May I Be H.O.T.?

“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 HCSB

I can truly say that I am so grateful for grace. True grace. Transforming grace. Grace that is freely given and never earned…

I was born and raised in church. I was always at Bible study, church service, Sunday school, revivals, meetings and choir rehearsal.

Because of these things, I felt like I was saved and compared to my “sinning neighbor” who only went to church occasionally, I felt better than him/her to be honest. (Don’t judge me! This is my testimony!)

My freshman year of college I was introduced to clubbing and the party life. My friends and I would study hard through the week, faithfully party Thursday and Friday (couldn’t party on Saturday because you’d end up partying on “God’s day”- Sunday…even though everyday is actually God’s day. He created all 7 of them.) and then Sunday we’d be front row and center at the campus church.

I felt since I paid my tithes, attended church Sunday and Bible study on Tuesday and read my Jesus Calling devotion every morning that I was good to go and of course a better saint than my counterparts who clubbed all weekend long and barely ever made it to church.

I was self-righteous to say the least, because though I was indulging in sin, I wasn’t “indulging in it like the next man” and of course I paid my dues because I paid my tithes and was faithful at church.

But that’s the thing. You can’t be faithful to the world and faithful to the Word simultaneously. As my mom says,

“You cannot afford to live the Word when you want to and the world the rest of the time. The Word won’t work for you like that.”

– Sheri VanHookI remember two distinct moments that really changed my viewpoint about the life I was settling to live in college.

One night at the club, I saw the church secretary. I was immediately appalled! I thought to myself, “How dare the church secretary be here? She doesn’t belong here! What business does she have here?” And God, clear as day said…”just like you have no business being here.”

Wow. What was the difference in me being at the club versus the church secretary? We were both professed Christians sitting on the front row at church in our church clothes pretending to be living a life set apart when really we were not. (SN: It’s interesting how we expect pastors, First Ladies, leaders etc in our churches to uphold a certain standard of holiness but we feel that we can live life how we wish and not be judged for it. The same Holy Spirit in them is in us. Our love for God should make us not want to grieve His Spirit whether we are the pastor preaching on Sunday morning or simply a visitor sitting on the back row in church.) I was extremely convicted. Changes had to take place.

Then I remember I was having a convo with one of my closest friend to this date. We had just gotten acquainted at the time and were meeting at Starbucks. We were talking about our lives, experiences, how we ended up at UNCC and when we got saved. When I expressed that I have been saved as long as I can remember and that I’ve been in church all of my life and didn’t just come to Christ in college, he had a puzzled/confused look on his face and expressed, “oh! I didn’t know you were saved [at that time]”

It hit me what my mom always preaches,

“Just because you’ve been in church all of your life doesn’t mean you’ve been in Christ.”

Sheri VanHook

This was a pivotal moment fo me. I for so long had been using grace as a get out of hell free card. In that moment I realized that I had accepted Jesus as Savior but not as Lord. I had grace all wrong!! As time went on, I changed my viewpoint from grace being protection FOR sin to being protection FROM sin. Grace was a safety net in my mind. It was there to catch me if I fall/stumble into sin. It wasn’t a trampoline for me to bounce off of when I willingly jumped into sin.

Though this is a quite accurate illustration of grace, I was still somewhat confused to the overall picture of it. I knew grace was a safety net, however, I felt as though grace was also something that had to be earned. I felt I had to work hard to never need the safety net or as if I had to do so much good in order to earn the net to catch me if I occasionally slipped up.

First of all, all sin and fall short of the glory of God so for me to believe I could work hard enough to not need grace was totally unbiblical (Eccl. 7:20, Romans 3:23). PLUS, I had just come to the realization of how sinful I really was so obviously I was already in need of grace.

Second this was dangerous ideology to have because when I believed my bad outweighed my good, I would wallow in self-condemnation instead of walking in grace and when I felt my good outweighed my bad, I’d be prideful and self-righteous instead of praising God for His grace that continuously keeps me.

I thought I finally understood Grace at this point…But I still was mistaken. I’ll tell you why…

I went from abusing grace to trying to earn grace. I felt so terrible for how I had treated God and in my mind “tainted the image of how a Christian should live”, that I started reading my Word every night, refraining from sin, praying, fasting, etc. religiously. This may sound good to most BUT I’ll explain why it’s not. I was doing it all out of guilt instead of out of adoration for God’s Grace. I was focused on religion (rules and regulations) as opposed to my relationship with Christ. This is not the Christian walk God calls us to. There’s no grace or growth here and God definitely doesn’t get the glory because we are more focused on our actions and how we can save ourselves when we should be focused on God and how He already sent His Son to save us.

Grace is all about God and what He has done. It’s not about us and what we can do.

“Saving is all His idea, and all His work. All we do is trust Him enough to let Him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 MSG

I went on for about 2 years with the mindset that I needed to cross every t and dot every i to make it worth it to God to give me grace.

It wasn’t until May 20, 2018 that I was finally freed from self-condemnation and this misconception about grace. Through the duration of the week prior to the 20th, I had been watching Mike Todd’s series on Grace Is. While watching each sermon, I could feel that God was breaking down what I thought I knew of grace and building a true understanding of just what grace really is.

To finish it all off, that Sunday morning during worship, the praise team sang a worship song that touched me so deeply (lyrics shared at the end of post) and Pastor C called everyone to the altar who was struggling with condemnation and accepting grace. He prophesied that for so long, many of us had been worshiping out of a place of guilt rather than adoration. and He reminded us that

“True worship can’t come from condemnation and fear, for perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18) and there’s no condemnation for those of us in Christ (Romans 8:1)”.

Pastor Chance LynchI was bawling my eyes out. Everything Pastor said was exactly what I needed to hear. He laid hands on me and I was finally freed from the bondage of self-condemnation. I now fully understand that grace can’t be earned, it can only be accepted for Grace is a gift and the definition of gift is “a thing given willingly to someone without payment”.

As Mike Todd puts it, God doesn’t owe any debts! If we could earn grace that would mean that God owes us something and God refuses to be indebted to anyone. We can’t do anything to merit God’s grace or His love, it’s just freely given. It’s a gift that can only be received.

I wrote this post in hopes to encourage those like me who have battled with truly understanding grace. grace isn’t a get out of hell free card but it also isn’t something we have to work to earn…it’s something we simply receive.

So here’s some quick tidbits I’ve learned about the Grace of God to end this post.

Grace can’t be earned, it can only be accepted.

With Grace, Love is the motivation, NOT guilt.

We don’t work for FOR acceptance, we work FROM acceptance.

Grace causes you to severe and do good works out of love, NOT out of fear and obligation.

“We can’t worship out of guilt. We worship out of love.”

– Pastor C

“We are made righteous by our POSITION [in Christ] NOT by our PERFORMANCE.”

⁃ Mike Todd

“Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”

Romans 8:1-2 HCSB

“— that is, God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. God presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.”

Romans 3:22-26 HCSB

Ps. That Sunday I just happened to be wearing my Saved By Grace shirt. Lol crazy right?

Reckless Love by Bethel Music

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine

I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me

You have been so, so good to me

When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me

You have been so, so kind to me

And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine

And I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

There’s no shadow You won’t light up

Mountain You won’t climb up

Coming after me

There’s no wall You won’t kick down

Lie You won’t tear down

Coming after me

There’s no shadow You won’t light up

Mountain You won’t climb up

Coming after me

There’s no wall You won’t kick down

Lie You won’t tear down

Coming after me

There’s no shadow You won’t light up

Mountain You won’t climb up

Coming after me

There’s no wall You won’t kick down

Lie You won’t tear down

Coming after me

There’s no shadow You won’t light up

Mountain You won’t climb up

Coming after me

There’s no wall You won’t kick down

Lie You won’t tear down

Coming after me

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Just Johnae says:

    such a powerful post!!!! thank you! this was something i too had to learn and like your mom my dad had to let me know what was up hahaha. Thank God for His Grace!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sowfull says:

      Thank you!! All glory to God! I’m glad that it’s blessing others.

      Liked by 1 person

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