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Birthday Thoughts

Posted on April 25, 2018 at 10:15 AM

Dear Saints;

Sixty-nine years ago, I entered this world. I was a cute baby (even a baby warthog is cute!) but was totally self-centered and selfish. I wanted what I thought I needed to be ok and I wanted it right now! As I grew up my manipulative skills were refined, but that inherent selfishness I was born with also grew more intense. At the ripe old age of 11 I had developed a basic sense of guilt complete with feelings of worthlessness. It was then that I first accepted the forgiveness offered by the good news that Jesus had died for me and I was filled with a supernatural joy that lasted a full twenty-four hours.

Although I was “born again” and knew I was somehow different, my teenage years were filled with personal turmoil that caused me to question my relationship with God. I knew I should behave according to the standards imposed on me as a preacher’s kid but found it impossible to maintain even an outward compliance to the rules. In church on Sundays I tried to be a model Christian, but at school I sought the acceptance of my peers apart from God. Although I couldn’t bring myself to renounce my faith and the experience of being “born again”, I looked to everyone and everything but Christ to define myself. When drafted into the service I entered the Army seeing myself as a college dropout and a backslidden Christian unworthy of God’s love and deserving to be punished.

Despite giving up trying to be a “good Christian” and expecting to die in Vietnam, God refused to give up on me. While I didn’t understand it at the time, he was consistently saving me, not because I was trusting him or serving him, but because I was his child and he had a plan for me. I fully expected to die in Vietnam and had even resigned myself to never seeing my family again. Although this attitude allowed me to be more effective doing my job in battle, it led to a real confusion when I realized I was going home alive and in one piece. My original concept of God as a righteous judge condemning me to death was totally obliterated. I realized that I not only didn’t know who I was, but I sure didn’t know God. 

It would take another decade for me to begin to understand who God is and what he was really like. I returned to my childhood concepts and honestly tried to find the truth in what I had been taught, but finally had to reject the notion that God deals with us according to his law and our ability to perform according to its standards. While the basics were true with regards to the idea of salvation by grace through faith, how to live the Christian life was fundamentally flawed. I began to study God’s grace and who he said he has made us to be in Christ. The revelation of the “mystery of the gospel” became clearer to me when I learned how the terms of the New Covenant of grace were fulfilled in who God says he made us to be in Christ. 

From my early thirties till now I have become more and more convinced that I am not that selfish person born into the world sixty-nine years ago. As I learn the good news of all that God has done to make me a new person in Christ I am even more impressed with his amazing grace. Understanding his love and trusting his grace compels me to worship him and serve others. Rather than fear him as my judge I now love him as my Father and can fully trust him with what life I have left to live in this world. Like the apostle Paul I can honestly say, “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain…”.

John 

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