So my community group at church had been setting aside days for everyone to give our testimonies of how we came to know Jesus, and yesterday it was my turn as the last testimony in our group. I had no idea how I’d be ever be able to express just how it’s been more than incredible how God’s worked in my life, from Jesus saving my soul to transforming my life from the inside out, and how He’s always been there for me even when I didn’t deserve it, so I just prayed. I asked God to speak through me and bless me with what He wanted me to say last night for His will. This is what God graciously inspired me to write and I wanted to share it with all of you:
His Story of Loving Me
First, there is one important fact that precedes each of our own journeys toward God, one theme shared in every testimony, and that is God’s journey with us. You see, it’s not so much our pursuing of God but rather God has been pursuing us since before we were born. His love has been pursuing all of humanity ever since the garden. That was His plan from the beginning, His Father’s heart pursuing all of our hearts to save us, regardless of our worth in this world because it’s not what we’ve done, it’s what He did. It is by His grace, not our works. It’s been a relentless pursuit of love, His relentless pursuit of loving us through it all. His love has been chasing us from the beginning, we just didn’t recognize Him until that defining moment where our lives changed dramatically forever and we began our journey into a faith-filled life.
We find this in the Scripture where the Bible defines exactly what real Love is, or rather who Love is. 1 John 4:8 says that “God is Love”, but then the Bible doesn’t just stop there because we have to define love. To understand the profound greatness of His love, we first have to find the dichotomy by looking at how we’ve defined love vs. how God defines love in His Word. Love in our own definition has already been distorted and corrupted by the world. All of our culture, music, media, everything in this world gives us a worldly view of love that’s been cultivated throughout our childhood before our understanding of the true definition of love that is God. The world teaches us that love is pleasure, pleasure that graitifies desire, and that without any of this kind of pleasure, it is no longer love. So if we don’t find this kind of pleasure any longer and are no longer satisfied, then it’s no longer love. This teaches that love is selfish and we’re supposed to look out for our own interests. Not only that, but the world teaches us that love is a feeling you get, filled with that pleasure. The Bible teaches us that this is the wrong kind of pleasure and thus the wrong kind of love. God’s Word tells us that rather, there are two kinds of pleasures, pleasures of the Spirit versus pleasures of the flesh. It shows us that His love is a friendship that is selfless and involves the pleasure of the Spirit that does not leave us feeling empty like worldly pleasures but give us satisfaction through God. It’s the difference between a love that is lust in disguise, a “love” that consumes us, enslaves us, and lets us down because it’s fleeting, vs. the true identity of Love, a Love everlasting that never fails us and gives us freedom instead of bondage, true Love that only God can give us because “Love comes from God” (1 John 4:7).
This is why we don’t recognize God at first. We don’t even know the real meaning of love, and God is Love, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8). The god of this world is satan. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says, “satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.” This is why without an upbringing rooted in Christ, we may become deceived by the world by learning from the world and becoming like the world early on. Jeremiah 29:13 says “If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me.”
This is why we are so lost in our journey before we truly know God. The devil tries to get us to go on this journey to find a way out of looking to God. He tries to distract us from our future, from our calling, from the truth we need, to instead search for ourselves rather than God. We then look to ourselves, inside ourselves, for our salvation rather than looking to the Savior. We get self-help books, we try to find spirituality that will free our minds, we try to find a million other ways to get rid of this guilty feeling inside ourselves and find a way to feel better when what we are searching for is the Love that can cleanse our hearts and give us the purity of His righteousness living inside of us if we’ll only accept it. We think we’ll find a savior in ourselves, when Jesus is the only one who can save us from ourselves. It’s not been a journey to make me stronger, it’s been a journey to make my faith stronger that I may rest in the strength of the One who holds me in my weakness. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me’” (2 Corinthians 12:9). You see, whatever journey we take in life, we’re always holding someone’s hand through it all, it’s either God’s or satan’s, because these are the two sides, the two warring spiritual powers battling from the beginning of time until the end of time. It’s either God or satan. There is no grey area, only the enemy’s deceptions. Jesus says, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30; Luke 11:23). It’s not just been a battle fought for control, it’s been a battle He’s fought for my soul.
Colossians 2:8 says “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” You see, the enemy puts on different identities. He puts on as many different masks and costumes to trick us as he can, just like a kid on Halloween trying to get more candy by wearing a different costume every time they ring the doorbell. He presents himself under the guise of as many masks as possible to get us to believe his lies – Buddhism, Pantheism, Hinduism, Daoism, Mormonism, Atheism, Islam etc. But Jesus doesn’t present any masks for us not only because He doesn’t want us to get hurt through being entangled in lies and wants to be lovingly honest with us as a best friend, but because He cannot lie. He is truth, “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus is truth. That means He is the opposite of deception, His identity is absent of all lies. Instead of trying to take from us and demanding works to be saved, He gives to us. We don’t have to do anything for Him to be a part of our lives other than accept Him. God gives us a door. He offers us a way out of our house that’s been cluttered and stained by all of our sins into His clean and pure house of grace, a house grander than our own. He offers us the door to His home, and that door to God the Father is Jesus Christ. The door is always open to us and its light shines brighter than any other door out there.
So then, what is love? The Bible defines love as this: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18). As our loving Father, God gives us the way to live our lives outlined in His Word of truth to protect us from the dangers of sin. It’s like a parent who tells their child to look both ways before crossing the street. They do this to protect them from oncoming traffic and dangerous situations because they’ve already walked that road and they know of the dangers that their children can face in this world. God does the same for us. Jesus has lived on the Earth. Jesus has walked through this life and knows exactly the temptations and sins that satan will offer you in this world. In fact, the Bible tells us He was tempted himself. This is why God asks us to obey His Word, because He loves us and does not want to see the devastating effects of sin in our lives. He wants to protect us from life-threatening danger like protecting His child from walking along the street and being completely oblivious to the cars rushing through that could take their life. We as children may not like the rules our parents give us but it’s because we don’t think we’ll ever face that. Then we realize that car accidents do happen and that there are real dangers out there. It’s just like that spiritually, like when we aren’t saved yet and don’t know about the dangers for our souls that are out there. God’s Word shows us how to go through life without getting drawn into sin and its dangers to protect us from hurt, to protect us from sin’s life-threatening devastation.
When we walk through the door God offers us through Jesus and become saved, we learn the true meaning of love through the message of the cross and through the power of the Word of God. This is who Love is. This is who God is, He is perfect love. This perfect love casts out all fear for “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:18-19). We’ve all been born into the sinful nature and we all make mistakes but through God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness as our heavenly Father, He gives us security found in His loving embrace. He promises to never leave us because His love is unfailing and everlasting, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8). He loves us so much that He gave His Son for us “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Our sins from before accepting salvation won’t be held against us because upon accepting Him in our hearts, we don’t have to endure the eternal punishment we deserve but rather our sins are replaced by Jesus’ sacrifice that we may be with God in the eternal blessing of heaven that we don’t deserve. We don’t have to feel that same guilt and taunting of the enemy that he’s used to try and trap us in and distract us from our true purpose/calling because God delivers us from all of that through the freedom found in salvation by accepting Christ. He helps us by transforming us to become more like He who’s righteous.
It is not only that we be believers in Jesus but disciples of Jesus. We may only need to accept Jesus into our hearts to receive salvation and start our relationship with God, but the Bible calls us to follow in the footsteps of our Savior, the Son of God, in order to live like children of God, because when we accept salvation through Jesus, we inherit a place in the kingdom of heaven as a child of God through Jesus taking our place on the cross. It’s not just talking about that freedom God gives us in salvation, it’s walking in that freedom by following Christ instead of following sin. Living by only believing Jesus and not trying to become more like Him is like stopping a book right before it gets to the good part, like having only the cookie part of the Oreo when the cream makes it taste so much better, it’s like if Michelangelo just stopped halfway through the Sistine Chapel and didn’t bother creating the masterpiece that exists today. Having been rescued by Jesus, we need to be continuing the journey and becoming disciples, living like Jesus and for Jesus, and sharing this blessed love with others so that they can experience this same amazing grace.
We need to share that this is how incredible God is. He has been patiently waiting for that moment where each of us made that ultimate choice to accept Jesus into our hearts and abandon everything this world would offer us to accept Him, not because of some obligation to escape condemnation. We could never do it on our own. Our lives in the past made us slaves to sin. When we live in sin, it’s still a relationship but a relationship we choose over a relationship with Jesus. Unlike a relationship with Jesus, it promises but doesn’t deliver. It’s all about lies. It promises to make us feel good and give us everything we could ever ask for, but then it strips us of everything we want in order to do what it wants. It knows what we want and offers that, but then it takes away our choices and insists on its own way, making us think that everything we’re doing is our idea. It gives us a taste of freedom but then enslaves us without any sight of freedom or even hope. It promises the world but sin abuses us and causes us to do what it wants even when that hurts us and those we love and care about.
Jesus was tempted in the same way. When satan tempted Jesus, he offered Him the world, “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me’” (Matthew 4:8). He’ll offer everything to you, but it’s all with a price, through a slavery that you won’t be able to escape that will abuse you and more importantly abuse your soul. This pains God’s heart because He has a Father’s heart toward us. He loves us so much and never wants that life for us where we would hurt ourselves and others around us but most importantly we hurt Him. God’s plans for us are good, Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And the Good News is that God actually delivers what He promises. When you look at people from the Bible, for instance Esther and David, God’s plans for them were so much greater than their own. They were plans not to simply bless them but to bless those around them. Esther was able to protect the Jewish people through trusting God’s plans and David was able to deliver the people from the giant Goliath through trusting that God would help him, and He lent him the strength to defeat an enemy several times his own size and strength.
When we choose to accept God’s gift of salvation, we can begin a new story and leave our old story of a sin-abused life. It. Is. finished. God protects us as our heavenly Father. Whenever sin comes knocking, we can now come to God in prayer and ask Him for help. We can ask God to answer the door the enemy’s knocking on and He answers like the bouncer for our soul, kicking out everything the enemy throws at us that would try to harm us. Sin may try and tempt us with offers of freedom and offers to escape our new relationship in God, but we now know what it’s like to be truly free and can stop giving in to that old life. We are now made slaves to righteousness, a slave in a completely different way. Romans 6:18 says “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”
In being slaves to righteousness, it’s where we want to pursue God. It’s the best feeling! It’s the kind of feeling better than finding an amazing song that you just listen to over and over and you know all the words to it and sing like nobody’s business, finding a great book that even though you’ve read it before it never gets old and you get excited every time you hear someone talk about it, and better than your favorite food that you can’t wait ‘til you taste it because even just the smell is intoxicating. We want more of God and want to do more for Him and want to follow Him and become more like Jesus who saved us, because He brought us out of our suffering, because He gives us more than we could ever ask for in His freedom, because He’s always been there and listened to us and put His arm around us through it all. It is because we love Him that we obey Him and do all we can for Him and love Him with all that we are, because “Those who obey my commandments are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them, and I will love them. And I will reveal myself to each one of them” (John 14:21). It is because we love Him for He is merciful. Not only that, He is gracious. It’s just to take His hand and walk with Him from now into eternity on this amazing adventure we call life, because He’s been like a Father just waiting for His runaway child to come back home so He can hug him and pick him up off the ground, hold him in his arms, carry Him on his shoulders, and just spend hours showering him with love and affection.
When we spend time with Him, He takes that little mustard seed of faith we have and plants it in the good soil of His Word to cultivate a servant heart in us that grows in the light of His radiant love and bears the fruit and gifts of the Spirit. Then we can share the Good News of His love with others and start truly being alive, that through Jesus we can be healthy not just in mind, body, and heart, but most importantly be healthy in soul and spirit, be healthy spiritually and alive as Christ is alive and lives in us.
You see, we have been taken from death in sin to being full of life in Christ, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Following Christ doesn’t mean just following Him into the death of our old self, the death of a life being bound to our sinful desires and things that would keep us from truly living for God and loving Him by that sin abusing us and controlling us, for “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). See, it also means following Him out of that death into newfound life, life foundin Christ like it says in Romans 6:11-14, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” This means we are alive in Jesus, alive like Jesus who rose from the grave. We live through the Holy Spirit living inside of us, because the Word also says, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” (Romans 6:8). We don’t just believe in crucifying our old self, we believe in new life. The Bible says we become alive in Christ, which means becoming alive as a new self, a new identity.
This is my testimony, because who I was is not nearly as important as the great I AM. This is the love story of God searching for me when I was lost in this world, but also the pursuit of the Father’s heart for each of us to have a loving relationship with Him. It is not to make my name great but to make His name great, the name of Jesus – the Name above all other names.