All cards on the table – after my baptism, I began to struggle with the need for a Savior. It happened as I grew older and experienced the realities of life on this earth. I was enthusiastically ready to be a part of the Kingdom at a young age, baptized in the fourth grade, but had a hard time regarding the need for Jesus as I got older.
It was something that happened slowly for me. I wouldn’t say that I ever had an outright rebellion. Instead, I was of an apathetic mindset.
If I could sum up those feelings in a few short thoughts it would be something like, “I know Jesus loves me and that He died for me. I really appreciate that, but I don’t really love Him back and I’m just going to take His Word for it that I actually needed saving.” Still, any time I heard or read the crucifixion narrative, I always pictured myself in the story as one of Jesus’ disciples, one of the “team” members of His enlightened inner circle.
Now, I know there are a number of people right now who would tell you my baptism was insincere. They would tell you I wasn’t really ‘saved’ in the first place. The church is full of people unable to grasp the idea of struggling with concepts of faith and salvation. Don’t get me wrong, they’re usually pretty lenient during faith crises like losing a child or spouse. They don’t mind a little questioning when cancer hits, but outside of a “real” crisis, some just won’t have it.
Some church folks just expect you to bat a thousand in your faith – all day, every day – or something is wrong. No need to worry, God loves them too, and He’s working on their hearts and minds just as much as He’s working on yours and mine.
Falling in Real Love with Jesus
A short number of years ago, I read a great book by Donald Miller titled, Blue Like Jazz. What I witnessed in that book was the story of a guy falling deeply in love with Jesus. I realized as I finished it, I had denied for several years the reality of my thoughts on Jesus. I knew all the right things to say about Him. I grew up in the church, so speaking “Christian-ese” was simple, and I had no problem hiding how I thought about salvation. I was so good at it, I had myself convinced several times that I was good with the whole thing.
The problem was, I never could equate my need for a Savior with the need other people had. You know the type, those folks who had done some really bad stuff. I mean REALLY BAD.
I was basically a ‘good guy’. There was no way I needed Jesus as much as those people. The result was an appreciation for Jesus, a little happiness at the thought of heaven (we’re talking the nice golf courses and great food type of heaven, nothing Scriptural, of course), and, at the very least, I had a good moral code by which I lived.
Upon finishing Blue Like Jazz, I felt a need. It wasn’t like any other need I had truly felt before. I felt like I needed to let a few people know my thoughts on Jesus. I needed confession.
I was done playing pretends with my wife and I had one or two other folks that I thought should know as well. Please understand, it wasn’t an arrogant profession of my feelings. It was an honest confession. I just didn’t see how pretending to love Jesus because He died for me was accomplishing anything in my life. It made my wife sad, but I never knew it. She just began praying for me without my knowledge. The other guys I told did the same thing.
The Holy Spirit Guides Us to All Truth – About Ourselves
It was a few years later that Jesus made my need for salvation abundantly clear. I was reluctantly attending a retreat hosted by one of the local churches. As I was being led by various speakers through Scripture, the Holy Spirit revealed things in my life that were completely damaging and consuming me.
I wasn’t living a life of freedom, but I was, instead, enslaved by an identity rooted in the shame of my sins. Through the course of several hours and discussions, the Holy Spirit revealed the meaning of the cross and the power of the cross which set me free from the bondage of sin. When Jesus provided that sort of clarity, I could no longer deny the damage my sin had caused. I could no longer deny the future damage I would cause if I didn’t release my sin and shame to the only One who could truly take it. There was no denying it – I needed a Savior.
Knowing that, I understood how much I needed Jesus on the cross. I could no longer assume that I would have been part of His inner circle of enlightened folks. It became clear that I would have been one of the first in the crowd to shout, “CRUCIFY HIM!” He knew how much I needed Him on the cross. He knew how much you needed Him on the cross. He knew how much fallen humanity needed Him on the cross and, so, submitting Himself to the will of His loving Father, He allowed Himself to be beaten, whipped, pierced, hung on a cross, forsaken, and buried.
So, What’s the Play Call?
A beautiful thing happens when Christ reveals these things. Your identity is no longer rooted in sin. Your new identity is, “Forgiven,” “Chosen,” “Holy,” “Free,” “His.”
I’m convinced – Jesus never panics in our struggles.
Confession is never surrender to the enemy. It is a loosening of the grasp on the chains which no longer bind you and a hopeful surrender to the One who began a good work in you.
2 Timothy 2:13 tells us, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”
Don’t believe for a moment that it was just my wife and a few friends who prayed for me that were being faithful. Our God has been faithful from the beginning, and even before we confess our faults, it is His faithfulness and kindness which draw us back to Him and leads us to repentance.
So, Team, when the Holy Spirit reveals that your perceived good is sin, repent before your loving God and redeeming Savior (1 John 1:9).