I grew up believing a lot of things about God, and about myself, that weren’t true. I remember being so confused by what felt to me like a bipolar God: a God who would love me when I kept His rules but who would turn His back on me when I broke them. It seemed like I needed to be re-baptized, or re-dedicated, or re-saved every ten minutes.
I always felt like I had to clean my slate.
I spent years doubting my salvation before I finally learned that it was never about my work; it was about Christ’s finished work.
One of the best metaphors I’ve ever heard about grace came from my husband when we first got married. We had just taken on a mortgage and here’s what he told me:
Imagine that you know the person who owns our mortgage. We owe a massive amount of debt to them, and we know that we can’t make a payment this month. If you see that person out at the grocery store, are you going to run up and talk to them or are you going to sneak out and hope they don’t see you?
He couldn’t have said those words at a more perfect time because that’s exactly how I saw God—as someone to whom I owed a debt I couldn’t pay.
I realized I had been basing my right-standing with Him on whether or not I’d made the payment that month. My confidence in His love for me was only as strong as my “bank account” made up of good and bad deeds. Going to church or memorizing scripture was like making a deposit and messing up or missing the mark was like making a withdrawal. At the end of the day, I was constantly trying to figure out if I had money in the account or if I was in overdraft mode.
In John 19:30, after Jesus had been hanging on the cross for hours, He said, “It is finished.” In the original Greek, those three words are actually one word – tetelestai—which means paid in full. Once I accepted that Jesus had paid my debt and that my salvation was based on His works instead of mine, I was finally able to grow in the genuine, intimate relationship with the Lord that I had been seeking.
I’m sure that for a lot of Christians this is common knowledge, but for me, it was a concept I just couldn’t grasp. I let guilt and self-doubt get in the way of truth and grace until my husband helped me break through those lies.
So just in case anyone needs this reminder today:
“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
– Colossians 2:13-14