I grew up in a really “Christian” environment. I asked Jesus into my heart when I was five years old. I went to a private Christian school where my favorite class was Bible. I took part in every church activity. I loved Sunday mornings. At a distance, the world might have seen me as sin-free for a certain portion of my life. I was the good girl.
But for me and those close to me, my brokenness was apparent. I craved the drama of the world. I liked the story of the Christian who turned from a life the world saw as unredeemable.
My mom has one of those stories. A kind of story where you look at her sideways because you don’t completely that someone as sweet as she could come out of a childhood with a murdered brother and fighting most every worldly temptation you could imagine.
Jesus transformed my mom’s life.
And I almost idolized it.
Not Jesus’s work, but the dramatic nature of change I could see in her.
At one point, I thought that I needed something too, something to make my story interesting. To make Jesus’s death really worth it, you know?
I had made my identity the good girl, and my heart was not easily stirred by that story. It wasn’t the story that made good movies or books or testimonies at church.
So I gave into my own temptations.
Then I started to love my sin. I began to need attention from boys. I sought love from the world in ways I never had before. I treated my own body as dirt. I snuck around. I threw aside the scripture I had meditated on as a child because I wanted to write my own story. I knew that Jesus would save me. That He would come in and save me as He had my mom. I just needed a little time to make my own story interesting.
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Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience, the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
(Romans 5:18- 6:4 ESV)
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When Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, they brought it in for all of us. They made a choice that would affect their own oneness with God as well as every ancestor coming from their line. That’s why we say that we are “born into sin.” All of us. I am just as sinful even when the world cannot see it as the worst of criminals that everyone is gawking at.
We are born selfish and prideful and arrogant. We want what is best for ourselves only. Adam brought that into the world; and though we are born with that inclination, we do a really good job keeping up our own sin.
But Paul doesn’t stop with the fact that one man brought sin into the world for all; he continues by revealing that one man brought righteous in the world for all. Without sin being imputed upon all, righteousness could not be imputed upon all.
These acts–these singular acts–they are the crux of our entire story. They are why we are so dependent on Jesus’s blood.
This is the part of the story that I wanted to take control of. I wanted to make Christ’s grace abound because, in my mind, that was up to me. I didn’t understand–nor did I seek to understand–my own natural brokenness.
Do you ever just sit and think about the state of our world? Our homes are broken: disarray in families. Our neighborhoods are broken: terrified of one invading or tainting another. Our states are broken: touting the promise of red or blue redemption. Our country is broken: hatred between neighbors rips us apart in every social setting. Our world is broken: hunger and homelessness abound more than we can even fathom here in our cushy US of A.
Now, do you ever think about this: wherever broken abounds, grace abounds all the more.
Our hope is not squashed by a fallen government or earthly death or divorce or divisions or homelessness or any hardship this world throws at us. Our hope is not lost because of Jesus.
Jesus stood as one with God and the Holy Spirit at the beginning of this whole dance we call life on earth. He made it good. He made it perfect–without flaw. He made it that way, knowing we would mess it up and knowing we would create brokenness for ourselves by giving into the lies of the enemy.
He saw us separate ourselves from our maker, trying to make ourselves higher than He. He punished us accordingly. Yet He did not take our hope away as we deserved.
He stood in our place in the face of death. He took our punishment for that selfishness, pride, and arrogance. He lived the life we should have held fast to in a world stained by our transgressions and then was murdered like a lamb at the slaughter.
Then, just like that, the righteousness of God was imputed to His children. Just like Adam’s sin abounded, Christ’s perfect nature covered us like a blanket, covering our sinful nature completely.
Sin and grace cannot increase together
So what does this mean, Christian? How do we go on from here?
Paul insinuates in 6:1 that the Romans wonder if we should sin so that God’s grace might be made more known.
Oh, sister, please know that this is not the way to think about grace. Here’s the thing: the world places sin into classes: there are the sins that everyone can see (those are the bad ones) and the ones that only we know of (those are the ones that everyone just does).
For so long, I looked at sin as just that. But I couldn’t see that I was broken enough without the world having to put a label on it.
I was a liar. I was arrogant. I cared more about increasing the interest of my own story than I cared about sharing the best of stories with people who had yet to hear it.
Here is the scary thing: I got my dramatic story. But it came at a price of my own.
It came with a boyfriend who made me feel like I wasn’t worth anything. It came with an eating disorder. It came with anxiety. It came with shame.
It all came because I was far more concerned with my story than I was with Jesus’s. I did not fully understand the vastness of His grace–that the fact that He had saved the little girl who knew Bible verses like the back of her had was just as miraculous as the fact that He saved her mother who was running away from His grace all her life.
Sister, I don’t know what you are going through. I don’t know how you view your testimony.
I do know that it is really easy to find shame in our stories. They are either too boring or too dramatic or too embarrassing. Maybe they taint your reputation in your church. Maybe if you share it, your children will see your sin.
Can I encourage you?
This is not your story.
This is not my story.
It is Jesus’s story. It is His grace that abounds in the midst of our sin. It was His blood that stained the wood on the cross. It is His redemption that covers you. Only His.
I am still all the things I was: I am prone to lying and arrogance. I am not prone to anxiety and idolatry of my own body. But my identity is not in those things. My identity is in Christ. It is in His one act. His singular act freed us from our own selves. It takes away the shame I have in how I built my own testimony. It takes away the shame my mom dealt with as she told me about how she numbed the pain of her brother’s death.
It takes away your shame.
It replaces it with the only true form of acceptance anyone or anything can offer. Acceptance back into the perfect and holy kingdom that was intended from the beginning. Will you hold fast to that kingdom?
Will we know that our story is perfect and beautiful because no matter how interesting or shameful the world sees it as He redeemed us from the sin that was imputed upon us at the moment Adam and Eve sinned?
He redeemed us from the first time we said no to your parents just as He redeemed us from our most insidious act.
Let us not claim our stories of redemption, but rather, give Him the glory for whatever sin we have been redeemed and set free from.
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What is His story in your life? Share it in the comments below.
To continue going through Romans with us, read the following verses this week.
Romans Series Reading Plan:
Monday: Romans 5:1-11
Wednesday: 5: 18-21
You can either catch up with us or go at your own pace. This explanation of how to study the Bible might also be helpful. Thank you for joining. Please let me know how God has worked in your heart in the comments below.