Most of my life, I looked at church goers with great intrigue. I wasn’t sure about the existence of this ultimate being they called God, but I couldn’t help but wonder about the club they seemed to belong to.
As I got older and became a mother, I wanted my children to be a part of this society I had questioned for so many years. Just in case. Just in case they were right about someone being in charge of all this. Just in case they were right about forgiveness of our inevitable sins. Just in case there was truth to the concept of eternal life…
I can’t say I was consistent with church, by any means. We went to services every now and then, but it was for all the wrong reasons. I didn’t really understand about having a real relationship with God yet.
After my daughter’s father died and I remarried, my husband belonged to a church that was wholeheartedly wrapped up in attendance. My husband so perfectly describes it as “getting your ticky marks for the week.” Three a week. Every week. If the doors were open, they were sitting in a perfect row across one of the beautiful old, worn wooden pews.
I tried this approach. We walked through the doors as often as we could. I listened intently to each sermon, hoping to find God. However, at that time, I believed God to be a religion. One of the many I had looked into throughout my earlier years.
So, as I listened to the preacher stand in the front of the room and share all of the things that would lead us to Hell, most of which I had already done in my darkened past, I found discouragement, not God.
I love how Pastor Derwin Gray explains the difference of living for God versus from Him in his book Limitless Life:
“Many Christ-followers try to live for God’s acceptance, love, and blessings instead of living from God’s love, acceptance, and blessings to us based on Jesus’ accomplishments for us.”
That is how I was living. For God. Showing up as a warm body in the church building, never fully accepting the incredible love and forgiveness freely offered to me.
As Jesus so eloquently stated on the day of his incredible sacrifice, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
We don’t have to beg for this amazing gift of Grace. We just have to accept it.
Pastor Gray goes on to share:
“And here’s the beauty of grace: when your heart is overrun by the gospel of grace and you realize that your failures and sins do not prevent God from seeing you as righteous, then you will not want to act in unrighteous ways.”
There is so much truth in his statement. Now I want to do things like read my Bible, become a part of a church, and spend time alone with God. Not from a sense of duty or obligation, but from an absolute desire in my heart. I truly want a relationship with Him.
We aren’t the best about church attendance these days. After years of church shopping, we finally found one we agree on, but we are not there every week. I see my absence differently today. I see it as my loss, not His. God is not putting “ticky marks” on my permanent record, but I am missing out on building a stronger relationship with Him, learning more about Him.
That is why I go to church services today, to grow, learn, and be a part of a loving group of like-minded believers. Today, I live from Him…