God, Save Me from My Religion
My story is that I grew up in a small town in south west Minnesota, raised by loving parents who love Jesus and a family that took faith and life seriously. I was taught that Jesus died for my sins for as long as I can remember. I prayed for Jesus to forgive my sins and come into my life when I was very young, was baptized when I was 10 and recommitted my life to Christ several times through my teenage years.
In my late high school and early college years I struggled to believe if God was really real. When I went to Bethel College I had a theology class a philosophy professor, Mel Stewart. His teaching impacted me, but not in the way you might think. When I saw he an older man and a philosophy professor – he had my respect and I was convinced that finally this man would give me the text book reasoning as to why I should believe God exists. Through the class, he certainly presented the philosophical discussions, but truly those reasons are not what impacted me. What impacted me was that while I was taking notes in his lecture about the beauty and power of God, he stopped talking, when I looked up to see why, I realized he was weeping.
Here was a man, with gray hair who had studied philosophy and I am certain had studied God as a “concept or idea”, and had lived so much longer and had experienced so much more than I had, and the reality of the infinite God still made him speechless and drawn to tears of awe.
I recall this happening a few times in class, not every week as if to be some sort of show, but when he would encounter realities of God’s grace, love and forgiveness, he was brought to tears. I remember thinking, “if God is so real to someone like this, then I will trust that God is real for me”. This solidified my belief in God, but clearly God wasn’t done with me yet.
More recently, I was challenged by Graham Nelson to listen to Tim Keller’s Prodigal God on a road trip Graham and I were on. During the course of reading that book, I came to realize that with my “churched” upbringing, I was living much of my life with an attitude of earning my salvation or at least trying to manufacture my sanctification. Through this book, I came to realize that
I had been jealous of other’s testimonies which showed off how God saved them from a life of external sin and I wanted that type of testimony in my life.
However, the Gospel message to me in my life was that I was lost in my self-righteousness. That one of the most significant sins that God wanted to pull me out of was my sin of being my own god and savior. This reality broke me and exposed the depth of the sin in my heart and how I need to surrender to the only one who can truly save. This has become my daily Gospel struggle. “God save me from my religion, and draw me to yourself. “