Monday, March 26, 2012

God's Grace, New Life

Is there anything about your life that can only be explained by God’s grace?

I recently read an article by the apologist Ravi Zacharias entitled, “The Apologist’sFirst Question,” which began like this:
I have little doubt that the single greatest obstacle to the impact of the Gospel has not been its inability to provide answers, but the failure on our part to live it out. I remember well in the early days of my Christian faith talking to a close Hindu friend. He was questioning the experience of conversion as being supernatural. He absolutely insisted that conversion was nothing more than a decision to lead a more ethical life and that, in most cases, it was not any different from other ethical religions. I had heard his argument before. 
But then he said something I have never forgotten: “If this conversion is truly supernatural, why is it not more evident in the lives of so many Christians I know?” His question is a troublesome one. In fact, it is so deeply disturbing a question that I think of all the challenges to belief, this is the most difficult question of all. I have never struggled with my own personal faith as far as intellectual challenges to the Gospel are concerned. But I have often had struggles of the soul in trying to figure out why the Christian faith is not more visible.
Around this time I had just committed several “recurring sins,” and was deeply disturbed by the article. What if there really was nothing more to Christianity than the decision to live by a strict code of ethics? More precisely, was my Christianity nothing more than self-delusion? What if being “born again,” and to have the “indwelling Holy Spirit,” were really just my own self-improvement, my own coming to terms with myself? It didn’t seem like such a ridiculous question. What made it all possible was the nagging fear that somewhere out there among the billions of people in the world were non-Christians who were just as honest, more caring and considerate of others, more self-sacrificial, and not bogged down by so many sins and insecurities, like I am.

Is there anything at all about my life that can only be explained by God’s grace? The rest of this post is my reflection on this question.


My family’s far from perfect. I don’t know whether it’s normal for family members to despise, and lie to, and be completely uncaring for one another, but we’ve done a lot of that. (Things are better now, but there’s so much we still have to work on.) There were also times when I was betrayed and abandoned by close friends. And then there are the frequent run-ins with people behaving like jerks, snobs, back-stabbers, fakers, ingrates, etc.

Experiences like these made my young, teenage heart very bitter. Resentment towards people and a deeply cynical attitude were the air that I breathed. I don’t want to give the false impression that hate pervaded every waking moment of my life. But the hate was there, for sure, always ready to burst out at the least provocation. The other side of anger, of course, are the deadly twins of self-righteousness and revenge. Because I was so focused on the bad things that I saw in other people, I overlooked my own internal ugliness. The visible result was a vengeful, take-what-I-can attitude. “How dare you do that to me! Take that!” (“That” being verbal or mental abuse, do-it-yourself “justice”, ignoring the person, or anything I could do to get even.)

Even today, as a Christian, I struggle with these things. Driving along the crazy roads and streets of Metro Manila has only given me another avenue of anger. But something is different. I’ve learned to forgive. I mean, genuinely forgive. I don’t feel like I have to blast my car horn at inconsiderate drivers anymore. Every single grudge I’ve ever held towards any person in my life is gone. Do I still get angry? Yes. Do I still get resentful sometimes? Yes. But it doesn’t last. I can always, always forgive, and—if I get the chance—give love in return. I regret every spiteful thought, word or deed. The superlatives might have caught your eye. But to the best of my knowledge, I’m not exaggerating. Every single grudge is gone. I can always forgive. Sometimes the process takes a second, sometimes it takes days. Sometimes, a new offense resurrects the memory of old ones. But whether forgiveness comes easily or painstakingly, it always comes.

What makes forgiveness the inevitable conclusion for every disagreeable encounter? It’s not my "Christian" upbringing. It’s not self-confidence, or being secure with myself, or self-discipline, or self-actualization, or any of that other “self” stuff that pervades modern thinking. It’s certainly not because I’m “better” than everyone out there who somehow can’t exchange bitterness for forgiveness and anger for love. I think I can honestly and correctly say that the singular and compelling reality that makes it all possible is God’s forgiveness of my sin against him.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows… he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isa.53:4-5)

Is there anything about my life that can only be explained by God’s grace?

Yes, there is.

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

His wounds have paid my ransom!

No comments:

Post a Comment