Where Did It Begin?

John 14_21

This worn little picture hanging up in my room serves to remind me of how it all began. Read on!

 

Since this blog is all about sharing what I have learned through my relationship with Jesus, I figured a good place to start would be to tell how it all began! How this relationship came to exist in the first place!

But that is actually a little easier said than done. Because I am not 100% sure myself that I know when it began.

Perhaps the best way to explain myself is to tell my whole story.

Back in 1999, at the wise old age of 3 years and 3 months, I asked Jesus into my heart. Some of you may be thinking, “Wow! That’s young! Are you sure you were old enough?” Honestly, I’ve asked myself the same question. Could I, at that young age, actually understand what I was doing? I can not even remember doing it! (The reason I know the date is because I happened across it in my baby book – imagine that!).

But, even though I can not remember doing it, I never forgot that I had done it. I always knew that I had made the decision, even though I had no recollection of making the decision. And it never bothered me until I was much older.

I grew up with a love for God. That was evident. If you were to read my journals (I started journaling when I was seven), you could see that I loved to talk about the Lord and read my Bible. I wrote songs and poems and stories – and everything focused on God. I thought about becoming a missionary. I even started a “Bible study” with the girls who went to dance class with me when I was little.

But at the same time, I was a little Miss Goody-Goody. I was proud. Bossy. Selfish. I had a bad temper. I was quick to tattle on others…not so quick to tattle on myself. I recognized my sins, I knew that I needed to change…But I didn’t.

And then, things did start to change. How? Why? When? I really don’t know. Recently, I read through all of my journals from when I began, through to the present. I could see so many different puzzle pieces working together toward my life change.

Probably the first thing that happened was a dedication to Scripture. Soon after I turned twelve, I set aside time every night to read my Bible and memorize verses that I liked. Eventually my habit became a household habit!

Another thing that happened was that I began to write a book – my first full-length novel. It had a very strong witnessing theme, and in one particular scene, one of the characters asks another one, “How do you know if you’re truly saved?” You know, you would think that the answer would be so simple. But as I sat there and thought about the answer, there was planted a seed of uncertainty. I was not sure how to answer. I knew that just believing in Jesus wasn’t enough – even the demons believe! I knew that going to church wasn’t enough – there’s lots of people who go to church and are false disciples. I knew that praying wasn’t enough – there are lots of people who pray, but still aren’t saved. Saying a prayer of salvation isn’t enough – lots of people repeat a prayer and still are not saved. I knew that good works wasn’t enough – anybody can do good things. So what was the answer? In the end, I think I basically said that all of those factors needed to be present. But although I didn’t even fully recognize it at the time, the seed of uncertainty was planted – did I truly know what it meant to be saved?

And then came conviction. As time went on, I began to notice that I was not acting very loving toward my siblings, and I knew something needed to change. When my family and I went to see the “Behold the Lamb” play at Sight & Sound Theater, I felt even more conviction.

And then came March 29, 2009. If there is any date that I specifically point to, it is that day. It was a Sunday, and my pastor preached a sermon on how we needed to submit ourselves wholly and willingly to Jesus. I wrote in my journal,

I want to so much, but I don’t follow through. My words are not carried out and I feel like a hypocrite. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that when we are in Christ, we become a new creation, but when I look at myself, I don’t stand apart from other people very much.

O Lord, help me!

That night, I lay in my bed – the bottom bunk – and stretched my arms up as high as I could without hitting the top bunk. Somehow, that position seemed appropriate. And then I prayed. I told God that I wanted to surrender my whole life to Him. Now, I wasn’t asking for salvation – I believed I already had that. I just wanted to make sure that He was Lord of my entire life, not just select parts.

Well, the next day I got up and expected to have some sort of dramatic life change, because now my whole life belonged to God. And you know what? Nothing changed. I was pretty disappointed. And a little frustrated at my pastor, “Why did he tell us to surrender our whole life if he’s not going to give us instructions on how to do that?” It’s a little comical looking back, but at the time it was pretty frustrating.

You know, I never doubted that God was real. Or that He wouldn’t keep His promises. I doubted myself. I figured I must be doing something wrong, and so began the search to find out what that something was. What was I missing?

In the meantime, Scripture continued to stand out to me and convict me. Matthew 7 kept echoing over and over in my mind, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” (Matt. 7:21-23 NKJV).

It was at that point that I really began to “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” It was such a strong feeling! And I began to claim the promises of Scripture that my hunger would be filled.

It was also during that time that I became involved in the National Bible Bee. Now I was spending time in Scripture for hours every day, and memorizing dozens of verses every week! One of the first verses that I memorized was John 14:21: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” I absolutely loved that last part. Because that’s what I wanted – I wanted Jesus to reveal Himself to me. And that, along with many other promises, was claimed. That was where the faith and believing came in, I suppose.

So, did God ever keep His promise? Absolutely! Eventually I looked back at my life and realized, “Wow! Something is different!” I couldn’t tell you when it had changed, but somehow it had. While before, God was important, now He is the importance. With every moment, I feel His Presence. He is always there, in the back of my mind – or the forefront! I learned to recognize His voice, and to hear His messages. That’s why I have this blog – to share those messages!

It seems kind of strange that I don’t know when I was saved. I mean, you either are or you aren’t saved, right? So you would think that I would know when it happened. But to tell the truth, this gradual-coming-to-realize-you’re-saved is actually not as rare as you might think. My parents’ salvation stories run more along that line. Mine does. I’ve heard of other stories that do.

This past summer, I was reading “Shadow of the Almighty” about Jim Elliot. It’s basically just a collection of his letters and journal entries, but such a wonderful read. I came across a few passages that I liked so much, I copied them down for quick reference. Here is one of them:

“He thinks now that he and I are the only heretics around here, and is glad he has found such a liberal as I am who believes that a man does not have to come all at once into the family of God with a jolt and accompanying spinal exhilerations. Personally, I wasn’t ‘saved’ all at once, but took some years coming into my present settled convictions about the truth of God. So why should I demand that conversion be immediate in all others? Christ healed men differently. Some, in absentia – He spoke a word, and there was a lightning-fast reaction. Others He touched, spat upon, made clay, spoke to and questioned, then when they saw men ‘as trees walking’ He went through the whole process again. Let not him who accepts light in an instant despise him who gropes months in shadows. It took the Twelve three years to apprehend what was being shown them. The natural, so often illustrative of the spiritual, teaches that healing and growth, yea, even birth, are processes, and I think we altar-callers often perform abortions in our haste to see ‘results.'”

So when did it all begin? Probably back when I first prayed that simple prayer, asking Jesus into my heart. Was I saved then? Maybe. Maybe not. Personally, I feel that once I reached twelve years old, I came into a deeper understanding of what salvation truly is. Based off of other stories I’ve heard, it seems that this “time of deeper understanding” is rather common among young people who have grown up in Christian homes, and twelve seems to be the typical age. Not saying it always is, but that has just been my observation.

Anyway, if you ask me now what it means to be saved, I can give you a much better answer. It requires a personal relationship with the Lord. Referring back to the verse in Matthew where Jesus says, “I never knew you” – to people who had done many spiritual things! – that word for “knew,” in the Greek, is the same word used in referring to the relationship between a husband and wife. It’s an intimate relationship. It’s about Jesus being Lord of your life – so that you only want to do what is right, and your main desire is to please Him. It’s about love and obedience. It’s about being “born again” – made new – into a new creation! It’s about repentance. I didn’t go into that too much, but I definitely had times of repentance, where I confessed my sins and turned away from them. It’s about having a desire for a life change – and the Lord will change you. I’m a work-in-progress, for sure, but I could tell you of many different ways in which the Spirit has changed my life already and helped me to turn away from sins – like my anger. I used to lose my temper all the time, and in horrible displays of wrath, too. Now – I may still get angry and annoyed sometimes, but not with the frequent “outbursts of wrath” I used to be known for.

The Bible tells us, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12). There are plenty of people out there who say they believe. But have you received? Have you taken God’s gift and made it your own? Is your life characterized by repentance? Do you know what it means to feel His Presence? Do you know what I’m talking about when I say He is always in my mind? Can you understand the verse that says, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16)? I pray that you can answer yes to all of these questions. If so, I’d love to hear your testimony! But if not – if you’re not 100% sure – please, please, please, consider your life and give it to Jesus. And then let me know! Let me know if you have questions, or if you have given your life over to Him – I’d love to talk to you!

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13). That’s a promise, 100% guaranteed!

 

There was a time when I thought I was saved;
I knew all about the price Jesus paid,
That I had to do more than say a prayer –
I must follow Jesus everywhere.

I read my Bible every single day
And I knew all of the right things to say.
I was baptized when I was just seven –
I was sure I was going to heaven.

But what’s it really mean to be God’s own?
And then I realized that I didn’t know.
I realized I was full of emptiness
Hidden underneath all my happiness.

Deep down I knew that something was missing,
However, I didn’t know what something!
I went before God’s presence on my knees –
“Dear God, Dear Father – oh, change my life, please!”

Jesus, Savior, I knew I needed Him –
But how exactly do I follow Him?
For righteousness I began to hunger,
And I searched my Bible for the answer.

And I found it – John fourteen twenty-one,
How to become Jesus’ precious one.
Know and keep His words, become His dear friend,
Establish a friendship that has no end.

So now I can live without any doubt;
I know what God’s children are all about.
I talk to Jesus every single day
And strive to follow Him in every way.

So now my goal for each and every day
Is to live for Jesus, so that He’ll say:
“Well done, good and faithful servant – my friend –
Welcome to eternity without end!”

And now, whenever I think to each day,
I go before the Lord my King and pray,
“God, don’t ever fail to remind me
Of where I am and where I used to be!”

~ Written at age 14, slightly edited

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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