I wasted several years “addicted” to pornography and masturbation, drinking too much, overeating, and 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 would end up in hell after I died. I thought I had to get things right and be perfect to please him. I struggled with feelings of guilt and unworthiness, and self-loathing. It got so bad that I felt I’d rather be dead than keep feeling this way.
So how did I get past this point in my life? Well, it wasn’t anything that I did. The Lord’s incredible love revealed an already accomplished deliverance to me. It boiled down to the fact that God loves me no matter what happens in my life, whether I was doing things I considered wrong or something I thought was right. He loves me just the same.
I can’t even remember when or how I realized that God would love me no matter what was happening in my life, and I know now that this knowledge was the key to actual change. Somehow, knowing that God was willing to BE my Father regardless of my mistakes disarmed the sin that seemed to have such complete control over me. That knowledge changed something in me. I can’t 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, which becomes your entire focus. And because of that, you’re always focused on what you are doing wrong. The more you focus 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 saved my life because I was thinking more and more about death—a death by suicide. I felt trapped. I felt like I wanted to take my own life, yet, I was afraid to do it because I believed I’d wake up in hell to burn forever.
Love Wins asks some questions that we believe we aren’t supposed to ask as Christians because they are somehow an admission of a lack of faith or an indication of heresy or whatever is worse than that. But they were questions I’d had myself, and they were questions I would like to have 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? 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 learned in church about justice, judgment, and punishment. But I had not heard enough about God being love. Some would say that love is just one aspect of who God is. However, I am beginning to believe that love is not only an attribute but is the very essence of God’s Person. So the characteristics of love would have to describe who God is and His character. This realization often brings me back to 1Corinthians 13. You know the verses:
“Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, and it does not boast; it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, and 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 hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails.”1Corinthians 13:4-8
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 seen God in this light. He was just this all-seeing, all-powerful being that I believed was God and who expected perfection that I could not deliver. I was doomed. And I knew it.
But this awakening of who God is, in light of what love is and 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 He is not capable of doing or unwilling to do? Like, love your neighbor as you love yourself? 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 told me that the things I believed 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, and He was not keeping a record of my failures, so why was I?
Despite the many places in scripture declaring me whole in Christ, I failed to believe it. Instead, I focused on the sin and tried to control something that 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, so 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 have been crucified with Christ and RAISED TO NEW LIFE with him. More importantly, I had been unable to understand that this is how God sees me. And not because he chooses to see me as dead and raised anew, but because it is, in fact, THE TRUTH about WHO I AM IN CHRIST. This knowledge is so crucial that it can potentially destroy us if we don’t have it.
God is not pursuing me with ill intent. The truth is he is my Father, a loving Father. The Lord does not hate me because of my mistakes. He won’t run out of patients. He accepts me for who I am because he KNOWS who I am. My problem was that I didn’t know WHO I was. I didn’t realize that He forgave me, loved me, and made me 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 sin? Absolutely! But I no longer was focused on it. Eventually, most of my sinful desires just fell away. There are not many temptations left for what I mentioned at the beginning of this post that had so wholly entangled me. Sometimes they still rear their ugly heads, but they don’t have the same power or effect on me they once did. 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.
That’s how my life finally began to change. I still have bouts of depression, but not to the point where I’m thinking about suicide all the time. My heart is lighter. I’m no longer afraid of God, and I see him (them) as my Father, Mother, Brother, strength, comforter, and reliable counsel.