So many Christians live in fear and doubt these days. I know this well, I was one of them. I loved God and wanted to please Him, but I feared Him too, and His judgement. I feared angering Him and I feared death because I doubted my own salvation. I was relying on my own flawed and weak attempts to be good enough and lived in constant disappointment and frustration at my own shortcomings. I knew I could never live up to His standards and it terrified me. I was unaware of the incredible freedom that comes only through The Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Living With Fear And Doubt As A Christian
I grew up believing every word of the Bible. I still do, but thankfully my understanding has changed dramatically. It was all head knowledge before, without understanding, I didn't know the character of God.
I didn't understand His ways or His plans for us as His creation. I certainly didn't understand how salvation didn't require jumping through hoops and sacrifices - that's what God required in the old testament. I didn't understand how God's plan for salvation through Grace fitted with the Law that was taught in the Old Testament. It didn't make sense to me and this caused so much fear and doubt.
I spent my life filled with guilt and fear. Fear that I wouldn't make it to heaven, that I'd end up in that pit of flames. I tried so hard to be good, and really, by human standards I was quite a good child, I think, but I knew it wasn't good enough according to God's standards and that was my problem. I knew I would never be good enough.
"I cannot make myself right with God; I cannot make my life perfect."
- Oswald Chambers
Growing up, I never attended church regularly. I was one of those people who only went at special occasions. Not because I didn't believe completely, I did, it was more a doubt in the teaching I would receive. I didn't trust the church. I had been conditioned by the adults in my life to believe that churches were just like businesses, and each had their own agenda and interpretation, so they couldn't be trusted.
It didn't help that everytime I came away from a visit to church I felt more guilty and heartbroken than when I arrived. I now realise that many teachings were fear-mongering and law-based. They did not focus on teaching the freedom we have through Christ, but focused on scaring people into obedience. That is not what God wants from us.
I now know that while this might be true for many churches, it is not true for all. And I also know that God can and does still do incredible work through those churches, despite the flawed men and women who run them.
Finally Understanding The Meaning Of Grace
It was only once I was an adult, living in London, that I found a church to go to regularly. I started by listening to teachings from various churches online each Sunday. I'd sit in bed with my laptop and listeng to live streaming church services until I found the one that felt right for me.
A place that teaches straight through the Bible, verse by verse and each teaching points to Jesus and his sacrifice. Each verse taught in context of time and culture and in relation to Jesus. Things finally started making sense. God's beautiful plan of love and forgiveness and salvation became clear and all the fear and doubt was washed away in streams of tears I could not contain.
I finally understood what Grace is. I finally got what is meant by "salvation comes through faith, not works".
"I can only be right with God if I accept the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ as an absolute gift." - Oswald Chambers
Jesus has done all the work. God loves us all so much that he provided a way, from the very beginning, for each of us to be saved and reunited with Him. No charge. No hoops to jump through.
"The fact that I am trying to be right with God is actually a sign that I am rebelling against the atonement by the cross of Christ." - Oswald Chambers
We only have to believe it and accept it. By faith in his sacrifice being sufficient, we are saved.
I think that often the mere simplicity of faith-based salvation is what makes people doubt it for so long. Our unwillingness to accept that God loves us so much that He wouldn't set hoops and traps for us. Our unwillingness to be so incredibly loved and accepted - just as we are.
It's so foreign to us that we reject it and laugh at it. But the Gospel is powerful and once the seeds are sown, they will start to take root in time. For me it was 30 years before those seeds took hold and flourished. They had taken root many times throughout my life, but the conditions were never right and they would wither away at my next sin or the next death of a loved one when the weeds of fear and doubt would take over again.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: - Romans 5:1
The saving has already been done, whether we believe it or accept it or not. Like any other gift in life, it's not ours until we choose to accept it. It remains in the Giver's stretched-out hands until we reach out and take it. Until we choose to accept the gift that has been purchased for us.
"He has already saved us completely. It is an accomplished fact, and it is an insult to Him for us to ask Him to do what He has already done." - Oswald Chambers
Just like any other gift that has already been paid for and wrapped up beautifully, it can also be refused. God leaves that decision up to us.
We simply have a choice to make, that is the simplicity and the power of the Gospel.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. - Ephesians 2:8-9
The Truth Will Set You Free
The simple truth of The Gospel is that Jesus is our perfect spotless Lamb. Our sacrifice before God. Our sin offering. His sacrifice in our place, Him taking our sin upon Himself, means that we get His righteousness attributed to us. And the requirements of the old testament law are fulfilled through Him - setting us free.
God loved us so much that He couldn't bear to condemn us all for our sins and wickedness. So He made a way to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He sent His own son, God in the flesh, to live the life we couldn't live, to pay the price we should've paid, to purchase for us the freedom we could never afford.
Jesus chose to take your place and mine. He paid for our sins in full. Then He rose again, conquering death itself and offers His new, victorious life to us. It is a free gift of Love. From a Father to His children. We only need to accept Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf and quit trying to do it alone.
That is what it means to be saved through faith, not works. That is what it means to live by Grace and not law. Having faith that Jesus is enough and letting go of all the striving.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:16-17
Becoming A New Creation
After 30 years, I finally felt ready to accept fully Christ's sacrifice and declare my new life to the world. And so, I was baptised in the sea in 2012.
Although God loves us and accepts us just as we are, He loves us too much to leave us that way. So, with the acceptance of Christ's sacrifice, He gives us His Holy Spirit who lives in each one of us, our comfort, our council, our constant companion.
God commences a revamp, breaking down the old, damaged bits, chiseling away the decay and rebuilding His temple from the foundations up. With the new foundation being Jesus, the old is gone, a new person is born.
This isn't an instant change, but will take place daily as we continue to walk with Him. New desires, new hope, new joy, new peace, new opportunities - new life in Christ. All the things we strive for before accepting Jesus' sacrifice, God does in us and through us once we have made that choice. The striving ceases and the living starts.
Personally, I lost the fear and doubt I had lived with for so many years. I also lost the anger and impatience - the short fuse I had. I now know that death is not the end to be feared, but a new and glorious beginning. And I have more patience and compassion for others.
I'm living in hope and joy and peace despite my earthly circumstances because I know that this is just a moment in the grand scheme of things and what is to come will be beyond anything I can imagine or ask for. It is a freedom and peace that cannot be explained - something that comes only through the Gospel of Christ.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4
Salvation is the work of God in us, not of works or laws, but of faith. This is the awesome freedom of The Gospel.
One Of My Favourite Songs, Lyrics Below
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand
In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
'Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand
Songwriters: Keith Getty / Stuart Townend
In Christ Alone lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group
Featured Oswald Chambers quotes are from My Utmost for His Highest, a powerful daily devotional which I absolutely love reading. It just has so many great truths and life applications, things I wish I had read years ago. I often find it hard not to highlight the whole page - it's a great book!
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