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.