There used to be a running debate in my head about when I became a Christian. When I walked the aisle in our little Baptist church at ten, I believed. But I also didn’t want to be the only 4th grader who hadn’t been dunked. Tommy Ford went up the previous Sunday . . . I was the only one left. So the Spirit moved on the 3rd verse of “Just As I Am and I was saved.
Or was I?
Oh, I believed . . . but I didn’t know. And there’s a difference.
We can believe lots of things. But we know what we’ve actually experienced. That’s why no one can argue with your testimony. People can argue with your beliefs, theology, sacraments, all of that. But no one can argue with what you’ve experienced. With what you know.
When I uttered a desperate prayer one night twenty-three years later and God answered in dramatic fashion, my believing became knowing. I finally gave it all up that night. My doubts. My ambition. My guilt and my shame. I experienced God that night. A supernatural peace came over me. God went from an idea to an identity. From conceptual God to personal God. From the Heavenly Father to my Heavenly Father.
This just happened for a friend of mine. He’s been a believer all his life, but he made some big mistakes years ago. Ended up divorced, remarried, and with two families. God’s forgiven him, but he’s struggled to forgive himself. He tried everything . . . counseling, prayer, built an altar and sacrificed the family cat. But he hadn’t been able to accept God’s forgiveness or forgive himself.
As he’s driving down the expressway last Saturday, he does something he rarely does. He puts in a CD and the song that plays was Phillips, Craig & Dean’s “When Grace Walks In.” The words . . .
You’re standing with your list of regrets that you can’t get past yourself
You wish so bad that you could make the mark
And all you want to do is turn back time
And redeem the days you lost
But shame keeps calling out your name
The chains refuse to fall
But it’s not over, it’s not over
This is the moment that grace walks in
With arms wide open, arms wide open
To tell you this is not the end
When doubt is strong and your will is weak to even believe again
That’s when grace, that’s when grace walks in
Seconds later, he’s crying his eyes out. He exits the freeway, pulls into a grocery store parking lot and bawls some more. God’s love flows over him. Grace walked in. He’s finally free.
I can’t make God show up like that. Neither can you.
What we can do is open our hands and let go. We can pray, “Lord, I’m letting go . . . I’m opening my clenched fists. I’m releasing my grip on the people in my life . . . on my demands for how they’re supposed to act . . . on the outcomes I expect. I’m giving you my guilt and shame. Please take it away and put your peace in its place. I trust you to put into these open hands whatever you want me to have. I’ll be satisfied with whatever it is because I know you’re all good and you love me extravagantly in my humanity!”
Then wait for His love to wash all over you. When it does, you’ll no longer believe.
You will know.
Question: Do you believe or do you know? Tell us how God went from your head to your heart here.
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