I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.
I Tim 1:12-15
What follows is a brief account of the path by which God has graciously brought me to Himself . . .
From my earliest recollections, I grew up with the belief that I was a good person who did many good things and had a basically good heart. I thought God loved me because I was good, and any wrong I did was not really my fault. My family attended church and I made a commitment to Christ as a teenager. Afterward, for many years, I earnestly tried to follow God's commands as I understood them. But these efforts led to nagging frustration whenever I realized I was failing, and implacable self-deception whenever I managed to obey outwardly. No matter how much I tried to please God, my heart remained dead and cold. My actions proved that I was as proud, deceitful and self-centered as I was merciless, moralistic, legalistic, harsh, judgmental and condemning. The more determined I was to follow God's rules, the more troubled my soul became, and my sins multiplied. I was characterized by pride, anger, fear of man, hatred, lust, complaining, selfishness, unforgiveness, worry, criticism, and some sins too shameful to mention. My misery became unbearable. Nevertheless, I clung firmly to a strong trust in my own natural abilities and flawed wisdom.
At The CROSSROADS
Through hard circumstances, bitter failures, devastated relationships and a terrifying sense of hopelessness, I finally came to understand that I was a sinner, completely lost, darkened in my mind, foolish, justly condemned by a holy God, and desperately in need of His mercy. Gradually, through the light of Scripture, the counsel of caring friends and the Holy Spirit's persistent drawing, I began to see something utterly wonderful in God - a fact to which I had previously been inexplicably blind. Namely, that God loves sinners and desires to show mercy to them. That He is good, and His mercy is forever. That He is gracious, and ready to forgive, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness. That His mercy prevails over us and His kindness leads us to repentance. Captivated by these truths, I came to Christ as a poor sinner, trusting that He had the greatest love for me in spite of my wickedness. I cried out to Him to save me, holding fast to the promise that He had come to "seek and to save that which was lost." I trusted that the Friend of sinners would indeed "forgive all my iniquity" and "remember my sins no more," and that He would save me by His grace - for He had sacrificed His own life and blood FOR ME. I realized that these were merciful works of God, and that no man could do - or undo - what He had accomplished for me at the cross.
From that time, in spite of an ever-growing awareness of the depth and extent of my sinfulness, I have found rest in the assurance that all my sins are forgiven. I have discovered heart-level transformation happens only by His grace, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit - not by my futile striving and straining under the law. Some of the first evidences of new life were seen when I found myself viewing other people through a merciful rather than judgmental lens. Instead of getting angry about the sins of others, I was now able to draw my attention back to my own sin. The Lord helped me to take responsibility and stop blaming others for my faults. I began to trust God's sovereign plan, discipline, and fatherly care for His children. My heart became truly thankful for the many undeserved kindnesses He gives each day. And I learned to be grateful under the painful circumstances which He has ordained for His glory and my good. In short, my stubborn self-righteousness faded before the glorious radiance of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
I Timothy 1:17