God Has Thoughts of Peace towards You!
Peace and acceptance is something our society always seems to be looking for and I was no exception. I grew up in a home where alcohol and fighting were common; consequently, it was a place where I did not want to be. By the time I was in my teens and early twenties, I found myself absorbed in living “life to the fullest” and searching for someone to love and accept me. All this did, though, was make me miserable. Each day brought more emptiness; yet I would still pursue the same meaningless path. Responsibility and the future meant very little to me. Living life this way acquainted me with many and certain consequences…failure in school, jail sentences, drug overdoses, drunk- driving accidents, fights with parents, even death. Life became anything but a good time. But God loved me even then. And I know His hand was upon me because He protected me from many foolish and dangerous situations.
After graduating from high school, I got a job at an insurance company. There was a girl who also worked there who was “religious.” She was a very friendly and sincere person, and she was just… different. She told me of Jesus. I had never heard things like this before, even though I had grown up in a nominally Catholic home. She told me that God loved me and sent His only Son to die for me (John 3:16), even though I was a sinner. Well, I sure did not need to be convinced that I was a sinner! She then told me I needed to be born again, to have my sins forgiven by the only One who could forgive them. Oh, this was what I longed for – to be set free from the very unhappy, sinful life I was living! She bought me a Bible and I began to read for myself the things she told me. I believed all that the Bible said and despite the things I used to think about those “born-again religious fanatics”, I tried to become one myself. I tried and tried and tried ….I tried every time I felt guilty because of the sinful life I continued to live.
“Something wasn’t right. It seemed the only thing that had changed was my mind.”
Time went on. In 1985 I got married and my husband and I began our family. Things were OK and more settled down. Yet something still seemed to be missing. So, I endeavored to make some definite changes in my lifestyle. I thought, “Those things should please God, too!” We were going to church as a family, but I continued to feel so empty. In 1999, we started going to Lehigh Valley Baptist Church, in Emmaus, PA, and it was there that things started to come into light. At this new church, I was hearing messages I had never heard before. I started to question the authenticity of my own relationship with God. Could it be that I had been living the last 20 years “imagining” I had a relationship with God? I tried to think back to an actual time in my life when I had really seen my sinfulness as God saw it – those years back in Buffalo, NY, held horrible memories. I surely had grossly sinned against a Holy God. Besides, the Bible says that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Oh, I knew I was a sinner. But I could not remember any time at all where I had specifically repented of my sin (turned away from pursuing a life of sinful desires, from living for myself). I remembered the countless times I had gone to an altar, asking God to forgive me – save me – take this awful guilt away – make this trouble go away – help me stop committing the same sins over and over. And I also remembered that “thought” that went right along side: I don’t totally want to give this up, to totally turn my back on some of these sinful ways, to totally surrender my life to God…because I know I’m just going to go “back to it.” Why did I never have the victory that the Bible and others spoke of?? And why did I often wonder if I was really saved? This was my sticking point. What was missing??
“I was missing true, biblical repentance.”
Sure, I was sorry for sins I committed, but whatever the “reasons” were, the one that mattered to God was not there. I had never come to Him like the repentant thief on the cross or “the publican standing afar off, (who) would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” (Luke 18:13) I knew I believed in God, that I was a sinner, and that every word of the Bible was true…but it wasn’t enough that I believed just these facts, for the Bible says, “The devils also believe, and tremble.”(James 2:19) I could not rest in my clean, outside appearance because it was the inside that God was concerned with. Jeremiah 17: 9-10 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” Had I been so deceived into believing that I had eternal life, yet all this time, I had never come with true repentance toward God and faith in Christ?
God truly had my attention. I prayed like I had never prayed before in the days that followed because I knew I was in BIG TROUBLE WITH GOD! Then I read something in the Bible that broke my heart. In Jeremiah 29: 11-14, God says this:“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD.” God had thoughts of peace toward me, even after all I had done against Him! As I was earnestly seeking Him, He was searching my heart, and showing me how hypocritical and self-righteous I was. He didn’t show me this to be unkind, but because He truly loved me and wanted to forgive my sin and be my Heavenly Father. Truth be known, I WAS all that and much more. Yet He will not force anyone to love Him. I had to make a choice: would I be given what I deserved (Revelation 20: 13 & 15) because I would not acknowledge and repent of these sins; or would I humbly come to Him on His terms? It sounds complicated, but it really is simply a matter of the heart. He knew if l was really sorry for what I had done against Him, and if I was sincerely believing and trusting in what Jesus accomplished on the cross when He paid for all my sins!
“God didn’t want to punish me. He had thoughts of peace toward me!”
It was reckoning time. On April 10, 2000, I bowed my head and confessed to God my wicked self-righteousness, repented of ALL my sins, and asked Him to save me. And He did! My life has not been the same since. I would never, ever want to go back to that old life of being bound in obvious sin, or – just as bad, being a religious hypocrite – for the destination is the same.
How I thank God for His blessed mercy and patience toward me, and for His unspeakable gift of salvation! And victory!! Oh yes, I have certainly done wrong since then. But my relationship with God is now different. I’m sorry when I sin against Him and others…it’s no longer a regret of the “hassle” of having to deal with all these issues. While each of our lives is different, He loves every one of us ” … with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (Jeremiah 31:3) You can be sure He is drawing you because God has said so in His word! I have simply related to you how He has worked in my life. Please take the time to consider how God is working in yours and the thoughts He has toward you. The Bible says that He “is long- suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) When a repentant sinner comes with faith to Jesus Christ and asks for forgiveness, He gives it. Only then is there true peace and acceptance! Please heed His call to you and come to Him!