Ephesians 2: 6-10, Luke 15: 11-32, Romans 3: 23

Jon & April Hunter
Jon & April Hunter

When deciding to write this study I asked myself one question. What is the one thing I have learned that has made my faith and allowed it to become real and effective as I have grown up as a Christian?

The answer is found in one word GRACE. In a few more words, understanding that I have very little to do with what God is doing in my life. I cannot earn God's favour. However good I am I cannot please God in any way by my actions and effort. I have to rely completely on God and His goodness for everything I need.

My Christian walk has been less than perfect. My early years were full of zeal and enthusiasm, throwing myself at everything spiritual in an effort to earn a successful ministry, a place of esteem within the church, and the good favour of God. A conversion at the age of 17 lead quickly to Bible college, running cell groups and youth groups within churches, and helping out on fulltime ministries. No matter how much I did right, I knew that I wasn't good enough, so I would try harder, pray more, and try to work up a spiritual sweat.

In the middle of all that I hit some serious problems. I couldn't cope. I though this stuff didn't happen to Christians. I couldn't face God, I didn't want to be near Christians, and I stopped going to church. I thought I had blown it for good and that I was past the point of any return, so I just gave up completely.

For a few years I avoided Christians. I could not accept the fact that God would forgive me. I kept running. I even had non Christian friends tell me that they could still see God in my life but I ignored it. You see, I thought I had to earn God's favour and because it was earned it could be lost, and boy had I lost it!

It was Glastonbury 2000, I was off my head listening to NIN play a song called Heresy. In the middle of it, something just clicked inside, and I realized that my life at that time was a lie, and that it was time to go back to God. I had no good works to show, my head was still a mess, and my life was far from being sorted out. All I could do was come back to God as the completely broken person that I was. I had a bad reputation and was quite rightfully hated by some people. Turning and facing God in that state, I asked for His forgiveness, and to my surprise, it came.

Since that time, God has been good to me. He has brought me home to the church that I love the most, working with the leadership I love most, doing the job I love the most, youth work. He is blessing the ministry here in ways that we could never have imagined. We are seeing people come to know God week by week and witnessing a whole new generation of Christians grow up, and I know I have not earned one part of it. If I got what was mine by rights God would have to obliterate me off the face of the earth this very second.

Right now I feel like the lost son in the story of the prodigal son who the Father has killed the fatted calf for and is sat in the feast enjoying what God has given freely. It's not what has been earned, but what has been freely given. The truth of it is that none of us are any different. "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." Romans 3: 23 None of us can impress God with our actions, our lifestyle, our commitment, or our ministry. We can only sit and accept what God wishes to give us, that we don't deserve.

The good news is that He wishes to give us things we don't deserve so much that He died to do so. We do not need to do anything else apart from accept what God is doing. Beyond saying yes to God, we have no other part in our right standing before Him. The pressure on us is now off!

If we read the passage from Ephesians 2, we see that what we do does play a part in the process, but only as a response to what God has done. "We are not saved by works that any man may boast, but for Good works that He has called us to do." I can now get on with my life knowing that God loves and accepts me because of what He has done for me, and what I do in response is only a thank you to Him, but maybe more about that another time ... CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.