My Testimony

I was recently asked by one of the elders of our church to give my testimony as part of one of our Sunday evening worship services in July 2010.  I thought I would  post what I wrote and shared with my church family.

I was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1975.  My parents were both Catholic and raised my brother and me to be the same.  I attended a Catholic elementary school for first through eighth grade.  My parents were married very young and they didn’t have a good relationship.  My Father had a terrible temper and treated my Mom badly, including physical abuse.  They fought a lot and I can remember hiding in my room whenever they argued and being very afraid that my Dad would turn on me in anger.  When I was 8, after my parents had separated and reconciled one time, they finally decided to divorce.

By the time I entered high school, my Dad was remarried and stable.  I moved in with my Dad and Stepmom and began regularly attending an evangelical church.  I was sitting under sound teaching and the Bible began to make sense to me and I knew what it said was true.   I knew I was a sinner that needed a Savior.  I am not sure exactly when I became a Christian but it was early in my ninth grade year of High School.  I was baptized about a year later.  I had a hunger and desire for God’s word and developed regular devotional times, was active in youth group and service to the church body even as a young person.  I met Mike when I was 19 at my best friend’s wedding.  He was the best man for his twin brother and I was the maid of honor.  We developed a friendship which grew stronger and we were married shortly after.

Over the years, unbeknownst to me, I slowly slipped into a performance relationship with the Lord.  About 2 years ago, the Lord brought me to despair over besetting sin in my life.  I was frustrated and struggling even to the point that I doubted my faith.  I wondered why things were so difficult and often questioned why I seemed to have no love for God.  I can remember sitting on my bed in despair and saying to myself “I’ve got to be missing something”.  I figured that I just wasn’t trying hard enough to overcome my sin, I wasn’t serving enough, or I was doing something wrong and God was displeased with me.

In early Spring of 2008, I purchased a book by Elyse Fitzpatrick called “Because He Loves Me”   The Holy Spirit used it to completely change my life and correct a huge area of un-Biblical thinking that had been affecting my view of God and my relationship with Him.

I realized that I was living as though I didn’t need Jesus anymore after being saved.  I had thought the pursuit of holiness and progressive sanctification was all about me and my own effort.   When things seemed to be going well for me-I was obeying, serving, didn’t miss devotional times and had regular prayer I was tempted to be self-righteous and prideful and believed God would bless me and be pleased with me. When things in my walk weren’t going so well; I was stuck in sin, not reading my Bible, etc., I was bogged down in despair and guilt feelings overwhelmed me.  I wondered how displeased God must be with me and what I needed to do to make up for it or I lived in fear of Him punishing me.  I really don’t believe I had any joy in the Lord and I certainly didn’t have a love for Him.  I was probably more afraid of Him than anything else and everything I did was out of duty or because I knew I had to or punishment was coming!  This is what I mean when I say I was living in a “performance relationship” with the Lord and the standard was MY own performance and most often my LACK of it.

As I read “Because He Loves Me”, the Lord revealed to me the errors in my thinking.  He showed me that I was living as if Christianity was a self improvement program and that I had forgotten the good of the Gospel.  He showed me that I need the Gospel just as much now in my Christian life as I did to get saved in the first place.  Now I am seeking and asking the Lord to help me apply the Gospel to everyday situations in life.  For example, I recently took my 4 children to piano lessons.  It is about a 30 minute drive one way to our piano teacher’s home.  Upon arriving, one of my children informed me that they had forgotten their piano books.  My first reaction was anger and self-righteousness.  I had thoughts like “I drove all this way and you can’t even remember your books?  Don’t you see the sacrifice I am making?  Now what are we going to say to your teacher?”  I was ready to yell and complain.  Then the Holy Spirit began to convict me.  Much of my anger was rooted in not wanting to be embarrassed in front of the piano teacher-I didn’t want to look like an irresponsible Mom and ruin my so called “reputation”.  I didn’t want to extend grace because my child was making me look bad.   Even after apologizing profusely for the mistake; I still wanted to hold it against them.  To borrow the phrase from Jerry Bridges, I began, by God’s grace, to “preach the Gospel to myself”.   The Gospel tells me that I don’t deserve a good reputation, only Christ does, yet He was willing to give that up for me.  The Gospel reminds me that my sin murdered the Son of God, yet because of His sacrifice, I have been forgiven.   When I think about all that Christ gave up for me, all that I have been forgiven, and that He lived a perfectly sinless life in my place,  whatever is tempting me to sin all of a sudden seems a lot less attractive.  With the Lord’s help, in this particular situation, I was able to turn from my sin, talk to my children about the good of the Gospel and ask forgiveness right away.

I wish I could say that I did this perfectly every day, the truth is that I don’t, and I am still learning and really feel that I’ve only scratched the surface of the depths of the Gospel.   Even in my failures and sin though, I am learning to be thankful.  My sin reminds me of my desperate, moment by moment need of Him.  Instead of hours or days of self recrimination and guilt after failure, I am learning that I can come to Him in faith, knowing that His Son has paid the penalty for my sin.  I have no fear of Him and know there is no wrath left for me because Christ bore it all on the cross.  My heart and affections are warmed and my love for Him grows as I remember all He has done and His great love for me, despite my continual failure.  This gives me the courage and motivation to get up and fight besetting sin again.  I am learning to look to Jesus and His perfect work instead of staying focused on myself.

After all these years, I am realizing that God doesn’t want duty driven, outward obedience.  He wants my heart, He wants my love, and He wants a relationship.  Now I can honestly say I want that too and I am so thankful for His mercy and grace.  He could have left me stuck and miserable in the way I had been thinking but He didn’t.

I’d like to close by reading Ephesians 2:6-7:  “And God raised us up with Christ  and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”  It’s ALL HIM!!!

Kristen Keating

Are You Cross-Eyed?

“Your mind can only protect against the deceit of the flesh if you are cross-eyed.  That is, you can only keep the rottenness of sin and the kindness of God in mind if you fix your eyes on the cross.  What shows God’s hatred of sin more than the cross?  What shows God’s love to you more than the cross?  If you want to know exactly what sin deserves, you have to understand the cross.  If you want to know how infinitely deep the root of sin reaches, you have to think through all the implications of the cross.  If you want to know how far God was willing to go to rescue you from sin, you have to see his precious son hanging on the cross for you.”

Kris Lundgaard “The Enemy Within”

Jesus Fastens His Life to Our Life

“My dear friend, one thing is certainly true about Christ.  All that He has ever been He must forever be.  All that He was to those first disciples, He must be ready to be to any one, even the least of His disciples.  His power is nothing at any one point if it is not powerful at all points; nothing, if not eternal.  How is it possible, then, that Christ should do for you and me what he did for Peter and John, and Matthew and Nathanael?  It is not hard to see, and to many people living just such lives as we live it has become the most real of experiences.  Jesus, the Jesus of the Gospels, fastens his life to our life.   By His life and death, bearing witness of His love, He twines Himself into our being.  To love Him becomes a real thing.  He is close by our side.   He is right in our lot every day.  Then as we go on living thus with Him some crisis of our life occurs, some need of action.  We are put to some test, and as we stand doubting, or as we go and do the act in our low way, Christ, right by our side, does it in His higher way.  Not that His hands visibly touch our tools and do the work we have to do.  But it becomes evident to us what He would do under our circumstances, what one only thing it would be possible for Him to do as we are situated.

The gates of that nobler life which He has opened shine before us, and his love draws us on to be with Him.”

Phillips Brooks (Quoted from “Climbing the Heights”)

Give Thanks for the Glorious Gospel

On the other hand, I ask my readers to observe how deeply thankful we ought to be for the glorious Gospel of the grace of God. There is a remedy revealed for man’s need, as wide and broad and deep as man’s disease. We need not be afraid to look at sin, and study its nature, origin, power, extent, and vileness, if we only look at the same time at the Almighty medicine provided for us in the salvation that is in Jesus Christ. Though sin has abounded, grace has much more abounded. Yes: in the everlasting covenant of redemption, to which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are parties—in the Mediator of that covenant, Jesus Christ the righteous, perfect God and perfect Man in one Person—in the work that He did by dying for our sins and rising again for our justification—in the offices that He fills as our Priest, Substitute, Physician, Shepherd, and Advocate—in the precious blood He shed which can cleanse from all sin—in the everlasting righteousness that He brought in—in the perpetual intercession that He carries on as our Representative at God’s right hand—in His power to save to the uttermost the chief of sinners, His willingness to receive and pardon the vilest, His readiness to bear with the weakest—in the grace of the Holy Spirit which He plants in the hearts of all His people, renewing, sanctifying and causing old things to pass away and all things to become new—in all this—and oh, what a brief sketch it is!—in all this, I say, there is a full, perfect, and complete medicine for the hideous disease of sin. Awful and tremendous as the right view of sin undoubtedly is, no one need faint and despair if he will take a right view of Jesus Christ at the same time. No wonder that old Flavel ends many a chapter of his admirable “Fountain of Life” with the touching words, “Blessed be God for Jesus Christ.”

J.C. Ryle   “Holiness:Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots

The Gospel Message

“The gospel message–you have been cleansed from sin–is the pinnacle of God’s loving work in the world, and just as it is this work that saves us, it is also this work that transforms and sustains us.  The gospel is the message that must remain paramount throughout all our life.  It must not be relegated to yesterday’s news or tucked away with our faded photos of our first steps in Christ.  Jesus’ death cleanses us from sin, but it also guarantees our ultimate transformation into his image.  This transformation occurs, Paul writes, while we gaze upon him, think about him, and muse on him as he has revealed himself to us in the gospel. ‘And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another'(2 Cor. 3:18).  Behold his glory in the gospel and be transformed.”

Elyse Fitzpatrick (Because He Loves Me)

“In your pursuit of godliness, have you left Jesus behind?”

The title of this post is a quote from one of Elyse Fitzpatrick’s books entitled “Because He Loves Me”.  Reading that book, by the grace of God, turned me around spiritually.  It is my hope that this blog will be a tool that points to Christ and that it will bring glory to Him.  It is not my plan for this to be a blog in the traditional sense (where I write about my life, opinions, etc.).  My desire is to have a place where one can read Biblical, cross-centered quotations as an encouragement in daily God-honoring  living.

“True Christianity is not a program of self-improvement; it’s an acknowledgement that something more than self-improvement is needed.  What’s needed is death and resurrection; gospel words, gospel constructs, gospel motives, gospel power–a loving Redeemer.”

Elyse Fitzpatrick (Because He Loves Me)