Growing up in a Christian home I benefited from learning about Jesus early on in my life. Though I didn’t fully grasp what it meant to be a Christian at my young age, one thing I knew was that I did not want to go to hell. So when I was just five years old, I asked Jesus to come into my heart. My parents were deliberate about having family devotions and praying with us before bed, but I never felt a freedom to ask questions when I had doubts. As a result, many of my questions went unanswered and my relationship with Christ remained superficial.
Years later after graduating from college I met a co-worker (now my husband) who expressed interest in the Christian faith and was struggling to make sense of his own life. Our conversations would often turn to spiritual things and the doubts that were dogging him. I shared the Gospel with him and in time, he placed his trust in Christ. The change in his life was both profound and immediate. Seeing this transformation and the excitement he had regarding his new-found faith raised some questions of my own; why wasn’t I experiencing this same joy? Was his passion simply the result of his exuberant personality, or was it because he had been saved from greater sin than me? I tended to think it was the latter.
These questions lingered in my mind for years, until I was exposed to a good diet of solid biblical teaching. Through this teaching I came to realize that the difference in our response to the Gospel was not due to our personality differences; nor was it due to the fact that his sin was greater than mine resulting in his deeper gratitude. No, my problem was me. Like the Pharisee in Luke 18:13 who beat his chest and thanked God that he was not like “other people – greedy, unrighteous, adulterers…” I had foolishly assumed that because I had come to Christ early in life and hadn’t committed any of the “really bad sins”, I was not in need of as much forgiveness as he was. This lie led to another; my conversion wasn’t as glorious as his. This had a crippling effect on my spiritual life, not to mention my joy.
When I began to understand God’s holiness and how even my “small” sins were an incredible offense to Him, the blinders were removed and I realized just how much I’d been forgiven. This epiphany naturally produced the joy that had been missing for so long. Now the fact of my salvation was more than mere “fire insurance”; it was something to celebrate.
Why do I share this? Because joy and gratitude seem to be missing from so many professing Christians. Appreciating grace and experiencing real joy begin with a proper understanding of God’s nature and an honest appraisal of our own; He is holy, we are not. Our sins, (yes, even the so-called “little sins”) are repugnant to Him. Paul expressed this truth well when he declared himself the “chief of sinners”. Consider his words,
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.” I Timothy 1:15
This should be the confession of every Christian. We are no better than Paul, the murderer of Christians. Our sin is an affront to Divine authority and caused the Father to send His only Son to die an agonizing and scandalous death on a cross. Indeed, He was crushed for our iniquities too, not just for Paul’s.
Grasping this undeniable truth is the beginning of joy and will allow the sweet words Jesus spoke of the woman who poured expensive perfume on His feet to be spoken of us as well: “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Blessings as you reflect on His lavish grace,
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