I was recently made aware of a church in Canada that is using my story of God’s grace in their services. It’s a church of about 850 people and they’ve been around since the ’50’s. I listened to the last two weeks where Pastor John Visser, first, showed my video and, then the next week, talked about my book.
Not only is it wildly humbling for my story to be so far out there, but for it to be received so thoroughly and then shared. He gets it. I put myself out there, and people are taking it and using it to do exactly what I wanted done with it. They’re offering the hope of grace and letting my most shameful moments be used as a balm of healing for wounded people who feel desperately alone. It’s an amazing gift of grace and a picture of how God can turn absolute destruction, shame, and grief into a beautiful portrait that honors Him and shows His love for all of us.
I was once told, ‘I don’t know how God can redeem this and scrape together what could remain of your life to glorify Him.’ Well, I’m starting to see a picture of that now. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to see all that God is doing with His painting of me, but what little I can catch a glimpse of sends me straight to His feet in worship.
I’ve typed out what Pastor Visser says because I want you to hear his thoughts on my book and my story. From the author’s keyboard: This man gets it.
In the midst of the ferocity against the message of the Gospel, it’s a relief to know that those of us who are fighting are not fighting alone.
We ended the service last week, you will recall, with what I thought was a very moving testimony by Serena Woods. How she had a very rough upbringing, became a Christian, and then nine years after having been in Christ she failed morally, miserably, and blatantly. And I’ve been reading her book this past week and it’s called ‘Grace Is For Sinners’. And it confirms what my first reaction was when I saw that video. Because when I saw that video, there were three things that stood out. If you haven’t seen it, you can get a dvd of last week’s service, or you can go to our church website, or you can even go to YouTube and search for ‘Serena Woods’ and you will find it.
But when I first saw that video, the first thing that struck me was her comment that after she became a Christian, she put all her past into the farthest reaches of her mind. Do you remember that? And I remember thinking to myself, ‘You’re setting yourself up for failure’ because that is typically what Christians, in many circles, do. ‘I’m a new creation in Christ, the old has gone and I am a new creation.’ And what that is, is a confusion of justification with sanctification.
Justification is an instant process. Sanctification takes time as the Holy Spirit helps us to unfurrow old patterns and behavior. And He helps us to put on new patterns of behavior. You short-circuit that and your past will come to haunt you. Which is why many new believers, a few years down the line, fall away for a season because their inside world has not yet caught up with our outside world. And one of the reasons we emphasize the ministry of healing around here, is to help people become whole to the core of their being.
The second thing that struck me was her deep, deep sorrow for her failure. And when you hear more of her story, you can understand why that was. Because the man that she had the affair with was her best friend’s husband. The affair only lasted three weeks. But when, both, Serena’s husband and this other man’s wife found out about it, they both chose to divorce their spouses. Not only that, but during that three week sexual affair, she got pregnant with his child.
And so now her marriage was broken, they were driven together, eventually married each other, but they alienated every Christian connection that they have had in the past. And the grief was unspeakable.
And the third thing that really struck me was the amazing grace of God. Because as she points out, and this is the back cover text, ‘Our sin doesn’t say anything new about us. Jesus didn’t hang on the cross in case we need him. He hung on the cross because we desperately need Him.’ And part of her mission, and part of her burden, is to try to help God’s people learn how you walk with sinners, not condoning her sin. She never justifies her action or her husband’s action. She has a great deal of grief. But she recognizes that if Jesus didn’t also die for those sins that we commit after we become a Christian, there isn’t any hope for any of us.
When we humble ourselves before God, it is God who will lift us up. -Pastor John Visser; ‘Preparation’; Maranatha Church; Belleville, Ontario
You can see my video here: Serena Woods
You can purchase my book here: Amazon