When I first became a Christian life was all about behavior modification. But it didn’t really start out that way. Initially, I was drawn to Jesus himself. As you could imagine, it was not laws, rules, or regulations that drew me in. It was the Lord’s love and forgiveness and mercy and grace that is so attractive. That’s what drew me in.
I don’t know exactly how it got to be about behavior modification for me. As I think about it though, non-Christians had a lot to do with it. When people would find out I was a Christian (especially when I first joined the Navy), they would watch my behavior in order to point out the mistakes I made. Eventually, I started doing it to myself.
Then a few years later I started listening to the teachings of people like Kenneth Copeland and others who taught the prosperity message. While I didn’t get rich by giving away the little bit of money I had, I did learn a lot about faith. At the same time though, those particular “faith” teachers were extremely manipulative. If you weren’t getting your healing or your riches, it was because you didn’t have enough faith, or, there was some sin in your life keeping you from your blessing, so they taught. That served to reinforce my efforts to obey the law, follow the rules, all in reality to try to manipulate God into doing what I wanted.
It wasn’t working. God can’t be manipulated into giving us what we want. By the time I realized that fact my whole life seemed to be falling apart. This really tests the so called faith I had in the Lord. In truth, I was still trying to manipulate him to get my own way. And it wasn’t working. And I was getting pissed. So angry with God that I end up cursing Him. I failed the “Job” test.
Thank God, he is not like me. His response was love. Always love. I didn’t feel condemned. I didn’t feel any anger toward me. And the fear I had up until that moment was displaced by His incredible ability to make you feel His love. Trust me, if you don’t already know, when you feel your life is falling apart there is a certain amount of A LOT OF FEAR happening!!! John even says in his epistle:
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first (1John 4:18-19).
What made me feel like my life was falling apart was all of my efforts and strivings to obey the law so that things would go my way. And things weren’t going my way. And because things weren’t going my way I naturally assumed that I was being punished for some short coming in my life.
It got even worse for me after I let go of the illusion of control. All of the “sins,” the behaviors and habits I had suppressed over the years came flooding back into my life. I won’t list them here, but, I assure you they are quite shameful. And the devil used that weapon of shame against me. Before I knew it I was wallowing in self-pity, depression and dangerously close to being suicidal. And all this is happening long after (7 or 8 years) experiencing God’s incredible love.
I didn’t know what to do. I seemed to be trapped in all my bad habits, addictions, shame and self-loathing. I wanted to change but I couldn’t. The harder I tried the worse it got. For weeks, maybe months, I couldn’t get the thoughts of hanging myself out of mind. Sometimes I would imagine shooting myself in the face. I felt so alone. I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about what I was going through. I was going to church but that was not helping. Sometimes that made it worse.
Finally, I think it was the writings of Paul that began to take hold, or, I finally began to see what he was saying in his letter to the Romans. I started to realize that if I am in Christ like the scriptures declare, then I am dead to the law I was trying so hard to obey (Rom 7). I think what had finally started to happen was me finally believing what is written about those of us who believe. In Christ, I no longer have to strive to obey the law. All I have to do is just BE.
A real transformation began to happen 7 years ago. I wish I could tell you that it happened almost instantaneously, but it did not. I will tell you this though, there was one aspect of the transformation in my life that was instantaneous, Peace. When I finally realized that no matter what I had done, or was doing, or would do in the future, whether it was good or bad, God’s love for me would never change, and that gave me Peace. The knowledge of God’s love for me I believe is the helmet of salvation. It enables me to hold up that shield of faith. Knowing God’s unchanging love for me is the buckle that holds the belt of truth in place around my waist. His love is the body armor of righteousness that protects me from the devil’s lying assault against my nature. His love causes me to stand firm in the peace that the good news brings, that Christ has included me in His death, burial, and resurrection. I am alive with Christ, one with God, never to be separated, ever! And I have the Word of God living in me, Christ the sword of the spirit. And IT. IS. REAL.
In my experience in the last 7 years it is experiencing, and knowing the love of God never changes toward me that has finally caused many changes in me. The Father, Son, and Spirit –They are the transformers and Love is their super power.
It’s not about trying to behave or obeying rules or laws (I chuckle as I think about it now). I tried so hard and it made me want to end my life. Then everything changed when I realized that He loves me in spite of my failings. This allowed me to begin to realize my true identity and value in Christ. I was not the many sins I was committing. I was not my failures. I am apart from those things in Christ. I am a new creation and created in the image of Christ.
Maybe you are having a tough time. Not many people read this blog, but you’re here. And I want you to know God loves you; no matter what. That’s some info that you can trust. Let him take your burden away. You’ll feel better.
My transformation is ongoing; slow but steady. Something I have said in other posts is that ultimately we become who and what we believe God is. My perceptions of God have been changing a lot over the last 7 years. Every time I see something new, well new to me, in Him it changes something in me. And the greatest thing about this journey is that I am not trying, nor do I have to make the changes in my self. It happens as a result of knowing Him more. And I know Him to be a good and kind and patient and extremely supportive friend. He is a good God. He is love. That’s who He is. There is no better way to live.