9/12/2004

EFFORTLESS GRACE EXCERPT 2

The following is another excerpt from the book I am working on. As with the previous excerpt, please do not be afraid to be critical. I am looking for help, and wisdom beyond my own. Iy you have a story you'd like to share, I'd like to hear it, too. Thank you.


There is so much we can talk about, isn’t there? From vacations, to experiences, from trauma to triumph, we can share it all. I have never met a person who didn’t have a story. Grace changes people’s stories, from one of losing, being confused, or jaded, into one of hope during trials, and peace during storms, of outright miracles that defy any explanation. It transforms us even while we yet live in this body of flesh.

Transformation literally means being changed from one thing, or way, to a new thing, or way. When we share the stories of how God is transforming us, whether we do it before believers, or those who don’t believe, we share the gospel.

As we read the synoptic Gospels, we are struck by the crucifixion as the defining moment in Jesus’ ministry. As important as the cross was, it pales besides the transformation of the resurrection. Not because the cross means less, it certainly doesn’t. The cross pales because while Jesus was on it, his old self, his body, was dying. When Jesus rose, He had a new body, a body that had been Transformed, from perishable, to imperishable. The gospel then, is not about the death of Christ, so much as it is about the transformation that took place during the resurrection.

For we who believe in Christ, when does the transformation begin? I believe it begins the moment Jesus lives in our heart. We are no longer destined for death, we have been removed from the sting of death, now we are alive forever in Christ. Even though this physical body must die some day, we will be raised again with an imperishable one, and yet, while this old body of ours dies every day, our inner spirit is renewed through the resurrection of Christ.

The change, then, that takes place in our lives, is part of our story, part of our Resurrection, that people will be drawn to. They will not be drawn to “Turn or Burn!”, I assure you.

“and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly as I ought to speak.” Ephesians 6:19-29 NASB

Paul spoke boldly, in telling of the transformation of his life. Notice how he calls himself an ambassador? An ambassador moves into the nation he is ambassador to, and begins to step out into that society, and make himself known. While he is doing this, he is also beginning to know the citizens of the nation he is ambassador to. Preaching the gospel is no different. Check out this testimony that many have heard from my friend Ben, who you might say is an ambassador to many who don't know Jesus.

“I was not a good husband. Even before I had married my wife, Susan, I had been unfaithful to her. Since we had been married, I was not physically unfaithful, however, my eyes and my mind were. Wherever there was flesh, I would look. I wasn’t deeply into pornography, but I admit that I dabbled in it. But the greatest problem is that I was not ‘into’ my marriage.

Susan and I were mere months away from splitting up, I believe. We didn’t connect with each other, we didn’t talk with each other, and we rarely touched each other physically. I spent most of my time in my own world, usually doing what I wanted to do, and lying to my wife about whatever I was doing, even if I didn’t have to. I was a chronic liar.

The frustration and distrust I caused my wife would have been more than enough reason for her to split with me. I thank God He helped her hang on long enough for me to change. I am so in love with Susan today, but it certainly didn’t happen over night, not even after I believed in Jesus for eternal life.

Soon after I met my Savior, I told Susan about the night I was unfaithful to her, just before we were married. She was devastated. But still, she hung on.

You see, something was happening inside of me. I was being convicted of the things I was doing that were killing my marriage. An even grater thing than that was happening. I was being led to talk with Susan about nearly all of it. As we began to talk about these things, she opened up to me as well, and admitted it wasn’t all my fault. I had been living under the impression for several weeks that I was solely to blame for all of the problems in my marriage, which was dying. When Susan admitted that she was being convicted as well, our marriage began changing. We opened up to each other, talking for hours on end. We cried together, we laughed together, and we began to fall in love with each other all over again.

My marriage was dead, and I knew it. I didn’t want to even try changing it, I had given up on it. But Jesus had other ideas for my marriage. Through tears of pain, anguish, and joy, He placed Himself in the center of my heart, my marriage, my family, and my mind. I am so happy to tell you today that I am so deeply in love with my wife, I am more each day, and it has been this way for three years. Where once I didn’t really care about being with Susan, now it is like a fresh heartbreak every time I have to be away from her, and my two children. I love Susan now, and I don’t think I would have ever loved her had I not met Jesus when I did."


Ben’s story is very close to my heart, because I have been blessed to be a part of that marriage restoration, and have received the timeless joy of watching two very good friends consistently grow to love each other more and more. Believe me, their marriage was dead, but it is now more alive than any other marriage I have witnessed, and there is no explanation for it except Jesus.

Ben has a ministry in our church. He is one of the first that people get to know, if they are willing to visit us, and join a group we call ALPHA. Many of the people Ben meets with have a story very similar to his Pre-Jesus story. God has placed him in a position to share his reception of grace frequently, and this is the story he usually tells. For my part, it is an encouragement just to write about it. Imagine if you were the one who was hearing him tell it. Imagine the difference, from expecting to be preached at, to being met by a guy who isn't afraid to admit he is much less than perfect, and hey, he might even have a story just like yours.

4 comments:

Messy Christian said...

Hello Tom,

Here's my wee critique ... but I'm critiquing from a writer/subeditor's point of view and would leave the theology all alone (not that I can critique that in the first place!).

I believe that your story would have greater impact if you start with: "“I was not a good husband. Even before I had married my wife, Susan, I had been unfaithful to her."

In writing, we have an adage: Always start with a sentence that hooks the readers in. Make it relevant, make them care to know what's in the next line ... usually, personal anecdotes are a great way to start.

Hope this helps, and looking out for more ... :)

Tom Reindl said...

Hello MC!!

Just so I get this right, are you saying I should start the entire section with the testimony? I think that's what you are saying, and it sure does make sense. Why didn't I think of that? Oh well, thanks very much. I am going to make use of it. You are a blessing to me MC. Have a great day!.

Deb said...

I like MC's idea. The content is great. And, I can completely relate to Ben's story. God performed a real transformation in my marriage. It was not only dead, it was buried. But, by God's grace it has been restored. It is now a relationship of miraculous beauty.

Tom Reindl said...

Deb,

I was wondering if you'd be willing to share your testimony about that for the purpose of this wannabe book? You could email me if you like. Thanks for the encouragement. Oh yeah, got any cookies left? :)