“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9). NIV
My parents raised me in a church with a lot of rules. Somehow I learned that following the rules earned me a ticket to Heaven.
Three days before my high school graduation my mom died. She had been sick for a dozen years but I didn’t think that she would die from her disease. The pain of that loss, plus some other traumas, caused me to throw all the rules out when I went to college. Imagine any crazy thing you’ve heard a college kid doing, and I probably did it. By the time I married and had my first child, I had turned away from God and from church because I was so ashamed of my life. I was mad at God. Besides, I had broken all the rules.
But then a neighbor began taking my three year old to church, and I was grateful for a mommy break. Little Taylor would come home saying things like, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) NIV. Hmmm. Her words made me think. When she said, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9) NIV. I snapped to life.
You mean I don’t get to Heaven based on my good works?
Does that mean my bad works don’t banish me to Hell?
I started attending church and fell madly in love with Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God who came to earth as a man to take all the sins of the world upon himself. Jesus, a sinless man, who allowed himself to be crucified with my sin; I didn’t have to carry the burden of them any more. That good news seeped into every corner of my being.
In addition to learning everything I could about the Bible, I yearned to live a model Christian life. One day, as I was jogging and listening to worship music on my headphones, I was talking to God: “God, trying to live a perfect life is just so hard. The Bible says if a person even looks upon someone he isn’t married to, he has already committed adultery. If a person has anger in her heart, she has committed murder.” I cried out, “It’s just too hard God. I’ve had lust. I’ve had anger. I just can’t do it.”
Suddenly a thought came to me. I stopped abruptly on the dirt trail and God spoke to me: “You can’t do it. That’s why you need Jesus.”
It seems so silly now, looking back, but I had clung to my rules equation: Jesus’ death on a cross + my good works = a right Christian life.
That’s not it at all. Here’s the equation: Jesus. That’s it.