Grace that is greater than all my sin.

October 27, 2007

“& the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith & love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy & deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of who I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life.” (I Timothy 1:14-16)

It’s been a while since I’ve reflected on my salvation. But I caught a cold a couple days ago, so I’m at home recovering today, bundled up & eating tangerines. As I was reading & browsing through some old files, I found the testimony I wrote a couple years ago.

I pray that, as you read it, you would marvel at the display of His perfect patience. I pray you would be reminded of His grace in your own life (if you are indeed His), or that you would truly come to know this God of grace as you turn from your sins & toward Christ. He is mighty to save, able to save to the uttermost . . .

God, who is a God of holiness, justice, & love, showed overwhelming mercy to me, a sinner. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was born a slave to sin, already from birth rebellious to my Creator & my God, & seeking my own way. Although my mom was not a Christian, my dad was the college & youth pastor when I was younger, so I knew exactly how to act & speak in church. I fooled a lot of people into thinking I was good. Even myself.

My dad would often tell my brother & me to check our hearts, & we would often get in trouble for our attitudes rather than our actions. I hated it. I would angrily think, “Isn’t it good enough that I’m doing what you want? I can’t help my attitude.”

I saw no need for God, but I knew it was the right thing to go to church & be a “good Christian”. At church, I was one way . . . when I got home & when I went to school, I was a completely different person. I was no different from my friends who had no knowledge of the gospel. I pursued the same ambitions; I worshipped the same idols of self glory, money, & temporary pleasure; & I thought the same way they did about life & death – that I would never die or be held accountable for what was in my heart.

When I was around 12 years old, I [did “Christian” things], but my heart was still unregenerate. I didn’t know God. He was still just a story I heard in Sunday School. I believe He existed, but as James 2:19 says, my belief was no different from that of the demons who also acknowledge His existence. I knew He was there, but there was no repentance.

My pride was blinding me, & I had the heart of a Pharisee, lining up my “good works” & “religious deeds” as though they merited me something before a righteous God.

Mark 7:20-22 says, “& He [Jesus] said, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, & they defile a person.'”

& when I think about how Christ’s harshest condemnation was reserved for the religious Pharisees, I can’t help but wonder in awe at the love of God that would save me even in spite of my hypocrisy, my pride, & my blatant disregard for Him.

Toward the end of my junior high years, God began to use a series of events in my life to humble & break me. My heart was so hard . . . when my family had to leave the church I grew up in, I told my friends there that I would have nothing to do with God until I came back.

But shortly after, two people very close to me tragically passed away, my family was ostracized by those we’ve known & loved for so many years, my parents were considering & in the process of writing out divorce papers, & the Korean economy nosedived just long enough to bankrupt my dad’s two businesses.

I realized I wasn’t in control of my life . . . but sin was in control of me. By His grace, He showed me what I deserved (eternal death & punishment in hell) because of my willful sins before & toward a holy God who looks at the heart, not just appearances . . . a holy God whose delight isn’t in mere religious sacrifice but loving obedience to Him from the heart.

He helped me to finally understand the truths I was taught growing up in the church. I should have known the fullness of God’s wrath, but instead I was shown mercy, because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, willingly laid down His life in my stead, & rose again.

Isaiah 53:4-6 says, “Surely our griefs He Himself [Jesus] bore, & our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, & afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, & by His scourgings we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”

I am now covered in Christ’s righteousness. I can call Almighty God my Abba, & He calls me His own.

When I’m tempted to despair again under the guilt of the sin & pride that still dwells in me, I remember Christ’s words on the Cross: “It is finished.” I’ve been forgiven. Sin no longer has mastery over me. I’m free to live for my Lord. & one Day, all the traces of my former slavery will be completely removed.

He saved me, not by my works or because I was deserving of His care toward me, but because of His mercy & by His grace. A hymn I love says it well, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.”

Praise God . . . for His love, for the Cross, for the empty tomb. May we praise Him together & bring other fellow sinners to praise Him, too, until we see Him face to face, to praise Him forever.

“To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor & glory forever & ever. Amen.” (I Timothy 1:17)

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