Monday, December 31, 2012

The Day I Died

Six months after visiting Haiti, I find myself crossing a new milestone worthy of much praise. In order for anyone to understand this milestone, I'll need to take you back to exactly one year ago today. 

I was preparing to hit the partying streets of Atlanta, GA, in order to celebrate the infamous New Year's Eve holiday.  With beer bottles in hand, my friends and I set out for yet another night on the town. Other than the $50 cover, this was nothing new to me. Most of my Friday nights prior to this had been spent at a bar, and most of my Saturday mornings had been spent on my couch with a killer hangover. Little did I know, this would be the last NYE celebrated in that fashion;  a week later, I would die.

Or at least that's how God's Word puts it. Repeatedly.

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And 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.

See also: Luke 9:23, Mark 8:35, Galatians 5:24, 1 Peter 2:24

Prior to that NYE, I would have considered myself a "Christian." I believed in God. I believed that Jesus was God's son. I believed that God sent Jesus, who was both 100% God and 100% man, to die for our sins, so that we might live with God in Heaven forever and ever, amen. That's the gospel, right?

But WAIT. I said the sinner's prayer that day in church when I was 14 years old. I told God I wanted to have a relationship with His son. I was baptized for goodness sake. You know, the "wedding band" of salvation. I had publicly displayed my commitment to Christ as my Lord. Oh....wait. Lord? I guess that's the part I had signed without reading. I was what Craig Groeschel would call "A Christian Atheist:" Believing in God but living as if He doesn't exist. Or what Kyle Idleman would call a "Fan of Jesus" rather than a follower. I had bought into one of the enemy's greatest lies... a watered down gospel. 

God would gently (and at times... not-so-gently) begin to reveal this truth to me during the coming month.  January was filled with a series of divine appointments... with books, sermons, people, events, and revelations, all happening at just the right time. I can't tell you why I decided to participate in my church's "21 Days of Prayer and Fasting" that would begin that next week, but I did. I can't tell you why I decided to fast alcohol, but I did. I can't tell you why I decided to commit time to prayer every day for the next 21 days, but I did. The only explanation I have is that God was with me. He had a better plan for me than I had for myself. He had plans to prosper me, to bring me hope and a future. And those plans would never have been fulfilled if I had stayed in the driver's seat. So he asked me to pull the car over and swap places with him. To stop asking Him for directions only when I though I was lost. 

Matthew 7:21 says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Through this verse, God revealed to me that many people who call themselves Christians, such as myself, are devastatingly wrong. It goes on to say, "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' " It was as if God was giving me a glimpse of my possible future, standing before him on Judgement Day, completely ready to accept his salvation and expecting to spend eternity with him, only to be found filthy in sin because I had never died to self, allowed His Son to clothe me in righteousness, and lived like I truly believed the gospel.  

Saved by grace is a difficult concept. And I think the enemy has done a pretty good job in tricking us into believing that it means we can live this life however we want because there is no way to earn or lose our salvation. You're getting nervous aren't you? Don't worry... I'm not about to go all "works-based" on you. Technically... that's correct. We can't earn salvation. But have you read James 2:26? My point is that true salvation... a pure understanding of what Christ did for us....a real commitment to follow Him... and a genuine love for Jesus....will change your life, will never be fruitless, and will call you to your rightful place in the passenger's seat. A false sense of salvation is the enemy's greatest scheme. 

To repent means to change your mind about something. When we change our mind about something, we behave differently regarding it. To receive the gospel with a repentant heart, We have to change our mind about ourselves and about our God. For me, I had to stop believing that I was good enough. That I didn't require a rescuer.  That God would never expect me to be someone that I couldn't be. That God was fair, and it would be unfair for God to require righteousness of me when He was the only righteous one. I had to start believing the truth. That God would not be righteous if He didn't require righteousness in return from everything around Him. Right can never be okay with wrong. No matter how great His love is for us, it is impossible for a sinner to be in His presence. That is the necessity of the Cross. That is the truth that God revealed to me last January. That is what changed my mind, my heart, and my life. I stood no chance in that courtroom on Judgement Day without evidence. My evidence is this: A new heart (II Cor. 5:17),  A new driver (Romans 8:14), and new works, done because of salvation, not for it (James 2:26). 

May you be covered in his dust,