I got saved almost seven years ago, now. After getting saved, most people immediately get baptized in their local church context; however, I chose to busy myself instead of being obedient! Last week I finally decided to be bold and enter into a space that was really terrifying to me. I stood in front of 500+ people and told everyone that I had missed a step and that I’ve been putting it off because I didn’t want to admit that I hadn’t done the process perfectly.
The following is my story that I shared last week. I’m praying that it gives you hope as you read it that the Lord loves you as much as he possibly can right now without you doing anything to earn it. All of his love. Right now.
I grew up with incredible and supportive parents who love Jesus and love me. But I also grew up in the church enslaved to my own morality and performance believing that “of course God would love me. I’m a great kid and I deserve it.” You see, I was that kid at my private Baptist high school that saw myself as so far superior over all the drinkers and smokers and partiers that I would probably feel offended if one of them talked to me.
Call me a Pharisee; because at best, that’s exactly what I was.
And because of this, despite growing up in the church, my salvation wouldn’t happen until I was 16 when the Lord started taking things – and people – from me. And there weren’t very many people that the Lord could’ve taken from me that would hurt. But there was one man in particular who never stopped treating me like his own son; who never wavered in his love and grace towards me. And this man was my youth small group leader.
It was on a May night in 2011 that I would sit across the street from my small group leader’s house and weep at his sudden, unexpected death in a freak motorcycle accident. It was that night of feeling some of the deepest pain and sorrow that I have ever felt in my entire life that the Lord would show me my need and call me to himself. It was on that night at 16 years old that the Lord totally shattered the idea that I could ever be good enough to earn his love. It was on that night that I would begin to realize that the love God has for me is far greater than I could ever imagine and that he had already lavished ALL of it on me in the person and work of Jesus.
You see, the Lord doesn’t just arbitrarily take. He took from me so that he could give me more of himself. And what the Lord took from my friends and I that night wasn’t just the friendship and discipleship of a man who deeply loved Jesus. What the Lord took from me that night through pain and suffering was the shackles of my slavery to legalism and perfection. He took those shackles off of my wrists and he replaced it with the faith to believe that Jesus’ death on the cross was ENOUGH. I no longer was a slave to proving my worth to the Lord, because Jesus took ALL of my sins and ALL of my messes and paid my debt on the cross and rose back to life three days later in complete and utter victory. And because of that victory, I’m no longer a slave to sin, but a son.
I’m an adopted son of the King of the universe.
And I would love to stand up here and confidently proclaim that I’ve never picked up my old self and tried to force it back on since that day.
I would love to stand up here and say that the broken shackles of perfection and self-righteousness don’t sit on my bedside table fighting for a chance to enslave me again.
I’d love to stand up here and tell you that I functionally believe that my performance has nothing to do with how the Lord feels about me.
But over the course of the past six years, I’ve mostly failed to put on my new self. To be super honest, every minute of every day is a battle to trust the Lord more than I trust my competency. I still need Jesus just like I did that night after my friend died. I still regularly forget that Jesus is ENOUGH and his performance in my place satisfied the Lord’s demand for perfection. I struggle so hard to receive grace.
There’s a song I’ve found that explains my current season almost to a “t”. It says this,
“…but the list goes on forever of all the ways I could be better, in my mind; as if I could earn God’s favor given time, or at least “congratulations”…I’ve spent my whole life searching desperately to find out that grace requires nothing of me”
And that’s been really hard for me to come to terms with. This fact that I’m probably never going to figure out how to perfectly leave behind my old self and put on the new. (At least until Jesus comes back to take me home!!) I’m probably never going to figure it out because if I were to figure it out, then I wouldn’t need Jesus anymore. I’ve spent most of my life thinking that I’m supposed to grow out of needing Jesus for everything (as if the Lord gets tired of meeting my needs and caring for me in ways that I can’t and don’t care for myself). It hasn’t been until the past couple months that I’ve begun to realize that I’m actually supposed to need Jesus for everything.
It’s just now starting to functionally click that there’s NOTHING that I can do that could separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
So I stand before you today, a beaten, broken sinner trying to learn to admit to myself and my community that I constantly need Jesus. But I ALSO stand before you as a son that has been justified with the blood of Jesus and is absolutely being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Jen Wilkin says it like this, “…we were not created to be self-sufficient. Nor were we re-created in Christ to be so. Sanctification is the process of learning increasing dependence, not autonomy.”
And today I boast in our God who is faithfully self-sufficient. And I proclaim to you my constant need for the grace and love of God. And I do this now, almost 7 years after being saved, because I need to confess to this church – my community – that I don’t have everything together. I’ve lived under the belief that I could never admit a missed step along the way. I’ve been afraid to admit to my church family that I am not perfect because I love getting credit. But I can’t live in that lie anymore. I don’t stand here today because of how good of a job I’ve done. I stand here today because of how PERFECT of a job that Jesus has done. I’m here as the older son that’s constantly having to choose the party inside over my self-righteousness and competency.
So here I am before you, boasting in my weakness that I chose fear over obedience for 6 years and passed up this opportunity to proclaim the gospel; because I want you to see the faithfulness of the Lord in my brokenness and depravity. While I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me 16 years to understand that I’m not God; the Lord has looked at me since before he spoke the earth into motion and has called me “son”. And just like he looked at Jesus in Mark 1 before he “did” anything in his ministry, the Father looks at me and says, “Hey. You’re my son. And I love you so much. And boy am I proud of you. Not because you earned it, but because I made you.”
The Father loves me because he loves me, and there’s absolutely nothing I could ever do to make him love me any more or any less.