‘If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’ 2 Corinthians 5:17
Is that not an exciting statement? If you don’t see it that way, you should. Because you are short-changing not only your own self, but you are limiting what your God can do.
Let me tell you a story. It’s mine, but I am willing to share it with you if it will make a difference in how you view all that our God does for us. And I am even hoping my telling it will remind me, too, of the magnitude of what God’s grace displays in power and love.
I had been married for 21 years before I went out on my own. I had three great kids, and a grand baby. I met a man who had just gone through a very painful divorce. He did not want it, but it was inevitable, and he could not stop it. He also had kids. He lost them, and his home, all in one fell swoop.
So we met, we fell in love, we married. We eventually moved back to his home in North Carolina. We both had good jobs and a nice home. And we were happy. We had become involved in a wonderful church, and had great opportunities to serve. We made new friends, and had a nice Christian social life. My husband was not saved before we joined the church. So God knew where He wanted us, and we landed exactly on that spot. When my husband was saved, he became the man I always knew he could be, even more than he already was.
He had a co-worker who was a lay preacher in a little country church. It was very ‘old school’, a fundamental church. There is nothing wrong with that, if it is teaching what the Bible truly says. But some of the theology was not quite right. You will see what I mean in just a moment.
This fellow needed help applying for a position he wanted on-line. He was not computer literate, so my husband offered to bring him home after work one day so I could help him by doing the application on my computer. He came and we got along well, and the three of us ate a small supper, and then we set to work. It took about an hour and a half. A few pleasantries were exchanged and then he went on his way.
The next day at work, he and my husband got to talking and he found out that I was the third wife. That’s right, I did say third! ‘Three time’s the charm’, as the saying goes. Anyway, Chuck explained to this fella that his first marriage broke up because his wife had an affair, and his second one was the same way. Both of those ladies liked to party all the time, and he was working all day. So they were bored and voila. Anyway, he also proceeded to tell this gent how all of this took place before he was saved. And he told him what a great wife I was (sweet!) and how he had come to know Christ because of me. So imagine his surprise when this man told him he needed to divorce me and go back to his first ex-wife!
When I heard this I was flabbergasted, and more than a little hurt. After all, I had just spent an hour and more of my life helping him try to get a new job. And fed him dinner too! But when my husband and I talked more about it, we realized this man had been deceived. His beliefs were wrong, because the Bible tells us that we are a new creation once we are born again. All these things that had happened prior to that, including marrying me, were no longer being held against my husband. He had been saved, and he was living as he should…in Christ.
I, on the other hand, did not have that same excuse. I was saved young, and I knew when I did wrong. I always found a way to justify it. So I told my husband that I knew I needed to ask God to forgive me for all I had failed at, for all I had done to find happiness, for just not being who I thought I should be. I had never asked God for this forgiveness you see, because I always thought ‘poor me’. I should have known better; I should have turned to God first.
We decided to stand on God’s word in the face of this man’s declaration. My husband went back to work, and because he really likes him, and also because he had to work with him, he told the man that we forgave him. He also went on to quote the verse above, and explained how we both had been forgiven by a forgiving God. What mattered now was how we lived our lives from that point on. And surprise of surprises, this man accepted it all. He still did not like it, but he would not quibble over scripture. It was almost like a light had come on. He realized, you see, that God has more for us than rules and laws…He gives us grace.
Grace. It is all over us. It is what saved us. It is what keeps us going today. It is what wipes the slate clean and gives us our new start every day. It is what keeps the fires burning, and the love pure. It is what helps us to love others, to care for them, to forgive, to forget, to go on. Grace is what allowed Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, and to rise again to declare the victory. He did it for God, for the Father, but He also did it for you and me. He gives us grace.
In the hardest parts of our lives, in the sin and the dirt and the confusion and the loss, in the missed opportunities and the pain, in the disappointments we experience, grace is there. When we mess up, or we misunderstand, or we simply fail to see, grace lifts us up, gives us a hand, restores our peace, and makes us whole. Grace is one of the greatest and useful gifts God could ever have given us. He gives us grace.
So, that is my story. Boring? Maybe. True? Totally. But in it you can see how God’s grace washed over us, in how we viewed this man, and how he came to view us. For today he is a friend. He has experienced hard times, his family has gone different directions, and he realizes now that a lot of that is because of his misinterpretation of scripture. But slowly they are returning, and getting back to what they know is right and good. And why is that? Because He gives us grace.
So, my friends, when you are feeling down, or rejected, or that you can’t do or say anything right, or maybe you’ve said something you shouldn’t have, or have messed up terribly, simply turn to God and tell Him all about it. And then watch, and feel, the grace of the Heavenly Father, and the Son, Jesus, wash all over you, refreshing you, and showing you that all things are indeed new…Because by now you know, He gives us grace!