Sophia c/o 2017 enjoys hearing people ramble about their interests, says “dude” way too much, and eats a surprising amount of fruit each day.
This is a story of God’s grace from beginning to end.
God providentially placed me in a Christian household, and so I grew up going to church. Every week, I was exposed to Biblical truth – Bible stories, Bible lessons, and the gospel. This is quite the uninteresting beginning: like most church kids, I am not sure when I believed and I cannot present you with a radical, exciting transformation story.
And yet, the fact that I trust Christ now for my salvation is a miracle. It is a radical, exciting transformation story completely initiated by God. God’s grace is in full display as He has brought me from death to life – “and you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world…and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-5).
His grace did not stop at the moment of salvation. Through Friday night youth group and Sunday services, as I learned fancy words like “propitiation,” He grew my understanding and love of the gospel. He challenged me as I realized that the gospel demands all of my life. God gave me the heart to learn a lot, serve a lot, and love a lot.
However, as I became more involved at church during middle school, Christianity became more about belonging to my church group rather than belonging to Christ. Friendships became an idol, but I was completely blind. And so, when God took away these friendships I so tightly clung to, my world crumbled. But through this trial, God broke my stubborn heart; I learned that God alone is worthy, always faithful, and can fully satisfy. I must pursue God first and foremost.
Fast forward to high school – again, learning a lot, serving a lot, leading a lot in youth group. However, with every Christian thing I did, I became more prideful, but just like in middle school, I was blind to its severity. I came into UCLA extremely self-righteous, thinking that God had brought me through enough life, through enough teaching to warrant the status of a solid Christian.
God humbled me. Sophia, who I thought would never come close to being the typical apostate college kid, started drifting and drifting, the exact opposite of what the author of Hebrews exhorts: to “pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1). During high school, Christianity had already shifted away from pursuing God to pursuing my church reputation. Therefore, when God took away my comfortable “niche” at my home church and placed me reputation-less in a new church in LA, I slowly stopped caring about Christian things; I drifted, mindlessly floating through each day.
It was only by His grace that I did not fall away. He awakened my heart from my lethargy, and the Holy Spirit convicted my heart of my pride and of how far I had fallen. I experienced His grace afresh. I needed His grace not only at salvation, but every single day. God then grew my heart not only for Himself but also for this new church, Grace Community Church. I started learning a lot and serving a lot and loving a lot.
However, yet again, I started slipping away from my first love. I was like the Ephesian church in Revelation 2. Though commended for their “toil and patient endurance,” verse 4 says, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” Similarly, I was caught up in serving and doing church things, running around like Martha instead of sitting at Jesus’ feet like Mary. Thus, I grew wearier and more burnt out as I tried to be a good Christian.
I dragged myself day to day, discouraged, my heart slowly hardening. The apathy growing in my heart eventually made me doubt my own salvation. How could I be a Christian when this was my heart? I was of course taught well to discard any semblance of salvation by works, but part of me still wanted to figure out my life at least in part, get my life somewhat together before I could say I believed.
God sovereignly brought me so low because He used the darkness to highlight His amazing grace. He brought me to a correct, freeing understanding of sola gratia. I could not bring anything for God to accept me – not works, not tears over sin, and not even desire for Him. I had nothing; my life was not figured out nor put together, and yet Christ died for the ungodly. Christ died for the ungodly. And the ungodly includes a girl who grew up going to church but had grown cold to her sin and the gospel.
This is my God and my Savior. And by His grace, His grace finally made my heart burst with awe.
As I look forward, I hope to learn a lot, serve a lot, and love a lot. I do sometimes fear I will fall again, but I can rest secure in His grace. By God’s grace, He chose me before time began. He placed me in a Christ-loving household so that I would hear the gospel. He gave me a new heart to believe. He placed people in my life to encourage and challenge me. He brought trials to humble and sanctify me. And by His grace, He will continue to mold me to be more like His Son, and He will hold me fast until the end. So until then, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).