One of the biggest struggles I have faced in my walk as a follower of Jesus throughout my life has been my assurance of salvation. I remember praying to God many times over asking for forgiveness or wondering if I was truly one of his loved children.
On the one hand it sounds rather pious to do such a thing. However, let me assure you that my constant and fearful worries about my faith were anything but. I simply hadn’t fully understood how safe I truly was in God’s arms, and that his promises were indeed enough to trust and build my life upon.
Many years I was like a person “being tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by ever wind of teaching and the cunning craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming”. I knew I believed in Jesus, but I didn’t understand how paramount that was to my life that I lived. I lived two lives: the one that other “Christians” saw, and the one that never fully trusted God and made its own decisions. Much of my life has been lived this way, filled with confusion, fear, anguish, regret, and poor decisions.
Yet, God has been faithful to me, patient, and slow to anger. It has been by his gentle hand and the gift of his word that my eyes have been opening more, if only slightly, to sanctification. This beautiful word has done wonders for my heart. In the past, had I sinned, I felt as though I lost my faith. I would wallow for days in guilt and shame, afraid to go to God with my sin. By the time I made it there I could hardly let grace touch my stony heart. It was walled up and surrounded by mountains of lies about my failures and shortcomings and inability to keep up “just being a good Christian”. The biggest lie I believed is that I could simply white-knuckle being “good”. Yet, if I could be good, then why did Jesus die for me? I hadn’t fully understood how sinful I actually was, that it permeated by inner being, and that there was nothing I could do to escape this curse.
He kept all those commandments I couldn’t keep, and did it for those who believe him. One day, as I read through the Ten Commandments, I fully realized just how inescapable sin was in my life. How could I escape the wrong desires and thoughts of my inner heart? Maybe I could never gossip out loud, but in my heart I sometimes judge wrongly or get hurt by people and think a fleeting, passing, thought. Could I ever go without complaining about my lot in life, even in secret? What about envy? A light bulb went off in my head as I looked at myself soberly. I was living a lie.
I couldn’t escape on my own by trying to be good, and it was pointless to hide in my misery every time I sinned. How could I experience grace by being proud or hiding in shame?
Rather, I knew it was time to pick up my dirty, awful deeds and take them to Jesus to do the washing. He never turns me away when I come to him, and he is gentle with my spirit. At times it is hard to give him my comfortable, dirty secrets that I so often cling to for feelings of familiarity and relief. I wonder how he will expect me to tarry on without these things that have become my habits, my false friends. As he starts washing these impurities off of my soul I notice the cool waters changing me. I sense, once again, how real his love is and what a fool I am for trying to run away from him when all I needed was his cleansing waters- his grace. I am a fool for hiding out in wretched and stinky covers rather than going to my God boldly for washing.
My child cannot clean herself. She may scream in anger when I try to change her diaper. Yet, what good parent would let her sit in her filth? Like a child cries in anger as a Mom tries to clean her marinara-and-noodle covered face off, I try to keep my heart covered with dirt and impurities instead of trusting Jesus to help me get clean. I cannot clean myself. I need to be cleaned. There is no other way.
As I recognize this staple truth in my life and the process of sanctification, I feel much more at rest and peace to bring my heavy burdens to Jesus. I understand now there really is no other way to experience grace, cleansing, and growing. This is the way, and it is His beautiful and good way of sanctifying my life. In that I can rest without shame. Furthermore, I feel my heart filled with gratitude that he loves me so much that he is willing to gently wash away my impurities and help make me clean.
These new beliefs did not come to me overnight. God gave them to me in bits and pieces over the past few years. I still struggle with this daily. I assume I will my entire life. I have stopped wondering if I am good enough to enter God’s presence.
I know I am not good enough. I never was, and never will be.
He is good enough to let me come to him dirty and needy. He wants me to come to him with a humble heart as he says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”