I want to tell you about the moment that changed my life more than anything else, and you might be surprised when you read it, because it wasn't the day I gave my heart to Jesus. The truth is, my life didn't change much when I accepted Christ as my savior. I was just five years old when that happened, and, to be honest, there wasn't really a lot of repenting to do.
When I was fourteen, I was filled with the Holy Spirit while standing in the bathroom, washing my face. Now that's a story I could write more about, but it's not the moment that impacted my life the most. What it did accomplish, though, was to birth in me a passion and hunger for God that continued to grow like a raging forest fire through the rest of my teen years.
By the time I finished high school I was dangerous. I had an intense desire for the things of God and pursued Him with all my heart. Yet, at the same time, I struggled with sin. Like a cartoon character with a mini angel on one shoulder and a mini devil on the other, every day was a constant battle to do more good and less evil. This tormented me. The only time I felt good about myself was when I would see someone more sinful than me. Then my feelings of guilt would be temporarily abated by self-righteousness.
As I started in full-time ministry, I was determined to get victory over sin. I set daily personal goals and disciplined myself to become even more fervent in prayer and Bible reading. Thirty minutes every morning and forty-five minutes every night was enough to pray for everyone on my prayer list and read through the Bible four times a year. Yet the anguish and unrest in my soul continued to grow. I never felt like I was good enough for God.
Then one night EVERYTHING CHANGED. I was at a Wednesday evening church service, trying to worship God. I knew I should lift my hands and sing out, but I felt like a total hypocrite because I still struggled so much with sin. I went up to the altar and knelt before the Lord, prepared to confess my failures yet again.
But I didn't.
I opened my mouth to begin my confession, but could not think of anything that I hadn't already confessed to God. So I just stayed there, kneeling on the floor, with my head resting on the platform. I felt like such a fake. I wasn't even praying. I was just pretending to pray.
My pastor and my brother came up and knelt behind me. They laid their hands on my back and began praying for me. Now I felt really bad about my fake prayer posture. I tried to talk to God but no words came.
Then somebody said "freedom." I don't know if it was my brother, or my pastor, or the Holy Spirit, but when I heard it, I latched onto that word like a drowning victim clinging to a life preserver. I began praying that one word, "freedom," over and over.
As I did, something began to well up inside me. I began tapping my fists on the altar, gently at first, then with increasing force each time I said the word. "Freedom. Freedom. Freedom! Freedom! FREEDOM! FREEDOM!" Over and over I spoke the word and beat my fists on the altar. Soon I was lifting both fists high into the air, then slamming my entire upper body down onto the platform. I can't even imagine what the rest of the church must have been thinking as this ridiculous spectacle interrupted an otherwise ordinary church service. But I didn't care. I didn't even think about it. I just kept pleading one word, "FREEDOM! FREEDOM! FREEDOM!"
Then it broke--not the altar or my fists, but the anguish, the guilt, the shame, and the condemnation. It literally felt like a chain that had been wrapped tightly around my chest suddenly shattered into a thousand pieces and fell away. Now I was just lying on the altar, unable to move. Tears and laughter spilled out of my face simultaneously. I couldn't stop it, and I didn't want to.
In that moment God gave me a revelation on grace, and I finally understood why it's so amazing. I saw myself through the eyes of God and realized that all my sins were not only forgiven, but they were wiped out of existence. I saw that nothing I could do would earn God's approval any more than what Jesus had already done for me on the cross. And I understood that God not only loved me, but He also accepted me, cherished me, and delighted in me.
In the days, weeks, and months that followed, I grew in my understanding of grace, and it had a dramatic, profound impact on my life. I'm not going to get into a teaching on grace here, but I want you to know what it did in my life:
- I stopped seeing myself as a sinner. Instead I see that Christ has made me righteous. (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21) The result is that I live up to my new identity.
- I stopped trying to live for God. Instead I let Christ live in me and through me. (Galatians 2:19-21) The result is that He accomplishes more through me than I ever could accomplish for Him.
- I stopped fighting against sin. Instead I present myself to God every day as a vessel for Him to use. (Romans 6:13-14) The result is that I have victory over things that I could never conquer before.
- I started doing whatever I want because God gave me the desire and the power to do what's right. (Philippians 2:13) The result is that I am able to serve the Lord in ways I never could before.
- I started walking by faith. I don't trust in what I see or feel; I trust the truth of the Word. (2 Corinthians 4:18) The result is that I am no longer on a roller coaster of ups and downs with God, but steady continuous growth in Him.
This revelation of God's grace set me free and changed my life forever. I pray you experience the same thing in your own life.