As a child I was told to pray a prayer and “ask Jesus in to my heart”. In fearful avoidance of eternity in hell, I obliged. Outwardly I called myself a Christian, thinking it meant I had joined a club, identified with a clique, or gained a privileged title. They said that’s all it took. I prayed the prayer and now I was good for life. Then why was I still terrified that I didn’t really feel “Jesus in my heart” and how could I know He was there? A few months later at a different church, faced with the same ignorant fear, I prayed the prayer again….and again at another church…and again. Over the years I struggled with doubt and tried to meld my life with my idea of Christianity thinking obedience would create confidence in my security. I was good at being good. Moral purity came easy to me and I despised the carnality of my peers. I believed I would surely receive the love, peace, hope, and faith I had heard about, if I was good (or at least better than those around me). And yet, no peace came. Bitterness grew as I impatiently waited for the hope, faith, and love I thought I was entitled to (not knowing what any of those words truly meant). I made my own sense out of sermons and anything that could have been convicting and turned it in to false piety. I attended Bible studies that were more like pizza parties, and youth groups that were more like night clubs and grew more judgmental of my “fellow Christians”. My self-righteousness was accepted by those around me as “prudish” or “uptight” and I was challenged to “live a little”. I was never asked for my testimony, leading me to believe that my cross necklace said it all. I purchased a new Bible and fancy Bible cover so I would look more like the other Christians and feel more like the other Christians. Then I would sit helplessly when scripture was recited and discussed. Never was I asked about my relationship with the Lord. Repentance, sanctification, submission, and Lordship were never spoken of in the 9 or 10 churches I attended (and worked at) over 25 years. I attended a church long enough to get frustrated with the hypocrisy I saw in others (blind to my own) and left without learning anyone’s name. My heart was hardened to truth because I believed I already had it. I was deaf to any warning because I believed I had nothing to fear. I was in the club. I was a Christian.
One afternoon (at 27 years old) I began reading a book about being a godly wife. I came to a chapter on submission, surrender, and reverence. I rolled my eyes as the author pointed out the importance of submitting to the authority of your husband. I shifted uncomfortably as I read how God expects us to show respect to our spouse. And I held my breath when I read, “ Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” (Eph 5:22). The idea of submission was so foreign. I had never submitted to anyone…not to my husband…and never to the Lord. The conviction came like a flood. I stared squarely at my sin: my arrogance, my bitterness, my anger, my mistrust, my rebellious heart, my disobedience, my callousness, my anxiety, my cynicism, my unbelief, and my judgmental rejection of every authority the Lord had brought in to my life. Like my friend in the flower patch, I immediately knew I had been deceived. I felt foolish, humiliated, and boldly aware of the lie I had fallen prey to and the danger it had put me in. All those years I had believed I was safe, that I was “so lucky”, that there was nothing I needed to do to protect myself. I had sought no shelter and made no effort to preserve my life. I had been living a lie. A very dangerous lie.
With that clarity, I felt ashamed to flash my cross necklace, to carry my shiny new Bible, and to stand falsely under the name of Christ. I saw myself the way God saw me: a lost sinner… on my way to hell. For the first time I understood that lordship meant submission and submission meant breaking: Breaking the strongholds Satan had built in my heart, breaking the habits I had developed, breaking the thought cycles that fed my selfish ideas, and breaking free from the lies I had believed. In my brokenness, I repented. And the peace (I had tried to earn, demand, and purchase) came. A peace I had never known.
I look back on all the pastors, teachers, priests, co-workers, family, and friends who had condoned my hypocritical Christianity rather than rebuking me. If only they had laughed as I boldly claimed I was a Christian, and mockingly asked, “Who told you that?” I surely would not have had an answer.
It makes me tremble to think that if I had died at any point during my “Christian” life, as I taught in a catholic school, as I wore a cross around my neck, as I condemned others for not measuring up to biblical standard, as I sang along to Christian music, as I carried my shiny new Bible, and as I professed Jesus as my savoir ... I would have lived out the horror of Matthew 7:21 indignantly arguing , “Lord, Lord…” And I would have rightly received His promised response, “I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” How tragic it would have been. But, graciously, the Lord did not allow me to wander in my ignorance forever. He did not hand me over to the lies I was so willing to believe. Instead, my beloved shepherd called for me, his lost little lamb. He called me from misery, confusion and brokenness, so that I may know peace. He called me from the lies of this world, so that I may know truth. He called me from cynicism and despair, so that I may know hope. And He called me from blindness, so that I may be saved.
~Katie Priest, Child of God
Are you believing the lie? Are you working your way to Heaven? Taking the Lord's name in vain, but denying the power thereof? Trying to find YOUR OWN way?
THERE IS BUT ONE WAY: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man gets to the Father except through me." -Jesus.
We are born at enmity with our own creator (through the sin of Adam). God has made a way of reconciliation: "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God. -Ephesians 2:8
Christ's death was paid on our account. The payment owed for our sin is death. And Christ Jesus took our debt upon himself and died in our place. That's what we "are saved by grace" means. We must only believe in that sacrifice and the miracle of His resurrection for our salvation. That's what "through faith, and that not of yourselves" means. We must give up on our own righteousness, our own will, our own ways. We must seek the Lord for redemption. As we die to our pride, our fears, and our self, we will be born anew, no longer separated from God by sin, but received by the spirit of adoption. That's what "it is the gift of God" means.
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. - John 8:32