I was raised in a good Christian home; church was a Sunday morning activity to me and not much more. I went to Sunday school and learned about different stories in the Bible, but to me they were just stories in a book. I knew that sin was bad and that Jesus died for my sins, but I thought that I could avoid sinning just by being good. When I did sin, I wasn’t too concerned because I learned in Sunday school that everyone sins so I thought “what’s the big deal?” And, on the occasion I was concerned about sin, I thought as long as I dealt with it before I died I was fine. And, I was just a child; I wasn’t going to die anytime soon.
It wasn’t until I was about 14 or 15 years old that I truly began to understand sin – what it was and what I deserved because of the sin in my life. I realized that there was only one way to deal with my sin; I repented and put my faith in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
I struggled for a long time with the fact that I did not have this unbelievable story to go along with my testimony. I wanted that wow factor when I told people my story. What I didn’t realize was that every life saved by Jesus is an unbelievable gift and my story is special. Jesus died for my sins and allows me to have a relationship with God. I do not deserve anything that He has given freely to me. It is by the grace of God that I am here today knowing with 100% certainty who my savior is and where I will be when I die.
I am being baptized today as an outward display and testament to the faith that is within me.
This may sound like just another story. But it isn’t. It’s my story. And not even so much that, it’s His story. It’s His story of redemption played out in my life.
And yet, I haven’t always been fond of it. Crazy as it sounds; it wasn’t dramatic enough for me. I thought I needed more sin, more rebellion. Little did I know I had more than taken care of that requirement. What I think I really wanted though was a turning point, a definite spot in time where I can say that I turned from death to life. I had heard other people recount dates and times, but I didn’t know mine. Wouldn’t I remember something like that? And if I didn’t, does that mean that it never happened?
I was raised in the church and I knew the story of Jesus’ death on the cross for my sin. What I didn’t know then is that I didn’t understand it. I was a good kid by most standards. My parents may disagree, but, then again, maybe they wouldn’t. They were the main ones I aimed to please. I wasn’t trying to get them to just think I was good and secretly rebel; I simply liked to please them. To that end, my behavior, my deeds, my work naturally became important. And that, naturally, seeped into my relationship with God. Albeit dysfunctional in hindsight, my relationship to God began fairly young. Clear now is that I thought I could (and needed to) earn God’s favor by supplementing Jesus’ death on the cross with my actions and behavior. I so wanted to make him happy; that he might be pleased with me. So I read, and I prayed, and I mustered up every bit of gumption….and I often failed. And I found new tools and new ways to help me be more disciplined, and I read and I prayed, and I failed.
One middle-of-the-night, in the quiet of our little apartment in St. Louis, after being introduced to an entirely new way of thinking, an entirely different set of standards, my mind was spinning. My heart raced as I thought of what this meant; how many years had I not been following, not been pleasing, God? If what I had thought wasn’t right, then what was? I crumbled. And then I heard, as clear as audible, these words. “By grace, through faith.” Repeatedly.
It was fairly basic; a concept I knew but apparently didn’t understand. ” For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” God was asking me to believe that He is who He says He is, He did what He said he would do, and that His grace given through Jesus’ death on the cross is enough just as He says it is. Nothing added.
I was born on July 6, 1983 but I do not remember that day. No details, no memories. Praise the Lord, right? I only know the day because someone else recorded it. Yet even without it, I would know that I was born and am alive. There is evidence of it. I’m here. I’m breathing. I have a pulse.
God has graciously allowed me to see the same is true with my life in Him. From my vantage point now, I can see His work in my life throughout every circumstance and situation, drawing me to Himself and yet I still don’t know the date that I was rescued from the death of my sin into life in Him. Maybe it was during that middle-of-the-night encounter, maybe, as I believe, it was before. I don’t really know. Yet even without that, I know that I was; I have been. There is evidence of it. I’m here. By grace, through faith in the work of Christ alone. He has granted me the ability to believe; to hold fast to the words he gave me so clearly that night in the stillness…it is by grace, through faith. And now I delight in the work of His son; the son in whom He is well pleased.