Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Testimony Tuesday: Grace and Mercy

This video is a horrific account of the pain and torment caused to one precious girl as a result of the sinfulness and depravity of man. As I watched it last night, my heart broke for her as I began to fume with anger and disgust towards the men and women who forced her to live through this hell. That was when it hit me—apart from Jesus Christ, that is me. Praise Him for His grace and mercy that are lavished upon us as we approach His throne with boldness in our time of need.  

It is so easy for me to forget who I am apart from Jesus Christ. How often I forget to recall just how unworthy I am--how hopeless I am--how depraved I am apart from Him. Here I am, a twenty-year old college student, intern for a non-profit, part of a discipleship program, surrounded by precious friends and family who love me. I love the Lord with all of my heart. I want to devote my life to fighting for enslaved, trafficked, and underprivileged women. I have dreams and visions. I love to serve and bless others. I know that apart from God's abundant and gentle grace and mercy in my short life, this is not where I would be at right now. But in His faithfulness, here I am...right?

In all reality, I am desire to be identified with all of these characteristics...smart, giving, sweet, helpful, selfless, loving, devoted, steadfast...and yet it is so rare that my flesh behaves in a manner worthy of such descriptions. I have to stinking nail my flesh into submission to even begin to possess these qualities much of the time. No, all the time. It rarely comes naturally, though I would often like to believe it does. I mean, I'm a pretty good person…right?

WRONG. Really, I'm not. No one ever had to teach me how to lie...to not share...to talk back to my parents. There's really nothing good in me. I am capable of anything and everything.

I easily lavish mercy and empathy upon victims of human sex-trafficking, itching to take her hands in mine, get uncomfortably close to her face, glaring directly into her eyes to tell her that she is loved intimately, selflessly, unconditionally, forever by the Almighty Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To shake her and tell her He is enough...that He is the ONLY way to freedom. That He can save her, redeem her, and cleanse even her deepest wounds. To tell just tell her that she is forgiven and free. It is glorifying...it is powerful...it makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is that I would behave in the same manner to share the gospel with the man who abused his little girl all those years, with the mom who sold her niece to feed the family, with the owner of the brothel from which the victim was rescued, with the lost cop who forgot about the 12 year old tied to the bed downstairs when offered an hour with her for free. Have I forgotten the depth of Christ's love for us sinners? Can I not remember that apart from Him, I am capable of making the same decisions? The craziest part of it all is that I continue to find myself battling some of the very same issues as the individuals whom I peg as the ‘worst of the worst’ sinners…as if there are some sins less bad then others. 

Without Jesus that is who I am...consumed by wounds from past abuse, addicted to pornography, enslaved to an eating disorder, and ready to give up on life. I am so far from perfect that I wouldn't recognize perfection if it hit me on the head. Recently, the desire to go back to some of those old ways has reared its hideous head once again. As I continue to trudge my way through the battle, I am graciously reminded of my sick, ugly, incomprehensible depravity in this flesh. And yet, this painful realization and confession brings me to the throne of grace with boldness, for He suffered in every way that we do, yet was without sin.

Hebrews 4:14-16 says, "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

Wow. This means He not only sees me and knows me, but He can empathize with my hurt and fleshly desires. In the midst of my complete depravity, I don’t have to feel condemned and ridden by guilt from my choices. Instead, I get to approach Christ with confidence because I KNOW that He does not convict me of guilt nor shame, but of my righteousness…my right-standing with Him. I am learning that nothing compares to falling into His mercy and grace in my time of need. And this very same mercy and grace in which He lavishes upon me in my fleshliness and sinfulness is the exact same grace and mercy He offers to all who believe that Jesus is the way, the Truth and the life—even the abuser, the addict, the brothel owner, the pimp, and the murderer. I am in need of His grace and mercy just as much as they are.

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