I grew up knowing the truth, or at least I grew up knowing part of the truth. I knew Jesus came to save sinners, and if you would just pray to Him for salvation you would be saved. I knew you had to believe He died for you, that you were a dirty, rotten sinner, bound for hell. I knew you had to confess it all and then, and only then would He save you. When He saved you, He made everything better, good, beautiful. He took all of your sins away. And then when you were mature enough in Him you would be expected to tell others about Jesus and His life if you were a man and your job was a pastor.
What I didn’t know was it wasn’t the prayer that saved you. I didn’t know I had choices. I didn’t know I would still struggle with the flesh part of my life. I didn’t know how to hear Jesus, how to read His Word, how to study it. I didn’t know how to grow.
I always heard, “Don’t get pregnant before you’re married. That’s a sin.” It’s funny to think back on it now, but I had no idea how one got pregnant and automatically assumed it was something you got like the flu. I was afraid I would be walking down the street one day and all of a sudden I’d be pregnant.
Just as I was wrong about that, I was wrong about my salvation. I thought it was now all up to me to be perfect. Jesus saved me and now I took over. I tried hard. Oh my soul, how hard I tried to be good. I worked so hard to be good, to be perfect, to never do anything wrong.
And guess what?
I kept doing things wrong! I kept making bad, wrong, poor choices. I kept failing. I kept choosing the bad over the good. For many years I was convinced this was proof I wasn’t actually saved, that Jesus didn’t die for me. So I’d ask Him again and eventually I got tired of asking and just lived in abject defeat.
Maybe you’ve been there? Maybe you’re there now? It’s a horrible, nasty, painful place to be living.
Yesterday I was using a Bible app and saw this:
Run away from the evil things that young people long for. Try hard to do what is right.2 Timothy 2:22 (nirv)
My heart broke. There is no Jesus in this version of the verse. There is no “try hard” in Jesus. There is no “do your best” in Him. There is only the sweetness of surrender to His life.
Dear sweet reader, please do not buy into this lie that you are saved by the Spirit and then you must perfect yourself and try hard to do what is right. You cannot do what is right in and by your own strength. You are not that strong. In yourself you do not have the power.
But in Him is the power. In surrendering to Him, allowing Him free reign to be and do all that you need to be and do, that is how you grow and mature in Him. It’s in recognizing His sweet voice that whispers to your sweet soul, “You don’t have to try! Rest in Me. Abide in Me.”
For decades I thought I had to do it all to grow. I thought my force of will was required to grow and stop doing the things that displeased God. In every temptation I had a choice and thought it required my absolute perfection. Every time I failed. And thought that made me a failure. I was a failure.
Because in my own strength, in your own strength we are failures. But Jesus died to set us free from all of that trying and failing.
So please, dear friend, shun the lie that says you have to “try hard to do what is right.” Give into Jesus, allow Him to do the right in and through you. Rely on His abundant, free life living in you to perfect you.
Please know, I am not at all saying simply to “let go and let God”. No, I am saying, “Stop trying so dang hard. You’ll fail every time. Surrender to Jesus. Give in to Him. He will lead you, He will guide you. You’ll make mistakes, you’ll still battle an unseen enemy who wants to kill and destroy you. But you don’t have to give in to him. When you screw up, when you misunderstand, miss-hear Jesus, confess it and keep going.”
That is the best gift you could give yourself and everyone around you this Christmas.