Conversations on the Spirit vs. Flesh Part 3
With Rachel Hull
How To Appreciate Grace In The Midst Of Past Failures
Rachel: I think in our previous posts, there have been a lot issues that could be cause for some serious regrets for past mistakes.
Chelsea: Totally. That’s been a temptation for me.
Rachel: Me too.
Chelsea: But God’s been teaching me a lot about the journey.
Rachel: “The journey” is kind of a weird phrase… do you want to explain that?
Chelsea: So often we look at the destination… like we have to perfect to have anything with God, but then we realize that God is a god of the journey. He loves us and He brings us through that journey. It’s about responding to the light that we have received in our lives. It’s God who makes the change inside of us.
Rachel: That is so true. For me, once I became a Christian, it was hard for me not to despise basically the sham that I had been living under. I always wanted to clearly distinguish the “before Christ” and “after Christ” periods of my life, but I tended to take it a little too far. I would discount everything that had happened up until that point, kind of as if I didn’t have to be responsible or accountable for that period of my life. It’s only been in this past year that God has pointed out that He had done so many good things in my life even before I became a Christian, and when I write off my past, I’m not being grateful for the things He did.
Chelsea: It would be easy for me to look back over my life and be ashamed of the person I was before I experienced that freedom in Christ. I struggled with secret addiction, I wrestled with deep depression, and I clearly wasn’t the person I wanted to be, and I recognized it then as well. It would be easy for me to draw the line and think that all the years of ministry I gave were useless because I carried with me such a heavy burden. It would be easy to remember the negative and thank God that things are different now. However, I believe that God used the little I had to offer at the time and blessed it. I believe that He used me even in my brokenness to touch a broken world, but He was calling me to so much more. I see now all the ways He was pursuing me and wooing me into the place where I can hear Him say, “This is really what it means to know me. Come closer.” To say that the past was all useless and purposeless is to minimize the power of His grace and His love that brought me through many difficult things to the love I know today. He used me powerfully then, He is able to use me more now, and I pray that as I grow closer to His heart, He will use me in even greater ways in the future.
Rachel: Yeah, that is so good. It’s a blow to the pride to bring up the past, when honestly, I have a lot to be ashamed of. I mean, I was a huge hypocrite for 21 years. Admitting that to others kind of stings. But then I remember, this is God’s story, and it’s actually a pretty awesome testimony of who He is that during those 21 years, He blessed me and laid the foundation for my future relationship with Him. I mean, I am so blessed that I was raised in a Christian home where I learned about God my whole life and then had this platform of theology and belief that God existed before I even knew Him personally. And now that I’ve been made new in Christ, there’s nothing to be ashamed about in the past. The point is, God is good, and was good, and I’m so grateful for the ways He’s used me despite my natural shortcomings.
I love how we see this same realization in Paul. He showed us how to extend grace to our former selves. He acknowledged the sin and the flaws that existed before but gave thanks and praise to God for His ability to bring glory to Himself in the midst of that ruin. Paul, who used to persecute the church and hated Christ was bound by chains of legalism and empty religion. However, not only was he redeemed to then serve the Christ he once hated, he also gave thanks for the foundation of faith and the blessing of the law that he was given even before his relationship with Jesus. Romans 6-8 is the place where we see him clearly understanding that even though he fell into pitfalls under the law, the law was still a providential grace of God, and it was his knowledge of the law that eventually enabled him to even more so appreciate the freedom and life given through the Spirit. In Galatians, Paul gives thanks for the fact that God used the story of his transformation bring Himself glory. Of the Christians in Syria and Cilicia, Paul writes, “They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me.” (Gal. 1:23-24).
Chelsea: So good. During that time before we had a relationship with God, both of us recognize that God was pouring out so much grace on our lives and preparing us for the relationship that was coming. Basically He was giving us legs to stand on. As humans we tend to draw such black and white lines. We use the phrase “before Christ” to talk about our lives before salvation, but the truth is, there is no such thing as a “before Christ” period in our lives. He has always been active in our story. The freedom happens when we choose into a relationship with Him that grows over time as the Holy Spirit changes us and calls us out of darkness into His light. So don’t despise humble beginnings; don’t cut off your legs. God won’t waste a chance to weave an even greater story into your life.