Tuesday, December 20, 2005

But I'm Not Finished Yet!

If you have ever felt frustrated at not being able to tell a person the whole concept of salvation and committing their life to Jesus Christ, my own testimony might assure you that whatever the Holy Spirit puts in your heart, whatever therefore you share in obedience, it is enough--even if it is only part of the whole. "I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth." 1 Corinthians 3:6

No single person ever set out the gospel in any comprehensive, understandable way for me, yet you will see that my need for Jesus as my Savior became quite clear over time thanks to God's guidance, using both believers and unbelievers in the process.

I attended a Biology class at Portland State University. I still remember our professor explaining to our huge class the incredibly complex process of cell division. I was astonished. This wasn't a Christian professor and he wasn't in any way intentionally acknowledging God. He could not describe cell division without pointing to God's glory, though. I thought of all the cells, all over the world, throughout time, both plant and animal, dividing, dividing, dividing constantly. Almost always perfectly. Not even one cell could divide properly by chance. Though I had no doubt prayed occasionally, I never took the presence of God very seriously. Now I knew that there had to be a God. That was a crucial initial step, though not very close to knowing Jesus as my Savior.
When I was working at Boeing, a friend invited me to a Bible study at lunchtime. I was an unbeliever at the time, and anyone around me knew that I had issues--lots of them--with my mother-in-law most of all; my own mother also; and therefore all my relatives. Not only relatives, but health problems, money problems...lots of things. It was like I had sore thumbs poking out everywhere. Well, at this lunchtime Bible study they all discussed some deep theological matter (as far as I was concerned)--far beyond any of my understanding. At the end, all I could think to discuss with the leader had nothing to do with any of it. I asked him, "Why are there bumper stickers that say that Jesus is alive? He died on the cross!" Perhaps I thought I'd realized something no Christian had ever considered. I'd been going to a church for four years at this time, but it wasn't exceptional for its Bible teaching.
The leader looked at me, trying hard to hide his amazement at my ignorance. "Have you never heard of the Resurrection?" I wasn't sure, so he explained to me that Jesus was resurrected from the dead three days after He died--that was what Easter was about. So I said, "Well, then, didn't He die again? He isn't walking around today." He said, "Have you never heard of the Ascension?" I was pretty sure I hadn't. He explained that Jesus went up to heaven, alive, and sits today at the right hand of the Father. I remember clearly thinking at the time that I could believe that He was alive in heaven all this time--I knew at least that life in heaven had a different framework than life on earth. So I had a new, vital understanding--that Jesus was able to come to life from the dead and is alive today. These are pivotal truths! I could worship a live Savior, not a dead one. The idea of His rising from the dead was vital too, but I'm not sure how well I understood that. I didn't come to faith in Him that day; still in my mind it was a catalytic event that steered me in the right direction.
Another day I must have been sharing my life frustrations with a co-worker (I think I did that a lot...). She looked at me squarely and just said two verses that were also very key to my understanding; I've never heard of anyone else ever using them together. She said, "Satan comes to seek, kill and destroy." I thought about my life. Sure enough, Satan was in control. Then she said, "Apart from God, you can do nothing." I knew that nothing I had done to try to improve things seemed to have any positive effect. So the solution had to come from outside of me; it had to come from God. Actually the verse reads, with Jesus speaking, "Apart from Me, you can do nothing." It's that specific. I needed Jesus Christ alone, none of my own futile efforts.
My little daughter, almost two years old, was waking up at 2:00 a.m. every night; suddenly she started sleeping through the night, but I was programmed to wake up anyway. The first night I had lots to think about! I thought about what my life had in it; what was it worth? What did I have to give up? I never like getting the short end of a deal. I just wasn't sure I had enough of the whole picture. I went back to sleep.
The second night, as my daughter slept and I awoke, my brother Don's voice came to mind, mocking Bible verses. When I was probably about 14 or so, he was attending Portland State University (that same place I attended later). Someone would stand on the street corner and announce salvation verses to anyone who would hear. Don would come home and mock them to my mother. I wasn't even very aware that it had any impact at all on me, at the time. Now I was 29 and hearing it all over again. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." I don't remember which others any more, but I know they were basic to salvation. Don's mocking voice bothered me, so I prayed it would go away, and it did. The salvation verses, though, had done their work.
The third night I thought about all that had been happening to me. Somehow I knew something about a transaction that had to be made with Jesus. I wasn't conscious of my being a sinner, or Him forgiving my sins, but I was painfully aware of inadequacy, and for that moment it was enough to make me know how much I needed Him. I didn't know what would happen to me once I became a Christian; I didn't know what giving your life to Christ meant. It felt very much like walking off a cliff into darkness. The cliff had to be bad for a person to jump into darkness, and mine was. I know that I surrendered my life to Christ that night—I don’t know what my words were, but that was the start of my life in Him. I didn’t know just how significant that step was, despite my hesitation to take it…but I went to sleep in peace that night.
The darkness I expected in leaving that cliff turned out to be light after all! In exchange for my life riddled with sin, inadequacy, frustration, and sorrows of various kinds, Jesus gave me His grace, His joy, His peace, His love, and His Holy Spirit. What kind of trade is that?! It's an indescribable one for me, that's what. I owe Him for all eternity. That is a huge understatement. Maybe I'll go into that later.

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