EXTRAORDINARY GRACE FOR ‘ORDINARY’ SINNERS
Every year my church holds a baptismal ceremony as part of its membership process, and one of the things I look forward to most is when those going to be baptized share their conversion testimonies. Their stories are always diverse – a wonderful reminder of God’s manifold grace in His church.
This year, it was especially encouraging to listen to Sarah.* We often look for God’s grace in the dramatic, the extravagant.
But her testimony reminded me that God’s grace is just as amazing even when it comes in ordinary wrapping.
“My main priority in life,” she said, “was to receive praise for being a ‘good girl.’ I was already acing my classes at school, so I wanted to ‘ace’ Sunday school, too. I figured that the way to do that was to become saved.”
Despite her constant prayer and Bible reading, however, she knew in her heart that she was not saved.
“Compared to my friends, I was an angel. But I absolutely hated going to Youth Fellowship; especially because sometimes our pastor would ask about our salvation.”
Frustrated at her failure, she eventually stopped trying.
Although she continued to attend church activities, she was no longer seeking God.
But God was seeking her.
One Saturday, she was in church, waiting to be picked up, when one of the older ladies in the Youth Fellowship came and talked with her.
“She asked me about my conversion testimony. I shrugged and said I’d practically been born in this church, so I didn’t really know. She told me that she’d grown up in a Christian home, too, and she understood my confusion. But she also told me that there was a day when she finally understood her state before God and truly came to salvation.”
God used that conversation to get Sarah thinking again about her salvation. What would her testimony be?
“I didn’t want to tell the story of a goody-two-shoes Sunday school girl who was sort-of bad in high school; it wasn’t dramatic.”
One day, she had a nearly fatal anaphylactic attack. It seemed her moment had finally come. This was to be her dramatic testimony, and she drowned in the attention of family and friends.
But as things returned to normal, she became acutely aware that she was no closer to finding God.
“I realized that my dramatic moment had passed me by and still left me unsaved.
It became clear to me, finally, that all these years I had been seeking a self-centered salvation. I had always known that I could not save myself, but I had been trying to do it body, heart, and soul. That night I surrendered my life and my desire for salvation to the Lord.”
From that time onward, Sarah began showing evidences of genuine salvation. She developed a passion for God’s word, fellowship, ministry, and holiness. Although she committed some very serious sins even after her conversion, God led her to repentance and an even greater appreciation of His grace.
“My sinfulness in the light of His love is humbling and I have come to understand the dynamic of His justice and grace,” she explained as she drew her testimony to a close. “Today, I am excited to be formally joining this church. I praise my Father for He has not only raised me in His church, but for His church. I pray that He will continue to use me for His glory.”
To me, Sarah’s testimony is encouraging because it could be the testimony of the ‘good kids’ that populate evangelical churches across our country. Conversion for them won’t mean leaving behind a life of drugs, fornication, crime, or anything of that sort because they have been spared from those things to begin with. Their sins are of the respectable type. Respectable, but just as damning. And to see themselves for what they are – great sinners who need a great Savior – they need just as much grace as the addict, the fornicator, or the criminal. And as Sarah’s testimony reminds us, God is heartily willing to extend that grace.
* Sarah is a pseudonym upon the subject’s request.
Kito Espiritu serves on the pastoral staff of Higher Rock Christian Church. He particularly loves discipling youth and sharing the gospel to non-Christians. Find him at http://cross-views.blogspot.com/