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Saving Grace by Cindy (Martin) Friesen - HTML preview

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This is a story of my journey from frustration, discouragement, and despair to sweet rest and joy in the saving and transforming power of Christ. What I have learned has made such a difference in my life that I have to share it with every other seeker after the righteousness of Christ.

I dont know about you, but I want more ou t of my Christianity than being forgiven, justified, cleansed and declared just as if I had never sinned.

Im sure that would shock some people because justification, which I partially described above is vital to salvation, but theres more, much more that God longs to give His children and I want that too.

Besides needing to be justified I also need to experience Gods power in my life; daily changing the kind of person I am, (sanctification) and I need Him to be my „very present help in time of trouble.

What this means is that along with justification I need God to provide sanctification, and I need to know Hes so close that even a silent prayer brings the help I need.

There is real delight in a relationship with God thats built on gratitude, trust and reliance on Him. Such an experience brings a person so close to God that praise is a natural result. Praise and gratitude from a heart thats in Gods hands brings joy to His heart. God delights in answering the prayer of His children, He delights in a heart thats surrendered to Him,He delights in fixing whats broken in us and teaching us to delight in Him. He delights in praise that comes from a heart filled with love and gratitude, not just for what He does for us but for Who He is.

We have probably all have thought, at one time or another, that wealth would make us happy, that if we didnt have to struggle so much we would be content. But, each day we find that instead of our ship having come in we have missed the boat. We seem to be always seeking and never finding. Could it be that were looking for the wrong treasure and in all the wrong places? This was true for me in my spiritual life, until I finally did find the Pearl of Great Price, the Way of Gladness. The relief and joy that comes with this discovery cant be described it must be lived.

When I first committed my life to God I really did so with love and gratitude, and the desire to serve Him. During the years that followed I had huge ups and downs. I would have periods of struggling to do what God wanted me to do, sometimes doing pretty well, I thought, and other timeswondering why I couldnt get it right. I would pray about a particular thing in my life, resolve to overcome the temptation to give in to it and try hard not to fail. But fail I did, over and over, day after day, prayer after prayer. Finally I would just give up and leave the whole issue alone, but eventually it would come back to nag me. Then filled with guilt, disgusted with myself, I would go through it all again. These werent the huge „ugly sins that you might suspect that I was fighting; they were things like appetite, attitude, and lack of power to change myself. I would swing from being squeaky conservative in everything to giving up and just doing whatever seemed easy. Mostly though, in my desire to be „right with God I leaned hard to the conservative legalistic side.

I was going about things all wrong. I was trying for results without doing what it took to get them. It would be like reading about growing apples, buying fertilizer and apple picking equipment, preparing the orchard, and agonizing over the fact that you are growing no apples, trying everyday to think of a way to grow them, even pleading for apples to grow, but never planting an apple tree.

I eventually became so discouraged that I was convinced I could never be saved. Just look at me! Anyone could see that I had no victory in my life, and without that there was no hope for me. I still intended to live the „Christian life and try to lead others to the Lord, but had no hope for myself. It was the darkest hole I have ever been in. I reached out to family, pastors, anyone I thought could help me, but noone knew what to do or say. I dont recall any defining moment when hope came alive again. God just never let the hope die out, and kept me clinging to scripture promises until I was back to being a „functioning Christian again.

During the years that followed I went through several personal tragedies. By the grace of God I made it through them, but each one took its toll until I was emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted. My father had died, my best friend had died in a car accident that I was in with her. My marriage was over, children were wounded and scattered and I lost my job because I couldnt function.

During the next three years I fell flat on my face in the mud. I made frighteningly stupid decisions that should have turned my Christian friends against me, or so I thought, but thank God that didnt happen.

Its amazing that you can be living your life in ways that are opposite everything you believe, and still go to church, but thats just what I did. I THANK GOD, that He loved me through the arms, tears and love of my Pastor and church family. Only two people in my church turned against me, when I expected them all to do so.

I only ever saw love mixed with sadness, and unconditional love in the eyes of my church family and my pastor. He asked if he could be my dad and I gratefully accepted. When I made really stupid, self destructive choices he just loved me. When my actions deeply disappointed him, he just loved me. When I was in pain I couldnt bear, he bore it with me and loved me. My church family did the same. They acted as if I had not sinned, as if it were not my fault I was suffering! I will love those people till the day I die because I saw Jesus in their eyes, in their hugs, in their unconditional love for me.

Though I hate all that I did and all that I suffered, I will always be grateful to have experienced Gods love as I did through those wonderful people.

I was so beaten down by all I had gone through I had nothing left. I didnt even have the strength to read the Bible or pray. All that was left was to throw myself into Gods arms and let go. If only I had known thats all He wanted from me in the first place! I stopped struggling with myself because I had no strength left to struggle. I stopped worrying about it because I knew I was helpless to fix anything. From then on it had to be Him because there was nothing left of me.

In the midst of all this pain, on a day that I was in such agony that I couldnt stop crying and could hardly breathe, I lay in bed begging God to help me. He spoke words of release in my mind, stopped the crying, and flooded me with peace that has never left. There has still been pain in my life since then, but no matter what happens the peace is always still there. Though I had peace, and praised God for it, I still hadnt found all that God had waiting for me.

As I look at my own life and the lives of most of the Christians around me, I see people trying for results which are always just out of reach. We want victory over sin; we want power to live godly lives, have joy in the Lord and experience peace. Oh, how we want peace! We plead with God to help us to overcome, to help us to want the right things, and we hope that if we combine those prayers with our own efforts then victory will be ours.

It may seem to work for a while, if we try really hard, but then we are weak or forget to pray. Our efforts never take us as far as we want them to, and we give up trying for a while. I know there are people whose upbringing and self discipline seem to get them where they need to be, but I suspect there are many things in themselves they know they cant change and that they need the power of God in their lives as much as the rest of us do.

I dont know about you but this life of struggle and failure isnt the kind of spiritual life I envisioned when I accepted Jesus as my Savior. Its the life I„ve led, but not the one I wanted.

The good news is that the Good News can change all that. Its not the hard walk, the painful giving up of things, the decisions too hard to make, that you may fear it to be. Its the fullness of the Gospel as you may never have understood it to be.

You will wonder why it took so long to find the path and be amazed at the utter relief you feel. When I first discovered it I was almost giddy with relief and joy, and every day that I experience it is filled with relief, restfulness, and wonder! I still have days when the world tries to cave in on me, when everything seems to be falling apart around me, but the underlying joy and peace, and assurance of Gods presence never leave, they are never shattered, though it sometimes feels like they must be.

If you want to live a life of vict ory that youve come to think is not possible for you, if you want to experience real joy, real peace and real relief, come with me and find Saving Grace.
Chapter 1

My Journey to Joy

A few years ago my class at church studied the final outpouring of the Holy Spirit that is to precede the Second Coming of our Lord. I was so very hopeful that our studies would result in
understanding and receiving this experience, but I cant point to any clear indication that anything happened. I was very disappointed, but not discouraged. I just kept praying and hoping.

One day a few months ago I picked up one of the missionary story books my mother had given me. My grandmother used to bring us books like that from campmeeting and I read all I got my hands on. The stories of the dangers, sacrifices and
accomplishments of real families bringing help and hope to backward, suffering people thrilled me. It was in some of those books that I became fascinated with the Pidgin English spoken by the „Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels of New Guinea.

The book I was now reading told the story of Gus Youngberg1, his wife Norma, and their children, as they worked in Sumatra, around the 1920s and 30s. Amongst all the stories of their missionary experiences there was a disturbing story of problems between the workers and director at the Malayan Union Seminary in Singapore. Many had taken sides and people who were supposed to be working together for God were making themselves enemies of each other. All of this bothered Gus and Norma a great deal. They made it a matter or prayer and tried to help, but saw no solution.

During one mission trip, on board ship, they met a godly woman named Mrs. Gussie Booth whom they came to know and love. On this same ship there were a number of missionaries of various faiths, and one day there was an announcement made that they were all going to meetin the ships lounge on Sunday morning. One of the clergymen, a young Methodist minister, suggested they each tell their name, church affiliation and give a short statement of their faith.

1 Norma R Youngberg and Gerald Minchin, Under Sealed Orders (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1970)

The first to speak was an Indian theosophist who spoke with such grace and kindliness that all were impressed. As the missionaries took their turn to speak some expressed their views that “the old fashioned doctrines about the blood of Jesus Christ had little part in the modern world where a social gospel of united brotherhood seemed so much more practical.”2 This attitude in men, whose job it was to bring the gospel their people, greatly pained the Youngbergs and Mrs. Booth.

2 Ibid p.87

When Gus turn came to speakhe said in part, “I believe there is no salvation possible except through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe we are sustained by his Holy Spirit, and that through Him we have hope of redemption to be revealed at His second coming which is now eminent.”3

Mrs. Booth was so shaken by the expressions of disbelief in the blood of Christ by some of the protestant missionaries that she needed to pray the rest of the day to clear her mind of the „shock of the morning meeting. Impressed by the Youngbergs expression of faith, she came to them later and asked if she could join them for prayer and Bible studies which she did for the rest of the voyage.

Mrs. Booths godliness, and obviously close relationship with God, impressed the Youngbergs and made them feel their lack of spiritual power.

3 Ibid

Th ey didnt know what to do about it, but felt sure God wouldnt leave them with „such dissatisfaction and not send help.

When Mrs. Booth later expressed interest in visiting the Malayan Union Seminary Gus and Norma, concerned that she would see the dissension there and be turned away by it, hopedshe wouldnt follow through with her plan for a trip there.

Sometime later, when Gus was sent to Batakland to fill a vacancy while a worker there took his wife for medical treatment, this faithful lady came to the mission and requested Bible studies, after which she was baptized. After a short trip to Japan she returned to the mission. She could see the problems between the workers and the director, and began to pray for revival.

During this time the General Conference of the church sent Elder Meade McGuire, and his wife to the mission to minister to the spiritual needs of the workers. Ill let Norma tell what happened in her own words.

“Elder McGuire gathered the compound workers into one of the seminary classrooms. He wrote on the blackboard three statements:

A MAN CAN BE SAVED BY HIS OWN EFFORTS.

 

A MAN CAN BE SAVED WITH THE HELP OF GOD.

 

A MAN CAN BE SAVED WITH NO EFFORT ON HIS PART.

Norma looked at the three statements and felt that her heart would burst for relief and joy. How she wished that Gus were here. She listened to other mission workers express their views. Most of them took the second statement to be their belief.

Finally she burst out, "Oh, Elder McGuire, we can be saved with no effort on our part. It is the gift of God!" Everyone looked at her astonished, for she had spoken in the tone of one who has just made a discovery of the first magnitude.

Elder McGuire smiled and went on talking about "Christ Our Righteousness." Since Elder McGuire came with the authority of the General Conference behind him, everyone listened. The revival had begun.

It came slowly, with small groups on the compound and in the city meeting for prayer, with deep convictions of great need, with searching of the Scriptures to see if "those things were so."

Although she took no prominent part in the events that followed, no one rejoiced more than Gussie Booth. She told Norma that God had shown her that her part was to pray; and pray she did for every person on the compound by name, and for Elder McGuire most of all; for she believed him to be God's instrument of revival in Singapore.

Norma wrote daily to Gus telling him of the important happenings, but they sounded to him like an impossible dream. He even wondered if Norma hadn't gone overboard a bit.

He wrote to Norma describing an accident in which he had come close to losing his life, and said he would soon be home again. (This experience convinced him that God watched over him.)

Norma thanked God that Gus had been spared. How she longed for him to return, for by now the work of revival and reformation had accelerated. Enemies of years confessed and embraced each other with tears. Parents were reconciled to children and children to their parents. Petty quarrels vanished; criticism ceased.

It was time that Elder McGuire and his wife must leave, and now the director of the Singapore Mission, Mr. Lake, stood up in the church on Sabbath and in a broken voice said to his
congregation, "I must lead you through this revival of the Holy Spirit, and I myself am ignorant and inexperienced in the life of the Spirit. Pray for me."

Never had the church felt so close to their pastor. They had regarded him as an excellent preacher with a rare gift of oratory. Now they saw him as a fellow Christian as deeply moved by his own need as they were by theirs.

He began with a series of studies on the Holy Spirit, searching them out on his knees week by week, and he led the church into such a revival as the city had never known. At Wednesday prayer meetings eager people packed the church, and many stood in the street unable to enter. He set Friday night aside as praise night, and equally large crowds pressed in.

Into this atmosphere charged with the presence of the Spirit, Gus Youngberg returned. He arrived on Friday and went with Norma to the praise meeting that night. Had he stepped into another world? He heard the praises of his brethren, saw sworn enemies sitting together, heard the old Advent hymns of victory rise about him, and felt himself on an islanda most uncomfortable island. He sat in stunned silence.

He realized the enormous change that had taken place on the compound. Winds of gossip and criticism blew no more through the corridors of the offices and the houses on the hill. No one could talk of anything but the joy of knowing their sins forgiven and their salvation assured through the finished work of Christ. Nell Smith spoke for most of them: "If it were not for the great unfinished work, I would want Jesus to come today. Today we are ready to meet Him."

Never an emotional person and fearful of any religious excitement or experience based on feeling, Gus spent days in an agony of heart-searching. He longed for the joy and freedom, the healing and the calm, that had come to others. At times he despaired. Perhaps after all he was too hard-hearted, too faithless. The door might shut, leaving him on the outside. He prayed and studied his Bible with new urgency.

One night he lay awake praying until two o'clock in the morning. Then he felt a gentle Presence soothe away all his fears, and he knew that God had heard his pleadings. He wakened Norma. "God has just given me the assurance that He has accepted me."

Neither of them could sleep. They spent the hours till daylight praising the Lord, and the time seemed all too short. "Now I can understand how those glorious beings around the throne of God can praise Him day and night and never weary of it," Gus said.

Not everyone accepted the revival message. A few men in high places scoffed and called it emotionalism. Hadn't the church always believed in righteousness by faith? It was inherent in the doctrines.

More than forty years (after those events) those men had been laid to rest; but the years have proved that without exception they took the wrong turn in the road in 1929.

Gussie Booth saw the desire of her heart fulfilled, and now she longed to go back to Japan and tell her people about the revival. She took passage for Nagasaki.” 4

When I finished reading that story I was so excited! THIS is what we need now! The term „Christ our Righteousness took on a whole new meaning for me. So I began to pray and search for information on Righteousness by Faith. I looked online for information and came across some books of questionable value, but not to be stopped I kept searching. When an evangelist came to speak at our church for a weekend, I asked him what he knew about it and he recommended a chapter out of his book on the Character of God.

Then one day Pastor Phil Dunham, who had served our church for a time previously, came to speak. I asked him about righteousness by faith, and he recommended his book, „Sure Salvation. That book was what Id been looking for. I could hardly put it down, and in its pages I found what I had been longing for ever since Id given my life to God, what I wish every person would find.
Chapter 2

4 Norma R. Youngberg and Gerald H Minchin,“Under Sealed Orders (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1970) pp 92-95

 

A Handshake and Two Hugs

Before I relate what I want to share with you, I have to say that when reading the words of the Apostle Paul “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances I find myself in” I thought that might be fine for Paul but I didnt want to be content in my situation, I wanted to change my situation so that I could be content. Now I want to experience contentment in the Lord in spite of my
circumstances, and let Him take care of everything.

This book is about how to have assurance of salvation and how to live a victorious, joy filled life. Its not about making our daily troubles go away or winning the lottery. Its much more basic, and much bigger than any of that.

We are going to look at what God has to do, what I have to do and what the results will be.

Gods part is to give everything He has, my part is to give everything I have, and the results are a joy filled, victorious life. Sound too simple? It is that simple in a complex sort of way.

Before we can get to the bottom of this issue we have to have a clear understanding of the Gospel. Gospel means good news. The Bible is full of good news from one end to the other. Sometimes you have to dig to see it but its there.

There are many books written explaining the Gospel so I wont go into that in detail. I want to give you the short version.

God created mankind perfect, and with free choice. Mankind chose to disbelieve and disobey God, and brought sin with all its horrors into this world. The wages, or just result, of sin is death. We have all sinned so we all deserve, and have earned the death penalty, but we dont want to die that death. God doesnt want us to die that death either.

God the Father and God the Son, knowing that no created being could pay the penalty for the sin of all mankind, and rescue us from the death penalty we are all living under, made a plan to rescue us Themselves.

There was only One worthy, only One whose death could pay the penalty and set us all free. That One, Jesus the Son of God, asked His Father for His blessing to give His life for us. So God was made manifest (evident to the senses, esp. to the sight) in the flesh and lived among us as a man acquainted with our sorrows and temptations. He took our sins and nailed them to the cross, and died in our place removing the penalty of death from us. This made our salvation possible.

This salvation is provided to us at infinite cost to God, but we are not charged a penny for it. God offers it to us as a free gift. Jesus took our sinfulness and death sentence which He did not deserve and gave us His righteousness and life which we do not deserve. Who couldnt love a God like that?

To encapsulate the gospel I like to say that we are saved by a handshake and two hugs. I borrowed this concept from the book, Sure Salvation, 5 and expanded on it a little here.

First God, Father and Son, agreed on the plan of salvation.

“Before the foundations of the earth were laid, the Father and the Son had united in a covenant to redeem man if he should be overcome by Satan. They had clasped their hands in a solemn pledge that Christ should become the surety (A person who binds himself for the payment of a sum of money or for the performance of something else, for another, who is already bound for the same.) for the human race. This pledge Christ has fulfilled. . . . the Compact has been fully carried out.” The Father and Son, clasping hands to the plan to make Christ the surety of our salvation, is the handshake. 6 It was no easy thing for God to agree to allow His beloved Son to die for us, but His love for us is so great. „For God SO loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. God didnt learn to love us because His Son died for us, Jesus died for us BECAUSE God loved us so much!

5 Phillip Dunham, Sure Salvation (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press, 2007)95

When any contract is entered into it must be carried out. This He did on the cross. After Jesus fulfilled the conditions of the contract He had made with His Father He needed to show the proof that He had faithfully carried out all the provisions of the agreement. After a life of toil and service, His death on the cross, and then His resurrection, Jesus ascended to the Father to present His sacrifice. Can you imagine the excitement of the angels at the return of their Lord from the degradation of this world, and their joy that His sacrifice won salvation for all of mankind? How they must have rushed with great eagerness to worship Him and welcome Him home!

6 EllenWhite, The Desire of Ages(Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press, 1940) 843;

“But He waves them back. Not yet; He cannot now receive the coronet of glory and the royal robe. He enters into the presence of His Father. He points to His wounded head, the pierced side, the marred feet; He lifts His hands, bearing the prints of the nails. He points to the tokens of His triumph, He presents to God the wave sheaf, those raised with Him as representatives of the great multitude who shall come forth from the graves at His second coming. He approaches the Father with whom there is joy over one sinner that repents, who rejoices over one with singing (did you catch that? Your Heavenly Father rejoices over you with SINGING, Oh how I want to hear that!). . . . Now He declares: Father, it is finished. I have done thy will, O My God. I have completed the work of redemption. If Thy justice is satisfied, “I will that they also, whom Thou has given Me, be with Me where I am.” (Isnt this beautiful?

The reason for everything Christ did for us is expressed in His plea to His Father: „I will that they also, whom You have given me, be with Me where I am!) The voice of the Father is heard proclaiming that justiceis satisfied. Satan is vanquished. Christs toiling, struggling ones on earth are “accepted in the Beloved” . . . . The Fathers arms encircle His Son and the word is given, “Let all the angels of God worship Him” 7

This is the first hug. How anyone can turn away from such love, after they learn of it, is beyond me.

My salvation can never be won, can never be secured, by anything I can do. All my righteousness is filthy rags, as filthy as those of a leper. The only righteousness that does me any good is His. I need that righteousness, without it I am lost, but how does it get applied to me?

If you are reading this book you must at least be curious about salvation, if not interested and searching. Many people get to this point in their lives, and turn back because they fear God will require them to give up things they dont want to give up or that He will require them to make changes in themselves or their lives that they arent interested in making.

7 Ibid 834

Let me assure you that God never asks anything of you that He wont make you able to do, and that He will never force His will on anyone. It was a wrong use of our freedom of choice that got us into this mess in the first place and a right use of our freedom of choice is the pathway out.
Chapter 3

Its All About Jesus

„In the beginning God…” When you read the story of creation notice that God refers to Himself in the plural, „Let Us make man in Our image, etc. The apostle John tells us “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” John 1:1-3. So Jesus is our Creator. Through Him God created all that was created.

Weve already seen that He is our Substitute and Redeemer. There is much more that He does for us.

 

Here is the second hug:

“ Arise and go to your Father. He will meet you a great way off. If you take even one step toward Him in repentance, He will hasten to enfold you in His arms of infinite love. His ear is open to the cry of the contrite soul. The very first reaching out of the heart after God is known to Him. Never a prayer is offered, however faltering, never a tear is shed, however secret, never a sincere desire after God is cherished, however feeble, but the Spirit of God goes forth to meet it. Even before the prayer is uttered or the yearning of the heart made known, grace from Christ goes forth to meet the grace that is working upon the human soul. 8

Every part of our salvation and growth in grace is a gift from God; it is nothing of our selves except choosing to accept it.

Here is what God offers:

 

Repentance: He calls us to repentance, and gives us repentance.

 

8 Ellen G White Christ's Object Lesson p. 206

„God exalted Him to His own right hand as Prince and Savior that He might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. Acts 5:31
„I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Luke 5:32

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. Isaiah 30:15”

If youve ever underestimated the blessings of quietness, rest, and trust, you wont once youve experienced it.

Transformation: He transforms us, changes us, and makes us new creatures in Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. . . .” 2 Corinthians 5:17. Being made „dead to sin and „alive in Christ indicates a complete transformation. We cant accomplish this transformation any more than Lazarus could bring himself back to life after spending 4 days in the tomb.

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