I spent several years “addicted” to pornography and masturbation, drinking too much, eating too much, and many other indulgences. And I spent many years (those same years) praying for deliverance to seemingly deaf ears. I was so afraid that the Lord hated me because of my bad habits and that I would end up in hell after I died. I thought I had to get things right and be perfect in order to please him. I struggled with feelings of guilt and unworthiness and self-loathing. It got so bad that I felt that I’d rather be dead than to keep feeling this way.
So how did I get past this point in my life? Well, it wasn’t anything that I did. It was the Lord’s incredible love that revealed an already accomplished deliverance to me. What it boiled down to for me was, God loves me no matter what is happening in my life, no matter whether I was doing things I considered wrong or things I considered good. He loves me just the same.
I can’t even remember when or how I realized that God was going to love me no matter what was happening in my life. What I do know is that this knowledge was the key to actual change. Somehow knowing that our Father was willing to BE my Father no matter what disarmed the sin that seemed to have such complete control over me.
That knowledge changed something in me. I can’t really describe it or explain it, But I’m going to try.
I think it is in the thought process of trying to obey the law or rules. If you believe that you’re worshiping a god who expects perfection from you, you end up in bondage. Think about it. You’re focused on trying to be good or following the law or the rules and that becomes your entire focus. And because of that, you’re constantly focused on what you are doing wrong. The more you are focused on your sin the more it happens. Have you ever noticed that?
There were several books I read that preceded my life change. One of those was Love Wins, by Rob Bell. Many considered Rob Bell a heretic after this book came out. For me though, the book was a breath of fresh air, an infusion of life. It literally saved my life because I was thinking more and more about death. Suicide. I felt like I was caught in a trap. I felt like I wanted to take my own life, yet, I was afraid to do it because I was convinced I’d wake up in hell to burn forever.
Love Wins, asks some questions that we believe as Christians we aren’t supposed to ask because they are somehow an admission of a lack of faith or sign of heresy or whatever is worse than that. But they were questions I’d had myself. They were questions I would like to have had answered. The book did not answer many of these questions, but, just hearing them asked was enough to get my attention off of me.
Is God love or is He not? Well, according to Jesus (who claims to be the Son of God), Paul, John, David, and many other authors in the bible He IS love. I had already been taught in church about what they perceived as justice, judgment, and punishment. But I had not heard enough about God being love. Now some would say that love is just one aspect of who God is. However, I am beginning to believe that love is not just an attribute, but in fact is who God is. So the attributes of love would have to describe who God is and what He is like, at least a little.
This often brings me back to 1 Corinthians 13. You know the verses:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hope, always perseveres. Love never fails (vs. 4-8).
If God is Love, then is this not God being described by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians? I had not (I don’t think) ever saw God in this light. He was just this all seeing, all powerful, being that I believed was God, and who expected perfection from me that I could not deliver. I was doomed. And I knew it.
But this awakening to who God is, in light of what love is, and the fact that what Paul, John, David and many others describe God as love at some point, began to change my thought process. More questions began to arise in me. Does God ask us to do things that He is not capable of, or unwilling to do himself? Like, love your neighbor as you love your self? Or, forgive seventy times seven? Pray for your enemies? Love or pray for those who despitefully use and abuse you?
I don’t think He does. What did that mean for me and my situation? It meant that the things I believed that God was asking of me, he was more than capable of doing, especially love. It made me realize that God was not holding my sins against me. He was not keeping a record of my failures, so why was I?
Despite the many places in scripture that declared that I had been fully delivered through Christ from my sin, I failed to believe it. Instead, I focused on the sin and tried to control something that really was not there, causing me to give life to a dead man, my old self.
Do you not know, brothers and sisters —for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? For example, by law, a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.
So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code (Paul Romans 7:1-6).
I had failed to believe THAT I WAS DEAD. I had been crucified with Christ and RAISED TO NEW LIFE with him. More importantly, I had failed to understand that this is how God sees me. And not because he chooses to see me as dead and raise anew, but, because it is, in fact, THE TRUTH about WHO I AM IN CHRIST. This is such a key piece of knowledge, that if we don’t have it, will potentially destroy us.
God is not after me, at least not in the way I thought. The truth is he is my Father, a loving Father. He does not hate me because of my mistakes. He won’t run out of patients. He accepts me right now for who I am because he KNOWS who I am. My problem was that I didn’t know WHO I AM. I didn’t know that I was completely forgiven, completely loved, completely holy. But I finally took hold of grace and embraced my righteousness in Christ.
My focus shifted from my sin to who I am in Christ. Did I still commit sin? Absolutely! But I no longer was focused on it. Eventually, the desires just fell away. There is not much temptation left for the things I mentioned at the beginning of this post that had so completely entangled me. Sometimes they still rear their ugly heads but they don ‘t have the same power or effect on me they once did. I guess as long as we live here in the flesh those things will always be with us. But we don’t have to be slaves to them. They are not who we are.
That’s how my life finally began to change. I still have bouts with depression but not to the point where I’m thinking about suicide all the time. My heart is lighter. My attitude is much more relaxed. I am no longer afraid of God. I see him (them) as my Father, Mother, Brother, strength, comforter, and solid counsel. I am righteous because of Christ. Focusing on that is a life changing experience.