That's my story. I grew up reading the bible, thinking I understood it, trying to live it. I explain it as "the God fan club". Man, I was a big fan of God. I read his book (the bible) and thought I knew him. I even prayed regularly! I went to church Sunday mornings, sometimes even in the afternoon, and on Wednesdays too.
Colossians 1 (v25-27) refers to God's way as a "mystery" (which He began to reveal to the Gentiles). I remember thinking, "How can this be a mystery to anyone today? It's all written out and neatly bound!"
It wasn't until God revealed the mystery to me that I understood. You see, the words in the bible are just words unless the Holy Spirit gives us understanding. Yes, they may be inspirational. They may give us good direction for our life, but we will never get the "full use" of the bible unless God lifts the veil of mystery.
When God began to lift that veil for my husband and I, we felt like we were being slammed left and right (and head on!) with revelations. Verses we had read hundreds of times suddenly had a different meaning. Things that weren't so clear, suddenly were. Now, God hasn't clarified the whole bible to me- it's an ongoing process, but in that first month, I remember being so overwhelmed by the information in the bible.
But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. I always believed God was merciful and forgiving, but I had the hardest time comprehending that he would be merciful and forgiving in my direction. I had no problem believing he would lavish others with his grace, but accepting that for myself was another thing.
I remember one specific moment. I remember the place. I remember the dimness of the room. I remember the feeling of hopelessness. I was so angry and frustrated with my husband. I felt like there was no way the two of us could make it. It just couldn't be.
God pricked my heart and said, "Mandy, I know your husband has done wrong, but the person you're really upset with is yourself."
It was easier for me to hold my anger against my husband, than turn my anger on myself. It was easier for me to clench my fists with unforgiveness towards him rather than realize the person I really had difficulty forgiving was myself. Somehow I knew God would forgive him for his sins, but I just couldn't grasp that God would forgive me for mine. I didn't deserve forgiving.
And in that moment, I cried, "I cannot bear this! I always make a mess of my life when I try to do it my way! How could you possibly forgive someone who is drenched with sin? I cannot make this right! I cannot fix my life! I only make it worse!"
That's when I felt the closest to God. Maybe it's because I was at the end of myself. I was so miserable. I had been miserable before- I had been living in misery for years, but this was different. I felt like it was life or death.
And then I felt like reality smacked me upside the head. I am a sinner. Not just a person who makes mistakes. Not just a person who sins, but A SINNER. Jesus died for sinners. Not for people who "have it all together", but for sinners. (And, by the way, no one has it all together!)
Sometimes we have to break down (multiple times, even) before we look up. I began to see that I would never deserve heaven. I had been living with that pain inside.... trying to "win heaven", and always crashing at the end of the day feeling beaten.
God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)I realized, Jesus didn't die for me because I'm good, he died for me because I'm a sinner. He died for me because there is no way, no how that I could possibly pay the debt I owe.
My dear children, I write this to you so you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense- Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)That moment, there in the livingroom, my husband and I confessed our sin together kneeling in front of the couch. At that moment, we were no longer lost. We were found. We adopted into his family. We were children of God.
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should beAnd then, the months following were filled with change- not just within us, but around us. We not only were moved within, but we physically moved. God brought us back to my husband's home state where we started the next "phase" of our life.
called children of God! (1 John 3:1)
Let me tell you, life has not been the same since. I am not saying life has been peaches and cream since God transformed our lives, but I have never felt that extreme feeling of hopelessness again. We have still had hardships. Anyone who tells you giving your life to God will roll out a perfect life is telling a fib. The bible doesn't support that at all. The bible tells us there will still be difficulties- in fact, our spirit will constantly be at war with the flesh, but we are covered by the blood of Jesus, which makes all the difference.
Of course, just like any relationship, my relationship with Christ must be nurtured. When I fail to meet with him, when my plans began to trump his plans, and my spirit becomes less content. I can always tell when I haven't been praying or reading enough. I see sin slowly creeping into my life. Subtle.
Watch and pray so you fall not into temptation, for the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41)
I may become dissastisfied with the blessings God has bestowed upon me. I may become easily irritated and frustrated with my family. I raise my voice more, have less self-control. I begin to think of myself more than I think of others. I may begin picking apart my husband. I find myself not sleeping well.
Things don't run very smooth when I am not going to God for daily guidance. I want to do good, I want to serve God, but my flesh wants to serve myself. The only way to keep myself from falling into that is to be diligent in seeking God.
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law, but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God- through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:21-25)I know sometimes we think that people don't change- and if they do, they certainly don't change in a day.... but the truth is, people do change. God transforms. When he touches our lives, he doesn't leave us like he found us!
Yet, people are slow to believe one has changed. I know people were slow to believe that in me, and I am sometimes slow to believe that of others (especially since sometimes I believe people have changed only to find out it was a clever trick).
After God renewed me, I wanted others to see the change within me. I wanted them to trust me, to believe in me, to rejoice with me- but I realized that those things take time, and so I had to allow my actions to be the proof.
Sometimes my children are denied something because they've misbehaved, and then, once they realize they won't get whatever it is, they say, "But we're behaving now!" I have to remind them that, while I'm glad they are behaving now, they need to behave all the time, not just when they want something. And it takes time for me to observe their behavior. God rarely gives us the blessing first. Usually, the blessing follows our obedience. People will know that we are transformed when they see us "behaving all the time", so to speak. We might not have really changed, but instead put on a good show of "conformity" for a while, but it won't last if God isn't in it. It won't last if it's of our own power.
The blessings of trust and friendship are what follow when people observe that our behavior has really changed. We can say that we've changed. We can say a lot of things, but our actions speak much louder than words. Our actions must be consistent and must match our words.
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (I John 3:18)On the other end of things, I feel like we must be encouragers to those who are revealing the transformation of God in their lives. We may not be able to fully trust them, we may be watching to see if good fruit forms, but we can still love them.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)I know this is often easier said than done, because loving still requires a little trust, and when we love, we risk getting hurt, but I think about how Jesus loves and was willing to die on the cross... even for those who hung him on the cross. Jesus was willing to be crucified FOR LOVE.
So what is a little hurt compared to that?
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,I don't know if I've made much sense in this post. Probably not. But I've just been thinking about my own situation, and someone else's situation. While our stories aren't the same, they are similar enough in the trials and temptations we have found ourselves in, the heartache we've felt, and the hopelessness we've cried over. The difference is that this person is I'm on the other side of it now, and this person is "crossing the bridge" (so to speak).
because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the
law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)
I know you wish you could run across that bridge, hurry to the other side, but give it time. Focus on your relationship with God. Read the bible. Lean on the Word of God.
God doesn't always allow us to be freed from the consequences of our actions. We often have to face them- and it's never fun, but your life- and the mess you've made of it, is a testament to the greatness of God that, even though you (and I) don't deserve it, God extended his grace and mercy- he out stretched his hand to the hopeless and gave us hope. Your transformation in Christ will give glory to His Name.
If we could change ourselves, if we could earn heaven, that wouldn't glorify God at all. When we are weak and frail and there is victory in our lives- there's no doubt that God was in control.
Anyway, once again, I don't know if I've made much sense... but... just putting it out there. I'm not a theological professor. I'm not a preacher. But I do cherish the things God has revealed to me, and feel like he has asked me to share my life experiences with others to give them hope, and let them know that God does more than restore.... he revives.