15 years ago on September 18, 2000, God saved me. It was my spiritual birthday if you will, so I got ice cream at the place I used to work at to celebrate :) I’m not sure if I was truly saved that day (plus God is timeless and saves His children before the foundation of the world), but it was the day I was sitting on my bed with my dad, who led me through a prayer, acknowledging my sin and need for a Savior. To be clear, it’s not about the day I prayed the prayer. And it’s not the prayer that saved me. Our works don’t save us and our words don’t save us; Jesus saves us by grace alone through faith alone.
I “accepted Christ” but I did not have a desire to follow Him until the latter years of high school. For those of you who knew me in middle school and high school, you could probably see that. I understood the gospel at a young age–or at least the benefits of the gospel, but I didn’t understand or care who the gospel is about, which is Jesus. My life did not reflect one that had been changed by God because I was not willing to surrender it to Him. I simply wanted to keep my life the way it was and attach Jesus to it. My life was marked by anger, bitterness, perfectionism, drinking, deception, and even church-going, but a stone-cold heart. I didn’t realize that true freedom is found when we surrender ourselves to Jesus, acknowledging that we cannot save ourselves or find the satisfaction we yearn for in anything but Him. I did not yield to His desires and held onto my fleshly ones.
I am not saying my life should have looked perfect without sin, but I had no desire or even a desire to desire Jesus more than myself. I had no intent to turn away from my sin, nor any desire to walk in newness of life that only comes from Jesus. After all, that is the call of the gospel if we truly accept it (Galations 2:20; 2 Cor. 5:17; Acts 3:19; Romans 2:5). If we are to call ourselves Christians, we should be able to say with confidence that “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
Please let me be clear that saving faith is not found in the act of repentance (turning from sin), but when we encounter the beauty of Christ, we begin to hate anything that does not reflect Christ (sin) and in response, will ask God to change our ways. As I learned to trust Jesus, he transformed my desires in a way that caused me to love the things of God I once hated and begin to hate things of the world I once loved. But that is a slow process; it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s messy and hard, but beautiful.
Jesus is better.
That has been the consistent theme I’ve had to tell myself or have had others remind me as I fight sin and my own will daily. He is better than _____. Period. You can fill in whatever you want, and He is better. I never got that growing up. I thought Christianity meant a lot of rule-following and a lot of missing out on “pleasurable” things. C.S Lewis gives the solution to this mindset in a way that rocked me—“It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
I viewed Jesus as one who could save me from sin, but failed to believe He is the only one who can satisfy my soul, so I ran far from Him and all the while He allowed me to see that He doesn’t turn away when I mess up. He called me back and He showed me that crucifying my selfish desires are actually freeing, not corrupting, because when we lose ourselves (i.e. ego, self-attainment, pride), we gain more of Him. Being enslaved to Christ is a wonderful thing, but being enslaved to sin and ourselves is anything but wonderful.
I hope these words you’ve read are an encouragement to you, wherever you may find yourself. I love reflecting on where I was when God saved me and to see how He can be glorified in broken vessels. It’s truly a humbling thing. We all have a story to tell, and really, it’s His story to tell. Thank you for reading a very broad scope of my testimony.