Sunday, July 17, 2016

What's Your Scarlet Letter?

Branding. It applies to almost everything. From companies and organizations, to food, clothing, and skin; we have logos, slogans, and labels for nearly everything under the sun.

The one kind of brand that some never see is how we brand ourselves inside. It's something that I was thinking about during Kent's message today (you can watch it when it's uploaded, as well as the rest of the amazing "how to be a neighbor" series by clicking here). I won't re-preach the whole thing for you. I just want to highlight his key point from 1 Peter 2:4-5:
As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him--you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 
Kent reminded us that Jesus, the perfect Son of God who did nothing but good, was rejected by humans. So, why should we be surprised that we too (as followers of Christ) are also scorned and rejected by others in this world? In case you haven't noticed, Christians are being treated with more contempt and hostility than ever before. We're "hateful" and we're "bigots" and whatever else doesn't fit some kind of liberal version of God that the world wants to portray instead of the holy, righteous, sovereign, UNCHANGING God of the Bible. Jesus said that the world would hate and persecute us just as they did to him (John 15:1, Matthew 10:22, Matthew 24:9, Mark 13:13, Luke 21:17).

BUT.....

Just as Jesus was chosen and precious in God's eyes, SO ARE WE!! In verse nine of 1 Peter 2, it is reiterated and affirmed:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praise of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

We are NOT defined by how the world views us. We are defined by Christ. Our identity is in Him. We are who HE says we are! The world rejects us and tears us down, but Jesus accepts us and calls us "chosen" and "precious". He TREASURES us as a prized possession that belongs to Him!

I don't know about you, but that means everything to me! I have struggled with my own "branding" throughout my life. I kind of relate it to "The Scarlet Letter". Many of us had to read it in school, so you're probably familiar with it. The story is about about a Puritan woman, Hester Prynne, who had to wear a scarlet "A" for "Adultress" as her punishment for her sin. She even chose to make her letter a very large one and wore it prominently. She could have made it small, and put it in a more discreet place, but she didn't. She was punishing herself just as much as everyone else was.

Can you imagine wearing a letter which branded you with your sin forever; being judged and shamed by others (as well as yourself) and living with the constant guilt and reminder of your mistake? We don't see that kind of literal thing today, but I assure you that it still exists. We all have some form of a scarlet letter. It may not be visible, but we (and sometimes other people) know it's there. We feel it with us every day and it haunts us. So often, we can't forgive ourselves and let go of our negative branding; refusing to accept that Christ took the punishment for our sins. We punish ourselves for years (or forever) even though our sins have been paid for!

My biggest scarlet letters have been "D" for "divorce", "F" for "failure" (and "fat"), and no doubt there are others letters and words I could share about how I've felt and what I've dealt with in my heart. However, I am not defined and branded by these letters. Jesus has taken my "D" and given me the letter "R" for "restored" and "redeemed." That "F" now stands for "faith", "freedom", and "forgiveness". I have a "C" letter for "chosen", a "P" letter for "precious", and more than anything else, I am branded with a letter "G" for "grace"! YOU have these three letters too if you are a child of God because that is who you are, who you belong to, and what He calls you!

What scarlet letters are you holding onto? Are you ready to exchange them for pure, glistening, white ones? Isaiah 1:18 tells us that even though our sins are like scarlet, he will make them white as snow! That's an AMAZING transformation and He wants to do that for you! He wants to make you new and brand you with His love, mercy, and grace! Please, feel free to leave a comment (or message me) with what letters you're trading in and what letters He's giving you instead! When we share our stories, we can walk together and rejoice with one another!

Grace and peace to you, my friends! I felt like these were important thoughts to share today. If not for someone else, then at least for me. This is something that I will have to come back to and re-read because there are times where the old letters try to reattach themselves to my heart. The only way to prevent that is to remind myself of the TRUTH which can only be found in God's Word, as well as quality time with Him. It's a beautiful thing to have a relationship with the Almighty God; Creator of the Universe....and to BELONG to Him as a chosen and precious possession. It's no small thing to be a child of the Most High King and be an heir with His Son. Let's remind each other of that fact DAILY and delight in it; especially when others try to tell us differently. God bless you!