Oh, how I longed to be the apple of my father’s eye growing up. I listened intently, I earned great grades, I obeyed (mostly), for in my young mind, I realized that the way to his heart was through my performance…my works. I was always striving for approval, though I didn’t perceive it at the time. (I know now that my father did the best he knew how and he stands forgiven…by me. I love him.)
I would later come to find that I wasn’t merely striving for love; I was striving to avoid what I feared most: I feared the rejection that I knew was always looming beneath the surface if I didn’t hold up my end of the unspoken bargain for
It was not until I personalized historical accounts of Jesus traveling the Via Dolorosa, that I realized for the very first time in my 13-year-old mind, what I sought after so feverishly from my dad growing up, I could only experience from One.
Love…unconditional…undeserved love…unmerited favor could only be received from the One who took my place on the cruel cross 2000+ years ago.
Scriptures of what Jesus endured so that I could experience an unabated relationship with God melted my soul that day, as I engaged in Bible studying with members of a church I attended many years ago. The ridicule, the mocking, the spit in His face, the crown of thorns on His skull, the 39 lashes, the cross on His back, the nails, the blood…the blood.
From the cross, he peered down through the tears, sweat and blood to see the condemning crowd who at one point sang, “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The King of Israel!’ ” (John 12:12-16)This cry for salvation from Roman rule, for an earthly king to rule over the children of Israel, would change in a week’s time to a sentencing plea: Crucify Him! “His blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25)
That day the Word of God, the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus was not void in both affect and effect. Jesus’ words, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do,” were all I needed to hear in order to experience the well up of tears and a heart so overcome with God’s love for me…for me.
My heart responded with a longing to be the apple of His eye, because I knew that there I would find acceptance. That acceptance would not depend on my performance or works–birthed from a fear of rejection–but on what HE accomplished for me through His death, burial and resurrection. It would ALL depend on me receiving His Grace that bled red for me on the cruel cross.
I was ready to accept His grace, repent and confess Him as my Lord and Savior right then and there…but the question never came. I was ready! But the question wasn’t asked that day, nor the next, though God knew that marked the day I believed the Gospel. My faith hinged on His unmerited love–His grace–His forgiveness–His redemptive power. But through the series of studies that ensued and the fact that on that day I wasn’t asked if I would confess Jesus as my Lord and Savior, subconsciously I was fed the lie that yes, there is grace…but there is also more. I was fed the subtle deception that “Good Friday was good…just not good enough.”
And I shudder at the thought now!
Don’t get me wrong. No one said this, but by golly, subconsciously it was spoken loud and clear to a heart that struggled with approval addiction and fear of rejection. It reverberated in the mind of someone who was willing to give up the chains of fear of my father, after reading the Truth of Jesus’ liberating love.
I did eventually give up my approval addiction towards my father, forgiving him as I began to view him through eyes of compassion. (He did the best he knew how. I love him.) However, what ensued was still not right. I gave up one form of bondage only to take up another, and it was NOT how God intended things to be. Grace was hardly spoken of past that Bible study. Perhaps it was out of fear members would use it as a license to sin. They didn’t realize, at least at the time, (I believe they have since repented) that drinking deeply of the living water of grace would spring up in us a well of life, of freedom, of liberty from the bondage of sin and the counterfeit truths of the enemy and the temptations of our flesh. Both subtle and overt control tactics would be a much better way to keep people “in rank” as opposed to encouraging them to bask in the LOVE of GOD, experience cleansing in the WORD of GOD, and be transformed through the HOLY SPIRIT of GOD…day by day by day. Just as salvation is a miracle that no man can boast in, sanctification is by God’s grace as well. Our role in the matter is to RECEIVE, because He always makes the first move.
Oh, how subtle the deceptions of satan and of our own flesh! Oh, how easily we can be led by our mere personality and NOT the personality of Christ–Holy Spirit.
Jesus knew it best. In the wilderness, the enemy would slither in a little lie with the bulk of scriptures to prove his claim to fame and Jesus’ shame. Once believed, he would literally steal, kill, and destroy the life Jesus came to live and the death Jesus came to die for us all. Thanks be to the Holy Spirit of God, Jesus DIDN’T JUST KNOW HIS FATHER’S WORDS, BUT HE KNEW HIS FATHER’S SPIRIT BEHIND THOSE WORDS! Unfortunately, Satan may know the Bible more than many churchgoing Christians, making it easier to deceive us about God’s heart–His heart for us.
Satan’s schemes aren’t new, friends. He attempts them with me, with you, and with the Church at large. What’s more, if we are honest, he has gained some traction.
The questions is how? (I answer that in my next post.) But first, allow me to continue to set the stage by exposing my joyfolly.
In summary, I became enslaved to the approval of church men and women. I no longer feared my earthly father’s rejection, as I had in the past. But satan is conniving. Before I could allow God to transform my mind as I positioned it to experience continual transformation by His truth and grace, the enemy swooped in to plant a little yeast of fear and deception…fear of not measuring up to the manmade standards of what it meant to follow Christ in what they said was “the One True Church.” So clever. Despite the bondage to deception and prideful manipulation, I had to stay. Where else would I go? I had found the ” One.”
Instead of honing in on the relationship of unmerited grace that would bring me continued liberty and life, they harped on the religion that would keep me bound.
The true unmerited acceptance I read about that one night during the “Cross” study would truly save me. I believed. I was sorrowful and repentant. I longed for a relationship with my Savior who loves me eternally!
But again, thanks be to God, my story doesn’t end there, and yours doesn’t have to either!
Stay tuned to my proverbial “resurrection Sunday”, where in the place of joyfolly, by the grace of God’s Holy Spirit that leads to Truth and Love Himself, deceptive chains were removed. I became empowered to live FREE and joyfullyalive in Him as a result.
Today, Good Friday IS and will ALWAYS be good enough for me! You just wait and see… as I recount my joyney to joy in Him.