Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"before the foundation of the world"

My life before I was saved.

I was broken.

I was lost.

I was dead.

"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
and which you formerly walked according to the
course of this world, according to the prince
of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now
working in the sons of disobedience.
Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts
of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and
of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath,
even as the rest."
Eph. 2:1-3

I was living my life for myself.

I had no desire to change.

I wasn't living God's way.

Before the Lord saved me, my life had no eternal purpose.
My goals were selfish, my heart was proud, my focus was on my wants and desires, and I thought I was going to heaven at the end of it all.
At thirteen years old, I professed faith and was baptized. I thought it was "that simple". I had been taught the gospel all my life. I knew what I was supposed to say and do.
I was a pastor's daughter. How could I not be a Christian? I couldn't be living for the world when my Dad's life was committed to teaching others to flee from the world's lusts and passions.
I could recite Bible verses, share the gospel with friends, and all I wanted was to be known as that "sweet Christian girl".
But never was my heart in it. I didn't truly believe myself what I was saying.
Oh I knew how to act, what to say, and how to put on the right act that would have people believing I had all my ducks in a row. And that's just what it was - acting.
It was when I started believing my own deception that led to much heartache. The longer I acted out "Christianity", the more convinced I was that I was truly saved. That is, until my fleshly longings became more important to me than my so-called "faith".

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows,
this he will also reap.
For the one who sows to his own flesh
will from the flesh reap corruption, but the
one who sows to the Spirit will from the
Spirit reap eternal life."
Gal. 6:7-8

The first month after I was baptized, I read my Bible with more a desire, rather than looking at it as a chore. I was excited and thought the Lord would start blessing me. However, after a couple weeks, my passion drained to nothing and I had no assurance of salvation. Every time I rebelled against my parents, spoke harshly to a sibling, or out rightly sinned with no shame, I would doubt my "salvation." I had sinful patterns in my life that I dealt with before I was saved, and they continued to be a pattern in my life after I claimed Christianity. I knew that when you decided to follow Christ, it meant giving up everything and having a true hatred for sin. This was not the case for me. I continued to sin, repent when I needed, but then slip back to the same issue the next day. Romans 8:8 says, "and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." I knew that I wasn't pleasing God with my life. So how could I say I was a follower of Him when I was doing the very thing He hates and not having a sorrow for my actions?
Was I saved? Wasn't I saved? I didn't know. Sometimes I had just wished I wasn't. I would have myself believing that if I wasn't saved, my friendship with this non-Christian guy I liked could maybe go further one day; if I wasn't saved, I could live life with less expectations from people, and people wouldn't look at my every move to see if I'd stumble.
I was sure life as a non-Christian was easier, more laid-back, and way more fun that just that "religious stuff".
My heart was proud and I wanted to be in control. I wanted to rebel. But I was a cooperative rebel. I would do what people wanted, say what people wanted to hear ---- but in my heart, I was angry. I didn't truly believe what I was saying and I wasn't living it out in my own life. The "Jesus-dying-on-the-cross story" was so familiar to me that it didn't impact me anymore. I wasn't in awe of His great love, I hadn't grasped just what He had done for me on that cross. I was tired of living like this, but I had believed my own deceitfulness towards others so much that I was eventually self-deceived. I bought into satan's lies. And I saw no way out.

"If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless." James 1:26

In May of 2010, my family and I attended the Rebelution Conference (http://www.therebelution.com/), along with a number of people from our church. I had been praying that some of my unregenerate friends would be saved at this conference and that they would "commit their lives to Christ".
However, it was that day at that conference that the Lord opened my eyes to His truth and replaced my heart of stone with a heart of flesh.
"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe." Eph. 1:18-19a

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus."
Eph. 2:4-6

A powerful message was brought forth to the youth at that conference, the same message that Jesus Christ has proclaimed to us through His Word. Alex and Brett asked some very heart-stirring questions that had a huge impact on my life.
These are some of the questions they asked:
1. Do you talk with God like He's your best friend?
2. How often do you read your Bible because you believe it is the Word of God, not because you've been asked?
3. How often do you obey God just because you believe in Him?
4. Do you see enough evidence of God's grace in your life to be confident that you have been born again?

The last one pulled at my heart so strongly because I couldn't bring myself to answer yes. In fact, I couldn't bring myself to answer yes to any of them. I would never pick up my Bible because I wanted to read it. I only did it because it was another "Christian chore" for the day in order to stay right with God. And this is so wrong.
When Brett asked the audience, "Do you want to be born again?", I couldn't stop the tears from coming. My heart was pounding because it finally struck me that I had been living this ungodly life with the label "Christian" attached to it. Brett said to be brutally honest and I knew in my heart of hearts that I could not answer the fourth question with a yes because I had no fruit in my life. So I answered his last question, "Do you want to be born again?", with my first yes.
I can't describe in words what I was feeling. There was this awful feeling inside realizing that I had been deceiving myself (and others) these past few years, and yet at the same, there was this beautiful calmness of heart. I felt the love of God take out my heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh. I wanted to tell everyone I knew at that moment, even someone I didn't know, what I was feeling - what God was doing at that moment. And what He was doing was a miracle.
I can't thank my Lord enough for His unending love for me, His mercy and grace poured on a wretched sinner like me, and His wonderful gift of salvation.

One statement that Brett made was, "Are we martyrs or murderers? Are we as lambs or as wolves? Do we die to self or kill for self?" If we live lives that are only to please ourselves or others, then we are not martyrs. We aren't laying our lives down for anyone because we do everything for self. I was a wolf in sheep's clothing before I was saved. I could put on the "Christian act", but inside I was a totally different person. I was deliberately disobeying God, living for pleasure, committing so much time to entertainment instead of time with God, and telling myself I was saved when I was not.

Now, I want to be a martyr. I am going to lay down my sinful, fleshly desires and I am going to sacrifice my life to serving God. I want to be radical - a rebelutionary. I want to honour Him with my life in all that I do, and not with a false label of Christianity, but rather, be in a daily relationship with my heavenly Father. I want to stop living for self, but rather, live for God. Brett said that when we become new creatures in Christ, we have a new "wanter". We no longer want to live for self, but we want to live for God. We no longer want to spend every spare moment of our time watching television, but spending time getting to know our God better. We are no longer a wanter of sin but a wanter of righteousness. The Lord has helped me to be that wanter - a seeker of righteousness.

Since the moment the Lord saved me, He has given me new desires and has taken away my passion for worldly things. And no, I am not perfect. I have failed Him in many areas and have stepped off the path in sin. But the Lord has always brought me back and my gaze is set on Him.
As one martyr said, "My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I won't give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up for the cause of Jesus Christ."

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves,
it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."
Eph. 2:8-9

"so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you,
being rooted and grounded in love,
may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and
length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which
surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen."
Eph. 3:17-21

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