Just listening to what the speaker was asking me to do scared me to death. She said, “Ask God,’What do you think of me?'”
All of my life I had been trying to compensate for my weaknesses by working harder, doing more tasks which I dubbed kingdom work. And yes, I admit it. I was trying to earn brownie points with God. But I really was afraid of the answer if I asked that question.
Cognitively, the adult me knew you don’t earn God’s favor. Grace is freely given no matter what we’ve done or not done, but still there was a part of me that said, “Have I done enough to be called your daughter, God?”
For as long as I could remember, anything with processed sugar and especially baked goods had been a problem for me. It was as if there were two people living in my body.
One was the adult, rational thinker that said, “You are going to eat healthy. You are going to exercise so you can have a chance at a long life.”
The other would only come out when I was hungry, angry, lonely or tired from trying to work hard to earn God’s favor. That emotional little girl would say, “That cinnamon rolls looks so good. You deserve that. You’ve worked hard. Grandma would give it to you if she were here.”
That’s all it took and I would have a dozen huge cinnamon rolls downed before the adult me could say, “Halt. Don’t go there.”
I so understand Paul’s conundrum. “I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.”1
He goes on to say, “I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?”2
In other versions, Paul says, “Oh wretched man that I am.” He sees himself as a horrible person, someone who can’t control himself. I’m sure at that point he feels like God must think the same thing of him.
I’ve been a Christian since I was seven and this passage always eluded me. How does He set us free?
Freed by Christ
“With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.”3
We are set free4 by the very act of Jesus’ death on the cross. Because of his death, burial and resurrection we receive grace for everything we have ever done.
Friends, did you hear that? “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”4 So where does the shame come from? It comes from ourselves. We can not understand God because He is not just a big us. He is in an entirely different category.
Freed by Grace
God is grace. The two are synonymous. They are two sides of the same coin. When we sin, confess our weakness and repent, God doesn’t condemn. He gives us more grace.5
Why? Grace is for us to understand that we need God. In our humanity, we are weak. When we admit our weakness and ask for God’s help, He gives us His power.6
No admission of weakness, no power. No surrender, no power.
Freed by Wisdom
“We have been ransomed through his Son’s blood, and we have forgiveness for our failures based on his overflowing grace, which he poured over us with wisdom and understanding.”7
He understands us, but He also has wisdom. This is the magnificent part of God that will teach us how to overcome with the power we just received when we admit we can’t overcome on our own.
Even though we know all of these things, it’s still difficult to ask God the question, “What do you think of me?” Even though our sins have been removed as far as the east is from the west,8 we still believe they are a part of us. However, to God they are gone.
Recently, I gave an assignment to those in the Sweet Change Weight Loss Group to connect with God in a specific way and at the end to ask Him the risky question.
Penney Anderson, shared this: “I kept putting off the part about asking Holy Spirit what His truth is or what He thinks of me. I was afraid I wouldn’t hear anything or I wouldn’t like the answer.”
When she finally got the courage to ask, she wrote what she felt He was saying to her. “You are mine and I love you. You are a beautiful work in progress and getting where you are going won’t make me love you MORE. My love is already complete NOW with no stipulations. I want you to succeed in your journey so you can fully experience life, not because I will love you more.
“Performance is not attached to my love for you. I want you to succeed to also help others. You have a story to tell.”
She added in her message to the group, which she gave me permission to share, “I cannot describe to you the deep, sweet feeling this brings to my soul. Such peace. Such assuredness. What a glorious blessing! Thank you Teresa for making this part of the homework this week!”
The first part of this particular lesson was instrumental to Penney’s breakthrough. The lesson came out of my own journey. I had to accept, own and then walk out my journey. I would have never lost 260 pounds if I hadn’t. It was definitely not me, but allowing Christ to be my power that got me through.
These are the types of things we do in Sweet Change Group. It’s more about healing the emotions and the issues that are holding us back from going forward than giving out food plans, but will answer questions about how and what to eat. We’ve all been on food plans. They all work when we want them to. In Sweet Change, we work on the want-to.
I would so love for you to experience the kind of breakthroughs others in the group are experiencing. There is so much more that God wants for you in this life. He didn’t just come so we could eat and sleep, He came that we “might have and enjoy life and have it in abundance to the full, until it overflows.”9
Don’t hesitate. Read the information about the group and join today. Just go to this link: https://teresashieldsparker.com/sweet-change/.
Oh, and by the way, I wear my “I am beautiful” socks to remind me of what God told me when I asked that risky question.
See you in the group!
1 Romans 7:18-20 MSG
2 Romans 7:24 MSG
3 Romans 8:1-2 MSG
4 Romans 8:1-2 NIV
5 James 4:6 NIV
6 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV
7 Ephesians 1:7-8 CEB
8 Psalm 103:12 NLT
9 John 10:10 AMP
Teresa Shields Parker is an author, speaker and coach. Her book Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds is the #1 Christian weight loss memoir on Amazon. She shares transparently and openly about the challenges of losing an extreme amount of weight. Sweet Grace Study Guide gives practical tips on weight loss.
Her new book, Sweet Change: True Stories of Transformation, published Dec. 2014, shares the stories of 17 individuals on the weight loss journey and includes much information from Teresa. Downloadable pdfs of all books are available under the products tab.
Sweet Change Weight Loss Coaching and Accountability Group provides support, encouragement, weekly videos, action steps and an online group for those wanting to be intentional about their weight loss efforts.
To request Teresa to speak at your event, please contact her here.