When I denied I was a sinner Jesus told me He would humble me for ten years. I originally interpreted Him as saying He would drag my “good name” through the mud for that time. (You can see my pride). I later tried to get saved before the ten years were finished and I couldn’t. God did not offer me His Holy Spirit and without Him I couldn’t get saved. God kept to His word that it would be ten years. I needed the full time though, because even after ten years of horrible mental illness I barely humbled myself enough to accept Jesus. (I was still full of pride). I wouldn’t kneel at the side of my bed when I accepted Him. I wouldn’t check the date so I would be able to tell people when I got saved. Because I didn’t feel different after accepting Jesus I yelled at Him in my mind, “I did what You asked. If I’m not saved, it’s Your fault.” And I went to sleep.
Jesus was and is remarkably humble and patient. He didn’t count my sins against me as I accepted Him. He humbled Himself and got down to where I was and loved the unlovely. Maybe that’s why I love Him so much. And why I want everyone who is interested to have the chance to hear how much Jesus loves them.
There is another reason why I love Him so much. And mental illness isn’t necessary. Jesus said, “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Luke 7:47 (NASB95). If you want to love Jesus much then you need to be forgiven much. And to be forgiven much you have to own your own depravity to God. Mine was total; for apart from Jesus I was completely evil. How do I know? Jesus used mental illness to show me that the “good name” I was so concerned about was only imaginary, only in my perception, driven by my pride. When the “good name” was gone I deliberately chose evil, because I didn’t have any reason not to choose evil anymore. And my choices revealed who I really was, especially to myself.
So what is different now that I’m saved? Pastor Andrew Farley talks about how, when we accept Jesus, He gives us a new heart, a heart that is one with Him and the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” John 14:20 (NASB95). In contrast to our first heart of stone, this new heart of flesh and new spirit loves God and wants to please Him (see Ezekiel 36:26). I am one with Jesus and my heart’s desire is Him. I am miserable when I sin. As Paul wrote, I died to sin, how can I live in it any longer?
But you protest “Jim your heart still sins!” No, not me or my heart. As Paul revealed in Romans 7:20: “But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” (NASB95) Paul continues in Romans 8:1-2: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”(NASB95)
I am free from the law of sin and death. I am not condemned. But how do I sin less? I must learn God’s will (by reading the Bible) and do it. That will cause me to: ” . . . be transformed by the renewing of [my] mind, so that [I] may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Paul the Apostle, Romans 12:2b (NASB95).
Jesus initiated loving me by invading my life, humbling me, humbling Himself in order to offer me Himself, and giving me a clean heart. And He is literally changing my mind daily as I read the Bible and obey Him.
Disclaimer: I have no delusions that I am perfect and do not sin (even though it is not I but sin living in me). Talking to my family or co-workers will reveal my mind still needs much more renewing. But I do love Jesus, and people, and when I realize I have failed I grieve. I thank God for His forgiveness, I want to learn from my failure, I apologize to those I hurt (though not nearly enough), and I take Jesus’ hand and we press on with Him taking the lead.