The dark picture above is a photo I took of one of the most peaceful and fulfilling experiences I’ve had in my faith walk. This was taken on March 17, 2020…mostly likely at 4 or 5am. When we were quarantined, I spent my mornings doing the things I had neglected during the busy school year. I would wake up, make some coffee, grab my bible, sit on the couch and read away. After I read for a while, I’d either fall asleep (it’s quite peaceful at 4am, believe it or not) or move to prayer time. Before this, prayer was not something I actively did each day, if I am being honest. I decided to make prayer cards and pray over different people, events, and circumstances on my heart, etc. While all of this was going on, I would turn on some quiet worship music. I can tell you with great certainty that those days were some of the most peaceful and satisfying in my life. In those moments, I felt so close to God and like I could audibly hear his voice (sometimes). It’s very hard for me to completely quiet every thought, noise, & action-item calling my name to really focus on talking to God.
It breaks my heart a little to write that today, as I realize how far I have strayed from those calm, still, and meaningful encounters with God. I still wake up at 4 or 5 am most days and do my bible reading, but often the prayer gets pushed off as I hustle into the day. It’s easy to get discouraged and feel like I am not doing enough, but I was encouraged by reading Galations today and wanted to share…
In Galations, Paul is writing to one of the churches which he had helped establish on his missionary journey. This church seems to have fallen into the same trap I have, believing that their faith can be made “better” if they follow the law and do certain things to make them more righteous or holy. They’ve fallen away from the “pure gospel” which is rooted in God’s grace and the fact that He sent Jesus, His own son, to die on the cross to cover our sins, something that we could never pay the price for on our own. Instead of remembering God’s grace, they fell into a more legalistic view, believing that if they followed all of the rules and did all of the right things, then they would be right with God…but the fact is, they already were as long as they believed that God sent Jesus to cover their sins!
My word of the year for 2020 that God placed on my heart is transform, and I feel like He has been very faithful in teaching me all about transformation. When it comes to transformation on our faith journey, there are 2 major defining events: Justification & Sanctification. It’s important to remember the difference between the two, because I think we fall into the same place of discouragement & a legalistic faith, just as the Church in Galatia did, and just as I have done when we forget the difference between the two.
Justification is a moment. This is when we are made right with God, by believing that He sent His son to die on the cross for our sins. When we do this, we are forgiven for our sins and receive salvation. It’s simple, receiving grace through faith. An undeserved gift that God has given us in His relentless grace, so that we can have a relationship with Him. This is a choice that we get to make…to choose to have a relationship with God by praying a simple prayer to let Him know of the choice we have made to believe in & follow Him.
Sanctification, on the other hand, is a process. It is a process that every Christian goes through after accepting Christ into their heart. Once we accept Christ, the Holy Spirit lives inside of us and helps us. The Holy Spirit changes us, but this is a gradual process. It takes time! The goal is to become more and more like Christ, to be an example for others so they can also come to know, accept, and have a relationship with the Lord.
The fact is, there is only ONE gospel, and that is the gospel of grace. We are not saved by our own efforts or works, but by believing that Christ died on the cross for our sins. It’s not about what we DO, but about what He DID. That does not mean that we live lawlessly, but that we are no longer slaves to sin and simply, all we have to do is receive God’s grace through faith & believing.
So today, I am resting in the pure gospel of grace. It’s not about how many chapters of the Bible I can read in a day, how many worship songs I listen to, or how many minutes I spend in prayer. It’s less about me, and more about Him. There are no requirements God added to the Bible for me to be able to receive more of His grace & salvation. All I have to do is receive. Will you receive that same grace today, too? Don’t get so focused on your sanctification, that you forget the amazing grace God gave you during your justification.