by Susan Sampson
“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ”(Eph. 2:12-13).
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14).
The song “All I Have Is Christ” also tells my story so well.
“I once was lost in darkest night, yet thought I knew the way. The sin that promised joy and life, had led me to the grave. I had no hope that you would own a rebel to your will. And if you had not loved me first, I would refuse you still. But as I ran my hell-bound race, indifferent to the cost, you looked upon my helpless state, and led me to the cross. And I beheld God’s love displayed, you suffered in my place. You bore the wrath reserved for me, now all I know is grace.”
These verses are my testimony. That must be why I’m always drawn to them. They are a reminder to me of who I once was and what Christ has done for me because of His love.
I was once dead. Recently the Lord graciously allowed me to remember some of who I was before Christ. I remember the darkness, the hopelessness, the loneliness and pain. I remember the ungodliness, the utter selfishness, the total depravity. I remember moments of wishing that my life would just end so the pain would stop. I had no hope and was without God.
But God! It wasn’t, “But I.” Jesus brought me near! I know I didn’t bring myself near. I was dead. I didn’t deliver myself. I was bound and gagged. A prisoner. I didn’t have the keys to my prison cell. I didn’t have a knife hiding in my back pocket to cut the ropes. I had only my sin. I looked pretty on the outside. Had cute clothes, some makeup, some smarts, some talents. Nothing that could have ever gotten me to heaven! All my righteous deeds were filthy rags.
Lazarus didn’t raise himself from the dead. The widow from Nain’s son didn’t (Luke 7). And Jairus’ daughter didn’t either (Luke 8). The blind didn’t restore their own sight. The deaf didn’t choose to hear. Those possessed with demons couldn’t get rid of them on their own.
Matthew records the healing of a man with a withered hand. “Then he [Jesus] said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other” (Mat. 12:13). The order of events is crucial. Imperative. Absolutely necessary! Jesus spoke before the man could act. That is the order in the entire Bible. It is all Christ. God alone has the power to create life.
I write this as I continue to wage war with my flesh, most especially right now my pride. My vile pride that as C.J. Mahaney describes, “contends for God’s glory.” Even as I write the weekly email, my flesh wants the glory. My flesh craves the praise of man. The formerly dead pauper girl wants everyone to think I’m so great. It’s sick. I know the meaning (and I’m sure not even the half of it) of Jeremiah 17 which describes our hearts as desperately sick!
My flesh also still tries to contend for God’s glory in wanting to think I contributed in some way to my salvation. I shared my story recently with my physical therapist. He told me I didn’t look like someone who used to smoke. Ah, yes, it feels so good to have someone think I’m good. I tried to explain how the Lord delivered me from that life. But he insisted it was my choice to turn from those “bad choices.” No–But God!
I can only humbly turn and thank the Lord for delivering me from the clutches of the dark lord. He delivered me. I can only cry out to Him in gratitude for the mercy He showed me, not treating me as my sins deserve, but “according to his great mercy he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:3-5).
I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I was dead. Jesus saved me. I didn’t save me. I didn’t raise myself from the dead. No one can or did. I give God all the glory for the amazing gift of my salvation. For if I did contribute in any way to my salvation, then grace would no longer be that amazing. It would be helpful maybe, but certainly not amazing. If I was able to reach out my withered hand first, then God would not be all powerful or sovereign.
It is my Beloved Redeemer who sought me out. Hosea who never gave up on the adulterous woman. Jesus, both the Author of my faith and the Perfecter of my faith. And He is the Sustainer of my faith. He alone is all powerful. Humans can’t resist Him. If we could then He would not truly be all powerful. If He’s not all powerful, then I can’t trust Him. But the truth of the Word tells us that God is God. He is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. I can rest in Him. There is nothing that can separate me from His love. No one can snatch me out of His hand. I am safe and secure in Christ.