Growing up in the religious South, I heard stories of creation, the flood and the Lamb of God since birth. My parents raised us in church for a majority of my growing up years. I learned the books of the Bible backward and forward, made sure to tithe and be in the church building every time the doors were open. My mom tells stories of my questions that stumped the preacher. My dad accompanied me to Brazil on mission as a high schooler.
I remember very clearly the Sunday I walked forward and desired to come to Christ. I confessed my need for Him as my Savior and was baptized a short time later. My pastor kindly handed me a Survival Kit to teach me about what it meant to be a Christian. Just one thing was missing…grace. I thought that if I didn’t do just right, according to what I believed, then I was living in sin and there would be no hope for me.
So, I lived as a judgmental teenager, believing I was “better than” my peers who were choosing to live lifestyles of blatant sin – whether actual or perceived in my eyes. Those years quickly turned into a hidden lifestyle of rebellion and sin in my own life. Relationship after relationship ended in sin along with heartbreak and a hardened-heart. I desired to know I was loved and accepted as I was and so I made myself to be what I believed I needed to be in order for someone to love me. All this time, I hid guilt and shame…or at least I tried. I believed Christ was my Savior and still I lived as if it were up to me. My beliefs didn’t line up with my choices and my choices didn’t line up with my said beliefs.
Many things, good and bad, have happened in my life since my early twenties. The Lord has brought so many people into my life and spoken to me through a number of them. Not too long ago a dear friend sent a few of us a message about a John Piper message where she quoted him as saying,
“When guilt remains so does the wrath of God and everlasting misery.”
My pastor preached the next Sunday on grace. And it hit me that often we say we believe the facts of the life of Christ – he died on a Roman cross to save one from the eternal punishment for one’s sin, was raised to life after 3 days in a grave so that one could spend eternity with him in heaven and ascended to the Father where he makes intercession (prays). These are all good things, eternally vital things. But have we put our faith in the facts alone or in His grace that says these things were for us? His grace and love for me led Him to die on Calvary’s tree and raise to life so I might live, in Him free.
Too often our choices dictate our beliefs instead of our beliefs dictating our choices. His grace gives us space to make our choices line up with Biblical beliefs. Grace says there is freedom from our past and freedom for our future. Grace doesn’t hide, make excuses for, or remove our past. Grace says our past failures can be redeemed for the glory of God. Guilt and shame have no place where the grace of God abounds.
The church is still a vital community for me and for my family. Biblical truths, both taught and sung, help me to see the grace of God. His faithfulness is to all generations. May we looks around at the testimony of creation – the way the seasons change right on time, the way He provides for the birds, how vibrantly He clothes the wildflowers – and see His enduring faithfulness, not just for us, not just for now, but for ages and generations to come. May my redeemed life be a testimony of His grace and His faithfulness both for now and for generations to come.