Over the past several days I have been flip flopping back and forth between reading “Reasons for God” by Timothy Keller and “Simply Christian” by N.T. Wright. And one of the things I love about both these books is the continual reminder within each of them that the Christian faith is not based on anything we do but on what Jesus did on the cross!
I don’t know about you but when I do something wrong, I immediately want to make amends. If it’s something I’ve said, I immediately want to take it back or try to cover it with even more words. If it’s something I’ve done, I want to hide it away (or myself away) or do something else in order to make it better. If it’s something I didn’t say or didn’t do, well then I try to say or do something else in order to fill in the giant hole I just created. The thing is…..no matter how much good I try to do to make up for my wrong….the wrongs still there. And even when other people have forgiven me, often times I struggle to forgive myself.
In terms of my faith, growing up I believed in God, but I saw Him as a dictator in heaven who had all these rules and regulations I had to follow in order to be allowed entrance into his kingdom. Over the years that turned into a belief that if I actually did all the right things and said all the right things then I would earn my spot. That seemed all well and good for me until I committed what was in my mind was my first “unforgiveable sin”….after that came shame, fear, cover up….and more sin. All of a sudden it became painfully obvious to me that I couldn’t do anything to make amends to God…and well since my faith was based on what I did…it became harder and harder to come to God at all.
Then I had an experience with God unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. It’s like I was standing in the presence of a holy, perfect God….broken, ashamed, afraid….and I felt loved! It made no sense….and at times it still doesn’t! How can a perfect, holy righteous God love someone like me…who parades around like I have it all together all the while knowing how much of a screw-up I am?!?! None-the-less in that one experience, for that one moment, I actually understood what Grace truly was and that my faith isn’t about me and my ability to perform, but rather it’s set in the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, his perfection, and his ultimate sacrifice of giving His life to cover for my sin!
Most days I still struggle with fully understanding this. I worry that the next mistake or wrong thing I do will be the end all be all to my relationship with God. But then I come basic to the basics….to the cross…to the understanding that I am saved by God and not by me. And then this understanding of God’s perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). So that’s my prayer for today….that I would continually go back to the basics and live at the foot of the cross.