More than I deserve
If going to the cross so I could have forgiveness, salvation and a relationship with God was all Jesus ever did for me it would be more than I deserve, much more, yet he did not stop there.
As I sat in church on Easter Sunday listening to the message about the risen Christ I reflected on my life and how richly the Lord has blessed me and I wrote in my journal,
I am simply amazed at all God has done for me. I was living in open rebellion against God and mocked him every chance I got and tried my best to prove to everyone I met that he doesn’t not exist, and in his infinite mercy God forgave me for my lack of faith and my blasphemy, and if that is all he ever did for me it would be enough, more than enough actually, far more than I deserve, but he didn’t stop there.
God has richly blessed me in all aspects of my life and has basically given me every major thing I have prayed for, and even now God is working all things for my good.
What I was referring to in my journal entry on Sunday was to the time in my life when I lost faith in God and became not only an atheist but an anti theist. As I have discussed in several of my podcast and blog episodes at first I thought God hated me and the terrible things that happened in my life was proof positive that it was so, and then I became angry with God for hating me, and finally I decided it was easier to believe that there was no God than that there was a God who was supposed to be all powerful and all loving but didn’t love me. Once I stopped believing in God I directed my anger towards all things religious because I felt that religion had ruined my life and was ruining the world, and I set out to disprove the existence of God and to show all religious people that they were deluded and believing in fairy tales. Of course, one thing I never considered when I was an atheist is that in fairy tales and fables the king never sacrifices himself for his subjects and the hero never willingly gives up his life so that the villain can live.
I firmly believe that not only is God real but that he loves each and every individual in the world enough to send his son to die a horrific and painful death on the cross so that we can be forgiven of our sins. Like Lee Strobel before me, my efforts to prove that there was no God and that the story of Jesus was a fairy tale proved to me precisely the opposite. I don’t look at the story of Jesus and his death and resurrection merely as a good story or a lesson to be learned but as an actual historic even that is every bit as real as other historical events that the world knows to have happened, such as the founding of America or any other major historical event that was well documented.
I think it is extremely important to accept the death and resurrection of Christ as a literal event because without it there is no salvation. If the story of Jesus did not actually happen than there is no logical reason to expect to go to heaven as none of us can ever earn forgiveness or a place in heaven, no matter how long we live and regardless of how much good we may accomplish. Without Jesus there is no hope, but Jesus is real and he lives and has offered salvation I to any who will accept him.
In light of my wanton rebellion against God I often think of the Bible verse in 1 Timothy 1:13 where Paul said, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.” I was definitely acting in ignorance and unbelief and I was definitely a persecutor and a blasphemer, but I like Saul, better known as Paul the apostle, I was shown mercy and grace, and for that I will be forever grateful. I know I was not forgiven because I earned it in any way, but because of my faith in Jesus it pleased him to forgive me and offer me a place in his kingdom.
I strive to be a good person, with varying levels of success, not because I think I can earn forgiveness or grace by my works but to show gratitude for the grace and forgiveness that I have already been granted, and because the grace of God has changed me to be a better person. I pray that I will continue in God’s grace and that I will continue to be more like the Lord Jesus that I serve.
Even without the reviling, the persecuting and the blasphemy, even at my best, I have amassed a massive sin debt that I could never pay off and could never deserve to be forgiven for, but I was forgiven because God is good, not because I am. I was not forgiven because I am good but because I am not. Grace, forgiveness and salvation is far more than I deserve, and like all people, I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and deserve the depths of hell, and if all God ever did was to forgive me it would be, and is, the greatest thing that could ever happen to me, but as I mentioned, God did not stop there.
When I look at my life I realize I am at a better place financially, spiritually, emotionally and in every other way than I have ever been at any point in my life, and my faith in God did not increase because my life got better, my life got better because my faith in God increased. God has blessed me time and again throughout my life, but when I was younger I was too dumb and self-centered to see it. I think God is a lot more willing and eager to bless us than we are to be blessed, but we don’t have the faith that he will do so, we don’t accept what God is offering because we don’t think we deserve it, or we fail to give God credit for what he has done for us. Not giving God enough credit is something I think even the best of us are all too guilty of.
There was a man working on the roof of his house and slipped and fell, and knowing he was about to fall to certain injury and possible death, he cried out to God for help. Before the man reached the end of the roof his pants caught on a nail and he was saved from falling so he said to God, “Never mind, I got it.” A lot of times we are like that man on his roof and when we are given what we prayed for we give ourselves the credit instead of thanking God for answering our prayers.
God not only forgave me for my sins, but he also helped me out of situations I foolishly put myself into and blessed me beyond measure, and I am grateful for that and thank him daily for it. In case you are wondering, no I am not rich or anywhere close to it and probably never will be, but one does not have to be rich to be blessed.
As anyone who knows me or anyone who is has listened to my podcast or read my blog for a while knows, when I was younger I rushed into a marriage after dating for only a few months and that turned out to be a disastrous and unhappy marriage. Shortly after we got married my wife gave me the ultimatum to either adopt her son from her previous relationship or she would leave. Of course, I made the wrong choice and decided to adopt her son, even though there were multitudes of red flags in our marriage, and after a messy divorce I had to pay child support for years until she remarried and her new husband adopted the boy, probably after being given the same ultimatum I was given.
I also had to pay my divorce attorney $500 an hour, which added up quickly, especially since my ex fought everything she could think of to fight and drug the divorce out over several years. I could have purchased a house cheaper than what the divorce costed me. I also had to sell everything I had owned except for my clothes and computer, and I took on all of our debt, mine hers and ours. Honestly I don’t know what I was paying $500 an hour for and seriously think the result would not have been much different if I had represented myself.
It wasn’t too long after the divorce that God showed me the errors of my ways and I turned my life over to God, and from the day I gave my heart to God I prayed for deliverance from the consequences of my mistakes. God answered my prayers, but he let me suffer long enough to learn a lesson. A quick disclaimer here, I loved the boy and treated him like he was my own, but after the divorce I almost never got to see him even though the court said ordered her to provide visitation and when I did occasionally saw him he treated me like a stranger. I learned that hard way that state of Nebraska doesn’t enforce visitation, just child support. I ultimately came to terms with the fact that it was in everyone’s best interest to have me out of the picture completely so that everyone could move on with their lives and I prayed for that to happen.
I thank God that the boy was adopted by his new stepfather and that it got me out of paying child support, and I hope and pray that he is a good father. I also thank God for getting me out of crushing debt and for getting me out of the financial obligations, rather cheaply I might add, all things considered, to the attorney I was paying for seemingly not representing me at all. I called the attorney and offered him a low ball offer to settle the account, which was all I had in the world at the time, and he accepted it and wrote off the rest. I could have just decided that the attorney was tired of waiting to finally get paid off and wanted me out of his hair and off his books, but I know that God intervened on my behalf. It doesn’t make financial sense to accept $2,500 for a debt that would almost buy a house, and despite the poor job he did for me, I know the attorney was financially motivated in most of his decisions as he still owed a vast debt for his law school education.
Once I was no longer paying child support on my ex wife’s child and no longer paying monthly payments to my divorce attorney I was able to pay off the other debt and now I am the best place I have ever been in my life, in the position where I am buying a house, and the Lord has blessed me in that as well. Honestly, I have never had anything in my life go as smoothly as the house buying process has gone so far. Every time anything the Lord has blessed me with crosses my mind I make it a point to immediately thank him for it, though I am well aware that I am not as grateful to God as I should be, despite my best efforts.
We all owe God a debt of gratitude and should not just pray to ask for things but should also pray to thank him for the prayers he has already answered.