Have you ever had a subconscious justification session with the Lord?
Before I was a Christian I did a bizarre thing almost every night. Well, actually it was bizarre for two reasons. First, it was illogical; but it was also subconscious.
To set the stage for my explanation of this bizarre behavior, let me take you back to an earlier time in my life.
I was raised in a Baptist church. The subject of sin was taught and preached there regularly. That was actually a good thing. The bad part was they had somewhat of an inaccurate idea of what sin was.
As I recall, roller skating was a sin. Makeup was a sin. Going to movies was a sin. Holding hands with the opposite sex was a sin, unless it was your grandma. Tattoos were a sin. Dancing was a sin. Rock music was a sin. Listening to rock music was a sin. And thinking about rock music was a sin.
Consequently, branded on my mind was the firmly established opinion that serving God was the same as prison. It involved the forbiddance of fun at every level; and if I wanted to have the life of a wallflower I should align myself with Christianity.
Now, anyone who knew me back then, knew me as rabble-rouser. That is because early on, from my interpretation of the messages I received from my church, I decided a life of NO FUN wasn’t for me. So I had my fling with sin.
However, something else was always in the back of my mind. I always believed in God; I always believed in heaven; and I always believed in hell. These truths were firmly planted in my consciousness, certainly from the early teachings I received from the Baptist Church. But they were also etched into my spiritual DNA from the day I was born. Romans 2:15 and Ecclesiastes 3:11 in the Bible says “God’s laws and eternity are written on our hearts.” I believe we all know this. I know that even before I became a believer in Christ, I knew this innately. Though I didn’t know these scriptures back then, my subconscious did. That was one of the awareness’s that came to me at the time of my conversion to the Lord. Simeon told Mary “Your child (Jesus) will reveal the thoughts of many hearts.” He certainly did with me.
And so, almost every night as I would lie down to sleep, laden with the guilt I felt from my sins, but also hounded by the truth of God’s eternal laws on my mind, I would justify myself. It wasn’t a conscious thought process, like remembering the day or planning the next. It was an exercise that I would engage in more subconsciously.
I would compare my life that day, or from recent days, with the murderers and rapists on the evening news, or the people on the Post Office wanted posters, or those in prison: or even with some of the bad people I knew back then in my hometown. When I was adequately at peace that my sinfulness was considerably less that the bag guys I had compared myself with, I could dose off to sleep feeling I would probably make heaven.
This subconscious activity was so illogical it didn’t mesh with reason. It is probably why I didn’t do it in my conscious state. It assumed that God relied on a confusing set of qualifications for heaven that could, in reality, never be espoused by a holy, pure and righteous God. I did this almost every night.
It wasn’t until two months after I had surrendered my life to Christ that I realized that I hadn’t been doing this nightly exercise any longer; though I wasn’t consciously aware that I was doing it while it was going on. It was as though God revealed it to me while asking me…Did you know that you were doing this before you knew Me? I thought it through and traced its discontinuance back to my conversion to the Lord about two months earlier.
My exercise was oddly subconscious. But I know this way of thinking is not unusual for people who are far from God and many do it more consciously. Some compare their good and bad deeds with other people’s good and bad deeds in order to feel that they are more hopeful candidates for heaven. Some compare their good deeds with their bad ones, and even though their bad deeds far outnumber their good ones, they will conclude they’ve balanced the spiritual scale and they will make heaven. Something like…they will curse, steal, lie, adulterate, disobey their parents and cheat on their taxes all in one day. Then they will think…but I helped an elderly lady pick up the keys she dropped. And they will conclude they are good enough to get to heaven because their one tiny good deed superseded all their bad ones.
But you can see the uncertainty, as well as illogicalness, of these exercises…can’t you?
God’s word tells us that it isn’t our goodness that makes us right with God, nor our lack of goodness that disqualifies us; because in God’s eyes none of us will ever measure up to His standard for righteousness (Romans 3:23). In other words it isn’t our goodness that gets us in; it is God’s goodness. Only His goodness meets His standards.
Only by accepting His goodness as demonstrated by the life, love and sacrifice of His Son upon the cross, and surrendering our lives to Him, can we become His Children, make heaven and miss hell. When we do this there is no more guesswork and a peculiar assurance and peace comes over us. Are there still doubts? Of course; doubts are inherent in fallen humanity. But more predominant is an assurance that we have appropriated heaven God’s way and not ours, and a peace from His Spirit is present as well (Romans 8:16).
If we could get to heaven by our goodness, heaven would be a miserable place because everyone would be bragging for all eternity about how they got there (a quote I stole from Rick Warren).