Religion has a way, interestingly enough, of damning the soul, a truth I learned long ago. I grew up with a very legalistic understanding of Christianity. I still have etched in my memory the times I would answer the altar call at my grandmother’s church to regain again the salvation I had lost the week before.
The gospel I heard preached was that Jesus saves, but it is up to each to stay saved by a series of duties as well as the impossible task of remaining sinless. It cultivated the idea in me that if I sinned even once, I was lost and destined to eternal punishment. This mixed with some unfortunate circumstances about the congenital disabilities that I inherited, caused me to begin to hate God. These experiences cultivated a hatred that would not be realized until I received Christ later in life. This hatred seems to be a bit of an oddity in hindsight given the path that God took me. Strangely enough, it was religion that played a significant role in causing me to hate God.
Such a perversion of the gospel instilled in me neurotic emotions, bitterness, hatred, and volcanic anger. Fortunately, though, this is not where the story ends, which is the beautiful thing about the power of the Gospel. Christ, when fully realized, has a way of melting the heart of the hard-hearted jade. To see Jesus dying for my sins is to see the most incredible act of love I know. R. C. Sproll was right when he said, “The sweetest fragrance, the most beautiful aroma that God has ever detected emanating from this planet, was the aroma of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus that was offered once and for all on the cross.” It was at the cross that I was able to let go the condemnation, insecurity, and a warped view of the Creator. This change took place as a result of letting go the salvation by works nonsense, and embrace what the Bible teaches. George Whitfield was shocked at the idea that someone would believe salvation by works stating, “What! Get to heaven on your strength? Why you might as well try to climb to the moon on a rope of sand!” The truth is, is that it is difficult to rest on God’s grace alone given humanity’s propensity to give in to pride and demand that we can save ourselves. As Sproll correctly points out, “we don’t want to live by a heavenly welfare system. We want to earn our way and atone for our sins. We like to think that we will go to heaven because we deserve to be there.” One must abandon such an idea for one to have eternal life.
What I came to believe on that night in October 1989 sitting in my grandmother’s family room, was that Jesus Christ died for me and I just needed to repent of my sin and trust Him completely for salvation. In doing so, I would not have to earn my salvation. As a result of trusting Christ alone, I no longer doubt God’s love for me, and I have given up on religion altogether. You see religion seeks to reach up to God and try to get God’s approval. Jesus, however, reached down, paid the penalty for my sin, and extended to me his offer of salvation. I didn’t have to be good enough; I just needed to let go of my pride, repent of my sin, and allow Christ to come in my heart.
Today I spend my days not trying to earn God’s approval but enjoying the relationship that I now have with God.