All of our life experiences have a way of shaping us into the person we are standing here today. But there is one thing that has had the most profound impact on my life and will forever hold that place of honor. That is the gospel-the good news-of my Savior Jesus. You see, I have been a child of His for a long time now but over the course of the last year or so, He has taken me to a much deeper, life-transforming understanding of the gospel.
Yesterday I heard a sermon where the pastor laid out the gospel and all its implications very beautifully and explicitly. I love sermons like that because I have come to understand that I am in desperate need of the gospel continually even after my initial acceptance of it. After hearing it I just wanted to shout it out/write it out/take it in. I didn’t always understand that the gospel is the essential key to my life transformation. So for all purposes on this blog, I am going to attempt to weave the whole gospel and little bits of my life in along the way.
I grew up always going to church and I can’t remember a time that I did not love God. I remember a specific time when I know I felt the call of the Holy Spirit to give my life to Jesus. My parents were with me and it was a precious time I will never forget as it marked the beginning of my life “hidden with Christ”.
My personality has always been to play by the rules, please people, be a good girl. However, the older I got, the more aware I became that I was in fact, not a good person naturally. I have always had an awareness of sin and never pretended to be perfect but the problem was that I tried all too often to clean myself up therefore relying on my works to make me better.
I remember going around in miserable cycles of feeling really good about myself to feeling terrible, horrible, and ugly. Somehow I always managed to break out of those cycles and feel better again. But it seemed like it never ended.
You see, the first thing humans need to get is that we truly are not good apart from Christ. In fact, we are evil, ugly, dead in our sins, with no hope of saving ourselves. So often we are blinded to this because we think we, out of our own strength can fix ourselves, clean ourselves up. This is absolutely not the case. It is a miserable way to live. Sadly this is not only the thinking of the unsaved but many of the saved that have “quickly deserted him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel”.
Humans have always been in this state but this is why God sent His Son Jesus- fully God, fully man- to the earth to free us from our “animal sacrifices” of such. Until Jesus came, God had made a way for His people to be cleansed through animal sacrifice (a lot of detail for another time) but it was not sufficient. Jesus was to be the final sacrifice, perfect, and blameless, the one to take all of our sin and God’s wrath directed at our sin upon Himself. Although the sacrificial atonement “stuff” may be difficult for us 21st Century Americans, it truly is a beautiful picture of the grace of our God.
When Jesus died, He made a way for us to have a right relationship with God the Father who we once hated as we were trapped in our sin. We could not commune with Him as we were dead, destined for wrath, punishment, and eternal separation due to our sin. After His death, Jesus’ righteousness was credited to our account. His perfect, blameless life was given FREELY to us! What an awesome God we serve! Those who were objects of His wrath, due to His vast love, were not only given life, but Jesus’ perfect record attached to our lives. Therefore when our Father looks at us, as His children, He does not see all the ugly sins we carry, nor does He dismiss them. He sees Jesus’ blood covering our hearts and sealing them for all of eternity. So what does this one act have to do with me now? Here comes the liberating facts!
GRACE. I have come to understand this word more fully yet at the same time am having to struggle with it even more as I go. “For by GRACE you have been saved, not by works lest anyone should boast…” Before I became a Christian, my works were like filthy rags. Now that I am a Christian, my works of self-improvement are STILL like filthy rags! I am already perfect in God’s eyes. Nothing I do or don’t do will earn me any more favor with Him at all. It has taken me a long time to understand that. But OH what a liberating thing when the Holy Spirit brings that understanding to our hearts.
My strivings to be better, to do better, to be more perfect and sanctified were not backed by the realization that Christ has already done all of those things for me and credited it ALL to my account. Finally I have begun to understand the “Spiritual Secret” as Hudson Taylor put it. All those songs talking about resting in God now make sense! My strivings will never get me anywhere but in Spiritual misery because they are MY strivings. When this is understood, freedom can be found. My acceptance to the Lord is NOT based on my performance, my Spiritual strivings, my mission trips, my evangelism experiences, how little I sinned today, how long I spent in personal devotion time.
IT IS ALL BASED ON JESUS BLOOD AND RIGHTEOUSNESS
Now, does this mean I have thrown off all restraints and can do whatever I want? Absolutely not. “Do we sin so that grace may abound?” NO! But this is often the confusion and fear related to teaching and talking about grace. What does happen is that we therefore can have GRACE DRIVEN EFFORT. We WANT to please the Lord because we know that our standing with His is secure. It’s like in a marriage, when the wife knows the husband loves her unconditionally, til death do they part, the laundry, cooking, caring for the kids will not be a burden but a delight because she knows how her husband feels about her. This is the same with God but on a much bigger scale.
For someone who has lived with a “performance based” relationship with the Lord for some time, it can be hard to break the cycle. This is why it’s important to remember that Jesus has already done and already is all we need. We can only go UP from there. At times the Christian growth process seems slow and often backwards but it in fact is always progressive. On our end though, we are constantly having to start over, back to the “basics” with the gospel as we progress. That is the beauty of it all. We can never grow tired or too old for the gospel. There is always something to learn, something to grasp and it is always life-transforming.
I encourage anyone who reads this who already knows the Lord to keep pressing into Him and His good news and grace. Go deep.
If you don’t know Him, REPENT, confess you are a wicked sinner in desperate need of Him to save you, cleanse you, and give you life. Believe that He is the ONLY one who can do this for you. Then REJOICE and follow hard after Him as he transforms you.