I was sitting on the plane next to my wife, Debbie, when I felt a peculiar churning in my stomach. Just that growing, nagging sense that something wasn’t right.
I broke the silence and told Debbie, “You know, I’m a messed-up dude.”
“Why is that?” she asked.
Point of fact: I wasn’t sure if I actually loved God the Father. Not really.
It feels odd to articulate. Given all I’ve seen and experienced, and all the ways God the Father has blessed me and provided for me, how could I not love Him?
Somehow that figure, for all I’d heard about Him and read about Him and preached about Him, felt more obscure, more ambiguous to me. I believed He was good, as a matter of dogma. I had no difficulty respecting or worshipping Him. I wanted to love Him, but I wasn’t sure that I did. And I certainly didn’t feel like He could really love me.
Many Christians have been there; maybe you are there right now. It’s not that you aren’t a Christian, but you realize there is something missing in your love for God. You may love God in general, and you may love Jesus, but do you love the Father? Do you feel a personal connection to Him and understand just how much He loves you? Questions similar to those were stirring deep inside my heart; it was almost as if a hole had been slowly opening in me.
The grace that I have heard myself preach in countless sermons seemed out of my grasp.
How Understanding Grace Set Me Free
My life wasn’t changed on the plane, but the journey to go deeper into grace was instantly accelerated. There is something liberating about giving voice to your questions and coming to terms with your deficiencies. The conversation stayed with me, and in the weeks that followed I increasingly realized that my understanding of God as a Father, better yet as my Father, needed some work. I began to study God the Father, paying close attention to His love for people and personalizing His love for me. The more I read and meditated on His love, the more real it became to me.
As the months passed, it became increasingly clear that grace is the framework by which the love of the Father is explored and expressed. When you’ve spent all of your adult life preaching to people every week, it’s humbling to see that it’s taken so long to grasp the revelation of grace for yourself.
I’ve had to acknowledge that sometimes I don’t think I have been very gracious because I’ve not fully known grace. But since that day when I finally came to terms with my own bankrupt understanding of grace, I’ve slowly been coming to see. That’s what grace does—it heals your eyes, and nothing looks the same. You are able to view Scripture, the world around you, and perhaps most of all your own self through healed eyes. Grace is a whole different way of seeing the world.
As my heart was opened to this newfound desperation to grasp His ungraspable grace, I stumbled into the Book of Romans again. As I preached through Romans, I realized this story of amazing grace really had become my own story—the story I had been slowly living my way into all along, and the story I most wanted to tell the world.
When I dove again into Paul’s magnificent letter with my defenses down and my heart cracked wide open, I saw colors there I could not see before. For the first time I began to catch a glimpse of the way He sees me. I started to see what it means for Him to choose me, for Him to pick me.
I started to see how unsurprised He was by my failures and how relentlessly committed He was to seeing this process all the way through to complete transformation. I finally started to see that when I fell down, there was no need to start again as if nothing that came before counted.
I could feel the truth of grace starting to shift my insides; I could feel my own soul giving way to this radical freedom. How do I know that when you truly grasp God’s amazing grace, it will change your life? Because it has changed mine. And it is still changing me, even now.
This article is adapted from Soul Set Free: Why Grace is More Liberating Than You Believe (Charisma House, 2019) by Pastor John Lindell. Lindell is devoted to seeing the local church thrive and standing boldly for the cause of Christ. His heart for God and people is evident and exampled in his leadership at James River Church in Springfield, Missouri. From week to week, he speaks life-giving messages that are changing the landscape of ministry and church by challenging generations to rise up and live life fully in Christ.