Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Joy Comes In the Morning - Set Free from The Life of Legalism

*Before you read anything further, know this.  I grew up with a view of the bible that was pretty askew.  I blame this on myself and no one else.  I pieced together my own version of the bible and chose to ignore much of the new covenant that Christ brought.  Of course I knew I was saved by grace, but what about after that?  I believed I had to work hard to keep earning my salvation.  This is not finger pointing at anyone.  Just a work in my own heart I believe God is doing.  I believe He could of done it much earlier on if I had been more open to it and not so determined to create my own Frankenstein faith.  I'll explain....

I don't know how to say this without being super emotional, which is not me.  I hide my tears well.  I feel like God has begun a new work in me.  Truly given me joy I have not known for many, many years.  I used to go to bed in fear every night for my soul.  Yes, I did all the right things as a Christian.  I knew to pray and read my bible.  Go to church every week.  Get involved in extra stuff. I did all those things.  However, I still felt like I was paying for my salvation.  When I did those things, I just felt I never measured up. As a mom to a lot of kids, doing a lot of activities seemed too hard at times.  There are just those days where a kid is sick, or I'm exhausted from a long day, I just felt I couldn't go to an extra event.  Whatever it was, I felt I couldn't keep up.  So if I missed a service or a bible study, I felt so guilty I just knew God was displeased with me for being unfaithful.  Eventually, I burnt out.  I was done.  A dark day had begun for me.  I began to question the existence of God.  I started to question the bible.  Depression began to settle all around me.


Last September I threw in the towel on my faith.  I was confused and couldn't see beyond the current day and it's dark cloud.  At first I was critical of even the existence of God like I said earlier.  Eventually I admitted that of course I knew God was very much alive and real.  He has done some HUGE miracles in my life.  You can't wish away bad kidneys where you need surgery or dialysis.  That was a miracle.  You can't wish away back surgery. I didn't imagine the hours stuck on the floor, not even able to help myself up because of the spasms of pain.  To be freed instantly and free for 15 years is no accident.  That was the healing of God.  So, yes, I know God is real.  I just felt He had turned His back on me.  I hadn't done enough to keep Him happy so he must be done with me.  Okay, so now I admit I know He's real. 

I became quiet......

I quit every single activity of good works and was just STILL.  I went to church, heard from God, sang the praise songs.  That was it.  I was tired and weary.  Slowly through the messages I began to see a light dawning in my darkened, seemingly endless tunnel of depression. Sometimes I would even be sitting in service and a verse not even being discussed in the sermon would jump out at me.  What?  I never saw that before.  How?  I've read the bible through several times.  How could I have not seen this?  Moments like this God was piecing together for me.  Answers I had never seen before.  Still I had the question. Does God love me?  Does He take me as I am right now?  No good works?  The Jenny that doesn't have much to offer?  Just a broken heart?  This is all I have God.  BROKEN.


Over the last seven months of little pieces of the puzzle coming together for me and brought me back around to the cross.  To Jesus and the gift He gave.  NOT the Jesus I had created over the years.  Jesus, the only Jesus, that the Bible speaks of.  Several months ago in my dark days I was given a book called Own It. I just tossed it aside as another religious book in my collection.  Yesterday, around midnight, I started to head toward the dishwasher to load of some dishes before I went to bed.  As I walked towards it, my eyes landed on the book I had tossed aside months earlier.  I felt a drawing to it.  I thought, "Maybe I'll read some of it after I do the dishes."  Then a thought immediately followed, "Dishes can be done later.  If you do the dishes first, you may never read the book."  This time I listened.  I even left the dishwasher open and just headed to the living room with the book and my bible in hand.  With praise music in the background softly playing I opened the book with not a very big expectation.  I've heard it all before, you know?  I was a Christian kid raised in church.  What could I learn from this book?  I was surprised.... Here is a passage that brought me to tears.

Own It 
Leaving behind a borrowed faith

 "The trouble with renting your faith is that it puts all of the reliance for salvation on self effort rather than on God. When that happens you wear out quickly; you feel burnt out and tire easily of the hard work of obedience, which you believe leads to your salvation. This is what happens when you see a hardworking religious person who has walked away from their professed faith. They put all of their hope in their ability to be good, rather than in God Himself. When they run out of strength, they run out of their payment for the faith and end up losing their rental. But when you own it - really own it- you have no need to make payments in order to keep it because it already belongs to you. This is called justification. You don't have to justify yourself by working hard to gain God's approval."


Where did I get such a harsh view of God?  That I had to pay for my salvation?  I don't know.  I blame it on myself. I've had the bible in front of me my whole life.  I think I pieced the bible together the only way I knew how.  I picked and chose what I wanted to see.  Like it says in the book Own It, I was created my own version of a Frankenstein faith.  Not very pretty.  Anytime I saw the word "grace" I  attached the word "greasy" in front of it.  Grace was a dirty word to me.  I couldn't accept it because that was too easy.  In a sense, because I didn't accept the gift, I made myself my own God.  I wasn't serving the God of the bible.  I was serving my own beliefs.  I wore myself out in the process.  I make a pretty lousy god.

I believed my whole life that I was making payments for my salvation.  Now, I NEVER would have said that but deep down I did believe that.  I had to work to please God. I grew upset often when I felt I wasn't paying enough.  I was sure I would easily lose my salvation like you could easily lose a house.  As long as my payments were late, I was in danger of my good standing with God.  34 years of that and I guarantee you that can cause some serious bouts of depression.  


The biggest thing I have learned recently,  I had it all backwards.  I hated the word grace because then I had to really believe God was my loving father.  That He had saved me and I really had to have faith that it was free.  I couldn't believe that before.  I thought grace meant it was a free card to sin whenever.  So I threw the grace word out the window and never uttered it.  Now it was all about how good I was.  How many services I attended.  Extra activities outside of the regular services was like earning extra credit with God.  He had to be pleased now.  Instead, I've understood and accepted His gift.  I am saved, yes by His grace.  But I don't have to get on a treadmill to keep the gift.  Instead of focusing on how good I am, I focus on just getting closer to Him.  By doing that, all those other things fall into place out of a longing..  Yes, I am human.  I WILL make mistakes.  But I don't have to live in fear every night that I've made a big enough payment for that day to escape hell for another day.


Thank you, Jesus, for making Yourself real to me.  Thank you for helping me through the days of sorrow, for bringing me joy once again.  Your strength is made perfect in my weakness.  Please keep ministering to me and revealing more of Your Word to me.  I know now I should have been more focused on knowing You, becoming closer to You.  Not on myself and how many good works I can do.  I now know this was pride and that got in the way.  Please forgive me.  I'm so grateful for Your saving grace.  How sweet it is.  

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