I Am Persuaded that He is Able

My Story of Faith (Part 2)

Despite my changed heart, things were still tough at home throughout my teenage years.  I felt consoled in my heart about salvation and had hope for eternal life, but this did not impact behavior towards my parents. However, I started independently praying, reading my Bible, and paying more attention to preaching and Sunday school lessons at church.

One day a minister at our church preached a sermon and briefly talked about the unpardonable sin.  (See Matthew 12:22-32.) I felt almost sick, recalling how I had cursed God in the closet. I despaired and became convinced that I had ruined everything and was condemned to spend eternity in hell.  Still grieving my uncle’s death, I feared I would never see him again either.

I started looking up information about the unpardonable sin. This was long before google.  I searched church library books, a commentary in the library, and church documents in the back of the hymnal.  Unable to find any clear answers, I became convinced that my salvation had been lost forever.

Months went by in this guilt-ridden frame of mind. Finally, one day I nervously asked the minister if I could speak with him.  I needed to know once and for all if I was condemned forever.  I don’t remember too much about our conversation,  except for one thing he said:

“The very fact that you are so concerned demonstrates that the Holy Spirit is working in your life. If you had truly committed the unpardonable sin, you wouldn’t even care.”

This conversation was such a relief. My mind stopped spinning with guilt, and I was finally able to put it behind me.*

I know not how this saving faithTo me He did impart,Nor how believing in His WordWrought peace within my heart. (2)

From that point, I was fully committed as a Christian.  At age 16, I wanted to become a member of our church and participate in communion. But instead of following Christ, I became all about following the rules.

Almost immediately,  I focused on my own deeds and actions, instead of Christ the Savior. I was keen on emphasizing what I  (and others) were supposed to do or not do, but didn’t consider what Christ did on my behalf. Author Elyse Fitzpatrick calls this “spiritual amnesia”.

Meanwhile at home, I was still doing battle with my parents. Somehow, the commandment about honoring your father and mother was one I chose to ignore.  I was blind to my own faults and often focused on the faults of others.

Ironically, I was known to be a trustworthy and responsible babysitter.  I was a decent student.  I participated in church groups and committees at a young age. Most people didn’t know how rude I was to my parents at home.  I also developed an addiction to candy and sneaking food.

Please don’t misunderstand. All the high school years were not completely awful and miserable.  I had a core group of good friends.  My mom tried to help me the best she could.  I have good memories, too. But my temper and the strife I caused in the family casts a dark shadow over those years.

Recalling these things is embarrassing.  Yet, there is a reason for doing so.

If God can forgive a sinful, cursing, and often angry young girl, he can forgive anyone.  Sure, maybe I was a “good girl”.  I didn’t drink, smoke, do drugs, or have sex.    Instead , I tried to show myself as someone who did everything right and legalistically followed all the rules,  while wreaking havoc at home.

Jesus had some pretty harsh words for hypocrites.

 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:27, 28 NIV)

I know I was a hypocrite then, and I’m certain there are some ways in which I am still a hypocrite.

Yet, God has redeemed me.  I’ve confessed those sins of the past and asked for forgiveness.  (I will explain more how that came about in the next post.) I’ve trusted in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf. My past sins are covered by the blood of my Savior, which he shed on the cross.  This is humbling.  There is nothing I personally can do to save myself.  What a comfort.  It’s not all on me.

Being a “good girl” was a facade, nothing more.  It didn’t gain me good standing with God.  Only Jesus, God’s Son, could do that.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.  (Ephesians 1:7 NIV)

Today I can say “I am forgiven.  I am loved by God.” This is only possible through Jesus Christ,  only by the mercy of my heavenly Father.   Knowing full well my weaknesses and innumerable failures, then and now,  I am humbled to know how much I am also loved and forgiven and accepted through the gift of the Cross.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NASB)

 


*For a very helpful article about the unpardonable sin, click here.

In this post I’ve talked about God as the Father, Jesus Christ (the Son) and the Holy Spirit.  This is the Trinity.  For a simple explanation, I suggest this link.

For part one of my faith story, click here.

Stay tuned for part 3…

 

 

I know Whom I Have Believed

My story of faith (Part 1)

Maybe I could keep it really sweet and simple and leave it at that:  When I was 5 years old, I recall praying in the corner of the kitchen while my mom was cooking supper. I asked Jesus to forgive my sins and come into my heart, then shyly let her know.    I don’t recall what proceeded those moments.I know not why God_s wondrous graceTo me He hath made known,Nor why, unworthy, Christ in loveRedeemed me for His own.

If I could only leave my story there and say “the end”.  Sweet and simple.

Family life had deep Christian roots.  I was baptized as an infant and raised by Christian parents who read the Bible and prayed after our supper meal every day.  We attended church morning and evening  on Sundays, as well as  Sunday School, catechism classes and mid-week youth activities.  I was educated in a Christian school.  My parents were training up their children as they had been trained by their own parents. I am thankful that I personally knew several of my great-grandparents who also left a legacy of faith.

From that first prayer, and even before, the Holy Spirit was at work in my life.

The rest of the story  seems darker.  Maybe it didn’t have to be, but it has been.

True confession:  I haven’t often wanted to share the gospel with others.  Hard to explain why, but it’s true.  I am confessing this, red-faced and embarrassed.  When I think about sharing the gospel out loud, I think “What is there endearing about it? Who would believe this, and why?”  It is so much to take in, so much to explain.

It is also true and trustworthy, the Word of our Father and Creator, God.

In the gospel (the good news) of Jesus Christ there is incredible comfort and hope.  But on the surface, living life, there is also lots of trouble.  Jesus Himself tells us “In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33)

Friends, I have had trouble in this world.  (Haven’t we all?)

(God, please help me to express this the way I should and in a way that honors You.)

As a kid, I often thought I was getting the bad end of the deal.    I developed some pretty negative thinking.  In junior high, it only got worse.   Christianity, to me at that time was a set of rules that I performed to please people and keep out of trouble, not something I  took seriously.

I  started having issues at home.  Mainly, I thought life was unfair,  became angry, and caused a great deal of strife.

Outwardly, I conformed to all the rules.  I managed fairly well at church and school. Inwardly, I was upset all the time, and my parents and siblings bore the brunt of it.   I argued about everything.  Without being rebellious or wild in the  classic sense of the word, I tried to push all the boundaries. Primarily it was in how I communicated, which was disrespectfully and with a quick temper.  This wasn’t just for a small period of time.  It lasted pretty much all the way through high school.

When I was in 7th grade, my mom’s brother had been diagnosed with cancer, and it started to spread rapidly. He was a fun, kind uncle and  had a great sense of humor.  He also had a deep faith and trust in God, having suffered with cancer for several years. Because of him, I became aware of the brevity of life, and I seriously started to wonder if I would go to heaven if I died. As I watched what he was going through, I agonized about these questions for quite some time.

One day  I remember having  one of those terrible arguments with my parents.  I went and sat on the floor of my dark closet and cursed God.  Literally, I said swear words to God.  I felt sick inside about how I lashed out, but soon forgot.  (More about this in part 2, not yet published.)

In February, 1985  this dear uncle passed away, surrounded by family.  I loved hearing how his last words expressed  his certainty of  heaven.  I started to wonder, “Is heaven real?  Will I see him again? If it is real, will I see him again?”

Sitting in my bedroom one evening I opened the Bible to Psalm 34, and the words changed my life, forever. It was the first time the Scripture became real and personal to me. (To this day, it is my favorite Psalm.)  I found a measure of peace I didn’t have before, and comfort that God’s promises were true.

 I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.

Psalm 34:4,18 and 22 (ESV)

Coming soon….part 2!

Wondering more about the gospel?  Here is a great place to start.