Romans 5:20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. but where sin increased, grace increased all the more,…
When I was 8 years old I got what I now call my “fire insurance.” I had been raised in a small country church with a pastor who stood in the pulpit Sunday after Sunday yelling and sweating and preaching on hell-fire and damnation.
I was scared.
I was scared of this place called hell. I hated darkness, and the thoughts of spending eternity in a place like that scared the wits out of me. Also, he talked of other horrific things like fire that can never be quenched and bugs…lots of bugs. I don’t like bugs either.
So, one Sunday evening, I made my way to the alter and said that I wanted Jesus to come and live in my heart. I made this claim not because I fully understood what that meant, but because I did not want to spend eternity in a wretched place of no escape.
After that I thought I was good. Jesus and I, we were square. I continued to go to church and take my place as part of the flock. I participated in the special groups for girls, in vacation bible school and even went on a missions trip in middle school. What I didn’t realize at the time was that although I looked like everyone else there, my heart was beginning to stray.
Matthew 13:4-6 “…Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.”
I would defend Jesus to anyone, but I didn’t really know him. My faith was so shallow that I would just as soon whack you in the head with my Bible than have a conversation about Christ with you. I didn’t understand that there’s so much more to faith than knowing scripture. I didn’t understand love, forgiveness (of others and myself), service, etc. There was an awful lot about Christ I just didn’t get.
So life rocked on.
I got married, had two beautiful children and divorced. I was devastated. Yes, I chose this; marriage, children and even the divorce. I felt like a failure. Because of this my life began to spiral way out of control. I found myself going places and doing things that I would never have done in the past. Who was I,and where was God?
In an effort to try to make things right, I married again. I thought that if I tried really hard this time, and played by the rules, and did everything just so that God would forgive me for failing the first time, and that everything would work out okay. Guess what? It didn’t happen. I didn’t get it right; we didn’t get it right. I was tired of trying. Who was I, where was God, and did it matter anymore?
I turned my back on God. I willfully walked away. I even wondered if he was real.
I was tired. I was tired of trying. I kept doing things thinking that my acts would changed the way God perceived me. I was caught in a cycle of falling down, picking myself up, running myself ragged and falling again. My mistake? I. Me. Myself.
What I had failed to realize way back when I got my “fire insurance” was that the God of the universe, who sent his only Son to die in my place, loves me. Because he loves me, there is nothing I can do on my own to make him love me more or less. Nothing.
The price had been paid. The only action that needed to take place to ensure my right standing with God had already been completed. I only needed to have faith that Jesus is who he says he is and does what he promises.
2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
He became sin for us. He became every ugly, dirty, vile and despicable thing of this earth, and he walked willingly to the cross where the punishment for each and every one of those despicable things was exacted. He didn’t have to. He even prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, that if it be God’s will, the cup of punishment would pass from him. He became something so horrible that God, his Father, turned his back on him at the cross. But because Jesus had finished the work God sent him to earth to do, he was reconciled to the Father after the resurrection.
So, what does all of that mean for us? It means that we can stop running. It means that we can stop trying so hard to accomplish something that we just aren’t capable of doing on our own. I was naive in thinking from the beginning that the Christian walk would be easy. A lot of people are. But Jesus himself tells us in John 16:33 “…In this world you will have trouble.” but he finishes that statement with a promise, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I’ve finally learned that if there is anything on this earth I am meant to accomplish that I don’t have to rely on my own strength. I have also learned that either because of my past failures, or in spite of them, God has a plan for my life. I have learned to rest in his assurance that he will carry my through.
Psalm 145:14 The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.
Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.