In my book, Simple Gospel, Simply Grace, I tell about my shoplifting days as a seventh grader and how my parents handled that situation after I got caught. Here is a brief excerpt of that story.
My dad took me to every store that I had stolen something from and made me confess my crime to the store manager. Talk about being scared. In my mind, I was already locked up and doing time in the Juvenile Detention Center with no hope of ever seeing the light of day again. Fortunately, the store managers were lenient. All they required me to do was to pay them for the items I had stolen. Making restitution didn't ease the guilt. There was a bigger question.
What was God going to do to me? That was the scariest thought. In my mind, God had to do something to me because sin can't go unpunished. I started wondering if there was anything I could do to erase that black mark beside my name and get back into God's good graces.
Back in those days, I strongly believed God was counting every sin against me. And I was doing everything I could—confessing, praying, promising, repenting, reading my bible—to get those black marks erased from beside my name.
But I couldn't. The number of black marks kept going up. As they did, I felt more distant from God and more afraid of his punishment.
Paul really nailed how I was feeling in Colossians 1:21: "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your mind because of your evil behavior."
If only I had known the truth. God was not counting those sins against me. That long line of black marks that I had recorded beside my name had already been taken care of in God's records. I know, this sounds way too good to be true, but read the words of 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
God is not counting men's sins against them. Instead, he reconciled us to himself through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
And what does this truth do for us? It enables us to draw near to God, to march boldly into the throne of grace. Until I knew this truth, I was shrinking back from him in fear, believing the lie that God was disgusted with me and stood against me.
That's not God. He wants us to draw near to him. As Peter put it, "...Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" (1 Peter 3:18). It is this remarkable, too-good-to-be- true truth that grabs our hearts and propels us into His presence.
Oh, if only I had known.
Like me, there are countless numbers of people waiting to hear the message of reconciliation—that God is not counting their sins against them.
Your gift of $30, $45, $60 or more to Basic Gospel will help deliver this message each and every day to people trapped in fear and by the lies their sins are telling them about God, people like Nicole who recently shared these encouraging words.
While preparing a presentation for our annual ladies' retreat in January, I felt this strong call to listen to your program. I realized I had an identity crisis; the battle was with the flesh and the power called sin. The Lord revealed to me that His grace does not end with forgiveness. His salvation is so much more. He has given me new life and He is my life. As I learned the truths about who I am in Christ and His amazing promises in the New Covenant I was amazed that the answers were right there all along. He has given me true hope and assurance that I never had before. There is so much security in depending on Him completely.
The world is waiting to hear. Let's continue to Get the Word Out to clear the air of confusion and anchor people to the truth – that God "has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free of accusation" (Colossians 1:22).
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Partners in truth,
The offer, Reconciled for Life, associated with this letter has expired, however you may purchase it online here or request it by phone at 800.727.2828.