Fearing Heaven - Standing Before God
If you stopped by because you read my devotion today over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME! So glad you are here!
Today's devotional is a reminder of what happens when we try to be self-righteous before a perfect and righteous God. We exhaust ourselves and we absolutely fall short of God's glory every time. I spent years trying to do and say the right thing, then I got so exhausted and disenchanted by it all that I swung to the opposite side of the pendulum and rebelled. I was in the big leagues of being a backslider.
Neither place is good. Both places leave you feeling empty. I pray that we can learn to bask in the fullness of God's grace as we let go of our perfectionism and let God perfect us through Christ Jesus.
Remember, Lord, Your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to Your Love remember me, for You, Lord, are good. Psalms 25:6-7 (NIV)
As a little girl, sitting in church listening to my pastor preach about salvation and heaven always scared me. I got the impression that when I got to heaven God would open up the Lamb’s Book of Life, look at my record of sins, and ask why He should let me in. The only answer that would give me access to heaven is because I believe in Jesus as my Savior. And then the mighty gates of Heaven would swing open and I would enter in.
Make no mistake, believing in Christ Jesus as the Son of God is inherent for salvation and Scripture clearly tells us, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16:31, NIV), but I think that I got some of the other pieces a little mixed up.
First of all, I was terrified that I would forget the answer when put on the spot before the Almighty and Powerful God. I’ve never really been good on pop quizzes and the perfectionist side of me desperately wanted to make sure I had the right answer. I thought of God more as the Great and Powerful Oz. What if I forgot or didn’t say it exactly right?
Second, I really didn’t want God to remind me of all my sins. I knew that I had racked up quite a list and what if I forgot to ask forgiveness on some sin I committed. Did He really have a record of every sin I had ever committed? I was terrified of what the Lamb’s Book of Life said about me.
So I would lay in bed at night rehearsing the right answer for when I had to stand before God and I would rack my brain to think of any sin I had committed to make sure I had asked for forgiveness, you know just in case. Sometimes I was afraid that I hadn’t really asked for salvation in the right way so I would rehearse the ABC’s of salvation that I learned from my Sunday School teacher. Acknowledge your sins, Believe in Christ, Confess His Name before others. Then I would ask Jesus to live in my heart again and again and again, because maybe I hadn’t done it right.
I wanted so desperately to please God and I wanted to go to heaven, but in my mind I was going to fall short and God was going to be angry with me.
I was becoming a legalistic perfectionist. I was becoming so entrenched in making sure that I did everything right that I could not fully accept and enjoy the grace, the love, and the mercy of Christ in my life.
Guess what happens when you can’t keep all the rules?
You become exhausted, tired, and eventually give it up. You become a rebel. And I was the best rebellious church going kid around.
I knew that no matter how hard I tried I was constantly falling short and I felt like I always disappointed God. The enemy of God was doing a major number on me and constantly whispered in my ear, “You are not good enough. You will never be good enough.” And while there is some truth to that, Satan would constantly attack my mind with phrases like this but always leave out the truth of Christ’s love for me. So I quit it all. I quit trying to please God. I quit trying to please people. I quit church and if God had let me, I would have quit my faith.
God puts people right through their faith in Jesus Christ. God does this to all who believe in Christ, because there is no difference at all: everyone has sinned and is far away from God's saving presence. But by the free gift of God's grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free. (Romans 3:22-24 GNT)
But God. He loved me way too much to let me go. And no matter how hard I tried to shake Him off of me, His Holy Spirit dwelt inside me. I wasn’t good enough, but then again, none of us are good enough. This is exactly why God, in His immense love for me and for you, sent His Son in our place as a means of salvation so that we didn’t have to worry, fret, and rehearse the right answers before God.
As a result of our love for Christ, we then live our lives accordingly. Free, full, abundant, loved, full of grace, mercy, and forgiveness. When we grasp the depth to which we have been loved, we then learn to share His message of love with others. When we live in a place where we are constantly on guard and worried about disappointing God, we tend to reject others and give very little room for mercy.
All mercy and no judgement leads to permissiveness.
All judgment and no mercy leads to legalism.
All of us tend to swing a little more to one side or the other but as followers of Christ we must ask Him to help us strike the right balance between the two in order to live the full and abundant life God created us for.
God doesn’t judge me according to my past sins, but according to His Love. God guides me in His way, teaches me what is good, and even in my sins, forgives me according to His Name, and definitely not my own. (Psalms 25)
Oh what sweet freedom when I finally grasped that the burden is not on me, but was placed upon His Son. That is true love. That is true freedom. And out of this truth, I live my life grateful for the sacrifice Christ made.
So I have learned to move beyond a life being afraid of meeting God and rehearsing the right lines for when I get to heaven. Instead I want to bask in the glory of His great love for me and live in hopeful anticipation of spending eternity with the One who reconciled me before God.
It’s never been about me. It’s always been about Him. I want to walk daily in the freedom of a redeemed girl, loved and chosen by Christ.
I have no idea what type of church or religion or home that you grew up in, but it’s not uncommon for us to get our theology and our image of God a little off sometimes. After all, it’s hard for our human, finite minds to comprehend the depths to which we are loved and saved by a Holy God. But I encourage you to find the truth of God’s Word through Scripture, through the words of Jesus himself and through conversations with Him in prayer. May God show you the depth in which you are so loved and so treasured and may you not be afraid to stand before Him, but rejoice and look forward to the day you can worship Him face to face.