I grew up in the church. Literally, since before I was born, I was in church. My mom sang in the choir, played the piano, taught Sunday school classes, directed Easter and Christmas programs…while she was pregnant, after I was born and through my adulthood. It is very safe to say I spent every extra minute of my time at church, going to church, serving in church, being in church.
My parents wanted us to be grounded in God so they made the sacrifice to have my mother teach at small “Christian” schools. Not only was my extra time spent in church but now my schooling was spent being taught by Christian teachers, with Christian perspective in every subject.
I remember the first school I attended had Bible as a subject and we learned catechisms, which is a summary of the principles of Christian religion in the form of questions and answers. It was always important for me to do well in everything I did so this was one area that was equally important…after all we received a grade for this subject. I mastered it. I won awards for how quickly I could answer, how well I knew the definitions/answers and when we were drilled in class I was always the one that brought the “girls” team victory. It was safe to say that I knew God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and I knew all there was to know about how to be a Christian.
The church we attended was hell, fire and brimstone preaching so I knew exactly how to get out of going to hell. At 6 years old I walked the aisle, I said the prayer and not very long after, I was baptized. I was a Christian. I knew God. No longer was going to hell.
It’s important to understand I was a good kid, the middle child of three girls who were very close in age. We had the one that was rebellious, the one that was carefree, and then there was me, the rule follower. Don’t get me wrong, I made mistakes and that is a story to be shared at a different time, but I was what a mom would label as the “good” kid.
It came easy for me to be good, make good choices and make sure that I followed all the rules laid out in front of me. That was very easily transposed into my decision to get saved. That’s how I viewed it…I was saved. I was saved from hell and now I must follow the rules God’s Word laid out for me because there was no room for disappointment.
I lived a life of a lot of knowledge of God but never really knowing Him. It was a life of a lot of trying to stay in the favor of God but never responding to Him because of His favor, Jesus (the dictionary says a favor is a gift bestowed as a token of goodwill and love rather than from justice). It was a life of knowing who Jesus was and what he did but never having a relationship with him.
That life was empty and lonely. It was full of turmoil and pain. It was always doing and never ending up with any satisfaction or peace. It was exhausting living up to rules. The life I was living was because “being saved” was a moment in time, an event. I had not received salvation. Please know I am not saying you can lose your salvation. What I am saying is that “being saved” from something is a moment of time and then you walk away and do what you want, how you want and there is never change.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1: 10
“Being saved” from something is an act you do because you know a lot about what happens if you don’t- but it’s not a life that is lived in response to the “favor” of Jesus.
“For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5: 21
You see, I wasn’t living “in Him” because He wasn’t living in me. I had never truly accepted the gift of salvation. At 31 years old sitting in a church, the first church my husband and I had been to in over 8 years, a guest speaker took the pulpit. That speaker had come to talk about a prison ministry and was asking the church to become a part of it. Before he began to speak about that ministry he told his story.
His story was much like mine; he had grown up in church all of his life, was a deacon most of his adult life and then fell into the traps of Satan and began an affair with a married women. He left the church and later they married. After a breaking point in his life he realized that Jesus loved him and that the blood shed on Calvary was for all, the grace given was for all sin and there was nothing that he could ever do to repay that “favor”. He and his wife gave their lives to Christ and their lives were forever changed. A life of service in response to what Jesus did for them.
They were reaching people the world saw as failures, deserving of what they got. He had followed all the right rules and broken some, but these souls had broken all the rules and done all the wrong things in life, yet they both needed the same forgiveness, the same grace, and the same mercy. Jesus wanted a relationship with the murderer on death row just as much as the deacon.
I sat gripping the pew…tears uncontrollable. I realized in that moment I had lived life with a lot of knowledge of “who Jesus was” and I could quote the answers, but I didn’t have Jesus. I had lived a life following rules and breaking some of those rules later in life and I was still empty.
I will never forget that moment when Jesus lifted my load, placed it on his shoulders and said you are forgiven. I walked out of the church that night with Jesus. And not the knowledge of Jesus, but I had Jesus…because I talked to him that night and several nights there after.
My life was forever changed. My life is a daily response to what Jesus has done for me and now I want to do what He asks in His word not because I am a rule follower but because of how much I love him and I live in Him. I wish I could say my life became easy, but it didn’t. I wish I could say my life hasn’t had any trying times, but I can’t. What I can tell you is that I am not the same person I was before that night and I am not the same person I was last year and I won’t be the same person next year that I am now. That is what salvation does. It changes you and it transforms you. It’s a journey, a walk with Jesus. I am not alone… Jesus walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am his own and the joy we share as we travel together is like none I have ever known. There is nothing greater!!
Salvation is not a moment in time, one event, a date on the calendar…it is an acceptance of the “favor” of Jesus and it is a life changing, transforming process. It is a life journey to celebrate every day in response to Jesus and what He did for us!
“And he did for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” 2 Corinthians 5: 15
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2: 20