It was February 1st of 2005 that I was converted and became a Christian. I repented of my sins and the "good works" that were fooling me into believing I was okay. Surely the Lord would look over my sins and give me an A+ for effort. The truth is that those efforts dug me deeper into depravity. My outward performance and smug, legalistic, self-righteousness were no small things. They were cosmic treason against an infinitely holy God.
Oh, how I praise the Lord for His work of grace in my life! I still see so many deficiencies in my life, yet I'm thankful that the Lord has continued to bring about some much-needed changes. I wish I was a spiritual giant like those I read about. My life seems to be a speck in God's kingdom. However, I'm reminded of other "specks" that God has used to bless my life. I could mention names that almost no one reading will know, yet these men affected my life in such profound ways. Tonight at church, Brother Todd mentioned that many of us that are pastors or hope to one day pastor might snub our noses at the small, rural church that runs 15 in Sunday school. In his lesson on John the Baptist, he brought out the fact that God gave him a message, and he was to proclaim that message in a desert. However, I'm happy to serve God in the desert.
In this desert, however, the Lord has taught me a few things, whether it be about myself or about the Christian life. I would like to end this post just listing my thoughts. There's probably nothing orderly about today's entry, but I just wanted to think about the Christian life that I've been living for the past 2 years in thankfulness for God's sanctifying grace.
1. God gives us timely lessons. The Lord has a way of teaching us things through trials and giving us the strength we need for that moment. I can look back and see numerous times that the Lord has taught me a lesson that I would not have had the faith to withstand just 2 years ago. The Lord taught me to better trust in Him and His timing. In moving to my current apartment, my situation was hopeless. I was at the end of my rope, and the Lord came through in the last few days. I literally had no where to go in the final weeks before the house I was living would be sold by our landlord. I don't know if I could have handled that same situation 2 years ago. It was a timely lesson, a lesson designed for that moment in my life, and although I would weep and felt forsaken by God, He heard my cries.
2. Growth in grace is steady, but it is often imperceptible to us. It's remarkably true that others may see us grow in leaps and bounds with a life full of grace, yet to us we see the doubting tendencies and the scars of past sins that still come to life after lying dormant for weeks, months, or years. During this past year, I have often lamented the lack of growth in my life. I did not see major steps toward becoming like Christ. However, even if I look at my life a year ago, I see so many changes and new opportunities that the Lord has brought into my life to remind me that He's actively changing me. I think of a mentor relationship, a new accountability relationship, a new friendship, the sins that are being vanquished, along with several areas in my life that the Lord has encouraged me to change. I cannot see that at the moment. I struggle through each step, not realizing I've walked for miles. I focus on the stretch of road ahead of me and the tiredness of my feet, forgetting that my goal is to keep my eyes on Christ during the journey of the Christian life. On a special day like today, I recognize the grace of God in my life, and I'm humbled that the Lord has given me the privilege of teaching, preaching, and ministering in the name of Christ.
3. Friends sanctify. The Lord has brought some friends into my life that have truly changed my life. That may sound a bit over-the-top, but there's no other way that I can put it. Through those deep friendships with fellow brothers and sisters in the faith, the Lord has revealed to me how much of a sinner that I am. Recently, I sent an e-mail to a brother of mine confessing a sin that I committed against him that he didn't know about. I was able to reconcile with another brother through a rift that was created by something that I said, even though I didn't know the rift even existed for months. Through those interactions, I learned how prideful or insensitive I can be. Those are painful lessons. I don't like to think of myself as a prideful person. I don't normally choose to think of myself as someone who is insensitive to those around me. The truth is, through these men, I have come to realize how much of an impact my choices have on others. Just by choosing different words, I would have been able to avoid hurting a dear brother. Through choosing to tell the truth about a situation, I let my brother see my sin instead of concealing it.
4. Sins must not go unconfessed. It seems that the verse the Lord kept drilling into my head the whole fall semester was Proverbs 28:13, "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy." The Lord brought about victory in an area of my life because I confessed it to my pastor and a couple of brothers. The Lord is gracious and will hear the prayers of those who confess their sins. I also forsaked that sin, and have taken measures to eradicate it from my life. Unfortunately, any sinful action comes about through sinful attitudes of the heart, and I pray that the Lord will continue working on my thoughts just as much as He gives me the strength to act as I should.
Those are some lessons that I have learned this past year. My prayer is that I will be more like Jesus by the time I post an entry on this blog next year.
Pray for me that the Lord will grant me the grace to live the Christian life as I should, not just when celebrating the anniversary of my conversion, but every day of the year. May I be like Christ on the day when a close relative dies, on the day when close friends forsake me, or on the day when sadness grips my heart. All of that (or none of that) may happen this year...If it does, I pray that it will make me more like Jesus.