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Grace Redefined

I used to wish I had a more dramatic testimony. I was sixteen when I gave my life to Christ. Although it was the most important moment of my life, it wasn’t something most people would consider dramatic.

Before then, I had been a pretty likable, relatively well-behaved kid. And since then I have never gone through a time of intense rebellion. I embraced my salvation. Became passionate for telling other people about Christ. And embraced His vision for my life.

That doesn’t make for the classic “road to Damascus, I used to use drugs, sleep around, and spent time in prison” kind of testimony that calls for standing ovations and leaves people in tears.

I’m sorry. But that’s not my story.

And it’s now something I praise God for. I’ve learned that while some Christian conversion stories may be more spectacular than others, that doesn’t make them any more significant. Sometimes we think the most impactful testimonies in the Christian life are those of people who praise God for the things He delivered them from. Sexual relationships. Addictions. Etc.

But perhaps the people who should praise God the most are the people who can praise Him for what He has kept them from. Perhaps these people should begin their testimonies by saying, “God saved me from pre-marital sex, drugs, alcohol, and a life of sin…when I was eight and gave my life to Christ.”

I wonder if the problem is that when someone is rescued from the edge of doom, we think it is because of the grace and power of God. But when someone never approaches it, it’s because of their own diligence and discipline.

This viewpoint completely misses key aspects of sin, grace, and God’s glory. God’s grace doesn’t just rescue you from a life engrossed in sin. It also keeps you from it. And God doesn’t just receive glory when He has to completely remake a ruined life. He’s just as glorified when someone commits themselves to purity and a holy life, and by God’s grace sticks to it.

Jude 1:24-25 gives us one of the most eloquent, powerful prayers of praise in all of Scripture. And look at what the driving force is: “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”

If what I have been describing is your story, the next time you feel like you don’t have anything to praise God for, imagine what you would be addicted to and what you would have gone through if He had not kept you from falling.

Let’s not allow the most passionate praisers to only be the ones who have received God’s abundant grace because of their experiences. Let’s start learning to praise God for the parts of our testimony that we have never had to experience because of His grace.

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stevenfurtick@churchleaders.com'
Steven Furtick is the founder and lead pastor of Elevation Church, based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Elevation Church meets at eight locations in the Charlotte area, as well as one location in Toronto, Canada. The church has been named one of the Fastest-Growing Churches in America by Outreach Magazine for each of the past six years.