Read the Bible verses related to each devotion.
Then follow the actions and prayers for yourself and a nonbeliever at the bottom of the page.
As a young man, things were not always easy. I was raised to do what was right, but I found myself being tempted time and time again. Each moment I fell into temptation, my mind raced through many different scenarios where I would never sin again. I would bargain with God, and try to convince him I was a really good guy. I would put myself in time out, and tell the Lord how sorry I was. I did not know anything about His Mercy and Grace.
But, I think the start of this story should be when I was eight years old. My three cousins were living with us, and there were extra mattresses everywhere. Just before going to bed, I was frightened into reading a little “how to get saved” book in order to break free from the tightening grip of fear. You see, that afternoon my gracious aunt, who I respected dearly, had told me I was probably not saved and therefore destined for hell. Now you might think that is heavy for a young person, but it was a wakeup call that hit my gut, shot through my spine, and slammed into my mind like a shocking electric volt. I was scared about where I might spend eternity.
So, what to do with my newfound dilemma? Since I was destined for hell, I frantically searched for something to alleviate the pressure. In my search, I found a small track that looked like a miniature Bible, which shared the simple gospel message. I opened it and read it three times. Each time I did, I would say the sinner’s prayer until I was confident, I was saved (I said it a few extra times in case God had not heard). Then at the end of the day, when my aunt was tucking us all in, I confidently declared that I was saved, and I restfully laid my head upon the pillow, completely free of fear, or so I thought. Eventually the fear came back again.
Years later, my father, who was the pastor of our small fellowship, was getting ready to baptize some of the new believers during our summer camping trip at the ocean. Wanting to prove that I was a good Christian, I asked my father to baptize me. Wisely, he asked me why I wanted to be baptized. I don’t remember what I said, but it was enough for him to pronounce, “I don’t think you really know what is happening, but I will baptize you, however, you may want to get re-baptized when you are older”. So, on that cloudy afternoon, on a cold and windy beach on the New Jersey shore, I was officially baptized and came out of the water a…well, I actually did not feel any different. And then I lied. I mentioned that a crab had pinched me on my toe (I think other folks being baptized also had been pinched by a crab so I wanted to join in with the crowd). Then, I was devastated because I thought, after being baptized, I would never sin again. Now here I was sinning. And worse, I also thought I would have to get re-baptized, because I had just sinned. I was certain that God did not like me anymore. Remorsefully, on the walk back to the cars, along the sandy beach, I went to my father, confessed my sin, and asked that he rebaptism me. Of course he did not. Eventually, I lost that fearful feeling, but then it came back years later.
Now as a young man (we are picking up the story again, hopefully you understand the back drop), I was struggling in a certain area of temptation, called up my friend, for the 100th time, and confessed my sin to him once again. I told him how I was dramatically sorry, intensely repentant, and apologetically determined to never do it again. Furthermore, I had informed him how I had renegotiated with God, and He had let me back into the Kingdom, because I had assured Him that I would never, under any circumstances, do that sin again.
After my desperate confession and fervent attempt at convincing him I was worthy of the Kingdom again, I awaited my friends’ response. Silence was all that I heard on the other line. But then, in an instant he burst out laughing, destroying any confidence I had in my renegotiation with God. I yelled at him, “What is wrong with you man?” He laughed and spoke to me in between laughter, which was humiliating, saying, “you are gonna do this again and again and again. If I were you, I would learn about grace and not try to earn your salvation, or try to get God to like you.” Then he hung up. I was angry. But that conversation led me on a journey to find out that God loves me even in the midst of my weakness. This amazing truth, has become an anchor that has helped deliver me from sin, shame and condemnation, and thrust me into a journey of confident holiness.
Now what about you? Maybe you feel dark, broken, depressed, or lonely. Maybe you have a horrible past where others used and abused you? Is that the end of the story? Certainly not! Let’s take a moment to jump into the Song of Solomon and learn from the love story. But before we do, remember this is a love story between a man and a woman, and this is a story about Jesus, the Bridegroom longing for His Bride. Also, this is a personal love story about your intimate relationship between you and God. This is a story about God’s unceasing devotion to the body of Christ.
Song of Solomon 1:5-6
“I am dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, Like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon. Do not look upon me, because I am dark, because the sun has tanned me.
My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept.”
What does it mean that she felt “dark”? In our story this has to do with a MAJOR GAP. King Solomon was a king, while the Shulamite was just a poor girl working in the field. In those days, if you were dark, it showed your lack of wealth. King Solomon would have been pale, because he did not work a field, while the Shulamite would have been dark, from working in a field with the sun tanning her skin. Also, she is working in a field because people were mad at her. She felt UNWORTHY; she felt the distance and inadequacy from even being in the same place as the king. What about you?
Maybe you feel that you are not worthy, like you can’t even be in the same place as God; He is so good and you are so bad. Maybe you feel your sin is so severe that you are ashamed. Maybe the sin you have done, or what has been done to you, is overwhelming. Maybe, just maybe, the pain of the past and the darkness of sin is overwhelming, and you feel like hiding from God. You might feel worthless. But that is not God’s plan for you. You must learn how to rightly respond when you see the darkness of your heart.
Jeremiah had revelation of the depth and deceitfulness of sin in the human heart. Each one of us has a greater capacity for sin than we comprehend. Our issues are not surprising to God. No one fully grasps the depth of our unperceived areas of sin. They are below the surface, hidden, like the fault lines of an earthquake. The prophet wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9) Again, God is not surprised by your sin. Paul, the one that had a very sinful past, wrote, “put off…the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” (Eph. 4:22) Thankfully, God does not look at you through your past.
She is lovely in the eyes of king Solomon. This woman had captured the eye of the king. Maybe the king was traveling by in a chariot and noticed her. Maybe, while the king was looking out of a palace window as his subjects walked by, he had seen her walking through a market square. Or, maybe her inner character was so beautiful that word came to the king. In some way she captured the eye of the king, and he thought she was lovely.
In the same way you are lovely to God, even though you feel dark in heart. You have captured the eye of God in Heaven. He is watching you. The eyes of the Lord are searching back and forth to show Himself strong on their behalf. (2 Chron. 16:9) HOW is this possible you may ask?
God does not look at you through the same lens as the world. If you make a mistake in the world, you are always remembered as that mistake. But not so with God. He is gracious and merciful. God looks at you through His eyes of LOVE, and through the finished work of the cross. Remember the cross has the power to wash you free from the debt of sin, and bring you face to face, eye to eye, with the King of all Creation. Oh, if we knew how close He wants to be, we would forsake all to find Him in the Scriptures, worship Him, and share the Gospel of Peace with the lost. He is the King that loves us, and the cross washes you clean.
The Holy Spirit is brilliant. He allows you to see your sinfulness as well as your loveliness to God. On the one hand, you may have the grossness of sin, and on the other hand, the Beauty of His love for you. If this is you, then you are a sincere, but weak believer, and that is ok. Jesus loves you and will help you overcome. We are all growing in our sanctification process. God did not call you because you are perfect. He called you because He loves you. God does not call the qualified; He qualifies the called. Today, you must recognize this season of your life and cooperate with what the Holy Spirit is doing to free your heart from sin. You can do this…God, the King who qualified you, is working on your behalf—taking shame and condemnation away.
The devil, in the midst of your weakness, may try to condemn you, locking you into the closet of shame. Some streams in the body of Christ focus on the shame and darkness of our hearts or on how sinful we are. Their motivation to change is telling you how bad you are. To emphasize shame without emphasizing how lovely we are to God destroys our confidence before the Lord and produces shame driven believers. They are sincere in their repentance, but are emotionally paralyzed in their relationship with Jesus.
God is light and is calling us to walk in the light. To be with Him in the light. When He gets close to us, His light exposes our darkness—SO THAT WE CAN GET FREE FROM OUR SIN, AND NOT TO LABEL US AS SINNERS. You walk in Christ’s light in different measures. He comes close; His light shows you His love, and it exposes darkness. But do not run and hide in the closet of shame. Run to God not from Him. Just like David, if he messed up, he repented and ran towards God. Saul was the opposite. When he sinned he justified himself. David was given God’s mercy, while suffering the consequences of his actions. Saul suffered the consequences of his actions, while losing his mind to the tormenting shame.
Jesus died and rose again that you might walk in the fullness of the light that you have as God dwells in the fullness of the light that He has. This is the journey of holiness—becoming like Him. As you walk in the light, God increases it so that you see more of the darkness that is in your heart. Your most sincere efforts to love God are fleeting, flawed, and fragile, but beautiful to God. Those who sincerely seek to obey Jesus need not fear that they will be disqualified from their calling because of weakness. You are lovely to God even in your weakness. He is tender towards you even in your spiritual immaturity.
Remember Paul, who was a mature apostle, described himself as chief among sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). This was not an exaggerated statement with false humility. The more light you have, the more you will see the darkness in your heart. Also, knowing that your flesh is super weak is an important aspect of the truth about who you are, although it is not the whole truth of who you are (your flesh does not define who you are). God clearly knew about the depth of your sin before you were saved. He does not discover your sin at the same time you face up to it. He is completely aware of it when He declares His love for us. God did not overcommit Himself to love you without first understanding the gravity of your sin. He first loved you…before you were actually born and then chose to commit to you—to die that you might live.
Now you may be surprised when you sin. (And this might be an issues with pride.) At such times, you can be overwhelmed with grief. This is the place where shame tries to rest its strangling talons—around your mind and heart. Many times, you think that because you’re surprised by your sin then surely God must also be surprised. Satan may whisper, “what will God think about you now that He knows what you’re really like?” Your mind may race,” if God is surprised with the new information about me, then maybe He may want to renegotiate our relationship. Or, maybe He will reconsider loving me.” No, God is not like that. He is mature in His love for us. He is the Covenant—making and Covenant—keeping God. Paul reassures us by declaring, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39)
Many times, we try to renegotiate our relationship with God (in fact we try to do this with other people also). To consistently grow spiritually requires that you know that you’re lovely to God, while you are in the process of discovering the darkness of your heart. God’s motivation to love you comes from within His heart, not from your promises to never fail in a given area. Remember, we love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
In conclusion, to consistently grow spiritually requires that you know that you are lovely to God, while you are in the process of discovering the darkness of your heart. God’s motivation to love you comes from within His heart not from your promises to never fail in a given area. Jesus declared, “For God so loved the world.” (John 3:16) God loved you before earth existed. He doesn't love you based on what you do. He does not want you relating to Him on the presupposition that you motivate Him to be interested in you. Regrettably, I have known many who, for many years, emphasize only the darkness of their hearts. They are extremely sincere in their repentance. Yet, they do not enter into the enjoyment or delight that God feels for them. They do not encounter the love that is better than wine.
Do you feel like you’re dark? Do you feel a huge gap between you and God? It is time to break free. Do this: take your phone, and go into a dark closet. Put something over the crack at the bottom of the door if light is shining in. Close your eyes tight for ten seconds and then open them. Now you will see that it is dark. This is your sinful nature—dark. Now turn on your flashlight. The darkness goes away, because of your little light. Now, open the door to the closet. You see. Your eyes have to get used to the light. Just wait a minute; they will. Now stand in the light. It is the same with God. His light kicks out darkness, but when you have been in the dark the light hurts for a minute. But eventually, you get used to it. Come close to Him in this prayer.
Now listen to this…and come closer to HIM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVr22tHrSVY
“Father, I know You love me. I am dark, but lovely to You. I have sinned, but You call me near. Break off shame and draw me near. Fill me with Your love.”
It might be time to buy them a cup of Coffee. You can invite them or send them an online cup of coffee from their favorite coffee shop (if they don’t get coffee try to get them a gift for under $5).
“Father, I know You love __________. They may feel dark. But they are lovely to You. Br