The Night I Chose Jesus

Easter is my favorite holiday. Not because of the pretty dresses, spring colors, egg hiding or candy, Easter is my favorite holiday because it is a celebration of the day my hero gave His life for me. My love of Easter actually began on Christmas Eve nine years ago. Strange, I know, but it was on Christmas Eve in 2004 that I came to the full realization of what Jesus Christ truly did for me. It was on that evening that I fell head over heels in love with Jesus and the Cross, sealing Easter as my very favorite time of year.

See, I was saved at 8 years old, but my salvation was mostly based on trying to please God with my behavior and struggling with guilt every time I failed. I saw Jesus as this poor victim of my sin and failure, who had to suffer because of my inadequacies. I didn’t know how to have a relationship with Him because I was too busy focusing on my own guilt and unworthiness. I was a self-absorbed Christian, living in fear, guilt, shame and rebellion. I carried around an orphan identity, wondering if God could ever really love me just for being me, struggling to overcome a cycle of doubt, sin, shame, repeat.

But on that December night, after 16 years as a Christian, I heard a message that would change my life and set me free. I sat in church and listened to a pastor tell me my sins were forgiven. Really. All of them. Every bad choice, every ugly word, every mistake, every disobedience…forgiven. All of my past, present and future sins were covered by the blood of Jesus. I was told that the baby lying in the manger in that small town of Bethlehem came for a reason. He came because he wanted to come. He came because He chose to come. As those words sank into my heart, I realized that Jesus was not a victim of the fall of humanity; He was the savior for all humanity. He is our hero.

We all have free will here on Earth. God did not want to create an entire species of robots, so He has given us all the freedom of choice. We can choose to believe in Him, respond to Him, obey Him, or love Him. We can choose to believe the word of God or we can choose to dismiss it. Our life is full of choices, and God designed us with a will so we can make those choices. Jesus was fully God, but while on Earth He was also fully man, and with His humanity also came free will. Jesus chose to be obedient to the mission God put Him on Earth to complete. He chose to participate in the rescue of mankind. As He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He chose God’s will over His own (Matthew 26: 42). This means He chose me…He chose us.

When the soldiers came for Him, He chose to go. When they lashed His body, He chose to endure it. When they forced a cross onto His back, He chose to carry it. And when they nailed Him onto the cross He had carried, He chose to stay there, for us. He decided that my forgiveness and your forgiveness was, and is, more important than His suffering.

I learned, that evening, that I am a daughter of God because of the decision Jesus made. His death was my adoption. He became the sin of man, so that I could become the daughter of God. Now, that is love. I no longer had to strive and struggle to please God, who has already been well pleased by His Son (Matthew 3: 17). When I screw up, as I often do, forgiveness is already waiting for me and grace encourages me to keep going.

Because Jesus stayed on the cross, He was raised again and I am raised with Him. I have hope, joy and peace with the knowledge that my penalty is paid and I will never be separated from His love (Romans 8: 31-39). His choice means my freedom because there is now no condemnation for me (Romans 8: 21). Because of Jesus, I have assurance that while this world is temporary, my eternity is with Him in Heaven (Philippians 3: 20; 1 Peter 1: 4).

That night, my eyes were opened to the real power of the cross. The freedom I felt and the joy and love that flooded my soul was like living water to a girl who was dying in a desert. I felt this because after all of those years, I chose to believe. I believed I was (and am) forgiven, I believed God loves me like a father, and I believed He means good for me (Romans 8: 28). I chose grace, love and Jesus.

This is the Good News: I am not the only one rescued in this story. As much as Jesus did all of these things for me, He also did them for you. He chose you. He loves you. All you have to do is believe it. Let it penetrate your soul like living water. Your sins were nailed to that cross with Him because He chose to stay there…He chose to save us. He is my Hero, and He can also be yours. If you do not know Him, He longs for you to be rescued. If you do know Him, He longs for you to be free in Him…without fear, guilt, shame or burdens. My heart longs for all of you who are weary, broken, doubting, or fearful. Fall in love with the cross and your Hero. Fall in love with the one who chose you. Choose to be rescued, this Easter, choose Jesus.

Let’s take this time to be renewed in the amazing power of the cross and let us celebrate Him: “Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord, exulting in his salvation.” (Psalms 35: 9)

 

Carissa Hardage