yesterday when I was meeting with Matt (my pastor) we were talking about God’s power to change lives. Often I feel that its up to me to change myself… that its up to my great faith (oh wait, i don’t have that). I get discouraged when change doesn’t happen as quickly as I think it should. I feel like I’m letting God down by not “holding up my part of the bargain.” After all, He saved me, its my job to “return the favor” by living for Him, right?
As I’m writing this, it seems absurd to think this way. Yet I find this thinking is so pervasive in my life. When things are hard, I naturally assume that its because I did something wrong or failed to trust God fully or that its judgment for something I did wrong in my past. And when things go well, I assume its because I did something right and God is pleased therefore He makes my life easy.
So Matt asked me to list ways that I am different from 5 years ago. He wanted to know specifics of what has changed and what caused those changes. To be honest with you I didn’t know where to start… Really the only thing that is the same now is my name. And the fact that I’m employed full time. But even where I’m employed is different.
Here are a 5 things that have changed in my life in the last 5 years:
1. Five years ago I did not care about God. I did not love God. Today, I’m aware my love for Him is very small, very imperfectly offered and not nearly as passionate as it should be, but I do in fact love Him. And my desire is to love Him more and more each day.
2. Five years ago, my desires, passions and lusts controlled every aspect of my life. I lived for what I wanted. I did what I wanted. I didn’t care who didn’t like it. But God drew me to Him by showing me His kindness. He showed me that His love is so far superior to the desires of my flesh. He gave me a hope that was so far greater than sex, drugs and uncontrolled passion. I want to know this God who gave so much to prove His love for me.
3. Five years ago, I was a thief, drunk, druggie, controlled by the passions of my flesh. I was controlled by my sins. I could do nothing other than carry out those desires. But God grabbed me from that slavery. He showed me immesurable kindness. He gave me this gift, changed my desires and now I can say that none of those desires control my life. That’s not who I am anymore.
4. Five years ago, when I first began coming to Sovereign Grace Church, it was because they had something to offer me. I could get something from them. They gave me free meals, they gave me intelligent (well, sometimes) conversations, they gave me friendship. And they asked nothing in return. I came for what I could get from them. And for several years, I simply came and took. Today, by God’s grace, I still am receiving so many benefits from my friends but now I actually call them friends. And I try to be a friend to them as well. I desire to pass along the same kindness and mercy they showed over the past five years. I desire to reconcile when differences arise. It is a highlight of my week to talk each Sunday with my dear, sweet friends, pray with and for them and serve them in many little ways. Again, I’m aware that I still take more than I give, but its only by God’s grace that I’m there at all… and that I’m giving at all. So, that gives me faith that one day I’ll give more… more freely and with more joy.
5. Five years ago, life was about me. I’m often tempted to despair because I see so much of my life is still about me. And I know that needs to change. But five years ago, my heart desired only to serve myself. After God captured my heart and offered me salvation, my desire is now to live my life for Him. And I know that desire didn’t start with me.
So, there you have it… a brief snapshot of what God has done. Matt then reminded me that everything I had just told him was all a work of God’s grace alone. I did nothing to change myself. Every change that has happened in the past 5 years was a result of His loving hand working in my life. It wasn’t because I desired to change or because I made myself change. I can claim no part in those changes. They are all a work of God’s grace. He went on to read Galatians 3 where Paul asks the Galatians if they are so foolish to really believe that what God started they must now finish. Matt then reminded me that, just like the Galatians, I didn’t begin this work and its not up to me to finish it. Actually, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. It is a work of grace from a God of grace. None of it is a work of my own ability… God designed it that way so He would get the glory and so that I wouldn’t boast.
That’s very humbling… on two fronts. First, that God would really love me that much. That He knows all my sin and weakness and failure and that He simply offers to me His open hand full of love. And He asks nothing in return. I wish I had something to offer to thank Him for that gift. But He says even if I did, He wouldn’t be pleased with that. And second, its humbling because there is nothing I can do other than stand in awe of a God that is that great. He began this work in me. He is currently working in me. And He has promised to complete it. All I can do is sit back in thankfulness and be amazed at such grace.
So, my question for you is this… How has God changed you in the last 5 years? How have His amazing works of grace transformed you from who you once were?