Note: I delivered the following message as part of an “invitation talk” on December 18, 2019.
The Psalmist wrote, “Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper” (Psalm 1:1-3). This passage not only describes the favored position of the godly man but it describes the progressive nature of sin in the sinner.
We sometimes sing a song in our worship services (#541 “Blessed Assurance”) that contains these words in the chorus, “This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long…” That song speaks to the assurance that we have in Jesus. When we sing that song we are celebrating the fact that we are “heirs of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.”
Today I am going to share my heart with you …This is my story. Well actually it’s not MY story. It’s the story of Jesus working in my life! What I have to say may alarm some of you; I hope not. Some would call this my testimony. And some of us don’t like testimonies. My purpose in sharing my story with you is to remind us all that we must bear the consequences of our sin. My prayer and my hope is that my openness and vulnerability my help others who struggle. In part, my decision to use this as an invitation message, was stirred by the discussion that ensued in a class I recently attended on “The Sin of Gossiping.” In that class, the question was asked, “What would you do if someone came up to you and said, ‘I need to tell you something, but you must promise me that you won’t tell anyone else.” My observation (though I did not offer a comment in class) was that many of us in the church DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPTS OF ANYNYMOTY AND CONFIDENTIALITY. That is why it is often not a SAFE PLACE for those who are hurting and seek to find healing. And as the brother who was teaching the class pointed out, there are many “out there” who are hurting!
Today I want to tell you Who I Was, Who I Became, and Who I Am Today.
Who I Was
I was raised by godly parents. My father preached the gospel for more than 40 years and my mother supported him as he moved from place to place to proclaim the gospel. Many of you may have known my parents. At the time of his death in 2006, my father had served as an elder and a preacher at the Van Buren Church of Christ in Van Buren, Arkansas, but had resigned the eldership because he was going to be gone on Sunday mornings. He saw a great need to preach the gospel and began traveling to Waveland to preach on Sunday morning and then to Bethel to preach on Sunday afternoon and then he was back at Van Buren for Sunday evening service.
With that as a foundation I “grew up in the church” as we often say. I obeyed the gospel when I was 13 years old and I tried to live the life of a good Christian. I became a Bible class teacher. I did quite a bit of what the old-timers used to call “appointment preaching.” I served as a deacon, a treasurer, and an elder in the local church where I was a member.
But something happened not long after my dad passed away. In fact, someone who is still very important to me recently said, “You kind of lost your way when he passed away.” And she was right. I wasn’t ready for Dad to leave me. He was a wise counselor that I turned to when I was troubled by something. Like the time I was laid off after 15 years with Union Carbide, he helped me work through that.
In about 2009 secret sin entered my life. I was good at hiding it from everyone but God. The progressive nature of the sin that I found myself embroiled in led me deeper and deeper.
Who I Became
I became a hypocrite. I looked at things that a Christian has no business looking at. I knew what I was doing was wrong. I was hurting but I did not know where to turn. I felt the pain that Paul talks about in Romans 7:15 when he says, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” I found myself involved in a struggle between the flesh and the spirit. Paul again says in Galatians 5:16-17, I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
I sought recovery on my own, reaching out occasionally for help but not really knowing where to turn. I did not really feel safe admitting my problems to my brethren. As it always does, sin will find you out (Numbers 32:23). It found me out in 2018 and I tried, like I had for 9 years to tackle it by myself. I tried but I relapsed and eventually my wife of 23 years. Divorced me and I became a broken man. A young man, wiser than his young years said to me recently, “I’m confused how, for 4 whole years, you could be unfaithful to a woman who was not only a great mother and Christian, but a great and caring wife towards you for over 20 years.”
Eventually, I found a safe place, it is called Celebrate Recovery. It is a Christ-Centered 12 Step program designed to help people find healing from their hurts, habits and hang ups. The power of the program is that it directs people to Jesus Christ. The 8 principles of CR, that are based upon the Beatitudes, and the anonymity and confidentiality that is part of the DNA of the program, helps to guarantee it as a safe place!
Who I Am
I am not a perfect man but neither am I the man that I became because of the sin that I allowed to remain in my life. I was broken, I am now healed. I was controlled by secret sin; I am now open and transparent. I was a man struggling to find healing alone, I now am a man who is working the 8 Principles and the 12 Steps of recovery. I am now a man forgiven but still suffering the consequences of my sins.
There is no sin so great that it cannot be forgiven when repented of. The consequences of those sins, however, may be severe and affect us the rest of our lives. This is where I now stand: I have repented and asked forgiveness from those I have harmed but I still suffer the alienation of family; my wife of 23 years refused to reconcile, and one of my two sons, whom I love, will not speak to me! As I share my story, so that others who suffer from similar struggles might find hope, it is my prayer that my focus will always be upon Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith! Just as true now as it was in the first century, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
If you are reading these words right now, and you have not obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ, please know that only in Him can you find forgiveness for your sins and healing from those things that trouble you. He promises, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Mt. 7:7-8). And again, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mt. 11:28-30). The simple plan of salvation calls for you to believe in Him (Acts 2:38), repent and follow him (Acts 3:19), confess Him as King of your life (Rom. 10:9-10), be baptized into His precious blood (Acts 2:38), and live faithfully to him until your last breath is taken (Rev. 2:10). If you have done these things but then you have stumbled and fallen, pick yourself back up, repent and pray (Acts 8:22). As you move forward in your faith and recovery journey always look to Jesus, living life one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time. May Bod bless you!