The longer I live, the more certain I become that we need transforming grace. Divine grace. Grace that beckons our feeble lives from the dregs of sin and imparts eternal hope. Grace that is found in the crucified and risen Jesus. The road to deliverance and the pathway to renewal begin here and nowhere else.
Spiritual renewal, however, is not limited to the initial steps of faith—what we commonly call “conversion.” The follower of Christ continues to receive God’s transformation. In other words, beyond the initial step of faith, renewal includes ongoing encounters with the living God. Fresh, disturbing, inspiring, inconvenient—these are some words that may describe such moments.
Here is how Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) portrayed one of his post-conversion encounters:
God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of philosophers and scholars
Certainty, certainty, heartfelt, joy, peace.
God of Jesus Christ.
God of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God.
“Thy God shall be my God.”
The world forgotten, and everything except God.
So precious was this divine visit that Pascal sewed the parchment record of the above into the lining of his coat—and into every new coat that he wore for the rest of his life. This extraordinary encounter transformed him.
Why did Pascal carry the record of his experience? I’m not sure that we have a conclusive answer, but I suspect that it had something to do with a desire to remember God’s presence and power. In keeping with Jesus’ promise, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the age,” we don’t serve an aloof deity who ignores his children. Just the opposite. God delights in transforming lives.
Think of it this way: What caused a bunch of first-century Jews to boldly declare the death and resurrection of God’s Son? What sort of event must have happened for them to announce that they had beheld the Lord living among them, that the great reversal of sin and death had begun, that God’s kingdom was now in principle established, that the Almighty was pouring out his Spirit upon every tribe, tongue, and nation, and that a new day had dawned?
How can one begin to explain such marvelous activity apart from an ongoing divine encounter?
Thank God. In addition to transforming our past, his grace engages our present.