“Sola Gratia (By Grace Alone, A Personal Story)”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
I was snatched from the pit of hell on January 29, 1986. The day started normally. But, on my way to my office at the Nuclear Power Plant in Crystal River, Florida, I was broadsided by a semi-truck. It occurred about 7:30 in the morning. I was told that the paramedics had to cut me out of my car. I awoke four days later in a hospital in Gainesville, FL with one desire and many broken bones. My one desire was for Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible. The God of truth and grace opened my eyes to the world and to His beauty. My only thought was to run to Him. There was no struggling on my part in deciding whether to choose Jesus. I didn’t have the C.S. Lewis experience of being dragged into the kingdom. The thought of running from Jesus never entered my mind.
Not long after the accident, Jesus’ words in John’s gospel burned into my mind and traveled to my heart. “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 ESV, italics added).
Let me be frank, before that day, I had no such desire for Jesus. Oh, I thought that I was a good person, as most people do. I thought that as long as I was better than most, the god of my making would welcome me. After all, doesn’t the Bible say that God is love? Surely it does! (See 1 John 4:8.) But the Bible also says that God is “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3). I never thought about the justice of God. He never sets aside His justice. He extends mercy only because of the sacrifice of Jesus which alone satisfies God’s justice.
Before my “accident,” I never knew the one true God. I know now that I was dead. I used to think that all this “born again” stuff was for the weak minded. But the reality, the truth of what I lived was that dead men don’t do anything. I was unconscious. I couldn’t have saved myself. I couldn’t even get out of my hospital bed. On my best day, I didn’t know that I was lost and headed to hell. God had to act. He did, and I look back in amazement that He chose me! Yes, I responded to Him, but I only responded to His action. I often hear that if one believes he will be born again. How foolish! It is erroneous to tell people that we are made new creations by our own wisdom and ability. How can a dead person believe? The truth is “Ye must be born again” in order to believe! The Bible says: “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Every person is born spiritually dead. We are unable to reach out to God and live (see Genesis 3:22-24). God had to act to save me, and He did!
As I look back through the lens of God’s word at what God did to save me, I see every aspect of my life as part of God’s sovereign plan. Even when I didn’t know God, He was directing my path in accordance with His will. I thought that I was making choices. And I was, but my choices had already been planned by the Sovereign God. Think about this when you are wondering how you got to where you are: “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). The words of Jesus in John 6:44 make perfect sense as I look at my life in Christ: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”
May I suggest a principle for life that may bring you comfort and assurance? I have been saved by God from God for God.
The God who saved me has spoken and continues to speak. His word is without error and absolutely reliable because He is. As a result, all experiences must be informed by Scripture and mine is not an exception. I have the assurance that I belong to God because He has said that assurance is of the essence of Faith (Hebrews 11:1).
My experience of God’s saving grace is an opportunity to praise Him. “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20b).