This week, we celebrated Independence Day. Like everyone else, I spent the day with my family and watched fireworks and thanked God for this beautiful country and what it represents. Even in our nation’s horribly divided state, I am still thankful to live in the United States, where I am FREE. I can be what I want to be. I can worship freely in our little church whenever I want with no worries of persecution. If I want to stand in the streets and proclaim my faith, no one will take me to jail or beat me for it – which is much more than my Christian brothers and sisters from many other countries can say. I am thankful for the men and women who have given their lives to give me that freedom.
I am working my way back through the Old Testament, reading stories I’ve heard since I was a kid – stories of Biblical heroes. Stories of men chosen by God to do His great work. But one thing I’ve noticed that means a lot more to me as an adult is that those “heroes” were anything but heroic at times.
Jacob, who is considered a man of God for his great trust in Him, was a deceiver. He tricked his brother, Esau, out of the inheritance he deserved and tricked his blind father into giving him Esau’s blessing. Yet God used him anyway. He didn’t wait for him to be a “good guy,” didn’t wait until he had it all together before he spoke to him and worked through him. And Jacob repented of those mistakes. He humbly sought his brother’s forgiveness and depended on God to restore their relationship.
Moses is one of my favorite stories. He had somewhat of a rough start, as he was born in a time when newborn male Israelites were to be put to death by order of the Pharaoh. I can’t imagine being in his mother’s shoes as she tried her best to hide him and ultimately decided to leave him in a basket in the tall grass by the water to let the Pharaoh’s daughter find him and raise him. She took him in as her own son, which could have changed his fate forever – he could have been royalty. But Moses knew the truth about who he was, and after he grew, he couldn’t stand to sit back and live in luxury while he watched his own people beaten at the Egyptian’s hands. One day, it became too much for him. His anger overtook him as he watched an Egyptian beat an Israelite, and he attacked and killed the Egyptian. Moses went into exile, terrified he would be killed for what he did and ashamed of his own confusing past. But that’s when God spoke to him and told him he would use him to deliver the Israelites from the Egyptians. Moses used excuse after excuse not to go. He told God he was unfit to be a leader – who was he? Who would listen to him? How would he even talk to the Israelites with his speech impediment? But God didn’t care about any of that. He would use Moses just as he was – flaws and troubled past and all. And when Moses finally gave in and let go of his fears and baggage, God used him to do amazing things. He delivered the Israelites from slavery, just as God promised he would.
I am not even trying to compare myself to one of the Biblical giants we read about in the Old Testament. I am not a Jacob or a Moses. But like them, I have flaws. And I have a past. I remember a time in my life when I would think about talking to God again, after a very long absence from Him. But then I would think about the sin I lived in and say to myself, “When I get it together, I’ll come back to Him. Some day.”
I had it all wrong! God doesn’t want us to wait until we’re “good enough” to come to him. He’s ready to use us, just as we are, flaws and all. And He wants to give us freedom from that past that haunts us. So many people think that life with God is about rules – do this, don’t do that. But when we reduce it to that, we’re missing the point. It’s about FREEDOM. Freedom from those chains of past sins and mistakes. He can and will forgive anything you’ve ever done, and you’re never too far gone to come to Him. When He looks at you, He sees love. He sees the person He created and the person He made you to be. People will remember your mistakes. They will remember your past. But the Bible tells us that God doesn’t see us the way people see us. “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
So while I’m thankful for the freedom we have in this country, I’m even more thankful for the freedom that comes from life in Christ. He’s ready to give you that freedom, no matter who you are, where you come from, and what you’ve done. You don’t have to fix your life before you come to Him. He is waiting with open arms to take you in, just as you are. Don’t do what I did, wasting your time living in the chains of sin, thinking you will “fix yourself” before you come before God. Let Him work in you today, messy past and sin and all.