In his book “Irresistible Revolution” Shane Claiborne states “I am convinced that Jesus came not simply to make bad people good, but to bring dead people to life.” This is a perfect description of what Jesus Christ has done for me and how he as radically changed my life.
I grew up in a Christian family and have attended church all my life. I grew up with two loving parents that followed Jesus and gave plenty of effort teaching me about him. But despite their influence and teaching, there was a major flaw in my thinking. Even though I knew all the right answers in my head, I still felt I had to earn God’s love, and without certain actions, I would not have his complete love or approval.
I constantly tried to please God. I did the right things, said the right words, and had a lot of pride as a result, but still felt like I was falling short. I felt that I constantly let God down – because even though I tried to do all the right things, I knew my heart was wicked. I knew my failures and sin that wasn’t necessarily evident to others. I was trying to earn God’s favor and other’s favor – so in essence I was doing the ‘right’ things for my own glory. It may seem dumb because I still had a good and easy life growing up, but I became so frustrated with these feelings that I was very depressed throughout my high school years. I felt that no matter how hard I tried, I was never going to be good enough to earn God’s favor. I battled frustration and anger internally. I hated myself and constantly battled a desire to end my life.
I was always afraid to share with others these feelings I had. I was ashamed of how I felt and thought I needed to get my act together on my own. I felt like in expressing how I felt, I would be letting others down and that they would question my faith. However, I eventually told a group of people I was close to about my struggles. They prayed over me, encouraged me, and spoke truth in my life from God’s word about how He really views us. I definitely felt a big weight off my shoulders – but the battle was not over. I still continued to have some of these same thoughts and feelings, but now I had support in dealing with them. Telling others about my struggles and exposing those lies was a major turning point for me. For the first time in my life, I really felt loved despite my short comings. I still knew no matter how hard I tried, I would never be good enough to earn God’s favor, but that’s the point! God knew I would not be good enough – all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God – that’s why he sent Jesus. To be the perfect sacrifice for my sins – even though I didn’t deserve it. Romans 5:8 says “but God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
It is impossible to give someone something you don’t have. It’s impossible to truly tell people about something that you haven’t experienced yourself. Before when I tried to love people and do good – it was out of my own power. I did it because that’s what I was taught, that’s what was the ‘right thing to do’, because it would earn God’s favor, and because I would look better to others. That wasn’t God’s love I was sharing, it was my own love for my own selfish needs and desires. However, once God gave me this turning point and helped me realize there was nothing I could do to earn God’s love and that He loved me despite my shortcomings, this radically changed everything.
This is what gives me hope – I am not relying on myself who I know will constantly fall short – but a Savior who accomplished what no one else could. I will continue to fall short but like Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “Jesus said, ‘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. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Because of what Christ did, now I can truly show mercy to others – not because of anything I have done, but because I have been shown mercy when I didn’t deserve it.
I truly feel I can love my neighbor and my enemies – not because of anything I have done, but because despite me being unlovable, He has loved me.
Jesus hasn’t made my behavior change from bad to good, I was a “good” kid growing up, but I still felt dead and empty inside. Jesus has taken myself; a wretched, depressed, yet prideful sinner who tried to look like he had it together on the outside but felt completely dead on the inside; and made me alive. He has shown me how to live, and given me a reason to live.
The gospel is not about Him loving us because of anything we have done. The gospel is Him loving us despite anything we have done. He loves us now, even while we were still sinners, and sent His son to die for us. This is how Jesus Christ has radically changed my life and is continuing to do so. This is the Gospel and this truly is GOOD NEWS!