Friday, August 31, 2012

The Wandering (And the Wondering) Soul

I’ve had a handful of friends in my life who, at one time, were passionate about their walk with Christ—only to walk away from Him at a later date. I don’t know if there’s anything more sorrowful.

Recently, one of my friends commented on how he now believes the entire story of Christ is a fairy tale, a “work of fiction” he called it. And my heart literally aches. How one goes from passionately pursuing a God who loves him so much to passionately running away from that same God is beyond me.

And then I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 12, when he tells us that a “house divided against itself will fall.” (Matthew 12:25 paraphrased)

When we submit ourselves to our own desires, knowing that those desires are the antithesis of what God wants for us, we have to run. We must run. Because the two cannot occupy the same space. My friends who used to preach, pray and pursue Christ each found themselves divided. They came to a point where the struggle between wanting to follow Jesus and wanting to follow their own desires wouldn’t allow them to stand any longer. For one, it was homosexuality. For another it was porn and sexual addiction. And yet another found himself addicted to drugs. When those things try to dwell in the same temple as God, something has to give. The house will crumble.

 I understand why they had to run in this direction. It’s the only place they can feel safe in their sin. You see, if you can disprove God, if you can prove that the whole thing is a made up story then you can justify your actions. What does it matter, after all, to live in sin, if you can prove that the concept of sin is flawed?

Sadly, all of these friends of mine know me too well. So, in the height of hypocrisy, they point to my sins as a way of justifying their own…all while trying to tell me that the concept of sin is irrelevant anyway. “My sins aren’t sins because I don’t believe in the concept of sin. But you…I know your sins. So don’t preach to me about mine.”

So, they try hard to discredit the Gospel. And here, many would simply write them off. But not me. I think it’s a good thing. To me, the fact that they spend so much energy trying to disprove Christ is an indicator of the inner-turmoil that’s going on inside of them. As much as they want to let go of God, they can’t. Because God’s fingerprints don’t wash off easily. And, try as they may, they can’t seem to get the name of Jesus off their lips. Sure, it’s in a negative connotation right now, but that’s a very powerful name. And as long as they utter it—in a negative or positive sense—there’s a chance for that power to once again take hold.

 So, if you know someone who has walked away from God, don’t give up. If he/she is working hard to discredit faith it’s not a sign of a lost soul. It’s the sign of a soul that God is still wrestling for. And if you have walked away from your faith but find yourself trying to disprove Christ, ask yourself why. Why must you disprove him? What is it in your life that you need so bad, that it requires God’s story to be false?

My prayers go out to the wandering (and the wondering) souls.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Wretch

There's this word, in a famous hymn by John Newton, that I haven't really thought much about, though I've sung it dozens if not hundreds of times. What did he mean when he said, "...a wretch like me?"

I looked up the word and it pretty much means what you'd expect it to: "a despicable or vile person." I can surely associate with that. But there was a synonym listed in the definition that struck me:


I thought about that word for awhile. Am I the villain in God's story? The answer is far too often, I'm afraid, yes.

When Jonah boarded a boat to get as far away as possible from God's will, he became the villain in the story. His sin brought a horrific storm on a ship full of sailors who were not party to his sin. Consequences of one's sin are rarely, if ever, heaped only on the sinner. I too, have boarded the boat to Tarsus. I have tried to flee from God's guidance. I have seen the consequences of my own sins leave their stains on other hearts.

When David decided that he wanted another man's wife, he became the villain in the story. Consumed by his lust, fleshly desires and greed, he went as far as to commit murder to try to cover up his sin. I too have peered over the balcony and coveted that which is not mine. And I have dug deeper holes to cover the sins I thought could be hidden. Though I have not committed physical murder, how many have I "killed" with my word and deed?

When we first learn of Paul in the Gospel, he is already the villain. His life was dedicated to persecuting believers. He stood by as others stoned Stephen. His life mission was to destroy those who worshipped God. I have been complacent in the destruction of fellow believers. I have watched them stumble, only to throw stones or turn my back as others hurled theirs.

I am the wretch.

I am the villain.

But the beauty of the Gospel is found in that very same hymn that brings us that awful word. The wretch can be saved. The villain's heart can be turned. God's grace put Jonah back on course. It allowed David to go down in history not as a wretch, but as "a man after God's own heart." Grace is what turned Saul into Paul.

That same grace is available to me and to you. But, as in each of these stories, it takes repentence. Whether you pray that prayer in the belly of fish, on your knees in your castle or on a dusty road in the middle of nowhere, grace is there. For every wretch. For every villain.

Yes, John Newton was right. It IS amazing.