First Baptist Church

A Recollection of Grace

It was cold the day the Lord saved my soul. It was January 17th, and the year was 2005. At 20 years old, my life was arguably as self-centered as humanly possible. I was in my second year of college, living on my own and working a small, part-time job. Living mostly on college loan money, I made just enough to party on the weekends, and that was my existence. Notice that I do not say life, because I now realize that I was not truly living at all; but I won’t get ahead of myself.

A Story of Rebellion

To say the least, self-fulfillment had begun to take over my being. Desiring to please every ounce of me, lust had begun to consume my every ambition. Selfishness reared its ugly head in a multitude of ways. I woke up every day for me, my heart pounded for me, and I breathed for me. As I submerged myself in the temporary pleasures of this world, I became insensitive to the consequences of my actions. Time after time my flesh would be fulfilled momentarily, and after only a short period, the numbness would wear off, and I would be left searching for the next passion that would satisfy my unquenchable thirst for self-gratification.

And my belief in God? Well, I believed in a Creator, but the god I believed in was not much different than me. Sure, He was bigger, stronger and wiser than me but only to the extent that I was comfortable with. Mixing those thoughts with the clichés so commonly associated with the God of the Bible, and I had officially created a deity that suited me just fine. I found out later by reading the 50th Psalm that I was not the first human being to do that exact same thing.

A small church up a dirt road, commonly known as “Slusher Holler”, was basically the only background I had concerning the things of God. Not growing up in a Christian home, my Grandmother is the one who exposed me to Christianity. I can still remember the sound of her voice as she taught me my first prayer: “As I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take…” Even at only four years old, those words somehow seemed to latch themselves onto my permanent memory bank, and I never forgot them. Along with that prayer, I was also taught about God’s forgiveness and His faithfulness to forgive the sins of His people. Like a child clinging to a security blanket, I repeated those words every night, even into my late teenage years.

A Story of Confusion

When I was nine years old I went to an altar. A preacher had preached a very typical message with a gospel presentation and invited everyone to receive salvation. The altar was lined with people, and I decided to step forward. Once I knelt at the altar, I wasn’t exactly sure what to do next. I was always told that if I believed in the Lord with all my heart, God would save me. So, as I knelt there that night, I began focusing all my energy on believing. I mustered up all the belief I could, yet nothing seemed to happen. The only other thing I knew about the altar was that people cried. So with that knowledge in hand, I began my attempt at shedding some tears. Although I knew that pretending to cry was misleading, the pressure to please people overwhelmed my motivation.

Once I got up from the place of my false conversion, my well-meaning Grandmother was there to embrace and congratulate me. Although I knew deep down inside that something wasn’t right, I enjoyed the attention. The years that followed were filled with confusion and uncertainty, but I never stopped believing in God. Instead, I continued to consider the reality of His existence while plunging myself deeper and deeper into sin. That was the path I followed until I was 20 years old.

A Story of Grace

And then, all of a sudden, God changed everything. In hindsight, I recognize the situations and circumstances God used to draw me to Himself. The night before it happened was like many others. I spent the night partying with friends. My motives were purely selfish, and my intentions had nothing to do with the Lord. Early into the morning, however, the living God began a work in me. At an exact moment in time, God began convicting my heart in a way He had never done before, and I instantly began to fear the wrath of God. It became evident to me that my thoughts, motives, and actions were disgusting in His sight, and I felt the weight of His anger; a weight that was too heavy to bear.

After wrestling with my thoughts and emotions through the night, which led me outside into the early hours of dawn, I began to scream to the heavens for His mercy. I had never felt such an immense burden of guilt and shame. Sure, there were plenty of times when I had disappointed and angered people, but those instances were nothing in comparison. The immensity of becoming the target of God’s fierce fury caused terror to take over my being. 

Then, in the blink of an eye, my whole life changed. The reality of my existence was literally and instantaneously altered. All of the sudden, the holy passion of God’s anger was replaced with a feeling of peace. The guilt, the shame, the heaviness, and the terror all vanished. I truly felt a newness sweep over me. It was as though the filthiness had been washed away, and I had been cleansed. From a biblical perspective, the word purified comes to mind, and that is exactly how I felt…purified.

What followed that encounter was a change of my desires. I began to deeply desire God’s Word, and I wanted to know everything about this God who had changed me and showed me mercy. My priorities were immediately shifted from self-glorification and self-gratification to bringing God glory and finding my joy in Him. I wanted to share with everyone what had taken place in my life.

As I look back upon the past 15 years, God has blessed me with a life of abundance. There's no doubt that I can point to many of my failures and shortcomings along the way, but I cannot stress enough how grateful I am for the grace He has shown to me. My heart is overwhelmed today because of the salvation I've been given through the perfect person and perfect work of Jesus Christ. Because He lived a life that I could not and would not live, and He suffered the death that I should have, I am saved. So, today and everyday I will praise God for the glory of His grace. 

By: Pastor Kevin Hay