Could I Be Pharaoh?
As far as Christian backgrounds go, I guess you could say I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I didn’t just grow up in a "Christian" home. I grew up in a home where God, Jesus, the Bible and church were integral parts of our lives. My parents, my three brothers and myself were active, involved members of an evangelical Presbyterian church-regularly attending Sunday school, church, Wednesday night fellowship and any other services that were offered. My dad taught a very popular Sunday school class, and my mother was active in several Bible studies, which met during the week. Also my brothers and I had the privilege of attending school at our church’s elementary school where we were taught Bible everyday as though it were one of the "Basic R’s" (reading, writing, and "rithmatic"). In the summer, while not in school, we enjoyed Vacation Bible School, Catechism school, Church Day camp, and as we were older a four week Christian camp in the mountains of Alabama. So, you can see that as far as Christianity goes, I had almost every advantage and opportunity imaginable.
As you might guess, I did become a Christian as a young child-I was six years old. But please be clear that I was not automatically a Christian because of some inherited birthright or by osmosis due to the church background I enjoyed. Sure, the odds were in my favor because of an indepth exposure to God, Jesus Christ, Satan, sin, heaven, and hell at a very early age, but I still had to make a personal decision for myself, inside myself to accept Jesus Christ as my savior. And this I did at the age of six with my mom one night after getting out of the bathtub. I remember knowing I was "bad" and being afraid of going to hell, and I wanted Jesus to come into my heart to cleanse me of my sin and be my savior so I could go to heaven.
Throughout my childhood and elementary school years, I participated in all the Christian activities I have told you about simply because that is what we did. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed all of it, but it never crossed my mind not too. Then, when I reached junior high school, things changed somewhat. My parents gave me more freedom to choose for myself the part God and Church were going to play in my life. Thankfully, their desire to truly know God and to have a real, working relationship with Jesus "rubbed off’ on me. I wanted to know and experience God for myself. And this I tried to do for several years, becoming very active in the youth groups at two different churches. I attended Sunday school, church, Bible studies, Christian youth choir, and any retreat that I could. I loved it! Partly because I thought I was doing what was right, but admittedly, partly because of the social aspects of the continuous fellowship with other people my age. But as I know now, God will use many different things to "hook" people into Him so that He can do with them as He pleases. For me, He used that time in my life coupled with my earlier childhood to instill in me a strong knowledge of the Bible and what it taught. Make no mistake-I was one who definitely knew right from wrong, sin from righteousness. I also knew that to disobey God carried a potentially harsh consequence-so harsh that God had to send His only Son to suffer that consequence for me by dying on the cross.
I wish I could end my story here by telling you that my life remained clean and that my heart continued to beat for God. I wish I could tell you that my Christian background "held" me in good stead with God. But regrettably, I cannot. Because I am a human being, created in God’s own image, I was born with the freedom to choose. Without this freedom of choice we would be doomed because we could not choose Christ as our Savior. So our freedom to choose is a crucial aspect of our lives. At the same time, however, it is the very mechanism we use to choose sin. And that is exactly what I did in my later teen years. Satan tempted me in several areas of my life, and I said "yes" to him.
During college and my first year of law school, I chose to go directly against God. I started out being completely taken with the social aspects of college life which for me and most everyone I knew included drinking and "partying" on a regular basis. I also wanted attention from males and that desire coupled with alcohol, lead me into inappropriate, immoral relationships that before I would have sworn I would never have gotten myself into. Somehow, despite my continued decline in these areas of my life, I studied very hard in college and managed to graduate with honors. Then between college and law school, I decided to "take off" a year and work for my father in his law firm. This would prove to be the worst year of my life. Because I had studied hard as an undergraduate and I knew law school would be very difficult, I decided to "have fun" while not in school. I began drinking more than ever and even experimented with a few drugs that I was somehow able to stay away from in college. Needless to say, the moral aspect of my life did not improve either.
I am sure you must be asking how I could have chosen such a sin life with all the Christian influences I had in my life. How did I justify such behavior, knowing what I knew about what God thought about what I was doing? The truth is, I never could! I always had a sense of being wrong (because I was)! But I chose to do the things I did any-way. I would tell myself that I was only doing what was "normal" for a college student-that everybody else was doing it, etc. In fact, if you had asked, I would have told you that certainly I was a Christian. I was just having fun for now and when I became an adult I would get serious about God again. I even remember reasoning with some of my Christian friends (who were acting like me) that surely what we were doing would not keep us out of heaven because if it did, there would be so few people there. After all, "everybody" we knew our age did what we did. Well, this line of thinking helped to salve my conscious (never killing it) for some time, but as my behavior got worse, it worked less-Praise God! [Please be clear that I was never fooled into believing that what I was doing was not sin-I always knew that. I just thought God would somehow forgive me for it.]
As my sin life continued and grew worse, God convicted me more and more strongly. I began to sleep less and less as God kept me awake at night always putting before my eyes what I was doing and what He thought about it. He also reminded me constantly of Pharaoh. I would obsess on Pharaoh and how he hardened his heart by continually saying no to God. Then one day it was too late. He made one more choice-said "no" to God one more time-and that was it for him. His heart was hard. He did not have a choice to change his mind. He could no longer say yes to God even if he had wanted to. This terrified me! I knew I was just like Pharaoh, continually being given the choice to obey God but continually saying no. This is exactly what Pharaoh did that caused his heart to harden. So when would mine be hardened? When would it be too late for me to follow God? I feared that with every passing second, my choice would be gone forever. This terrified me! Although I thought I was " having fun" and doing what I wanted to for the time being, I knew I did not want to live that way forever. I eventually wanted to finish school, grow up, get married, have children and live a decent, respectable Christian life. But was I ruining my chances for that kind of life? I did not know. Actually, I began to ask myself why should I get to choose out of this sin life when I want to? Why should I get to sin over and over, and then, when it suited me, quit and live a pleasant, righteous life? I knew I had no right of any kind to expect or count on this. Instead, I believed that like Pharaoh I could make the choice that would render my heart hard without even knowing it was "the one." Then, if my heart was hard and I died that way, what would happen to me? How could I face God?
As I write all this down, I realize it sounds like just things I would think and questions I would ask myself. But be clear on this–this is how God convicted me of my sin. He used what He had taught me as a child and teenager to convict me of my sin as a young adult. For this I am truly grateful.
Finally in the summer of 1991, I made a decision to change my life. I decided to stop drinking, etc., and I decided to discontinue my immoral behavior with my then boyfriend Tony (now my husband). This gave me much relief because I knew I was not actively sinning against God anymore. Nor was I Pharaoh because I had been able to choose to say yes to God; therefore, I had not yet hardened my heart. But I also knew that just stopping my sin was not enough. I knew I had to confess my sin also. James 5:16 says to "confess your sins one to another that you may be healed." I wanted it to be enough to just confess my sins to God in the still dark quiet of the night, alone! No one ever knowing what I had really been like. But I knew this was not enough. I had sinned not only against God but also against many of his people-my parents and family first and foremost, Tony, and my extended Christian family. So it was with God and these people that I needed to make things right. But I did not do this right away.
Then, at the end of July, I attended our summer camp along with my parents, family and Tony. You will never believe the theme for camp that summer: "You are only as sick as your secrets" How perfect for me as well as Tony. By the end of the week, Tony and I were both strongly convicted and ready to get clean, to confess our sins to my family and close friends. Amazingly, this is a decision that we came to independently of each other. So we set about the business of confessing our sins. Needless to say, this process was extremely difficult. Not because of the reactions we received-in fact we were treated exactly how we didn’t deserve-with loving kindness. The difficulty was a result of the guilt and shame I experienced-all of which I deserved and brought upon myself. I felt very bad for what I had done to my parents. I had brought shame to them when they had stood in our community for years as devout Christians. Also I knew that my behavior hurt them as parents in general. This I knew I could never get back or make up for. I had pretended to be one way while living another. And the way I had lived went directly against everything they had taught me. I could never undo this, and I was very sorry for this.
Also, by pretending to be a godly, clean person while actually living a sinful, deceitful lie, I greatly injured my brothers and my Christian family. As for Tony, although he had accepted Christ as his Savior as an adolescent, he did not have near the Christian background, support or knowledge of the Bible that I did. I might could have influenced him toward a deeper, more real relationship with Christ. But instead, I lead him further away from Christ. This, I knew, was very serious to God and I could never undo it. These are not the only people I hurt by my sin, but they were the ones I think I hurt the most and for sake of time I will not go any further with a list of people my sin affected adversely. I just want to conclude by saying that sin and its effects are far reaching, and it probably won’t be until I meet Christ face to face that I have a real understanding of all I have hurt and how.
The night I confessed my sin to my family and fellowship-August 1, 1991-was definitely one of the most (if not the most) important days of my life. I have not been the same since. Before, when I was in sin, Satan definitely had control of my life. But through the process of confession and repentance, I rid myself of the power Satan had over me. This allowed Christ to take over and live His life through me and as me. Unfortunately, this is not a one time decision that I made and so forever on I will be clean and free of sin. I am constantly responsible for choosing Christ. Immediately after my confession and repentance, I knew this would not be easy because Satan would be tempting me very strongly. He does not give up easily when one quits his team to join Christ’s team. Therefore, I made a commitment to be accountable to at least one Christian every single day regarding my behavior and believing. The person I chose was my mother because more than any person I knew, she stood for God and wanted His way in my life. Also, I knew that she knew how to make the Christian life work. So while I was still in school, I called her every single day on the phone to check in. Sometimes if she were out of town I would talk to my dad or one of my brothers. I told her everything from how I felt about certain things to confessing any places I thought I had been tempted that day to any times I fell into sin. Amazingly, she listened patiently and helped me discover areas of unbelief that she detected. Since August 1, 1991 I have not had any alcoholic beverage, and Tony and I kept our relation-ship moral for nearly two years before we were married. I believe strongly in the process of accountability particularly after repenting from serious biblical sin. Without it, I cannot truly say whether or not I would have stayed clean. So if you are in a place in your life that you know you need to say no to Satan and his ways and yes to Jesus so that He can live your life, I would strongly encourage you to take the same road I did–Confession, Repentance, Accountability. It worked for me!
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 17 No 1
- Faith, Fellowship and Fun
- The Key
- A Challenge
- Be Careful…
- Words to Live By
- Suffering: Its Secret
- Editor’s Note
- A Look at a Book
- Bible Study: With Bended Knee and a Broken Heart
- To Put It All Simple Yet Radically
- Questions & Answers
- Zerubbabel Focus: Zerubbabel Press–Republishing Norman’s Books
- Excerpt from The Intercession of Rees Howells
- An Awesome God
- To Think About…
- Tape Talk
- British Autumn Conference
- Sunday School
- Don’t Learn the Hard Way
- Illuminating Body, Soul & Spirit
- Could I Be Pharaoh?