Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My Chains Fell Off

One of my less-than-fond memories of childhood is let's-scare-you-into-the-kingdom evangelism. I remember those colorful comic book tracts depicting the end times in lurid detail, all the better to scare you with. I was too young, but my big sister had the pleasure of viewing that high water mark of Christian cinema, A Thief in the Night. Her description was enough to give me nightmares which did not help an already anxious young girl. Afterwards when my parents would run errands that took much longer than anticipated, I would run to the window and check to see if the moon or sun had turned to blood for fear that they had been raptured without me. I hadn't grown out of this as an adult although I internalized my fear. You can imagine how I reacted to Y2K, 9/11, or any turmoil in the Middle East. I avoided the TV news and wouldn't even glance at the front page of a newspaper. I kid you not. That's how bad it was.

But the root of the problem wasn't fearing the end times. I was afraid of God.

As a child, I was told Jesus died for my sins and to ask Him into my heart. I honestly believe God saved me at that time, but there were unanswered questions. Jesus' death got me in the door, but what happened after that? I knew God was holy. I knew He rightfully demanded perfection, so this must mean the rest was up to me. I never verbalized this fear, but I believed it. To make matters worse, my ability to be "ready” for Christ's return or by the time I died depended upon my degree of surrender. This was up to me and not up to me at the same time because I was supposed to allow Christ to do it through me but it couldn't be me doing any of the doing or the not doing. Got that? Due to my lack of understanding, “in Christ” was akin to balancing a level so the bubble would line up in the right place, but it constantly shifted back and forth based on my success at “letting go and letting God.” In the final analysis, my standing before God rested in my hands which was a terrifying prospect.

Forty years after professing Christ, I heard the complete gospel message for the first time. Charles Wesley's line “my chains fell off, my heart was free” couldn't have described it any better. Oh the relief of knowing that I was accepted by God once and for all, not because of a perfectly surrendered performance but because of a perfect Savior! Anxiety was replaced with rest in knowing that Jesus did it once and for all. He took my sins and bore the wrath I deserved.  He also lived the life I could never live and yet His perfect record has been accounted to me. “The Gospel changes everything” isn't a cliché. It's the truth because it's the difference between life and death, freedom and bondage.

I know God is sovereign over every second of my life including the years of gospel ignorance. Perhaps, those lean times were necessary for me to appreciate how good the good news really is. Consequently, many of my posts will likely be about some aspect of the gospel because it's so dear to my heart. I hope you don't mind. Whether this truth has been your daily bread all your life or you've only recently tasted its sweetness, let's never get past the gospel.

16 comments:

  1. I, too, lived through seasons of intense fear. It's only been in the last few years that I've learned to trust in God's sovereignty.

    Looking forward to all the good things you have to post here!

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  2. I saw A Thief in the Night.... at a New Year's Eve service, no less! I think it left a lot of children scared of being "left behind"!

    I can't wait to read more of your gospel-saturated posts.

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  3. Thanks, ladies. I'm glad to be writing with you all.

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  4. This reminds me of the hymn:

    Jesus paid it all,
    All to Him I owe;
    Sin had left a crimson stain -
    He washed it white as snow.

    Let's never get past the gospel indeed!

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  5. Wow! Were we raised in the same home? I was raised as a PK who never knew the love of God until I was about 23. Up to that point I only knew a God who was out to get me (and not in a good way)and I sought perfectionism to the point of anorexia. I lived a defeated life of thinking I could never please God so He could never love me. I remember my faith filled parents talking about how if the rapture didn't occur soon, the communists were coming to get us. As a teenager I passed out those fear filled tracts and I remember telling my classmates that the moon was turning to blood. I still cringe at how I made a fool of myself. I lived in constant fear and was only set free when I heard a message on the first chapter of Ephesians telling me I was chosen, adopted and accepted in the Beloved. That message completely set me free and I never looked back. That message literally saved my life as I weighed 69 pounds at the time. Thank God, He saw me and set me free. No chains, no fear!

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing this, Darlene. Praise God for His truth that has set us free!

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  6. I grew up hearing sermons that ended with "there's someone here tonight and this is your last chance to be saved." As a young child I was always terrified, knowing that I had sinned, and thought I must be the one who needed to be saved, again. Everyone else must have breathed a sigh of relief when I walked the aisle to the altar as the guilty party, time after time. Since then, I've wondered why no loving, godly adult (my parents, maybe?) ever pulled me aside and told me of the grace of God, that Jesus was holy in my stead. Maybe they didn't know.

    I look forward to more of your posts, Persis. I'm so thankful that God has so wonderfully brought us to know his marvelous grace.

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    1. I'm thankful with you, Rosemary, for His marvelous grace.

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  7. I also can relate. Many in my extended family go to this type of church. My grandfather was a preacher of this brand. I was so happy when my mom left her church because the pastor was trying to talk some members into responding to the alter call so that others would follow. Manipulation based salvation? This is why getting your theology right is so important. I love my aunts, uncles, and cousins who still attend these churches, and that's why it is so sad. Unfortunately, they do not see the importance of theology--their idea of faith has little content. And much of that content is a bunch of catch-phrases that they think are in Scripture but aren't.

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    1. "they do not see the importance of theology--their idea of faith has little content."

      That was my story too, Aimee. Here's to sound, biblical theology!

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  8. Oh, I don't mind you writing about the gospel at all, Persis. This was a great post!

    “The Gospel changes everything” isn't a cliché. It's the truth because it's the difference between life and death, freedom and bondage." Amen!

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    1. Thanks for your encouragement, Christina.

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  9. Persis, I did not grow up in a Christian home and was saved and radically transformed @ age 20. Nevertheless, most teaching in Evangelical churches in the early 70's was like this and even though I was saved I had a very skewed idea of sanctification as a result. Plus, our Gospel presentation was shallow at best. Chick tracts and scare-ya-into-the-kingdom were the order of the day. It really wasn't until 1987 when Robert was pastoring his 2nd church and we combed through MacArthur's "Gospel According To Jesus", that the full liberating truths of the Gospel really sunk in. Sorry for the long comment...this is a subject very close to my heart too. Love you sister.

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    1. I'm glad for the long comment, Diane. :) It's sad to see the affects of non-Lordship salvation. I was also helped by MacArthur's book.

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  10. I can very much relate to this. While I did not grow up in an orthodox church, I was taught about the rapture every Sunday along with the Great Tribulation and other horrifying aspects of what would happen to those "left behind." Up until my twenties I too lived in a very real state of fear complete with nightly graphic nightmares about being left behind. Thank God, He saved my soul! It is truly amazing to have rest and peace in Christ.

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