Friday, October 23, 2009

What I Used to Think

If you’ve been reading my blog long enough, you’ve heard bits and pieces of my testimony of how God has changed my life. Our church calls this a ‘God story’ and explains it as events leading up to and after the point of intersect…when God intersects your life ….you were going one direction and then suddenly God opens your eyes to truth and your life starts on a new path. It is this intersect point in a person’s life in which many put their faith in Christ for the first time. It is often referred to as when they were ‘saved’, or the moment they first believed. The events and feelings after this point are often called being ‘born again’. Maybe you’ve heard those terms tossed around. Well, let me tell you what I used to think.

My beliefs used to line up well with what our American culture tells us. I believed in God, and I thought that when I died I would go to heaven as long as I was good. I pictured judgement day as me coming face to face with God and handing him my resume of my life. I thought that as long as there were more good things on it than bad things, then I was in. These beliefs seemed to be confirmed on TV shows, movies, and even at funerals. Almost everyone goes to heaven I thought. As long as they are good.

About the same time that my friend Steph and I started meeting (I shared about her in an earlier post click here) I remember being in church one day. I will never, ever, ever forget this day in church. I sat there listening to the sermon, and at the very beginning our pastor asked the congregation ‘What is the one way to heaven?’ After he asked I began thinking and answering the question in my head. My answer of course was: as long as you are good…you know, don’t murder anyone, try not to cuss, try to do random acts of kindness, be a good person. The sermon went on, and I hung on to the end for the answer to his question. Toward the end of the sermon the question was asked again, and then our pastor gave us the answer: Jesus. What on earth does that mean I thought? Our pastor went on talking about having a relationship with Jesus, and what that looks like….and that through Jesus, we had a gift. A gift of eternal life. Although I maybe had been told this many times previously, apparently I hadn’t been listening or maybe I never cared, because it sure didn’t sink in until that day. This was the day that the song ‘Amazing Grace’ is referring to in the lyric ‘I once was blind, but now I see’. This day in church was my intersection point – the point that God intersected my life. This was the day that I began to understand who Jesus was, what he had done for me, and that I brought absolutely nothing to the table in order to bring about my salvation. It was only through Jesus that I would be in heaven one day.

After that day I constantly searched my newly opened Bible to ensure that this matched up. Was Jesus really the only way? I needed to confirm this. How could I be sure? What about my cherished resume belief? That had to come from somewhere – was any of that true? At this point I had begun reading in the New Testament and I came across verses like this:

If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." (Romans 10:9-11)

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! (Romans 5:8-9)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

This is often termed as the ‘good news’. But, here is the hard part - for many of us in our minds it starts off as bad news in that we have to recognize our sin. We have to know what Jesus died for to understand the beautiful importance of his death which cancels our debts and brings us into a relationship with God. It’s hard to come to terms with our sin. Trust me, I fought it. But if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). There must be a point in which we recognize that our sin separates us from God. If we can’t ever get past this part of the news, then we will always feel offended, stand-off-ish, and defensive any time the gospel is brought up. Once I was able to let down my pride and realize my sin, I understood the amazing grace of God. And, my resume belief was gladly released. I am so thankful that my admission into heaven doesn’t depend on my own works. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-10)

If you believe in God have you taken the time to ensure that your beliefs match up with the word of God – the Bible? Mine didn’t. Have you read the Bible? If not, just start. Start in Matthew of the New Testament and read until the end to Revelations. Then, once you have a grip on the New Testament, go back to the very beginning (Genesis) and start reading the Old Testament. Some verses are confusing though, so it will help to have a study aid, or a life application bible in which you can get additional insight and explanations for the verses. Or meet with a friend that can help you through the verses. Hate to read? Catch some sermons online. Start listening to some awesome ones here: Either click on A Time for Harvest for 2 minute sermons, or go into the archives for longer ones. Here are some of my other favorite evangelistic preachers that have online sermons: Chuck Swindoll, Max Lucado, John Piper.

Well, to some this might sound like a bunch of hodge podge and you may have wished that you didn’t take the time to read this. But, I know I am not wasting my breath. I know that there are people out there who believe what I used to believe, and think what I used to think. But, the Bible does not back up the resume theory (or whatever you want to call it) for entrance to heaven. It is in Jesus alone that we find the promise of eternal life. And, in Jesus alone we find the promise of new life here on earth.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15-16)


Jody said...

This is a great post Janel. And there are some who still believe even after being saved that thier good works still continue to save them. But all our works are as filthy rags. If we get to the throne of God because of our works, then Jesus and his blood, pain,humiliation were in vain. It's all about what Jesus did and is doing nothing about what I do or will ever do. I can't wait to see the one who loves me so much face to face.

Bonnie said...

Hi Janel. First, no you don't know me but I found you when I was searching through blogs. First, your layout caught my eye (I haven't figured out how to jazz mine up!)

But then your pictures caught my eye--and then of course, your blogs. I love your testimony. Very similar to mine. I try to share my faith in my blogs as well. Do you mind if I steal your "meet the team" idea for my blog? I haven't figured out how you added it as a side bar, so I'll use it in a blog. Highest form of compliment to be copied, perhaps.

Anyway, love your blogs. Read Octobers and Septembers. I also have an older son and younger daughter so I relate. I think we'd be fast friends!

I'm at if you want to check me out.

angie said...

awesome Janel, just awesome! Thanks for sharing your testimony. I enjoy reading through your blogs- thank you for taking the time to do that!
We love because HE first loved us and hotly pursues us- what a GOD!