It was February, 2003, and my husband and I were preparing to go to a Discipleship class at Steele Creek Church of Charlotte. We wanted to join the church, but needed to go through the class first. I remember telling Rod, "I don't know why we have to go to this class - we already know everything he's going to talk about!" He agreed, but we both went anyway because we felt we were in the right church and we really wanted to join.
We were sitting among about twenty-five other people who were all there to learn more about what SCCC believed and as we sat there I began to pray that my husband would really listen and understand the message that Pastor Kelvin was giving about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I had said a prayer to receive Jesus over a hundred times in my life, usually out of fear of going to hell, but I wasn't sure where my husband stood that night so I prayed for him.
The pastor talked about things I'd never, ever heard before that night, though. Maybe I'd heard them, but I wasn't listening - until this night. He described what it means to truly believe in Jesus - not just with your head (he pointed out that even Satan believes Jesus is God's Son!) but with your heart - to make it personal. He said that everything changes when you become a true believer. Your life, your passions, everything. He said that when you give your life to Jesus Christ, making Him the Lord of your life, you will change. It would be a firm conviction, full surrender, and a life-style that would reflect that surrender.
As he spoke, I realized I had none of the "symptoms"of a real relationship with Jesus Christ. I said a prayer - many times - and even went forward and stood up to go to the front and ask Jesus into my heart. But my motivation was never because I was repenting or sorry for my sin. Instead, it was more about "getting out of hell free" and I was told if I would say the prayer to receive Christ, I would escape hell. It was a no-brainer!
But as I really listened to Pastor Kelvin, I realized I was way off. I had never repented of my sin. I'd never seen a consistent change in my life. Usually when I would be sorry for what I did, it was because I'd been caught. That night, I realized I'd been missing the mark completely - I'd been playing a game with God. But God wasn't playing games with me - He opened my eyes, ears and heart to the truth of what it means to truly surrender to Him that night. While I prayed for my husband to see the truth, I realized I was being shown the truth! It was overwhelming.
On our drive home, Rod and I talked about how I didn't physically stand up at the end. He and I agreed it didn't really matter if I stood or not, because I knew I meant business with God and He knew my heart. But I will be honest...I carried around some guilt for a few years. I had doubts because of the verse where Jesus says, "If you stand for me, I will stand for you, but if you deny me, I will deny you before my Father in Heaven". Had I denied Jesus by not standing that night? I hoped not.
As the days went by, I saw the fruit of His presence in my life; however, I had been raised in a very legalistic church that would have frowned on my not standing that night and probably would have told me I was not truly saved. I prayed and asked God to strengthen me and He did. I asked Him to tell me if it was not real, if I had not pleased Him that night. He never revealed to me that He was not pleased, so I trusted Him. But it was still in the back of my thoughts and it would surface every now and then with a twinge of condemnation. I would remind myself of Romans 8:1, "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." My salvation was not based on anything I could do anyway...it was all based on Him and what He did!
Several years later, while I was a contestant on the reality show, Survivor China, we were confronted in the first few minutes with a "welcoming ceremony". It was in a Buddhist temple. When asked to bow before the huge Buddha in the temple as part of this "welcoming ceremony", I excused myself and left the temple. When Jeff asked me why I said, "I'm not religious, but I have a relationship with Jesus Christ and I'm only going to put my face on the floor for Him." (You can find the clip of the show on the menu bar under "Bio").
There it was. God, by His amazing grace, gave me an opportunity to stand again - and this time, He gave me the strength to do it. I am so grateful for this gift He gave me. I no longer beat myself up about "not standing" because in my heart, I believe God is telling me "Leslie, you may not have stood physically that night at church, but for the first time in your life, you stood for me in your heart." He is so good. All those years of standing and going forward physically did nothing. It was only when I stood in my heart that it truly counted. And when He asked me to stand physically, I did, and it wasn't out of a duty, a fear or a religion - it was because I loved Him and wanted to stand for Him - after all, He stood for me on Calvary.
If you've stood for Jesus physically many times but inside you are not sure where you stand, you could be deceived just as I was for so many years. I pray you will get honest with yourself and with God! He loves you so much. He, and only He, knows your heart and your intentions. If you need more information on what it means to truly be a Christian, please check out this website: www.christianityexplored.com. I pray God will open your eyes, ears and heart to the Truth!
Or, on the other hand, perhaps you have struggled because you didn't physically stand that night you received Christ. I encourage you to take a look at your life since that precious moment when you repented of your sin and asked Him to be your Lord and Savior. Is there a change in your life? Not the self-induced kind that wears you out, but the kind that comes from deep within - from His presence. You cannot help but change when the Holy Spirit gets a hold of you! It's slow sometimes, but there is always a change of some sort. If you repented of your sins, received His forgiveness and if you love Him and you see evidence of His presence in your life, please don't beat yourself up any longer! You stand for Him by the way you are living your life - each and every day. His grace is sufficient. By living your life for Jesus, you are taking a stand.