I remember the exact moment when I realized that Jesus not only loved me, but He also liked me unconditionally. Somehow in my mind I had confused the two. Love seemed like something He had to do because He was God, but I was pretty sure He only liked me when I was performing correctly.
It makes sense, sort of… Parents and teachers like us better when we follow the rules, and we feel their dislike when we are making poor choices. It’s hard to imagine God being different.
We put God in such a tiny box, a box made out of our own human reasoning and logic. We create a god we can understand, in our own image. Silly us! He is only more, always more than we could ever imagine!
I was in my early 20s, about four years out of my “cult,” looking pretty normal to the untrained eye, wearing jeans, having cut my waist length hair, dating my boyfriend (now husband), and going to college. In the past I’d always been the rule follower, the people pleaser, the “good” girl; I did the right things to make people and Jesus happy with me. I had standards and expectations for myself.
I might have perfected the art of looking good, but on the inside I was a wreck. I was losing control. Worry and stress were consuming me. I was fighting with anger and resentment. I started having panic attacks and because I didn’t know what they were, I thought I might be dying (but wouldn’t tell anyone). To top it all off, I felt guilty for being so “out of control.” I knew that there was no way God could possibly be happy with me.
I went for a walk in the woods to talk to Jesus, try and confess my sin, and “get right” with Him somehow. As I walked, and talked, and cried, I came to an opening in the woods. The trees thinned out, and sunbeams broke through the leaves in long, warm rays. A gentle breeze tickled my hair. I stopped. It was so beautiful and peaceful. As I stood there, it was as though God put His arms around me. I felt His Presence and I could almost hear His whisper, “I have never loved you more than I do right now.”
I wanted to believe that it was God speaking to me, but I couldn’t because I had memorized Romans 8:1.
The group I grew up in was a King James Version only (or New King James Version for the liberal rebels) kind of place. These were the words streaming through my mind as I stood there in those quiet woods: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Maybe I’d heard a sermon on it or maybe it was just my own interpretation, but I had always thought that this verse was telling me that if I was performing correctly, “in the spirit,” then there was no condemnation. However, if I was walking in sin, “in the flesh,” then I was definitely under condemnation.
I went home and got out my Bible so that I could prove Jesus wrong, but the second half of the verse was missing! As part of the recovery process, I’d gotten a different Bible version and my English Standard Version only said this: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” What? That couldn’t be right! I went to the Internet and started looking up various Bible versions to find the missing half of the verse. None of the other versions had it. There was just no condemnation to those who were in Christ Jesus, period.
I was in Christ Jesus! I had trusted Him as my Savior. I was His child. This was something I had never doubted. But that meant that God did not condemn me! I sat on the floor of my bedroom and let it sink in. He had never loved me more than He did right now, even though I felt like a complete and total failure. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I embraced this truth. I basked in it. I rested. I let Jesus love me, and like me, even though it didn’t make sense. He was so crazy! And amazing! And wonderful! It was my first glimpse of the beauty of grace.
Are you feeling under condemnation? If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior, then it’s not God’s condemnation! Let go, and live loved, free, and forgiven! Embrace a God and His amazing grace that doesn’t make any sense.
“…let him return to the LORD, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God for He will abundantly pardon. For My thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:7-8
About Christy Wood
Christy Wood is a youth pastor’s wife, mother of two, and lover of Jesus, hater of legalism, blogger, and hopeful author. After spending her teens in a legalistic Christian cult, Christy is passionate about the truth and about helping people find genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. She blogs at www.letmebefoolish.com.