People wander into my office all the time. I recall a particular time, a year or so ago, when a young man came into the church office. He had made some incredibly bad choices over the last ten years that had cost him his job and the relationships with his father, his wife and his child. He had spent six hours the day before sitting in the park across the street from the church, thinking about walking in the door. But he was terrified that the God who lived in the church was mad at him and that the “good” people inside would be disgusted with him and reject him. But without a place to stay he had spent the night sleeping in the town park – and he was hungry – so he walked in the door.
We fed him some of birthday cupcakes that had been brought in for one of the staff and I invited him to sit with me until someone arrived to help him with a place to stay. This young man knew little of Jesus. He feared that the God he had heard of in childhood was angry and disappointed in him, wanting nothing to do with him until he could get his life together – and it was too late to get his life together.
So I shared the Gospel with him – by telling him the parable Jesus told of the Prodigal Son. I related the dilemma of the wandering son; how in the pigpen he felt shameful, guilty, unworthy, disappointing. But he was homeless and hungry, so he headed home to face his father. When I told him how the father greeted the son – how there was no anger, no rejection but simply the joy of a lost son returned – the young man began to weep. He told me how clearly he could see the picture in his mind and in it his Father was reaching out to him with the words, “I have been waiting so long for you to come home.” After a bit more explanation of the gospel, he prayed to place his faith and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord. And that is Grace!
My church upbringing did not include a consistent teaching about Grace (or perhaps it did and as a young man I was not paying much attention). But I have a clear memory of the moment the awesome reality of God’s grace crashed into my life and changed everything. That morning I shared with the man a few of the incredible and radical concepts about grace:
- God’s grace is not limited just because you don’t understand it.
- A changed heart is evidence of God’s grace at work.
- Jesus did not die to modify your behavior (that one will rock your boat!)
- God is not mad at you.
If you identify with the young man’s fears and hopelessness, then you, too, need to experience the wonder of grace. Let me encourage you to read the following scripture verses (and there are so many more!) then let me know if you have questions.
Galatians 3:1-4:7 – especially focus on:
- Verses 3:1-3 – I prayed that the young man that was saved by grace that day wouldn’t get burdened with being a “good” Christian.
- Verse 11 – the life to which Jesus calls us is one of “trusting” not “trying”.
Luke 15:11-24 – this might be good for all of us to read this again to remind us that we, too, have been invited home.
Grace to you!