Oh, what a relief it is to know God has our back! Not one of us is good enough to deserve a life of freedom, BUT GOD granted us a way. Core value #3 means the most to me because it was the hardest for me to accept. In my mind, I had this value flipped around. I believed that because God did His best, I had to do the rest. What a joy to understand that transformation begins and continues only when we get out of the way, and let God do His work through us!
Last week, I had the privilege of helping the women who’d completed the Christian Women’s Job Corp program write their testimonies. But before I felt equipped to help them, I knew I should write my own. I’m sharing it with you to help you see that God can do incredibly more than any of us can ask or imagine. As you read this, decide what your testimony of God’s power and grace would be.
I grew up in church singing, “Jesus loves me this I know.”
Vacation Bible School.
Showers, teas and fellowship meals.
I knew every aspect of church life inside and out. I loved God, and I hoped more than anything that Jesus loved me too.
Whenever I heard stories of others’ transformation my mouth flew open listening to the struggles they had overcome. It seemed each one had suffered through things I had only seen in movies. Their victories were truly victorious. So, how could my boring little life ever inspire anyone to get to know God? After all, I hadn’t been born into poverty, overcome drug or alcohol addiction, escaped prostitution, had a life-threatening disease, or been in prison.
Shoot, I didn’t even smoke!
The truth is, I lived unaware of the invisible bondage that prevented a meaningful relationship with God. I had become self-righteous. I knew the Bible better than many of my peers – not because I was smart, but because I wanted to prove I was right. Being naturally competitive, I believed that if I knew all the rules and followed them, I could prove my worth to God, and He would like my performance. I focused on doing all the right things to help me look great, rather than becoming the kind of person who longs to reflect the greatness of God.
In October of 2008 my friend Dianne and I walked down the sidewalk to the Guntersville City Jail for the first of many ladies’ Bible studies there. I had no idea that the first domino of my transformation process had just been thumped. Week after week, I sat listening to the hopelessness of the ladies dressed in orange. Week after week, more dominos toppled. I knew that only God could truly help these ladies, but how was I supposed to lead them toward His love, forgiveness, and grace when I wasn’t sure I knew the way? My eyes opened wide to the fact that I had missed something in all those many Bible studies – but what?
I began reading the New Testament as if I knew nothing about the Bible or Jesus. I tried my best to read with fresh, untrained eyes. I laid aside my upbringing and all I thought I knew. I kept reading. By the time I finished, I found Jesus. Not a finger-pointing, my-way-or-the-highway Jesus, but the One who holds the world in His hands and still longs to be my very best friend. The One who loves me even more than I love my grandchildren. This is the Jesus I unknowingly missed!
After 50 years of being a “good” little church girl, I began to feel the mercy of God slowly pulling apart the chains of my arrogant pride. Every time I tried to take charge of my own transformation, God showed me that He was the one arranging my freedom.
I can’t contain the joy and relief the grace of Jesus now pours over me. The intimate fellowship of the Holy Spirit ignites a genuine love and concern for others. I no longer have anything to prove. I know how much God loves me, how much He has forgiven me, and how much greater the power within me is than the power wanting to hold me captive.
I’m still amazed by the victorious stories of those who have overcome incredible obstacles, but I’ve come to believe it’s those ever-tightening, invisible chains of pride and insecurity that hold many, like me, captive way too long.
I routinely pray for Him to show me my offensive ways, and He does an exceptional job of that because they are many. But rather than condemning me, He lovingly places me back on the right path because He loves me too much to let me wander. He knows the way I should take, and now I’ve chosen to pay attention.
I’ve fallen deeply in love with my Father God because God is love, and He first loved me. I’ve learned the better reason for loving people – because God loves all people.
The Holy Spirit within me overwhelms me with an inexpressible joy of which I am unashamed! And now, finally, I can freely express my love and gratitude because “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible told me so!”
Now, what’s your testimony?
Can you guess Core Value #4? It’s my most favorite!! See you next week.