Eating dinner at PF Changs in Boston
Tomorrow as we all gather together with our friends and families to celebrate Thanksgiving, we have something very special, undeniable and unmerited to be thankful for; Grace. Grace is the gift from God that keeps on giving. The gift that connects us to Him and His great love. Grace is the reason I and many of you, are still alive today. God’s grace is the life-giving blood of His son, that has opened the door for us to receive eternal and permanent forgiveness and entrance into a love relationship with the God of the universe. Without grace, you and I would have no reason to be thankful, joyful and filled with hope. And while grace is a wondrous, beautiful gift, one I am sure many of us have or at least should have experienced a hundred times over, it is also one of the most abused God given gifts. And I too have been guilty. I too have been an “abuser of God’s grace”.
Two weekends ago, I took a drive with two friends to join a bunch of other friends from ATS and church ( Living Christ Church in Nyack, NY) for “Holy Spirit weekend”. We make this trek yearly to join Dr. Rob Reimer, Dr. Martin Sanders and Dr. Ron Walborn at South Shore Community Church in Brockton, MA, as they address topics like; the soul, the gifts of the Spirit, healing (of the soul, body and mind) etc. We go to these weekends in a search to learn, to grow and to encounter the Lord in a fresh new way and every year we come back renewed. This was my first Holy Spirit Weekend in Brockton. I was excited, filled with hope and expectation, sure that God had something new for me there, and surely He did.
We got there 30 minutes before the first service Friday evening after being stuck in unpleasant traffic. I set up my table display for ATS with the help of a Nyack College colleague and got ready just in time for the worship to start. Dr. Martin Sanders spoke that night and out of all the wonderful things he said there is only 1 phrase I could remember “some are abusers of God’s grace” ( slight para-phrase). I remember this statement because of the way it pinched my heart, and I could not understand why. I chose to ignore the pinch, but that did not last very long.
At the end of the message, there were different response stations set up, for us to go to and be with God. A cross set at the front left of the sanctuary, for us to write and nail down our sins, struggles etc to the cross. A resolution station at the back left of the room, for us to make and write resolutions with God. A communion station in the back right, for us to partake of the Lord’s supper and a prayer station in the front right corner, to receive prayer from others. I went to the cross and found myself nailing some very familiar struggles to it. Then I confidently walked over to the communion table.
I picked up my little cracker and cup filled with grape juice, as I began to thank God for His sacrifice and prepare to take the communion, I heard God in my heart say very clearly; “You are an abuser of my grace, do not take communion, turn around and repent.”. I felt a deep sense of guilt, I knew God pegged me. He was right, I was/am an abuser of His grace.
Thoughts of the many times I have sinned knowing subconsciously He would forgive me, plagued my mind. Don’t get me wrong, I am not the kind of person to do something wrong just because I could get away with it, at least consciously. I never fell into temptation with the thought “well at least I know I can get away with it, cause God will forgive me.” But I have always known that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9) and I have learned that even in my failures, I can come boldly to the throne of Grace and receive mercy ( Hebrews 4:16). And so this sense of knowing that I am forgiven, in a sick and twisted way, propelled my fleshly addictions.
As I turned around and walked back towards the front with my cup and cracker in hand, I felt my heart-break. I knew I had offended God. I knew I had taken advantage of His goodness and mercy and it made me nearly sick to my stomach. I used to despise when people “abused His grace” and yet I was guilty of the very thing I once hated. I hastily wrote my sin on a piece of paper, nailed it to the wooden cross and took the communion. As I walked back with my little cup, I could not hold back the tears. I saw one of the awesome girls from my church and I told her what God spoke to me and why. I cried tears of repentance, tears that longed for deep change and tears that were aware of how much my struggles, hurt God.
My friend prayed for me and something she said really stood out to me ” God is saying Thank you, thank you for acknowledging me…” And in that moment I felt His grace and love once again. Because really all God is looking for; are hearts that are willing to admit their sinfulness, hearts that are willingly exposed before Him, hearts that long for true repentance ( a turning away from sin) and hearts that yearn for Him, to please Him and love Him above all others.
So many of us have been stuck in cycles of sin, we make excuses ( I am really good, at finding those), we sin, confess, and sin again. This is offensive to God. This hurts His heart, but in His great LOVE, MERCY and GRACE, He continues to shower us with the same grace we take advantage of.
My resolution is to NEVER BE AN ABUSER OF GOD’S GRACE, again! To be a woman who truly lays a hold of His forgiveness and kindness and turns once and for all from the very things that nailed Him to a cross.
Because truth is when He forgives us it’s permanent, and so is His freedom from sin over our lives (so let’s walk in it)!!
And THAT is something to be Thankful for!