Monday, December 1, 2008

Accepted In the Beloved

“God is no respector of persons: but in every nation, he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted...through [Jesus'] name, whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:35, 43).

I heard the story of Jesus for the first time when I was a small child. My parents were diligent to instruct me in the ways of God through all my growing up years. I chose to believe with my mind those things I heard, and prayed as a little girl, trusting Jesus to “save me from my sin.” I learned Bible Verses, went to church, and participated in church activities…but I continued to have a sense of need and fear regarding my salvation. It extremely bothered me. Although I had “outwardly accepted” the free gift I was told about, I had not allowed Jesus access into my life to change me—and I struggled with many sins. I wanted to keep my sin hidden. I was afraid to be seen as I really was—afraid I would not truly be accepted. I feared that rejection immensely. I believed the good news, that Jesus died and rose again—I never doubted the truth that Jesus was God—but I had never experienced its power.

As a teenager, I gave way to bad peer pressure, involving myself in wrong activities and lies. I saw God as a punisher, not a rescuer, and my guilt was a burden I could not get rid of. Instead of turning from sin when convicted of it, I would “confess” it to God and seek to do penance—something to make me acceptable (feel acceptable) in His sight once more. I would “ask Jesus into my heart” again; I would make promises, never intending to keep them; I would deny myself the one thing that got me into trouble…for a while. But time only proved I was controlled by sin, not by the Spirit. I did not feel loved by God. I did not feel my behavior would allow such love. I had never fully accepted His payment for my sin debt, because I had not fully understood the gospel. I wanted to be rid of my sin problem but my spirit was full of pride.

I had never laid myself bare before the Lord—I wanted to appear clean without having to come to grips with the reality of my sin. I will never forget the day God began to reveal this truth to me. I had recently been wounded. God, in His great wisdom, had brought me to a place of despair and the feeling of human rejection was overwhelming. He used that trial in my life to soften my heart toward His compassionate care. As I opened up the comfort of His Word, I was overwhelmed by the desire to be “accepted in the Beloved” like never before. This thought consumed me. I wanted to KNOW that I was His completely—I believed that that alone would secure my satisfaction.

He tenderly revealed to me that His acceptance of me was based upon His goodness, not upon my performance; therefore, it was possible. There was such freedom in that truth—God knew me utterly and accepted me entirely?—it was hard to wrap my mind around it. But as I allowed God to look upon the ugliness of my sin I was able to trust, for the first time, His complete ability to forgive and cleanse me. I could do nothing to earn salvation and my attempts were repulsive to the Savior. I was overwhelmed with His great love for me and I desired to please Him above all else. I opened myself up to His Word—I had never read the Bible for personal instruction in the past—and He began to change me. I began to hate my sin (not just hate the consequences of that sin) and pray for true deliverance from those things that bound me.

God answered those prayers.

I continue to gain the victory and enjoy my relationship with Jesus—it grows sweeter day by day. "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine" (Song of Solomon 6:3). He gives life. And He is faithful to every promise.

"God is no respector of persons: but in every nation, he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted...through [Jesus'] name, whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:35, 43).

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