Gotta know where you come from

Have you ever received something you didn't deserve? Well I know I have...if you have as well, then you certainly know that you can't forget the experience. No matter what the act of unmerited favor, by its very nature it leaves an indelible impression on you. I believe the reason for this impression is because unmerited favor strikes a chord within each of us that resonates with the truth of a larger narrative. Something from deep within our soul is drawn to, cries out for, and testifies to the truth of this gracious act. We seem to almost intrinsically understand that there is more to the story. And so this is my own story of when I came to understand the Gospel of grace and how it fits in with God's narrative redemption story.

I was born and raised in Durham, NC. I lived what I would consider a pretty normal childhood growing up, which pretty much consisted of fun, sports, video games, etc. Then my parents got divorced when I was about 8 years old, and that change of events rocked my little world. What I unknowingly decided was a breach of trust caused me to not open up much to others and to look out for my own best interests. I placed a lot of value in getting good grades, in playing sports, and in being funny...all things designed to get others approval. And so I did the best that I could in these things which I decided mattered and used to define myself. I wanted to be known as a good guy. My goal in life was simple back in high school: to aspire to what I considered an average and normal life. I just wanted a decent job, good family, nice house and I'd be happy I thought. I guess that could be a common dream of people, but what a funny dream it is...to be average. I acted like everything in my life was good, and so it may have appeared from the outside. However, I knew my life was not as together as it seemed at all!

As an illustration of grace (getting something you don't deserve--remember?), I will give a personal example here. A family friend gave me an old car for free before my senior year of high school. That was great because I could not afford one due to a financially tough family situation. The only thing that this friend said he wanted from me was to consider visiting church and give it a chance. I mean I went to church at least a couple of times each year with family or on holidays. So no big deal, I could do that request! Growing up in America, the south no less, of course I believed in God, right? Even from my admittedly limited exposure to church, I had heard that God created and loves me. Cool but not exactly life changing knowledge at that point. So that was about as much thought as I put into it then. Fortunately as I graduated and headed off for college, I already had my life all planned out (or so I thought). I was going to NC State to become a civil engineer. I wanted to meet "the right kind of crowd" to be friends with in college. So I began getting information on some of the student religious organizations. On one of the pamphlets I read that sin separates us from God. This happens when we choose to go our own independent way and is characterized by an attitude of active rebellion (commission) or passive indifference (omission). Well I knew that I was not perfect despite my best efforts, so I figured that I fell into the same sinful camp as everyone else. The thought of being separated from God because of my sin made me want to seek out some more information. In an effort to make some friends and learn more about this stuff, I decided to go to a Bible study that I was invited to in the dorm I lived in. I noticed that something was different about the guys I met at the Bible study...and that intrigued me. Unsurprisingly, they talked a lot about Jesus. It seemed like they knew something that I had not quite figured out yet. I had heard that Jesus was God's Son, but they also said that Jesus Christ is God's only provision for our sin. If that is true, then it means all of my efforts to earn the approval of others could never earn me God's approval. Therefore, life is not about all that we do or don't do to earn favor with God, but about what God did for us through Jesus. A few weeks later, the two guys who led the Bible study that I had been going to without even owning a Bible invited me to their place. They went over these things that I had been learning and told me that I had to individually and personally receive the free gift that God was offering. For some reason in my 19 years of life, I don't think that I had ever heard that before. And at that moment something clicked in my mind, and everything seemed to make sense. Right then and there I prayed with my friends and asked God to forgive me of my sins and to come and take control of my life. From that moment on, I began my personal relationship with God.

I had somehow previously missed that idea. Redemption is not found through religion, but through relationship. Almost immediately, I started noticing changes in myself from the inside out...in my thoughts, motivations, and actions. My outlook on life shifted from caring mostly about myself to having a growing love for God and others. I finally gained peace as I found my identity and purpose for life in Christ and not in grades, sports, or being funny. I went from wanting merely an average and normal life to wanting an extraordinary life...desiring to make an eternal impact and difference in others and the world. That's why I no longer chose to work as a civil engineer, because I'm positioned to invest in college students' lives for His Kingdom instead of building roads for this world. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "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." You see...the only catch about a gift is that you have to receive it.

Have you ever thought about this before? Are you going about life in a completely selfish and hedonistic manor with no concern of God? Are you trying to earn God's favor by being good and doing the right thing in and of yourself? If you don't want anything to do with God now, then what makes you think you would want to spend eternity with Him? Do you want the blessings of God and nothing to do with a relationship with Him? It is about time that you think where you fit into God's redemptive narrative.

Whether you want some help processing through this stuff or you just want to share what's going on in your story, then please write me a note and leave a comment!


speas said...

knapp! Ive never heard your testimony. Love how the average plans that we can engineer pale in comparison to what happens when God gets in control of our lives....miss seeing you in Raleigh but know you are loving the Triad....

Amber Rose said...

wow. what a post. didn't know you blogged. now i'm "following you." :) hope all is well. ttys

David and Pamela Taylor said...

Whats up Knapp, its good to hear your testimony again! Keep in touch!