The service was over, so Benny was greeting people in the foyer. Jeff and Annie waited in the back of the sanctuary for him to finish. When Benny and the pastor finished talking to some of the members, they walked over to Jeff and Annie.
“Hello Jeff, this is my pastor Kenneth. Kenneth this is Jeff and his co-worker Annie.” Benny said as the pastor shook hands with Jeff and Annie. “I hope you don’t mind I invited him and his wife to join us for lunch today.”
“That’s okay, we don’t mind. That was a good teaching.” Jeff said.
“Thank you. So, where do you want to eat? Bree and Kenneth’s wife are fine with whatever we pick.” Benny said.
“I saw a Chinese restaurant as we were walking here, we can try that. We can all just walk there” Annie suggested.
Benny’s wife, Bree, and the pastor’s wife met them in the front of the sanctuary as they walked to the Chinese restaurant. It was only a ten-minute walk. The restaurant was not as busy, so they got awesome seats and they ordered their food.
“I’m sorry we haven’t been properly introduced. I’m Angela, Kenneth’s wife.”
“My name is Jeff, and this is my co-worker Annie.”
“I don’t mean to interrupt, but Benny at the end of your sermon you said that we don’t need to do anything to get born again other than belief in Christ and confess with our mouths. Were you out of time and that’s why you didn’t continue to mention what else we had to do to get saved?” Annie asked curiously
“Actually, I had five extra minutes. I’m better than I used to be. I used to start talking and not know when to stop,” Benny said with a little smile on his face as he looked at Kenneth. “On a serious note, the bible teaches all we must do to get born again is confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead. Nothing else. Why do you ask?”
“I was telling Jeff two days ago, that I grew up in the church. As far back as I can remember, whenever the church doors would open, we were there. We were the first to get in and the last to leave. The message we were taught from our early age was, to be accepted by God means proving ourselves trustworthy. For God to tell us I love you, it meant we had done a lot of good things. That message translated to our homes to. My parents in their attempts to be like God, they made my sister and I earn their love. So, growing up we worked to earn their love. I remember one time, my mother came downstairs as I was watching TV, and she told me I love you. I smiled to show my recipient of her love, and deep down I knew it was because of how clean I kept the living room. I felt like I’m on top of the world because I finally got to earn her love and in that moment, I knew God loved me to. It wasn’t two minutes later she walked in the kitchen and she saw I had prepared a sandwich and I had left crams on the kitchen counter. She screamed my name and I fell off the mountain top. As soon as I turned 18, I went to college, and after college I moved here to New York because I wasn’t going back to Cincinnati. When I went to college, I saw how other students interacted with their parents and I wanted that. Seeing that made me leave religion behind and forget about earning God’s love. My reasoning was if I can’t earn my parents love how will earn His love.”
“So, are you in contact with your parent’s today?” Angela asked.
“Yes I am. They know not to bring up God and religion because I just got burned out. Our relationship is not as warm as I want it to be. They are proud of my accomplishments but my decision to not go to church any more means that I don’t deserve all of their love.” As Annie was talking you could sense pain and sorrow in her voice.
“Wow! That is how it was for me growing up.” Angela said, “Everything was earned. I don’t know whether you felt like I did. It felt like there was a hole in my heart. I did these things to earn the love of God and my parents love, and whenever I earned the love of my parents, it felt like love was just on me, but it could never go in me. Did you feel like that as well?”
“I still feel like that to this day. I don’t whether I should thank God, that I haven’t turned to drugs, sex and money to fill that void….”
“But you have turned to work to fill that void.” Jeff interjected.
“Yes, that is true.” Annie confirmed.
“You see, that hole in my heart was filled when I learned about the Grace of God,” Angela said, “Kenneth and I have been married for twenty years. We started this church five years after we were married, and we learned about Grace, five years later. He has a similar background to me. He was raised in a religious home just like I was. When we began to receive the revelation of Grace from the Holy Spirit, our lives and ministry changed for the better. The sad thing was that our parents and long-time friends thought we were heretics. Now after seeing what the Lord has done in the last ten years, they have started coming around.”
“What is the Grace of God?” Jeff asked
“The question is not what is the Grace of God, but who is the Grace of God.” Kenneth replied, “That is a question that I have been answering for the past ten years, and I certainly can’t answer the totality of that question during this lunch. Starting this Monday, we are going to start Grace discipleship classes. As the church has grown over the past ten years, people are coming to our church with no foundation at all. This Grace discipleship class is intended to lay a foundation in their lives.”
“We will join the class.” Annie answered enthusiastically.
Annie was pleased by hearing all these things. Her expression and attitude changed for the better. It looked like she had a new lease of life. Now she felt like Jeff did after meeting Benny for the first time. They stayed at the restaurant for four hours just talking and enjoying each other’s company. Kenneth offered to pay for the meal and they all went home.