I grew up in eastern South Dakota with good parents and 4 siblings. I was the youngest for 10 years. We spent most of our time outdoors with family, farming and animals. We attended the Congregational Church and Sunday School every Sunday - the message I got (in church and at home) was BE GOOD OR ELSE!
School was fairly easy for me, but socially I was always trying to fit in...and never really did. By High School, I was part of the party crowd. My parents were stricter than my friends' parents (now I know they cared more about me)...resulting in lots of deception (on my part) and tension between my parents and myself. I was very rebellious - looking back I see how incredibly naive and stupid I was - willing to throw away all my family's values.
I went to college off and on, but my priorities were fun and making myself FEEL GOOD, and I strived diligently to accomplish them. I did manage to understand that some trouble with the law and a serious accident were wake-up calls from God, but they produced no lasting changes in my life. I met Larry - now there were two of us who just wanted to party and have a good time. I didn't want God to be God - I wanted to be God!
When I was very young, I was emotionally stirred by our church and Sunday School teaching and singing. I wanted so very much to BE GOOD for God. I can now recognize God speaking to my heart even way back then. But - I never could be good enough, or good for very long.
During Jr. High, I saw a Billy Graham film, went forward and accepted Christ. It was very emotional for me, but with no follow-up or support there seemed to be no lasting change.
While spending summers between college working at Placerville Church Camp, I found my way to the Lord's Chapel. It was located where Faith Temple is now, and in the late '70s it was a radical, on-fire church. It felt like I'd come home. God's love was so overwhelming. But I still didn't GET IT - I just thought I had to quit doing all the things I did, change myself, and BE GOOD. I got involved in charismatic fellowships and had the same old feelings of never fitting in.
Larry and I were married in 1980 and for many years we straddled the fence between church and the world - living mostly in the world. We adopted two gracious gifts of God - Michael and Matthew. I thought we were raising them with biblical truth, but all I was doing was 'making a list and checking it' many times - insisting they BE GOOD OR ELSE. As you can imagine, with this mindset, there was lots of stress and plenty of yelling.
I was in my early 40's, attending The Little White Church in Hill City, when I finally began to GET IT.
Romans 3:23 - All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (I already knew that included me)
Romans 6:23 - The wages of sin is death (There appears to be NO WAY around this)
Romans 5:8 - BUT...God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (This must mean I didn't have to get GOOD ENOUGH FOR GOD)
Romans 6:23 - the gift of God is eternal life (You mean it's a gift? Not something to work for? To be GOOD ENOUGH for?)
God loves me so much that even when I was lost, heading to hell, and unable to make peace with Him (or even want to), He came as the God/man - Jesus Christ - to take the punishment for my rebellion and sins - giving me peace with God and giving me HIS Righteousness. He is the only One who could ever have saved me! I never could be GOOD ENOUGH!
It is Jesus Christ who makes it possible for me to have a right relationship with the Father (that's what Righteousness is). Because all of us are children of fallen Adam, we've been separated since birth from a holy God. Our natural human nature placed us under a death sentence with no appeal. But in order to bring me back to Himself, God sacrificed His Son Jesus and counted His death as payment for my sins. When I made a commitment to Christ by trusting Him as my Savior, my sins were no longer counted against me. In God's "accounting books", my rebellion and sins have been transferred to Jesus' account, and His Righteousness (His GOODNESS) is credited to me. With my sins forgiven, I have a new standing in Christ and am free to approach God with the confidence that a daughter has in going to her father.
It's much easier to see God working in our lives when we look back. He brought us to Hill City and The Little White Church - to sit under years of Dwayne's teaching (I do admit that much of that went completely over my head, but some TRUTHS must have begun to penetrate), and my mind was starting to be renewed. The Wednesday night Bible Studies with Dwayne and Bryant, and now Ron as teacher and pastor, have helped more than anything in my spiritual growth and understanding, and in beginning to apply the Truth. Muriel's book studies, especially Birthright: Christian, Do You Know Who You Are? and Knowing Christ, have really opened my eyes as to who I am IN CHRIST.
Romans 12:2 says "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think (renew your mind)." All my life I'd been living the world's way, which is NOT God's plan for His children. I needed to go from being SELF-centered to being God-centered (I'm still working on that). It's really not all about me.
So...was I SAVED when I accepted Christ at the Billy Graham film, or at the Lord's Chapel when I sobbed through the entire service, went forward, got baptized in water and the Holy Spirit, or as an adult when I finally began to UNDERSTAND what Jesus had done for me and have the powerful assurance of salvation? Does it matter? I know I am God's beloved daughter now and forever...and that's enough.
I am awed by His mercy and love for me - He never let me go - He kept bringing me back to Himself - like a loving Father who kept searching for His beloved, rebellious daughter.
At some point, I had to surrender, turn from my rebellion against God, and acknowledge His right to be God.
I had to ADMIT I was a sinner, and that I needed forgiveness.
This meant finally realizing and admitting I couldn't be GOOD ENOUGH - I was BAD. Romans 9:16 - it does not depend on man's effort, but on God's mercy.
I BELIEVED Jesus Christ died on the Cross and rose from His Grave. He died paying the just and fair penalty for MY sin - and God showed that He accepted Jesus' death in place of mine by raising Him from the dead. John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son - that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
I CONFESSED that Jesus was my Lord and Savior and asked Him to come into my life and save me from my sins and my inability to be GOOD ENOUGH! I surrendered. I gave up my rebellion against Him. My life's motto had always been: Not Thy will, but my will be done. Now I acknowledge Him as my Lord - having the right and the wisdom to rule my life. He is also my Savior - the ONLY WAY to peace with God, eternal life and escape from hell. Romans 10:9,10 & 13 - If you confess with your mouth "Jesus is Lord" and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with the heart that you believe and are justified (declared 'not guilty'), and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.
Ephesians 2:8: It is by GRACE that I have been saved (not by being GOOD ENOUGH), through faith - and this is not from yourselves - (not the grace, not being saved, not the faith) - IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD.
SO NOW WHAT?
Life is a bed of roses - a walk in the park - blue skies every morning - no problems. Not exactly...Jesus promised us that 'here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but, take heart, because I (Jesus) have overcome the world" - John 16:33.
Yes, there is going to be trouble in the world...and sorrow...and tempations. But everything that God allows to happen in my life is His best for me - and somehow it is all making me who He wants me to be - who He created me to be. Christ has truly set me free (Galatians 5:1) - free from SELF, free from having to be GOOD ENOUGH and knowing I could never be, and free from the penalty of sin. I don't have to be 'the old me'. 2 Corinthians 5:17 assures me that 'anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun'. I am so thankful for that. Again, Romans 12:2 says, "Don't copy the behavior and customs of the world, but LET GOD transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." God is enabling me to walk in the newness of His life. I can look at things with an eternal perspective (not that I always do) and see that the only things that matter are things that will last forever - a lost world in desperate need of salvation, my relationship with my Father, and God's glory.