte of pop psychology, bought it hook, line and sinker — because it didn’t come with any warning that it might just gut your life.
I didn’t know until my heart almost bled itself dry, that there is really only two choices when begging temptation is looking you square in your twitching eye: There is either the pain of self-denial — or the pain of self-destruction.
I think about that a lot now, how many years later, return to that, when temptation beckons me with the lie: “Take, eat, and see that the comfort is good.” Pain of self-denial — or pain of self-destruction. Heaven is forever, and here is a blink, and narrow is The Way to joy for always.
Now, I know, they’ll tell you that there ain’t no such thing called temptation anymore, only repressed self-limitation.
They’ll tell you that the idea of temptation is antiquated, isn’t an issue for those who are educated and sophisticated.
And I want to say: Just don’t say you’re a follower of Christ if you’re actually just following your own heart.
I mean, someone once told me she had found the courage to walk away from her life and follow her heart’s desires.
And I watched her face, how light moved across her like the way late May sun and spring clouds move across the fields, and I loved her, but love doesn’t mean agreement, because love means sacrifice, and I didn’t find words then like I’m slowly finding words now, the ones I learned through my own bloody battles out in my own hurting fields, and I say them like a long limping:
Do we follow our heart’s desires — or do we desire to follow Christ?
Courage isn’t about doing what you want in life. Courage is about laying down your life. Otherwise it’s not courage— it’s self-gratification. Don’t label it anything else.
Courage is always about selflessness: Less self.
Which ultimately means more holy happiness for your soul.
These aren’t mere words to me — they are divine lifelines that have made me weep for the cost of them.
I wanted to cup her face — wanted to ask her if we both could try to find the realest brave together, find brave where two old rugged beams cross and Real Love showed us how to feel holy joy.
Because those that seek to be happy must first seek to be holy. There is no true happiness apart from true holiness.
Yeah, I know, if you want to be popular & please people, make your life preach happiness. But, really, if you want to profoundly please God, make your life preach holiness.
“Holiness, not happiness, is the chief end of man,” urged Oswald Chambers.
Because: holiness is not a single attribute of God — but a synonym for all of who God is.
He is love — but His love is a holy love, His grace is a holy grace, His justice is holy justice, and His spirit is Holy Spirit.
And the call to holiness is a trinity of it’s own: “separation from sin, dedication to God, transformation into the image of Christ.” (James H. Aughey)
This is hard — but we do hard and holy things.
And though holiness may not be the goal of the majority, it is the mandatory way of those entering the narrow gate of eternity.
This cost of holiness is worth staking all of your life, because the expanse of eternity depends on this.
This is worth whatever it takes — because our forever intersects with our choices now.
(So don’t trust any author’s words about happiness or holiness unless you’ve opened the Word and know they line up with what the Author of the Universe says.)
Yeah, I once was tempted beyond measure. I laid awake in the dark until the light came.
And it turns out: Nothing kills temptation or self-loathing— like the freedom of already being crucified with Christ.
I traced it with a fingertip, that cross I pen everyday on my wrist, the way a child writes on her hand what she must remember, what she can’t afford to ever forget.
All that we’re tempted to do or all that we’re tempted to self-loathe — has already been nailed to the cross, all that we could self-loathe has already been washed away by grace.
I sat in the light of everything, sat up in the light of it all, and this is the love story that I’m riveted by, that I never want to get over:
The things we wish we could change about ourselves — have already been exchanged at the Cross.When we need radical change — we need only to look to where radical exchange has already happened — at the Cross.
Cruciformation is the essence of transformation because it’s at the cross where radical change happens — our brokenness is exchanged for His wholeness.
This is what gives courage:
Think cruciform — and His right thoughts form your heart…. and your wrong thoughts take the form of His heart — crucified.
This is what destroys temptations:
Whisper cruciform — and in that moment you’re dead to all the brokenness that keeps you from breaking free.
Whisper cruciform — and you’re dead to addictions and wrong ambitions and ugly sedition.
Whisper cruciform — and you’re dead to what wants to kill and destroy you.
Only to the extent that we let ourselves die over and over again — can the abundant life be found in us.
Only to the extent that we let ourselves be formed cruciform over and over again— can our lives be fully transformed.
This is what transforms everything:
How can you be transformed by the renewing of your mind? How do you renew your mind?
The mind is renewed in Christ — when the mind returns to the Cross of Christ. To the Words of Christ, the Ways of Christ, the Wooing of Christ.The way to take captive every thought is to make every thought cruciform.
Because cruciform is shorthand for what our heart always needs: the gospel.
And the thing is: Cruciform is the form of the Gospel.
This is what is holy happiness:
What frees you to really fully live — is to let yourself be fully crucified with Christ.
The form of the Cross — is the form of self-giving love, the form of a surrendered will, the form of open hands, the form of a transformed mind.
Love wins — only when it’s givenness & not selfishness — otherwise, it’s not love.
Cruciform is the form of anything that wins. Ask Jesus.
Cruciform is the form of my new identity, the form of my never-failing security, the form of my needed serenity.
Everything abundant is embodied in the form of that Cross and don’t let any self-help or hip personality tell you any different.
Because Jesus says?
Jesus says: “Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self.” Mark 8:34
Self-help is no help at all. Embrace suffering. Embrace the Cross-life — so you can have the abundant life.
Cruciform is the ultimate form of the Christian life — and when our mind forms that one word, cruciform — we re-member the right form of everything — and everything begins to transform.
Preaching cruciform to yourself is what transforms your soul — your world, your joy.
This is holy joy.
I was once tempted beyond measure — and I felt it in the dark, how He stretched out one arm — and then stretched out His other arm — and the universe reverberates with the cry of His heart:
Look at My outstretched arms: I love you beyond measure. And my arms, my Way, my Love, is more than enough.
Jesus is enough. This the love story that woos your wounds, that binds your broken heart to His, that heals the aching hurt of all the unspoken broken.
There is a Way bigger than your wants — and that size difference means you can never miss out on holy happiness for all eternity.
The love of Jesus who wants you — is more fulfilling than anything than you want.
Your Jesus wants you more than your wants — and don’t you want to be wanted for forever the most?
I once watched a bird unfold its wings and give itself to The Way the wind and Spirit beckons — and when it took to the sky, outstretched, a cross-formed shadow moved like grace across our fields and beyond the narrow gate.
You could see it: Its joy knew no bounds or measurement as it soared toward those holy heights.
Dare to take the narrow Broken Way.
Dare to take The Broken Way… because there is a Way bigger than your wants — and the love of Jesus who wants you — is more fulfilling than anything than you want.