Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Grace redefined

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight Ephesians 1:7-8

I was blessed to have my grandmother come and visit to hear me preach when I was pastoring in Kerens, Texas.  We were visiting in the kitchen when she shocked me by saying, “Sometimes I wish I had experienced what I see many share when they speak of being saved.”  As we visited, I sought to see where exactly my sweet, godly grandmother was coming from.  She had always been a faithful and dedicated member of the First Baptist Church of Perry, Oklahoma.  I had never seen or heard her do anything that would resemble a sin.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m sure she had her moments as we all do, but she was a great testimony of love and humility.
I finally asked her, “Mom, I don’t know how to ask this, but was there ever a time on your life when you were extremely rebellious against God and committed some really bad sins?”  Her answer was as I expected.  “No, I’ve always tried my best to please God and follow Him.”  “Well,” I said, “for many who have suffered the pain of sin and rebellion conversion is a very hard and difficult thing.  There is so much grief and sorrow from their sin that the joy of forgiveness is overwhelming.  But Mom, I don’t think I would want to suffer what many have suffered and lost just to have an emotional testimony, would you?” 
I used to wish I had a more dramatic testimony. I was only a child when I gave my life to Christ. Although it was the most important moment of my life, it wasn’t something most people would consider dramatic.  I knew I was a sinner separated from God and that was enough.  I embraced my salvation.  I really tried to follow Christ as a teen and surrendered to His call to serve.  That doesn’t make for the classic “road to Damascus, I used to use drugs, sleep around, and spent time in prison” kind of testimony that leaves people in tears.  I’m sorry. But that’s not my story.
My grandmother and I had something in common and it’s now something I praise God for.  I’ve learned that while some Christian conversion stories may be more spectacular than others, that doesn’t make them any more significant.  Sometimes we think the most impactful testimonies in the Christian life are those of people who praise God for the things He delivered them from; sexual relationships, addictions, etc.  But perhaps the people who should praise God the most are the people who can praise Him for what He has kept them from. Perhaps these people should begin their testimonies by saying, “God saved me from pre-marital sex, drugs, alcohol, and a life of sin-when I was nine and gave my life to Christ.”
I wonder if the problem is that when someone is rescued from the edge of doom, we think it is because of the grace and power of God, but when someone never approaches it we attribute it to their own diligence and discipline.  This viewpoint completely misses key aspects of sin, grace, and God’s glory.  God’s grace doesn’t just rescue you from a life engrossed in sin.  It also keeps you from it.  God doesn’t just receive glory when He has to completely remake a ruined life.  He’s just as glorified when someone commits themselves to purity and a holy life, and by God’s grace sticks to it.
If what I have been describing is your story, the next time you feel like you don’t have anything to praise God for, imagine what you would be addicted to and what you would have gone through if He had not kept you from falling.  Let’s not allow the most passionate voices of praise to only be the ones who have received God’s abundant grace because of their experiences. Let’s start learning to praise God for the parts of our testimony that we have never had to experience because of His grace.
Scripture to Claim:

“To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy- to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”  Jude 1:24-25

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