I went through hell and back spiritually.
I started out so well. I experienced an amazing transformation that resulted in an incredible peace, joy and love.
Yet, I got tangled up in the legalism of religion.
I felt crushed with a never ending load of more rules to please God and experience his blessings.
Some days I felt like I was literally going crazy. I prayed for the chaos in my mind to stop.
Through a series of events, which I related previously, I found my way back out of the darkness that was literally killing me.
I rediscovered the joy, peace and freedom I’d once felt.
I was attending seminary at the time and had my final sermon to preach in preaching class.
I was so excited with my discovery I decided to speak on it, even though much of the legalism I struggled with was coming out of my studies.
One afternoon, with an overwhelming sense of excitement and foreboding, with my classmates sitting in a semi-circle around me I preached for ten minutes.
When I finished no one spoke. From the looks on their faces I could tell that wouldn’t last long.
The professor said, “Who’d like to start the critiques?”
The damn broke and out flowed anger from supposed friends that even I wasn’t prepared for.
“This is heresy.”
“This is completely wrong.”
“You’re telling people to live however they want.”
“That’s a perversion.”
Finally the professor spoke. His critique was more measured but no less severe. And my final grade reflected his displeasure.
After class as I walked out onto a patio area a cool fall afternoon breeze refreshed my face. One student timidly slipped over to me. He said, “Thank you for your courage today. I’ve struggled with this also. You’ve given me hope.”
I’m reminded of Jesus’ response to some religious leaders who criticized him for teaching about this freedom we have.
“These people show honor to me with words, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is worthless. The things they teach are nothing but human rules.”*
See, I’d rediscovered what had been crushed in me. So these criticisms stung but seemed insignificant to the freedom I’d found again.
Once again I felt truly forgiven for everything in my past and in my future.
I was accepted by God as his child and would never lose that relationship.
I felt the peace again I’d once felt but lost.
I overflowed with a joy I wanted to share because I simply couldn’t contain it.
And I felt confident God was with me blessing me with all of his blessings simply because he loved me.
One verse that helped me find my way back was, “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom . . . . but they lack any value . . . . Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above.”*
- For me that meant focusing on what Jesus already gave me, his forgiveness.
- I focused on Jesus’ love. He accepts me as his child forever.
- I focused on how this comes not as I follow rules perfectly because I can’t. But simply because I ask.
- I focused on the power God gives me to live an extraordinary life.
- And I try to do the things that please him not to earn his love but out of being filled with it.
I rediscovered that relationship with God of freedom, peace and power. Any nothing would ever take it away again.
*Matthew 15:18-19 (NCV); Colossians 2:23-3:2 (NIV)
Photo Credit: Loren Kerns; Creative Commons