by Erica Lefever

I grew up in a Christian home. I always wanted to do what was right, and tried my best to follow the rules. But no matter how hard I tried, it seemed I could never quite measure up. I was extremely conscientious growing up which meant I constantly felt condemned for my actions. Eventually, my efforts to do all the right things and the weight of guilt and shame I carried grew unbearable. I nearly stopped believing in God because of the hopelessness of my condition. But the Lord, in His great faithfulness and mercy, broke through my confusion and hurt with His truth! It was in a class I took at AWC, Romans and Galatians, that God opened my blind eyes to see that I had been trying to EARN my salvation by doing the right things on my own. I knew that the only way to be saved was through faith in Jesus, but I lived like I had to earn my salvation through my good works. What freedom I experienced when I could finally place my trust in Jesus, knowing that He had forgiven my sins and that I was His child!

It wasn’t long until the Lord began showing me that He had more for me than the saved life. I had heard holiness preached, but I didn’t understand what it meant. To me, holiness meant an outward change, not a change of heart. It meant surrender to God’s will through my efforts. I associated holiness with sets of standards and certain behaviors. I didn’t understand that the work of entire sanctification and the life of holiness that follows it ONLY come from a work of God in the heart: the removal of the carnal nature and the filling of the Holy Spirit.

All my efforts to put my own carnal nature to death were futile. I tried to surrender myself to God. I tried to act like the people around me who proclaimed an experience of holiness. But none of it changed my heart because I was trying to be sanctified MY way. It was the same story as my struggle to save myself: I began trying to sanctify myself. This focus on my own efforts soon led me to the same hopelessness I had experienced in trying to earn salvation. Eventually, I even began doubting that holiness was real.

My efforts failed, but God did not fail me! He faithfully led me to the truth of the holiness message and the truth about myself. I saw for the first time my evil carnal heart. I recognized fully the total opposition to God and the pull to everything that God hates. I saw myself as I was: wrapped in self-righteous rags to hide my antagonistic and rebellious spirit. I watched the walls of all my “goodness” crumble into a million pieces, leaving all my selfish motives and desires exposed.  When I truly saw myself as God saw me, I begged Him to remove the carnal nature from my heart and set me free from its power. I desperately sought Him for freedom from carnality, for His cleansing power in my heart. God showed me my heart not to leave me miserably struggling with carnality but to set me free from its power! He never reveals the need of our hearts without showing us the remedy that He has provided. It wasn’t long after I began seeking sanctification in HIS way, that He sanctified my heart. I have been set free from myself!

God has given me a passion for the true message of holiness, and I will proclaim it for the rest of my days. This message is the heritage that I have been given, and I’m determined to share it with as many people as I can in my life. My prayer is that my life and my story will somehow make a difference in the lives of others. Sharing His truth is my greatest joy.