I want to start this week’s blog with a couple questions. First: if you’re a Christian, what did you need to be saved from, and where are you most likely to need help today? Second: if you’re not a Christian, would you consider yourself a bad person or a good person, and do you believe that there are areas in your life that need to be fixed?
Last Tuesday at The Porch, we finished the A.D. series that highlighted significant encounters people had with Jesus. You may have heard of Zacchaeus in VBS or Sunday School – he’s the guy who climbed a tree to get a better view of Jesus, ended up hosting Jesus at his house, and then got saved and paid back all the money he had stolen from people. It’s a pretty amazing story of how his life was transformed after meeting Jesus. Whether you’re a follower of Christ or not, I think there are some really important truths we can grab from this story.
One of the points from Tuesday’s message was that there is no mess that cannot be used for ministry. That doesn’t mean you’ll become a pastor; it means that there is nothing in your life – no abortion, no eating disorder, no alcohol addiction, no secret porn habit, no materialism, no rage, no whatever – that God cannot turn around and use to showcase His mercy and grace. But before you can be used for ministry, you need to realize and admit that you’re a mess.
To the non-Christian: if you consider yourself to be a good person, to be called a rebel and a mess may be offensive to you. But God’s Word makes it clear, whether you’re a murderer or a gentle mama’s boy – you’re a sinner, which means you deserve death and separation from God, and your good works can’t save you. You deserve God’s anger because of your sin.
To the Christian: hopefully you are well aware of your “rebellious stage” – you definitely had one, even if you don’t have the “extreme” testimony of coming to Christ after giving yourself fully over to porn, sex, drinking, drugs, or whatever. The Bible says that you were sinful at birth, well before you had a chance to do any of those things. If there’s any part of you that thinks you needed less saving because you lived a pretty good life and avoided the major sins, you need to watch out for pride! God hates pride and opposes the proud. The Bible is clear – you either were a rebel against God, or you still are. Don’t sell your testimony short! You needed saving from your sins just as much as any other person on earth.
This one is personal to me, because for a long time I thought that I was a pretty good guy who needed a Savior because of some bad stuff I did as a kid, but then thought I was doing OK after that. I shared my testimony at my high school graduation, and actually said something along the lines of “this is a testimony about the gutter that God kept me from, not the gutter that God saved me from.” There may be some truth to that, since God protected me from experiencing the pain of some “big” sins, but I pridefully thought I was better than other people and didn’t need Jesus as much as they did. This led me down a painful road of sin for years.
To the non-Christian: you may think that religion is about doing enough good things to outweigh the bad ones, and that as long as you’ve done enough good, you’ll go to heaven when you die. Plenty of (false) religions believe that, but Christianity isn’t one of them. No matter how hard you try and how many good things you do, you can’t measure up to God’s standard of perfect righteousness. You might be able to control some kinds of behavior, but there’s always going to be something broken on the inside, at the heart level, where only God can touch. You don’t need self-help; you need a Savior.
To the Christian: Are you still trying to fix yourself? Do you believe that you can do better if you try harder? Just because you trusted Jesus to save you, doesn’t mean that you don’t still need Him to fix you! You will always have an area of your life that needs to be healed, because becoming more like Jesus is a lifetime process that’s only perfected on the other side of death. But while you’re alive, it’s God doing the work, not you alone. The moment you try to go it alone and fix something in your life apart from Jesus, you can do nothing. Trying to do that is exhausting, futile, and faith-killing. I know this from experience.
I bought the lie for years that I needed to try harder to fix myself. I trusted Christ at 8, but from 15 to 23 I secretly indulgenced in pornography. I felt guilty, but overall I thought that I was doing OK since I could hide it, and I hypocritically felt like it wasn’t a “major” sin like having sex or getting drunk. I tried to stop sinning because I felt convicted (New Years’ resolution, anyone?), but it never worked. After years of secret struggle, nearly hopeless from being unable to make any progress, I finally confessed my sin to God and others, and surrendered that sin to Him. And God transformed me! That change didn’t come from trying harder, it came from encountering my Savior’s healing power, even well after I had first become a Christian.
To the non-Christian: God loves you enough to die for you, and His arms are wide open to you! Jesus came to seek you out and save you. If you trust Christ for the payment of your sins, you’ll be rescued from the consequences of your sin. If you don’t believe you need rescuing – watch out, because judgment is coming, and it will not go well for you. God promises forgiveness to your repentance, but He does not promise tomorrow to your procrastination.
To the Christian: Do you think that you still need rescuing? Or do you think that Jesus rescued you once when you became a Christian, and now it’s up to you? Yes, the penalty of your sin has been forever cancelled, and you are not condemned in any way because of your sin, but the truth is that there is still sin that easily entangles you and can harden your heart with its deceitfulness, and you need Jesus to free you from it. Maybe the message you need to hear is what He said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” If you’re a Christian stuck in sin, the answer isn’t to keep running away from God or to try harder to fix yourself. The answer is to admit your sin and return to God, like the Prodigal Son did, and finally experience the rest that comes from surrender. God delights in showing you mercy, and He will not despise your broken and contrite heart.
I’ve experienced the dead-end of trying to fix myself, and I’ve also experienced the freedom that comes from repenting and relying on Jesus to do it (you can read my story here). I want you to experience Jesus’ rescuing power too! Any of us at The Porch would be happy to talk with you. Please let us know how we can serve you.