Twenty-one years ago tonight, October 19,1998, I sat down in a gold, 1970’s suede chair as a drunk, a thief, a liar, an abusive parent, and an adulterous woman. I was an angry, bitter, and spiteful person . . . but I was also desperate to be different.
There is no explanation on the events that had transpired to bring me to this place or surrender except a Holy God was pursuing a wretch like me.
I had been attending The Most Excellent Way for three months.
I had been hearing about this man named Jesus that loved me and would accept me just as I was.
I had been hearing He could fill a void that no one else could fill . . . that He could fill my emptiness.
I had been hearing that Jesus could take ALL my hurts and pains and use them to help others.
I had been hearing about forgiveness and now I needed to forgive in order to be forgiven. And that was hard. Probably one of the hardest first experiences I remember having to surrender.
I had been hearing how much God loves me . . . how He formed me and knew me long before I was even formed in my mother’s womb.
I had been hearing that God can make all things new and that when we ask Jesus to come in to our hearts He makes us new – that the old is gone and He really does make us new.
And I was ready for that new life. I wouldn’t have to run anymore or hide or be ashamed.
I was scared though . . .
I had told Him several times, “just let me fix this and I will surrender to you. I need to change this . . . I can’t come yet because . . . ”
I thought I had to clean myself up before I could ever come into the presence of Holy God like that . . I didn’t think I could be good enough the way I was.
But I was wrong.
He truly wanted me to come just as I was.
No strings attached.
He didn’t just want me though . . . He wanted 28 years of baggage that followed me.
So twenty-one years ago tonight I reached into my purse and pulled out a piece of paper.
On that piece of paper were some scripture verses . . . Before I even began to read these verses though I made it clear to God, because I was a skeptic (remember just a few years prior I stood in the middle of a bar and called God a male chauvinistic pig and said “I will never bow to you.” Yeah – that was me – now contemplating surrendering my life to Holy God (but what just amazes me even now is that He would still want me after all the things I had said and done.) so I told Him, “I don’t know if you are real or not but IF you are I am just reading these verses so I can UNDERSTAND what it is that will be required of me. I am not saying I’m believing in you I’m saying I am just reading for HEAD knowledge.”
I had to make it very clear I wasn’t just diving in to this religious stuff. I needed to understand . . .
I read these verses three times y’all.
The first time, for head knowledge, the second time I read them again for clarity, and the third time I read these verses I no longer read them with my mind, I read them with my heart. And I knew –
I knew instantly I was that new creation I had heard about.
I knew instantly I was forgiven of all the horrible things I had done.
I knew the cycle of addiction and abuse was being broken in my family.
Romans 3:23, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That means each and every person is a sinner – that there has never been nor ever will be anyone holier or righteous enough to please God. He sent Jesus, His only Son as a sacrifice for our sins for us. (John 3:16)
Romans 6:23, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Yes, we will all breathe our last breath on this earth one day . . . Scripture is clear we will all face that day of judgement – we will either enter eternity with Jesus or eternity in torment and darkness separated from anything good ever. There will be a lot of “good” people in hell that have spent their lives warming a pew but there will also be a lot of “good” people that believed they could just do good enough or write enough checks to go to Heaven. It doesn’t work that way y’all.
Romans 10:13, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Everyone. Jesus doesn’t care what color you are or where you are from or who your momma and daddy is or what you have done or want your parents did for you. A relationship with Jesus is intimate and individual. No one can do it for you.
Romans 10:9 – 10, If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Now this was the one I struggled with – God was already giving me insight and showing me I couldn’t do this thing called Jesus with just head knowledge . . . that I had to believe with my heart – and not just a part of it – my whole heart. And then I had to be willing to confess it. I remember saying to God, “Alright God, if I do this it’s all or nothing. I don’t want to be a hypocrite that sits in the bench and does nothing – it’s all or nothing. And I’ve done a lot of bad and there’s probably stuff that will still come out (I didn’t really understand then but He already knew it all y’all), and my family is going to think I’ve gone off my rocker . . . but IF you are for real then I want to read this for the third time. And this time, I am reading it with my heart.”
And as I read those verses and this prayer for the third time I read it with my heart . . .
Father in Heaven, I am a sinner and I need you. Please forgive me of my sins. Help me to not sin again. I believe your Son, Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I also believe He defied death and after three days He arose from the grave. I ask Jesus to come in to my heart. I give you my life. Fill me with your Spirit. Amen.
I stood up that night out of my gold suede chair a princess of the Most High God.
A new creation.
In these twenty-one years He has never left me.
But what He has done is given my life purpose.
He has shown me all the pain and trauma I went through was worth it because now He is using me to help others who have walked where I’ve walked.
He is bringing Genesis 50:20 to life – a verse He gave me early on in my recovery in The Most Excellent Way days when He assured me He would use my hurts to help others – “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” God can and will use anything for His good. If we let Him. Will we allow Him too? Can we get beyond ourself and say, “Lord, use my pain for your good and to bring the lost to know you?” Use my pain to bring a lost person to a saving knowledge of You. Thats a hard place to be – and there are some pains I can’t relate to but I’ve seen first hand when people surrender that pain and ask the Lord to use it for His good what He can do with it.
I want to encourage you today, first if you don’t have a new beginning – a new birth – if there has never been a day or time you’ve surrendered your life to Jesus then do that today. Don’t delay and make excuses – just do it. Your life will never be the same. And second, maybe you are reading this and you know the Lord as your Savior but your pain is just so deep you can’t imagine good coming from it. Our God is a big God. Go to Him – tell Him the pain – and then ask Him to use it for His good. Take a step to a deeper surrender today. Ask Him to bring people in to your life that need Jesus that can relate to you and what you have been through or are going through. He will do it.
I’ll close with this old song – He is a mountain mover y’all – whatever it is He will either move it or equip you to get over it. I guarantee it.