If there is one thing God has revealed to me this summer, it has been this: His unconditional and unfathomable grace that is lavished on me daily. The Webster’s 1828 Dictionary has been a good friend to me this summer and the definition of grace reads, “Appropriately, the free unmerited love and favor of God, the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from him.” His grace has freely been given to us, not by anything we have or have not completed but by his immense love for us.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:4-10 NIV
Growing up I was very exposed to the religion of Christianity which presented God as a strict, wrathful, and threatening God- he tallies up my messes and then he makes me pay for them. What I was neglecting, along with much of the rest of the church, is the relationship of Christianity. This summer, and especially my time during Community Two, I have been embracing this relationship and the way it allows me to walk in beautiful freedom. Although I am a sinner and although I will never be perfect, Christ is one who lovingly and willingly paid the price which resulted in ultimate forgiveness of my sins, and he paid this price for the whole world. I started going through a book called the Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, which has taught me how to apply grace to my daily walk and how to accept the greatest gift of love from my Heavenly Father. We must first accept ourselves as we are because God accepts us as we are; He knows our good thoughts and bad thoughts, our passions and desires, our successes and failures, yet He still loves us so much that He sent his son as a sacrifice so that we could have eternal life with Him. Once we acknowledge grace for what it really is, we realize that we are free to love ourselves and this begins the process of trusting Him. 1 John 4:18 reads “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” We must start to view God through the lens of His love and not the lens of our fear.
God has gifted me with a summer of isolation from worldly distractions which has allowed me to read scripture fully for what it really is, and once I began to read scripture through the lens of God’s perfect love I realized that the entire theme of the Bible is God protecting his people and pursuing our hearts so that we may intimately pursue him. God wants our hearts, it’s that simple. He does not want us to earn his heart because we already have it; all that is required of us is the acceptance of his heart so that we may ultimately walk in relationship with him. What is so beautiful is the simplicity of the gospel- a free gift of eternal life through faithfulness and faithfulness alone. By all means, this gift does not promise us a simple life but it does promise us life and life abundantly; once we begin our relationship with God, he will never leave us, so that we may be strong and courageous in this imperfect world (Joshua 1:5-6). To sum this up: I am learning to wake up in confidence everyday and acknowledge that I get to serve the most powerful, creative, loving and gracious being in all of existence- and it is not from myself because it is the gift of God.
“We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt. This and so much more is a sheer gift; it is not a reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life prayer. Even our fidelity is a gift. If we but turn to God, that itself is a gift of God. My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn or deserve it.
Mallie Sykes | Journey 2017 Intern