Claire is a second year history major who drinks water.
I grew up as a church kid. My parents brought me to church on Sundays, I knew God existed, my mom prayed with me daily, and I sang children’s worship songs in the car. In Sunday school, I learned that Jesus had died for me, and I was asked to give my life to Him so that He would “live in my heart,” so I did; however, I cannot say I understood what sin was and why it required Jesus’ death to give me life.
As I got older, my life became increasingly saturated with sin. I knew I was disobedient because my conscience bore witness against me when I did things I knew were wrong (Rom. 2:15). I repeatedly asked God for forgiveness, but I did not seek it through Jesus. I made powerless promises to God to stop sinning, and I reckoned myself deserving of forgiveness on the basis of my work in asking, which never produced a repentance that led to salvation, but only a temporary guilt-relief and immediately falling back into sin without power to overcome it (2 Cor. 7:10). The more I sinned, the heavier the burden of guilt weighed down on me. I did not want to pray or ask for forgiveness anymore because I felt too ashamed to ask after falling time and time again, unable to keep my impossible promises to conquer sin by my own strength. Instead of turning to Jesus as Savior, I turned away from God, and lived for myself and the things of this world (Rom. 1:25).
I was filled with all unrighteousness, and my life was characterized by every evil thing. My thoughts and heart were full of wickedness (Rom. 1:29). I lived for the fleeting and empty conceit of self-glorification. I saw and treated people as objects to manipulate for my selfish gain and satisfaction. I maintained a facade of innocence and uprightness while inside, I was full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness, self-indulgence, hypocrisy, and lawlessness (Mt. 23:25-28). I was overwhelmed with anxiety and fears. I rebelled against God daily as I lied, lusted, coveted, harmed myself, tested God, and broke every one of His holy commandments. I was enslaved to sin’s vicious cycle of short-lived pleasure and hard plummet into emptiness and guilt. I was exactly what the prophet Isaiah described in Isaiah 59:7:
“Their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
But God was merciful to me. In sixth grade, I transferred to a new school in the middle of the year, and lost all the reputation and relationships in which I placed my worth. God humbled me to loneliness and desperation to prepare my heart to receive and run to Him as Savior and Friend in His merciful forgiveness and comfort.
At the time, the primary reason I attended church was to see my only friend. Though my motive for going to church was not to know God, He revealed His holy character to me through what I learned about Him in Sunday school, Bible studies, and hymn lyrics as the only true and sovereign God who is just, compassionate, patient, eternally faithful, omniscient, and all-powerful. Exhorted by my Sunday school teacher, I read through the Bible in the last few months of my sixth grade year. As I learned more about Him, my desire to know Him intimately grew, and was satisfied and increased through seeing His faithfulness and loving kindness revealed from Genesis to Revelation.
The Lord gave me faith to believe what Scripture said about who He was as Creator and holy God who demanded righteousness and punished sin. I always knew I was a sinner through and through, but I now knew, believed in, and found great joy and relief in the gospel of forgiveness by the blood of Christ alone in His finished work on the cross. The burden of guilt was lifted off my shoulders because Christ paid the full price for my sin, bore the entire wrath of God in my place, covered me with His righteousness, and resurrected three days later, breaking the power of sin and penalty of death.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and 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 up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
God gave me a new heart that desired and delighted in His commandments. I had a new repulsion for and victory over sin because I had a sure salvation in Jesus, my great high priest who offered greater satisfaction than the fleeting pleasures of sin, and who empowered me by the power of God that raised the dead to look on Him and live to please Him. Having peace with God through Jesus’ atoning work alone, God transformed my heart to pray joyfully and confidently to my heavenly Father as a beloved child of God. The Holy Spirit convicted me of sin, empowered me to pursue holiness, and gave me desires to serve the Church, love fellowship and corporate worship, and to abound in love for Christ through greater knowledge of Him. The Lord has faithfully kept and continues to sanctify me day after day by His grace.
Though I still wrestle with remaining sin, I can approach the throne of grace with confidence because Christ has made atonement for my sins once for all, and I stand complete in Him alone. He transforms my heart to find the things of this world dull in comparison to the knowing Jesus, and to long for Christ’s return for an eternity with Him in glory. He gives me the joyful stewardship of proclaiming His excellencies through the saving message of the gospel as a broken vessel and new creation, a sinner once dead in my transgressions but made alive together with Christ, now a saint and fellow citizen of heaven, reconciled to God and brought near by the blood of Christ, to the praise of His glorious grace (Eph. 2). He opens my mouth to declare His praise and salvation, and desire that every tongue ascribe to Him the glory due His great name.
Because of His grace, I can sing with the psalmists:
Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides you, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works. (Psalm 73:25-28)
In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand there are pleasures forever. (Psalm 16)
All praise be to God, to whom belongs all glory, honor, and power forever.