(The Testimony of Yvonne H. Who Was Religious, But Lost, For 33 Years)
I was 12 years old when I earnestly began to think about God. It happened when I read some religious literature that someone had stuffed between books at the public library. Some of the booklets discussed sin and told how God will judge sinners someday.
That was a scary thought since I didn't have to be a genius to know that the fibs, occasional cheating, swiping things that didn't belong to me, or mouthing off to my parents were all classified as "sin." It was clear that God wouldn't be holy if He compromised on the issue of sin and allowed anyone contaminated with it into His presence, so I was uncomfortably aware that, as a sinner, I was heading toward Hell.
My response? I decided that I would have to solve my sin problem if I were to escape facing God's wrath some day. "It should be quite easy to obey God's commandments once I know what they are," I concluded. Was I mistaken! As I listed every commandment that I encountered in the Bible and added it to my "To Do List," I was frustrated to find that I couldn't even get through part of a day, let alone an ENTIRE day, without sinning in some way!
And, the most impossible commandment of all was Deuteronomy 6:5! "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." How could I ever love God with ALL my heart and ALL my soul and ALL my might, as He commands? With a sinking feeling in my heart, I knew deep-down that I could never reach the perfection that God seemed to require of people; yet I felt it was a swim-or-sink issue. After all, who wants to face an angry God when he dies? So I kept looking for peace; and, although many people now considered me to be a serious, devout girl, I felt that the chasm between God and me had grow even wider.
When I was in my late teens, I began to attend a local church with my family. The Sunday School teacher, Mrs. J., told me that all I had to do was to confess that I was a sinner, believe that Jesus died on the cross for sin, and ask Jesus into my heart. Admiring her own bright assurance and hoping that I might learn the secret of her confidence, one day I agreed to meet with her after the Sunday evening service to discuss salvation.
That Sunday night, in spite of my intense desire for peace, I found myself strangely resistant to her urgings to be saved, but she was persistent. She pursued a series of verses, known as "The Roman Road," and when she reached Romans 10:13, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved," she encouraged me to ask Jesus to come into my heart. At first I resisted her promptings, but with tears of embarrassment for displaying such defiant opposition, I finally knelt beside her and followed her in prayer.
At that point Mrs. J. joyfully hugged me, pronounced me "saved" and told me to tell everyone I knew about it. I did exactly that. But within two days I was filled with doubts again. "Had I repented ENOUGH?" "Had I said the right words in my prayer?" "Did I really MEAN what I had prayed?" When I confessed my doubts to Mrs. J., she told me, "The devil is just trying to ruin your joy and confidence. Just remember what you did last Sunday night and write that date in your Bible." She urged me to "go forward at the next invitation and then be baptized." I did. But nothing Mrs. J. said could erase those persistent doubts that seemed to mock my deep concerns about my soul.
In a desperate search for peace, I read dozens of tracts and signed on their dotted lines to supposedly receive salvation, I prayed scores of times to be saved in case I had said the wrong words in my prayer for salvation, but I still couldn't escape the gnawing feeling that I was lost. I WAS.
The years passed; then decades. Finally, one day in 1989, when I was randomly flipping through a Bible, looking for something interesting to read, I glanced at the last couple of verses of Isaiah 52. Strange verses, yet compelling. I continued into Isaiah 53, and I was suddenly transfixed by verses five and six. I had read them before, but suddenly they made sense! I knew at once that the chapter was speaking of the punishment that Jesus bore on the cross for my sins. His back was ripped open with whippings that I deserved--not Him! He was bruised for MY sin; the punishment that He willingly endured made it possible for ME to have peace with God instead of the Hell that I deserved. The puzzle pieces finally were coming together.
I knew that a fair and holy God couldn't punish both Jesus AND me for my sin so, in one flash of understanding, God gave me eternal peace that is based on what JESUS did, rather than on what I did on a certain night. That's the only peace that lasts.
My abracadabra prayer that I had said with my Sunday School teacher had been as false as if I had recited a magical incantation, and that's why it had never given me peace. I was basing salvation on ME -- my prayer, my tears, my feelings, my walk up the aisle, my baptism--ME, ME, ME. Now I understood that salvation depends on believing on what JESUS did. God will never share the honor for salvation with anyone but Him; my part was simply to believe that my sin debt was paid, and to trust God to be true to His promises. It had taken me over thirty-three years to believe this simple truth. Indescribable peace!
My great concern is for you, dear reader. Are you trusting something YOU did on a certain date instead of what HE did on that date in history? Are you trusting YOUR walk up an aisle, or are you trusting HIS walk to the cross and His death there on your behalf? And, if you believe that you are saved, do you really know what became of your sins? I once thought that they were simply "washed away," but they WEREN'T washed away until they were first laid on Jesus.
With the other Sunday School students, I used to sing: "Gone, gone, gone, gone, yes my sins are gone;... buried in the deepest sea......etc." However, that's not the whole story. Before they were buried in that sea, God poured out His wrath on Jesus as if He had committed those sins! It was only AFTER Jesus paid the FULL horrific penalty for every sin you have ever sinned, or that you will ever commit, that Jesus was able to shout victoriously, "IT IS FINISHED!" and God was willing to commit those sins to the bottom of the deepest sea.
God proved His full satisfaction with Jesus' death as our sin-bearer by permitting Jesus to be raised from the dead -- something He couldn't have done if any trace of sin was still on Him. And, praise God, nothing can ever undo what Jesus did!
Now that is the basis of true peace!
A believer through the truths of Isaiah 53