I thought it only appropriate to write about the topic of Grace, since we are approaching Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, the day our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead. That is after all the reason we began to celebrate this “holiday.” I hope if you don’t know him as your personal savior, in a way that you live for him, that you will read this. It is an invitation to his amazingly merciful grace. It’s not an altar call, and I won’t ask you to say the sinner’s prayer with me at the end. But it is an invitation to hear a little about my journey, to hopefully be moved in some way by it, and to be inspired with the hope that I have found. I hope the curious will lend an ear; I hope the hurting will take time to listen; I hope the broken will be moved toward the only healer I know; I hope the ones who think “I’m good,” will think again.
I have heard of Jesus and that he died for my sins my whole life. I thought I knew him; I soon realized that I only knew of him. I heard people sing of this amazing grace, and it seemed nice, but until you have a real encounter with the living God, it’s just another nice story. I chose to put my faith in God at an early age, but I struggled with the reality of a God I couldn’t see, feel, or hear for most of my adolescence and early twenties. You see I knew all the stories, but they were just stories. I heard all the testimonies of lives changed, but I didn’t see the power of God to change my own life. In fact I felt powerless. I was on a mission to seek anything that would give me a sense of power and control over my life. Time and time again, my control was reduced to nothing, and I began to grapple with my own smallness, my own inability to get things done.
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” Is the classic hymnal we all have heard so much that it is cliche. In our attempt to spread Christianity and make it popular, I feel we have made it too nice. We have watered down the story, till it seems like it’s about a good man who came to tell us to love our fellow man and welcome everyone unconditionally. While these are parts of Jesus’s message, they aren’t the whole story. And if we aren’t telling the whole story, because we don’t want to call people out in their sin, or offend anyone and push them away, then we aren’t telling the truth.I couldn’t connect with the nice story, it couldn’t convince me that the way I was living was wrong, and it certainly didn’t have the power to save me.
True words from Jesus in Matthew 10:
34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn
“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[a
See Jesus knew his message was so controversial that it would cause family members to be pitted against one another. His way of loving is so radical, but it’s not always “nice,” and it doesn’t turn it’s head at sin. No, he tells us to “go and sin no more.”
It wasn’t until I met a point of desperation that I met the living God that changed everything about me. When I was at my lowest, I called out to him to save me, if he was real at all. He showed up for me that day. I sought prayer at my church, and the person that prayed for me gave me a powerful message from God I hadn’t asked for, but had been desperate to hear. It brought me to my knees. He took away my blindness and opened my ears to hear his voice. He has showed up for me everyday since then. He has shown me all the things that were wrong in my life, from the things I listened to and watched that were poisoning my mind, to the thoughts I had about him, myself, and others. But that’s not all! He completely changed my husband, who also came to know him, and he completely changed our marriage.
It has been a process for both of us, slow and steady. But our hearts are no longer hard. We had been so consumed with sin, that we couldn’t connect with God at all. In Ezekiel 36:26, God promises, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” That’s just what he did. I felt vulnerable; my heart was pricked. Things that I had done, which had never bothered me before, suddenly became serious issues, that needed immediate attention. I began to change radically. I always thought of myself as a good person, but now I was becoming a godly person.
Big Daddy Weave is one of my favorite Christian artists, and he wrote a song called “My Story.” In it he talks about “the grace that is greater than all my sin, Of when justice was served and where mercy wins, Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in.” That’s what happened to me that day. God became real; my need for him became real. The message of the cross went from being a nice story, to something that had the power to change everything about my life. I surrendered my life to God. I recognized his strength, and I became so grateful for his mercy, and that it could save someone like me. It wasn’t fear of going to hell when I die, and it wasn’t because someone yelled at me about my sin; it was the kindness God showed me when he took time to be with me in a very intimate way, the way I needed in that moment. He saved me. I didn’t deserve it, but he did it anyway.
Galatians 5:1 says “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” I had no clue what that freedom meant. Contrary to my worldly thinking, it isn’t a freedom to do as I please, to live an immoral life and not worry about my salvation, because I am covered in grace. It is a freedom to live a life of righteousness, something that without his power is impossible to do. I always thought, well I’m not so bad. That “sin” isn’t so big, so I can live this way, and God forgives me because of Jesus. I said I loved Jesus, so now I’m saved. Now I realize, that’s not how this works. The second part of that verse says, “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Consider this type of freedom that Paul discusses in Romans 6.
16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. 19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.
My sin was hardening my heart and separating me from God who loves me. 1 John 1:5-6 “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. In him is only light, there is no darkness at all.” Because of Christ, who has overcome the power of sin and darkness, and who is now living in me, I am able to overcome sin and darkness. I am able to live with a clean conscience, and am able to see when I have sinned, and immediately repent, meaning I commit to quit, and pray for God to help me do so. It’s not in my own power, but through him all things are possible.
It feels so good to have the God of the universe care so much about me that he came not only to give me eternal life, but to give me the power to live a fulfilling and redemptive life while I’m here. No more guilt, no more shame. I have freedom to live for him, all because of his grace. This grace is available to all who seek it. He loves you, more than you can know, and I hope if you don’t know him, and haven’t experienced him, that you will want to. I hope you will imagine your life with a fresh start, where everything that you’ve ever done, or that has ever been done to you gets wiped clean, where you experience peace, healing, and new life. This is what it means to be “born again.” Not only is it possible, it is tremendously indescribable!
I leave you with this song. It gives but a glimpse of what his grace can do in your life. That, my friend, is what Easter is all about.