The simplicity that is in Christ…

I do not remember a time when I did not believe in God. I knew that believing in God was a good thing; the person I admired most in the world habitually read his Bible and that was my grandfather. I could see that God made him good. And I wanted to be like him. 

I was a good girl, probably irritatingly good. At school, I always did what was right and never did what was wrong. In second grade the janitor brought a box of baby chicks into the school and he kept them in the janitorial room in his basement office.  Mr. Berry was a kind, old man and his area at the foot of the outdoor steps was rather cheery. 

Our class was sent outside to play in a particular area of the playground. Word circulated that Mr. Berry had a box of peeps in the basement.  It would be easy to sneak down the nearby steps for a quick look. We all wanted to go see those little chickens,  but we were told not to leave the playground.  Judy Perkins and I did not join our classmates.  As I recall, the rest of the class had to stay in for a recess or something like that, but Judy and I got to go outside. I remember that was a lonely recess. I tell you this story because I think it was the beginning of my believing that if I was good enough God would accept me into Heaven. I was – after all – a very good girl.

My brothers, my sister and I spent a great deal of time playing outdoors. Occasionally, we got involved in serious discussions. I remember where the four of us were standing – at the corner of one of our yards and discussing Heaven. I don’t remember how the subject came up. Perhaps it was that someone near to us had died and we overheard adults discussing this. We considered which of us would likely go to heaven. We were young and death seemed far off at that age, yet we did believe in an afterlife.  I have discussed this memory with my siblings, and they do not remember it but I remember it like it was yesterday. I believe it was one of the events that helped shape my faith.

The result of the conversation was a concensus that surely I would go to Heaven. My pleasure mingled with uneasiness.  I never shared my feelings because doing so would be admitting my unworthiness. What if God heard me?  I frequently lied, and I was sneaky. I was also a tattletale. Telling on someone else is a way to deflect attention from our own guilt. We deceive ourselves. Perhaps I remember that conversation so vividly because my heart spoke clearest of all.  I am not good. I don’t deserve heaven. 

I was seven or eight when this conversation occurred. I didn’t know doctrine, but already believed that good people go to heaven. By the grace of God, His spirit reminded me that I was not really good enough. I did not deserve Heaven and I knew it. 

Fast forward to the summer of my 12th year. Like every summer, the last week of July, the first week of August were spent at the Fayette County fair. We were farmers and members of 4-H clubs.  I entered sewing projects and progressed on to livestock – capons and steers. We were not allowed to run the fair with complete abandon but we did have a great deal of freedom at the fair and I loved it. The midway or carnival area was off-limits unless supervised. We did have freedom to look through the buildings that housed entries for competitions, booths selling kitchenware, tractors, water purifiers and all sorts of things.

One day some friends and I were browsing the buildings. I noticed a booth that I had seen other years.  I was fascinated by it but intuitively knew it was just not a cool place to visit. I saw a box that had words written on it: Why did Jesus die? And another box that had three doors… Three things that God cannot do. I noticed there were people sitting at tables with Bibles. Not cool. I took a quick look in the box with the question on it, I caught a glance of a mirror. Oh. Jesus died for me. I might have thought that to be corny or funny because the answer was so obvious. I did not understand the gravity of the truth presented. Before I could look any further, someone began talking to me and I felt uncomfortable.  They offered me literature that I refused as I left the area.

I remember that this happened on a Friday, because that night I could not sleep. I needed one of those yellow brochures I rejected. I had to have one and I had to get it the next day because that was the last day of the fair.

Without anyone knowing, I went in and received one of those yellow brochures and slid it into my tote. I believed I had in my possession something important. I cannot tell you why I knew this, but I did.   Present day comment: Well, yes I can.

In my home, we were taught that religion is a private matter. We were taught sincerity, even privacy is necessary when making a commitment because they added value to that decision. I thought that discussing my  faith would cheapen it. A few days later I went into Uniontown with my father to an automotive store. While he went in to get tractor parts I waited in the truck, a perfect opportunity to read my pamphlet. As I read I knew I was reading truth. As a young girl about to turn 13, I knew that I was a sinner and that I needed Jesus. I believed the words I read and I believed that he would save me from my sin. I’ve read the prayer written in the pamphlet and meant every word. In wanting to show Jesus my sincerity, I am sure I added my own words, reassuring Him that I really meant what I said.

Thinking this was meant to be a private decision, I never told anyone about this. The concept of true discipleship was completely unknown to me at that time, so I never grew in knowledge or faith. In time, I believed that I could not possibly be able to go to Heaven should I die. I can’t remember if it was one particular sin or many that made me think I surely was not worthy anymore.  I needed spiritual help, didn’t know I needed it and there was no one there to offer it. that I knew of.  Looking back, I realize that the kind folks at the fair would have been more than happy to help me, but I did not allow it. 

 During the next 15 years I made some bad choices. In my heart of hearts I wanted to be good and I wanted to do things to help people. I really never told anyone this. Did I think I was unable to do good? Perhaps so. As seniors in high school, each student met with the guidance counselor about their future. I was excited looking forward to our meeting. I did not know what I wanted to do but I thought he could help me. He did not and in reminiscing, I do not think he cared and I do not think he saw potential in me. Today I know this was his lack, and not mine, but a loss that affected my life.

I had a good childhood in many ways, but not all. I remember our parents speaking of our home is a haven and a refuge and I felt that it was. I was struggling though, and told no one to what extent.

Getting out of high school was a turning point in my life and I have never looked back, at least in any positive way. Throughout the 10 years after high school, opportunities began opening to me and I did some exciting things that I had never thought about while growing up. What a big world was out there. It is enough to say that while it is a big world out there, not all that it offers is as good as it seems.

I did not know how much marriage would change my life, but it did. The man that would be my husband and I exchanged letters almost daily. In the spring of 1987, we decided to marry that year. Through the letters, neither of us had any doubt that the other was a Christian and I held nothing back in the letters I wrote to him. Just as sure as I believed that religion was a private matter, I believed that I should be transparent about who I was. I did not want this man to marry me and ever be able to say that I kept who I really was a secret. Before marriage, people tend to be on their best behavior. I was not. If Harry could not handle who I was then I did not want to marry. 

As I went through my belongings in preparation to leave the home that I brought up in, I ran across that yellow sheet of that yellow pamphlet and I read it again. I’m not sure it meant as much to me that day as it had almost 15 years earlier, but it meant something because I tucked it into a part of my wallet where I knew it would be safe. 

Attending Harry’s church began to change my life immediately. Picture light bulbs coming on all over the place. I began to see the Bible as intended. It was not simply a holy and sacred book, perfect and entirely true, and given of God. This is what I thought about the Bible when I entered marriage. I had not read it frequently but I absolutely believed what was in it was true. 

Sometime into the first year attending Independent Baptist Church,  I remembered my childhood decision. I began to realize the importance of this decision made over 15 years earlier. Did Jesus reject me because I had no discipleship or tell me to wait until I knew the doctrine of salvation? Crazy, right? Indeed, I came as a child. Still, I was not 100% sure. 

After nearly a year of marriage and a year of Bible teaching and preaching, most of it by Pastor Pat Creed, I concluded that baptism by immersion was important in my life as a testimony of obedience and to show unity with the Body of Christ. I understood that it had nothing to do with my being saved, but it was a matter of obedience. I also knew that I would become a mother soon and this was the right next step.

Before being baptized I wanted to be sure that my faith was real. What if I had done this thing wrong? This was not something to take a chance with, and so one evening I knelt at our bedside and talked to the Lord about the things I have learned and what I believed. I affirmed my faith in his finished work and I told him that if I didn’t do it right as a child I understood now and that I wanted to be saved. You see, believers baptism is for believers and I wanted to be certain that I had believed according to the Scriptures. 

Throughout the years I have considered the decision I made as a 12-year-old. I was serious about my belief and sorry for the things I had done wrong. I still believed, but now I began to enjoy a relationship with Emmanuel! Imagine that.  Learning about God instilled peace and assurance into my life. That makes “joy” a close friend.

Another reason that I believe my decision as a 12-year-old was genuine is that God delivered me from one mistake after another because he had something for me to do. Yes. I believe the decision made in my father’s truck saved my physical life as well as my soul.  I cannot know this for certain but I deeply believe it. God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours; it is more than I can figure out. But I am not without answers and his leading, for he gives both through the power of His Word. The Bible teaches that we cannot come to God unless we are drawn of The Spirit. (John 6:44) Unmistakably, I was drawn back to the building at the fairgrounds where the missionaries were. Had I not responded … only God knows. 

One of the clearest presentations of the gospel is found in a compilation of Bible verses known as the “Romans Road.”  As I read my Bible, I am reminded repeatedly that the simplicity of the gospel is written throughout the Scriptures, affirming that eternal life is given by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. 

My very favorite phrase in the Scriptures is the simplicity that is in Christ. Satan has deceived the world through innumerable religions convincing man that if they are good enough they can go to Heaven. I am convinced the only thing that can squelch that lie is the truth of the Gospel. In believing it, we can experience the peace that passes all understanding. We do not go to Heaven because we are good; we go to Heaven because God is good.

If there is one verse in the Bible that spoke truth to my goodness, it is this one:  “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”  Isa 64:6.  What a visual!  The best that I have done is compared to a filthy rag.  Even as a child I knew I was not good enough to go to Heaven. 

Satan is very real in this world. He is active in the lives of people that do not know God. Evidence is everywhere. Suicides, overdoses, no respect for authority and no respect for life.  I have experienced moments that I needed to examine my faith, to be certain that my own faith was genuine. The best way to do that is through the Scriptures, and not by our feelings. God blessed me with eternal life and I have it now. Again, the simplicity that is in Christ tells me so. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”  1Jn 5:13.  We can know it. Once we have it, God does not want us to doubt or worry about it.

I mentioned a series of Scriptures can help you to know if your faith in God it’s the kind of faith that will give you eternity in heaven. Here is the path through the book of Romans that will lead you to Jesus and eternal life today.

1.  Everyone is a sinner. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”  Rom 3:23

2.  There is a price for sin.  “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Rom 6:23

3.  Jesus paid the price for our sin.  “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Rom 5:8

4.  You must realize that you are a sinner and believe that Jesus Christ is the only way you can be saved or redeemed.  “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  Rom 10:13 and another verse to affirm the necessity of real faith: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”  Rom 10:9

About that yellow pamphlet that introduced me to Jesus as Redeemer, I tossed it one day, not realizing how precious it was. So long as I have my mind, I do have memory of the schoolbus-colored piece of paper, that I realize was a Gospel tract.