in the aftermath of (dis)grace

“Because of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, I’ve been forgiven of the countless I’ve committed.”   -CJ Mahaney

Standing in front of a mirror, gazing at my reflection, knowing nothing will be the same. I ran my hands under the water and then over my head, wishing I could erase history; my history.  I hate myself. I hate the things I’ve done; I hate the things I do. I have a list of failures etched into my memory.

I remember this burning desire I had when I was called to pastoral ministry. The desire was to be sin free. Not sin less (since I am stained with corruptible flesh) but sin free. In essence, I wanted to be that guy who was truly “above reproach.” I didn’t want any hidden sins in my life to haunt me and I didn’t want to be in pursuit of sin.

I remember when I entered into my undergraduate program I made this vow that I would not engage in a relationship with a woman. It wasn’t that I had been in a bad relationship but rather I wanted my only focus to be on school work. Being a full time student, serving at the local church and holding a job was more than enough.

At my vocation, I met some really attractive woman too. The road to being single was long and hard as I found myself pushing aside my desires to be with someone. At times it was fairly easy since I would strike up conversations with women and as soon as they learned I was a “church boy” and pursuing a pastoral ministry degree, red lights went off in their heads. All of a sudden, any apparent interest was shut off.

I got by just fine. I struggled here and there being alone but I managed. Then, one day, out of the blue, I met someone. I was about seven weeks away from completing my undergraduate program and shortly thereafter I would begin seminary.

I struggled with the decision to be in a relationship because I remember I had a vow I had made. I made the vow at the very beginning of pursuing a degree and I never really knew where that would lead. To be honest, I thought I would simply spend a year or so pursuing an undergraduate diploma in Theology with my concentration in Biblical studies. That was the end of the road for me.

I finally made the decision to be in a relationship and as I look back, it wasn’t a good decision. I made a really good friend for the time being and spend all of my time with her. Yet, the relationship became inappropriate. I knew it was wrong and my heart was always returning to the cross of Christ.

When we broke up, I was left with emptiness in my heart and a hurt that I so desperately wanted to fill. I began chasing after more inappropriate relationships for a season simply to fill a void in my heart. In the end, I found myself alone, broken, empty and hurt. I had become what I hated-a hypocrite. I had done what I stood against-immorality.

I lived in the aftermath of disgrace.

I live with memories that can sometimes haunt me, knowing that not only have I failed God but I caused hurt to others. How do you recover from that?

I sinned, I fell short, I made terrible decisions and my life will never be the same because of that. Sexual sin is not the same as other sins. Often we make the claim that “sin is sin in God’s eyes.” That’s simply not true. Sin is not created equal; sexual sin is not only sinning against God but also it is a sin against your own body.

Bill Johnson, senior pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, CA said in one of his messages that when you engage in sexual sin; you are taking on an identity that is not for you. That is why God calls the man and wife, one flesh. There is a union of identity in sexuality, which is why sex is for marriage only.

I found myself for a long time attracted to the wrong relationships. If I am being real with you, which is what I want to do right now, I need to admit the truth that I dishonored those whom I engaged in inappropriate relationships with.

So here I am, ashamed of what I have done. Ashamed of whom I have become. Ashamed of being someone I did not want to become. I live in the aftermath of disgrace, bearing the shame on my shoulders, knowing I was wrong.

The grace of God comes in like a tidal wave, destroying anything and everything in its path. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. Nothing! There is no sin that is so great that the love of God cannot reach us. There is no struggle that the love of God can empower us to overcome. There is no pain deep enough that the love of God cannot rescue us from. In my own desperation, I need to be mindful of God’s heart towards me.

[The Jesus Response]

i.  Jesus responds with redemption.

I fall short of God’s glory because I am selfish. I live my life, my way by my own code. It’s my life and that is that. I want life to be lived out the way I want it. I am self centered and that is what causes me to fall. Jesus comes in with loving kindness to draw me to repentance.

The definition of redemption is to provide deliverance from sin; to rescue; or to make atonement for sin. Jesus actually became what I did on the cross. He bore that shame and guilt, for me, and died on the cross.

ii.  Jesus responds with restoration.

I fall short of God’s glory because I am prideful. For some reason, in my own sinful way of thinking, I believe I am entitled to something when the reality is I am entitled to nothing. I deserve death for I have offended God and others.

When believers fall short, Jesus comes in to restore us to what he called us to. He leads us, once again, by his loving kindness, drawing us back to his embrace. Through the process of repentance (change of mind and action) the believer finds restoration in Christ.

iii. Jesus responds with reconciliation.

I fall short of God’s glory because I am fearful. All too often I allow fear to run my life and make decisions that are not in my best interest. I fear rejection and I fear loneliness and when I act upon fear, I find I am making the wrong choices.

Christ responds with his amazing love and brings about reconciliation in my relationship with the Father and he seeks restoration between those who have been hurt. God is always calling for unity, which brings glory and honor to his name. His perfect love is what drives the fear away.

“When we trust that God loves us no matter what, we can be honest about what we do wrong.”    – Jessica Thompson

I’ve made a ton of mistakes. God loved me enough to send his Son for those mistakes. I’ve made a lot of bad decisions in my life. Jesus loved me enough to die on the cross for me. I’ve fallen short of God’s expectations. The Holy Spirit loves me enough to guide me through correction.

The path I travel isn’t always easy. It’s not pleasant to think about the faults I have made but that is what makes grace so amazing. God loves me, through it all. God is willing to pick me up, again and again, and create in me a clean heart. God is willing to wipe away the shame and cover me with mercy. God is understanding that I don’t always make the right decisions and he, as a loving Father, corrects me with his discipline and restores me.

I now live in the aftermath of grace.

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