Lindsey's Story: A Story of Letting Go
Today my deepest desire is to know Jesus, but my affections haven't always been His. I was a hypocrite before He wrecked me with His love.
Some of my earliest memories are of Dad opening the Bible and reading aloud to me. As I grew older and entered my preteens, he constantly encouraged me to think deeply, read deeply, and ask questions of everything, so we began hashing out theology on a regular basis during dinner. During the day (I was homeschooled), Mom sang praises, shared openly what she was learning in the Word, and told me about her longings to be with Jesus in the Better Country—"our true home," as she says. The wistful, eager way she talked made it difficult to imagine a Christian's death as anything but the greatest adventure.
In that kind of environment, it was always very clear to me that Christianity was not simply one facet of life to be dutifully attended to but the whole orb that everything else was somehow linked to. Life was about Jesus for my parents—and so it was for me too, externally. I prayed, obeyed my parents, memorized Scripture, shared the gospel... and did it all because I loved myself. Scary, isn't it? I was spiritually dead, but I thought I was alive.
When I was about twelve, the Holy Spirit began to show me that even the kindest things I did were all motivated from self-love. I had never obeyed God's law out of love for Jesus—only to please my parents, impress people at church, and boost my own ego. All my dreams and plans were selfish, and I hated the thought of depending on anyone but myself. I worshiped God with my mouth, but my real god was me.
Conformity to rules out of self-love is a feeble crutch to lean on; when the Holy Spirit ripped that prop out from under me, I toppled into depression. My conscience condemned me constantly—I felt like a waking demonstration of Isaiah 64:6. As I read the Word, God showed me His holiness, and I realized that He had no reason to accept me into heaven. It terrified me so much that I struggled to sleep at night from fear of hell. I knew I deserved God's wrath.
Still, I didn't quite want to give up. I remember making many tearful resolutions to obey God and become "righteous"—and many tearful failures as the resolutions crumbled. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't obey what Jesus said was the greatest commandment—I couldn't love God with all my heart, mind, and strength. For that matter, I couldn't make myself love Him with even a fraction of those—forget wholly! I couldn't love Him at all. It was painfully obvious that Jesus' standard was unattainable. He said, "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
One night, after months of despair, God gave me faith to trust the simple promise of Romans 10:9: "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." He opened my eyes to see that I couldn't keep trying to be my own Savior: Jesus was my only solution.
I couldn't be perfect, but He lived a perfect life for me. I couldn't make myself love God, but He could give me a new heart. All I had to do was cling to Him in faith. As I did, the Holy Spirit testified within me to my adoption into God's family, bringing me actual joy for the first time in my life. In a moment, I was transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. I was transformed from a vessel of wrath—His enemy—into a vessel of mercy—His beloved child. (See Eph. 2.)
Because of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, taking God's wrath in my place, I'm now one with Him. I still sin daily, but I don't try to earn His acceptance back like I used to, because I'm assured of His unfailing love. My confidence and joy rests in the finished work of Christ, not my performance. When the Father looks on me, He sees the perfection of Jesus instead of my sin.
One of the first things I remember God changing in me was my motivation for holiness. Before I'd wanted it for show and to feel good about myself; after He made me new, I just wanted to obey as a way to love Him. For the first time, I couldn't stop myself from talking about Jesus, and I wanted nothing more than to tell others about Him at every opportunity. At the same time, I started to love the people in my church—and my family—as I never had before. Service had been a drag because I felt like it didn't get me recognition, but now I could do common jobs just to please my King. It was the same with reading the Bible and prayer; I couldn't get enough of the things I'd once done grudgingly! I'd always wanted to go to heaven and I'd always feared hell, but I'd never longed for heaven because Jesus was there. Now I know Jesus as my only true treasure; I agree with the psalmist that I have nothing good apart from my Lord.
Every year, He's showing me more of His matchless worth to revel in. I'm learning to swim in the truth of Galatians 2:20: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
Instead of living in guilt and legalism, I have the freedom to be controlled by God's love through His Spirit! One of my favorite songs puts it like this:
Hallelujah! All I have is Christ. Hallelujah! Jesus is my life.
It was His strong grace that secured my eternal life, and that same grace will continue to keep me walking in His love until the day I meet Him face-to-face. I can hardly wait.