I am often amazed at how the topic of grace can cause such division among Christians when it is a fundamental part of being a Christian. This morning while searching for a quote it was even more apparent.
In 2007, my world was turned upside down and inside out. Exhausted by a toxic environment, I decided that I just wasn’t worthy to be a Christian. I decided to quit going to church and just live so I could die. Then I found out my father-in-law had terminal cancer. Devastated, I turned back to church, because I didn’t know where else to go. But, after his memorial in September 2007, I couldn’t ignore the things that were bugging me. In October God instructed me to leave and I left. I didn’t know where I would go, what I would do, what would happen. I just decided to trust Him and let Him show me the way.
I discovered in this experience that I never had a conversion experience (I had one at age 33 after I’d been a Christian for 30 years!) and I FINALLY was introduced to God’s grace. The grace that offends. As a child, I was taught that grace was “the unmerited favor of God”. I was taught that grace meant that God wouldn’t strike me dead for the sins I commit (and everything I did was sin). I wasn’t taught how to accept the grace of God. After about 6 months of prayer, study, reflection and reading every book on grace I could find, I accepted the grace of God and my life has never been the same!
One of the things that I did was actually read “Christian” non-fiction books. I was taught that you only need the Bible and you don’t read anything “Christian” or “Religious.” (I rejected Christian music for that same reason also).
I first read “The Shack” by William P Young. While I do not agree with his doctrinal ideas, the fictional story opened my eyes that God was more than a cruel taskmaster ready to strike me dead at my first screw-up. I opened my heart to the idea that he could be a Father to me, and I could have a deep relationship with Him.
Next I was introduced to Philip Yancey. I read “What’s So Amazing about Grace?”. WOW. I then turned to the Bible. I read every scripture that mentioned grace. I read and read and read the 4 Gospels. I wanted to know that the grace Philip talked about was true.
Then I watched the most amazing movie…Amazing Grace. This movie spoke to me. As I watched this movie, I finally accepted the grace of God. I realized that there was NOTHING I could do to make Him love me more and NOTHING I could do to make Him love me less. I realized that I had allowed man to brand me, so that I no longer belonged to God, but to man. I made a decision that day, that I would be free. Free from what humanity thinks I should be. Free from what religion says I should be. Free from what I say I should be. I was going to be free to be what GOD created me to be. As the Chris Tomlin song says, “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free”.
I wanted to know who Jesus Christ was. I read the Bible, books, listened to music, talked to everyone I could about Christ…I wanted to be free and I searched heavily for the key to take my chains away. I read Yancey’s “The Jesus I Never Knew”. My conversion experience. I cried non-stop for a week. I felt like a starry-eyed teenager in love. I just could not get enough of Jesus. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me until my husband said, “You just had a conversion experience.”
NOW, my chains could be removed. Now, I could experience things I would never accept before. NOW, I could live the life I was created to live.
I have experienced a life of freedom, grace and love for the last 3 years. I have seen miraculous things happen. I have experienced tremendous grief and loss, yet I have more peace than I ever had before. Why? Because grace changed my life. I accepted that grace and found Jesus. He continually points me to the Father.
This week I picked up “The Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning. I had never read this book before. I adore Rich Mullins and Michael W Smith. They both have been influenced by this book. And because of this book, they are called heretics.
I saw Rich Mullins in concert in the 90s. I spent the entire evening in tears as I felt the wonderful presence of the Lord. This man, (the man influenced by a heretical gospel of grace) KNEW the Savior. He KNEW who Christ was. I knew that…yet, for all these years, I rejected that he knew anything at all. After all, he was part of those religious infidels who sell God. SIGH.
The thing I am discovering is that the real Jesus offends us humans. We are offended by his grace, by his love, by his righteousness. Jesus was not what he did…he was who he was. Jesus WAS grace. Jesus WAS love. Jesus WAS the Son of God. To humans who think they have all the answers, He is offensive.
I have been told accepting this grace, means I am giving my “flesh an occasion to sin”. NOTHING can be further from the truth. When I accepted Jesus and the grace he offered, I turned my focus from my sin to Him. All of a sudden, my sin was not important. I have learned the difference between sin and a mistake. I have found that the more I love Him, follow Him…the less I want to be anywhere but where He is. He washes away my sin…there is nothing I can do. For that, I am a heretic, deceived, possessed by a demon, lost my vision. I won’t accept what humanity labels me. I WILL NOT PUT THE CHAINS BACK ON! I am free. I am loved. Jesus died for me. If that means I lose everything and everyone…I’m fine with that. I have been given everything.
I know this post is really “preachy” and I’m sorry. It just flowed out of my heart as I began typing. I only what to be able to share this peace I feel with you. I want you to experience what it feels like to be truly loved and to be completely comfortable with who you are. It’s an amazing place…I want you to experience it. Humanity is the creation of God. And he called it Good. My encouragement to you is that you realize you are not worthless, you are not junk…you are a wonderfully fashioned creature totally loved.
May you have a blessed weekend! I plan to just relax.