I grew up in an alcoholic home. Because of my home situation, and certainly my own resentful attitude, I rebelled, and made a lot of terrible choices. When you grow up like that, it kind of defines who you are, and it certainly affects how you feel about yourself. You don't like yourself very well, and you never feel "good enough".
For many years, I let those things - where I came from and the mistakes that I made - define me. Then, I began to regret the choices I had made, the things I had done, but it felt like it was too late. I was trapped by my own choices, things I couldn't change, even if I wanted to.
But I want you to know, our backgrounds and our mistakes are NOT the sum total of who and what we are. God changes us, when we let Him. There is tremendous God-given potential in each and every one of us, regardless of our circumstances or our failures and shortcomings; yes, even regardless of our deliberate wrong choices.
My point in sharing this part of my background is to say, no matter where you came from, no matter what has happened to you or what you have done, God loves you, and wants to make a difference in your life, as He did in mine. God knows where you come from, He knows all that you've done, but He loves you anyway. He want us to define ourselves by our relationship with Him, and by the truths of His Word, not by what other people say about us and try to make us believe. I may have started out as the daughter of a drunkard, but I stand here before you today as a daughter of the KING - thank you, Jesus!
Those things that hurts us and shame us the most are the very things God wants us to bring to Him, so He can heal us, and so that we in turn can help others. Sometimes I think we try to pretty up our testimony, because we're afraid to let others see the truth. But true freedom comes not from hiding these things, but from bringing them out into the open, and letting God's love transform us. When we bring the ugly, dirty things we've kept hidden for so long into the light of God's love, He can then marvelously and miraculously turn them around. Satan, the enemy of our souls, can no longer use those things to keep us enslaved, in fear and misery, once we bring them into the light.
I accepted Jesus as my Savior at the age of 19, when my baby was very ill, and almost died. I was like many people, I came to God seeking His help. I needed something from Him. I never really grew much as a Christian, because it was all one-sided - what God could do for me. I tried to be a "good" Christian, but I didn't seem to get very far - I kept falling back into my old habits, and my old thought patterns. I was in & out of church, and never really experienced God's presence, or His power in my life. I sang "Victory in Jesus", but I sure never experienced much victory in my own life. What was wrong with me, that I couldn't seem to have the joy and peace that the Bible talkes about?
I've since learned that you can't straddle the fence. That's what I had tried to do. Be a "good" Christian, but still live the way I wanted to. I wanted to have it both ways, and you just can't do that. We can either allow God to lead, guide, and direct our lives, or we can live in rebellion. It's really that simple. There can only be one God, and we are not qualified to fill that position! When we try to be our own god, to do things our own way, we are going to fall.
I've got to say here, sometimes it may seem like God has a whole list of "Thou shalt not's", all aimed at making us miss out on all the fun. That's what a lot of people think - Christians just can't have any fun. Well, I've done just about all the things that the world considers fun, and I'm here to tell you, it isn't. The things the world calls fun are the things that will end up bringing you shame, guilt, sorrow and pain. Those aren't the things God wants for His children.
Anytime God asks us to quit doing something or give something up, it is for our own sake, not His. It is so that we don't have to live with the awful consequences of our poor choices. And there is far more joy and fun in Christian fellowship and serving God than you'll ever find in any worldly things. I've had it both ways, and I promise you, I don't regret one single thing that I've ever given up or supposedly missed out on for Jesus's sake.
When I finally quit straddling the fence, and began to truly seek God's will, I began to experience some victory in my own life. I began to sense His presence and feel the power of His Holy Spirit. I began to have the kind of relationship with Him I never imagined: He was my loving Heavenly Father, instead of just a God of judgment and punishment. And what He has done in my life this past few years just astonishes me. I'm finally learning to allow Him to lead and guide my life - when I try to do it, I inevitably mess it up. I've learned that He can do what I consider impossible. He is ABLE, He is GOOD, and He loves me with an everlasting love! It is God who changes us - we cannot change ourselves.
I was talking to my brother one day about God, and he said to me, "Yeah, but you go to church and read the Bible and teach Bible studies and all that - I don't do any of that." So I asked him, "Do you think God loves me one bit better than He loves you?" and he said, "Well, sure He does!" I was stunned for a minute, and then it hit me: that's just how I used to think, too: that we had to DO certain things to try to make God love us, and that some people were just God's favorites, because of all the good things they did.
If you have EVER for one moment felt like that, I want to assure you, just as I assured my brother that day: God loves you just as you are. He loved me just as I was, and He loves you just as you are. He loves you so much He sent His only begotten Son to die for you - JUST AS YOU ARE!!!!! There isn't one thing you can ever do to make Him love you one bit more than He loves you right now. I'm standing here today, a child of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, secure in the knowledge of God's love, His mercy, and His forgiveness - not because of anything I have ever done, but because of Jesus. I didn't have to EARN His love, and I certainly didn't DESERVE it. He loved me anyway, because He is love. And He loves you, too.
I also know I can never do enough to pay Him back for what He has done for me, so I don't even try. I just give Him praise and thanks, and accept the wonder and beauty of His love. When I mess up - and I do mess it, just like we all do - instead of falling back into old thought patterns, feeling like I am a failure and unworthy to be called a child of God, then I head straight for my Bible, and fill my heart with God's truth, instead of Satan's lies. Satan will mess with your head, if you let him. But God's word will straighten you out - if you let it.
If you've never received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, I can promise you, based on the truth of His own Word, God is no respecter of persons. What He has done in my life, He will do in yours, too. Anything that He's ever done for the best of us, He will also do for the rest of us. He loves you right now, just as you are, and He's waiting for you to come to Him. I've lived both ways, before I finally made the choice to live for God, and I guarantee you, I've never regretted it for one minute - and neither will you! You have His Word on it!