A "Guest" Blog Post-Liz Overton

There is something to be said for a pastor-teacher preaching the gospel to his flock, week in and week out, staying faithfully on message as opposed to a topical, "felt needs" approach to preaching.

To further illustrate the impact that hearing the gospel of the free gift of grace for an extended season can have, I am sharing with you a blog post from one of our church members - our journalism grad Liz Overton.

Liz "rocks" this piece. She has even changed the whole name of her blog to reflect her new season of life, and new revelation into the grace of God.

Liz is a beautiful twenty-something, talented and intelligent and extremely conscientious. This young woman loves Jesus, and has for most all her life. Harvest would not be what it is without her...she is so faithful. Enjoy reading her take on things - posted to her blog a couple of months ago:

Perfectly saved by His grace!

My pastor has been teaching on grace--the heart and message of the gospel-- for the vast majority of this year. And while some people might get tired of hearing a seemingly recurring message for several months, I haven't. The heart of those messages isn't something grasped overnight, and listening to those truths week after week has been a life changing experience. I seem to understand God's grace more and more as time moves on--and I know I have only started to scratch the surface of it!

This is going to be my first attempt to write about some of how this message has changed my life and perspective. Writing has always helped me sort things out, so this blog post is probably more for my benefit than anyone else's, but I'll post it here for general reading anyway.

I've grown up in the church and pretty much only remember serving the Lord. I was saved at the age of six and have never strayed from that commitment. Obviously, I've progressed and matured a lot in my faith as I've grown up, but one thing I have never doubted is my salvation. I know and believe with all my heart that Jesus Christ died on the Cross and rose again for my sins, so that I can spend eternity with the Father in heaven. However, I have discovered this past year that my understanding of God's grace has been skewed at best and I have been held captive in the chains of legalism for most of my life.

I knew I was saved, but I lived with the mindset, whether consciously or subconsciously, that I had to strive in my own strength to live a godly life and please God. Now I recognize that it was like I was trying to somehow claim to stay in God's good favor by being a fairly decent person. I was essentially trying to say, "God, I deserve at least some grace. Your love and mercy weren't wasted on me. See--I can be a good girl, a good daughter--at least most of the time." I tried to earn his grace, instead of accepting it as the entirely free gift it is, bestowed on a completely undeserving sinner.

Furthermore, I failed to realize that my attempts to "earn" God's favor were pretty much a slap in His face, calling the sacrifice of His son insufficient and not enough.

I knew in my head, but didn't understand with my heart, that God's work of grace on the Cross is a finished work. The Law was fulfilled and we are completely redeemed and justified by accepting God's grace through faith. We are made perfect and completely righteousness in God's eyes through the blood of His Son. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ.

"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast."
- Ephesians 2:5-9

As a perfectionist who has always had a drive for excellence, the idea that I could be made perfect and completely redeemed, simply by believing in Christ--no further "works" required--was hard to wrap my mind around. It's so simple, yet so unnatural. My pride didn't want to accept that I did absolutely nothing to deserve God's grace, love and forgiveness and could never earn it no matter how hard I try. Jesus did it all. I did nothing. Yet I receive everything!

I also spent a lot of time feeling guilty or under condemnation for the many, many ways I would fail regularly in my attempts to live a godly life and please God. I have always been painfully aware of my own flaws and mistakes. So while on the one hand, I was trying to earn God's favor through good behavior, on the other, I knew I didn't deserve God's favor. I had a hard time understanding God's love. Because I knew that if love could be earned, I didn't deserve it. So I often felt unloveable. How's that for a confusing mindset?!

But thanks to God's grace, I am completely covered--human flaws and all. Nothing I can do can take that away. And God is so crazy in love with me that he loved and accepted me, even when I was a despicable sinner. Now he sees me as his redeemed daughter, made holy and righteous through the blood of His Son, and still adores me. And even though I am saved by his grace--my salvation is a done deal--he still continues to lavishly pour out his grace into my life, day by day, hour by hour. How awesome is that?!?! The very thought of how much he loves me is overwhelming. We could spend a lifetime of loving God and learning to understand his love through an intimate relationship with Him and still never even scratch the surface of it.

I would be utterly lost without his love and his grace. Lost for eternity, certainly, but also lost in the chains of legalism as I try to live my life for him here on this earth. And the more I realize how much I need his grace to get through even the most mundane days, the more I realize how important it is to keep going before God to ask for His help and guidance in my life, with the assurance that he is not just willing, but eager to be all that I need.

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
- Hebrews 4:16

God wants us to turn to him with everything, instead of thinking that we can handle some of it ourselves. The truth is--and we all know this deep inside our hearts, our pride just won't let us admit it most of the time--we can't do anything on our own. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Like the old hymn says, "I need thee every hour." God is waiting for us to turn to him, and when we do, he is eager and ready to pour out his grace and help us in our need.

This concept is one I'm still trying to fully grasp and apply and I still fail continually. While I may do it more often than I used to, I still don't go to God with everything as I should or fully rely on his grace in every moment. But I no longer feel condemned when I mess up, because I know that I'm still covered by his grace, even when I fail. Blowing an opportunity to obey God, pray or witness isn't counted against me--but I do try to avoid missing the chance the next time, because I want to spend time with my Lord and I do want to tell others about Him.

There's much more I could say, and perhaps I will write more later in another post, but for now, I'll try to wrap it up. This post is long enough.

If you want to understand more about grace, I would encourage you to really dig into Galatians, Ephesians and other books in the New Testament written by the apostle Paul. He wasn't the only one to address grace, but he did it the most extensively. You can also listen to my pastor's messages at our church's web site. Another good resource is the book Grace Plus Nothing by Jeff Harkin.

And finally, some of you may have noticed that I changed the name of my blog. I named it "The Life of a Journalizm Girl" years ago as a fun play on my name and profession, but now that I'm in a different season and have a new perspective on life, it only seemed appropriate to give my blog a new outlook as well. Thus, the new name of my blog is also the title of this post: Perfectly Saved By His Grace.

Thanks for reading, and to quote the apostle Paul, grace and peace be with you!
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