While my Seventh-day Adventist roots actually go back for at least five generations, because of the spiritual apathy that I saw in the church during my young years, being a Seventh-day Adventist actually wasn’t that attractive to me. Oh, I believed the doctrines, kept the Sabbath and loved our daily family worships when my father would read the Bible to us, but I didn’t really enjoy attending church. However, I didn’t give up on the church, for something deep in my heart told me that God desired more for His people, and more for me.
Thanks to the prayers of my parents (who steadfastly held on to their faith), I was convicted to give my heart to Christ at a young age, and from then on I knew that God was calling me to work for Him. But it wasn’t until my high school years that I really became excited about being a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. There it was that prayer became much more real and personal to me, and there it was that I began to develop a solid foundation for my faith. However, it was wasn’t until a few more years that I really grasped ahold of the gospel.
You see, I’d always been a good kid. I’d been raised in a conservative home. We didn’t do the “bad things” people in the world did. I never drank, I never smoked, I never did drugs. Oh sure, I made mistakes and there were a few small sins that I constantly struggled with, but nothing like most people deal with. (I say this now tongue-in-cheek!)
Then in 2008, I went on a mission trip to Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh — a country of more than 150 million people. Although I’d been on numerous mission trips in Third World countries, the pain and suffering I witnessed on this trip, shook me to the core. As I looked out into the hopeless eyes of the masses, my heart longed to do something, but what? Even when my friends and I shared some of our food with the hungry, it was still as if we had done nothing at all. The need was simply so great!
Not long after, during morning devotions, suddenly God showed me my true heart condition and how full I was of spiritual pride. Inside I may have been congratulating myself on the fact that I was at least helping a few people, but suddenly I realized my heart was filthy, just like the many slums in Dhaka. For years I had thought I was doing pretty good, but actually my heart was full of pride in my heritage, accomplishments, and leadership skills. In fact, I often felt better than others because I didn’t think my sins were that bad, at least not compared to many others, and besides I had come from many generations of Seventh-day Adventist.
However, there amidst the noise of the city, for the first time I recognized the magnitude of my need and that attempting to live for Christ by my own efforts was just as impossible as trying in my own efforts to feed and reach the hopeless millions in the city of Dhaka. Yes, I could attempt to help a few people, just as I could also attempt to change a few things in my heart.
But no matter how much effort I put forth, I realized that I would still always fall short because the reality was that, although seeking to be a Christian, my good works would never be good enough. What I needed was a complete heart change and overhaul, and this was something only a supernatural God could do.
The Bible tells us in Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”
Thankfully once God opens our eyes to our true heart condition, He then offers us hope. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson they shall be as wool” (Isa. 1:18).
While I’d always known that Christ died on the cross for my sins, having been exposed to the message my entire life, the personal significance of the cross was always vague and distant. While I had intellectual understanding, this reality had never fully touched my heart. Because of this my spiritual journey was often up and down, and I often relied on my own self-efforts. However, as to be expected, my self-efforts were always failing, and as a result, I often battled spiritual discouragement even while pretending to put on a good “everything-is-fine” show to those watching.
Inspiration tells us, “The thought that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, not because of any merit on our part, but as a free gift from God, is a precious thought. The enemy of God and man, the devil, is not willing that this truth should be clearly presented; for he knows that if people receive it fully, his power will be broken. If he can control minds so that doubt and unbelief and darkness shall compose the experience of those who claim to be the children of God, he can overcome them with temptation” (Gospel Workers, p. 161).
That morning in Dhaka while I sat with my Bible contemplating Isaiah 64:6 and Isaiah 1:18, with the sound of dozens of honking horns, squawking chickens, crying babies and more coming from the street outside my window, all noise faded away as I beheld the cross and my Savior’s love as never before. Tears began to course down my cheeks as the significance of what Christ had accomplished for me personally on Calvary sunk into my mind.
When I realized what Christ had already done for me on Calvary, a work that only a supernatural God could do, and how desperately lost (filthy) I was without His robe of righteousness (a gift I could never earn), my heart was broken with a gratitude and love that I could not express. I wept and wept that morning, as I told Him over and over again through choking sobs, “Thank you, thank you, thank you for reaching down to save even me.” As I cried, a strange, yet wonderful, joy and peace, such as I’ve never experienced before, overwhelmed my soul.
I’d been a Christian my whole life, and had been seeking to serve God faithfully for many years, but it wasn’t until this day that the power and beauty of the gospel really touched me so dramatically that I was forever changed.
As Ellen White writes in one of my favorite books, The Desire of Ages, “The proud heart strives to earn salvation; but both our title to heaven and our fitness for it are found in the righteousness of Christ. The Lord can do nothing toward the recovery of man until, convinced of his own weakness, and stripped of all self-sufficiency, he yields himself to the control of God” (p. 300).
Unfortunately, while the majority of Christians today have probably heard the gospel story many times, just like I had, many still don’t understand its full significance. While we preach the gospel, we deny the power of the gospel. While we try to share the gospel, our lives remain unchanged by the gospel.
It has only been a few years now since I began this amazing new journey, and of course, each day is a growing process. I still have my struggles, just as everyone does—and sometimes I fall. In fact, I’ve discovered I have many more sins now then I ever thought possible! But I’ve also discovered that God can give victory if I keep holding on to Him.
Walking with the Lord each day, and experiencing the joy of a personal relationship with Him has become my greatest privilege. Not only is He my Savior and King, confident and friend, but He has become my true Heavenly Love! I would not trade this relationship for the world!
The following poem titled “Himself” by Dr. A.B. Simpson sums up best how God has changed my life and perspective since I discovered the power of the gospel.
Once it was the blessing, now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, now it is His Word;
Once His gifts I wanted, now the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing, now Himself alone.
Once ‘twas painful trying, now ‘tis perfect trust;
Once a half salvation, now the uttermost;
Once ‘twas ceaseless holding, now He holds me fast;
Once ‘twas constant drifting, now my anchor’s cast.
Once ‘twas busy planning, now ‘tis trustful prayer;
Once ‘twas anxious caring, now He has the care;
Once ‘twas what I wanted, now what Jesus says;
Once ‘twas constant asking, now ‘tis ceaseless praise.
Once it was my working, His it hence shall be;
Once I tried to use Him, now He uses me;
Once the power I wanted, now the Mighty One;
Once for self I labored, now for Him alone.
Heart Prayer Challenge:
Dear Lord, As we are finishing the first week of this 100 days of prayer for our church, help us to be touched anew by what you did for us at the Cross: not just in theory, but personally! Help us to recognize the power of your shed blood, that not only cleanses us from all sin, but gives us power to live new lives in You. May this reality grip us and change us. Help us to remember that apart from you, we can do nothing. And finally, help us to reach out to the hurting world around us, and share the good news of the gospel. So many are dying without ever catching a glimpse of your amazing love. Help us be Your hands and feet to this dying world! Amen.
By Melody Mason
(Melody, also known as Melodious Echo, is passionate about prayer and about helping others know Jesus. She is author of the book Daring to Ask for More: Divine Keys to Answered Prayer from which excerpts of today’s testimony were taken. She is also a speaker, nurse, world traveler, missions-lover and hiking enthusiast. Melody has been coordinating prayer initiatives for the GC’s yearly Annual Council for the past five years and is the coordinator of this 100 Days of Prayer initiative for the General Conference Ministerial Association. She currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland.)