Friday, August 26, 2005

A Time To Remember

I have been preparing this week to preach from Ephesians 2:11-13. I have been preaching through the book of Ephesians for the past few months, and it has been a blessing to me.

In these verses Paul commands us to "remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called 'the uncircumcision' by what is called the circumcision...remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world."

The Scripture commands me to remember when I was lost.

How long has it been since you remembered what it was like when you were lost? I'll tell you what it was like for me. I remember it vividly, and I pray to God that I never forget it.

I remember a time when my peers were my god. I remember a time when the approval of the crowd was what I craved. I remember not measuring up. I remember feeling too ugly, insignificant, and unpopular to ever garner the status that I craved. It was a lonely place. I had friends, but all was dark.

I remember wishing for a girlfriend to satisfy my desires. But I was awkward and idiotic. I had no ambition, no drive, no maturity, and nothing to offer. I was a fool and I knew it, but I did not know what to do about it.

I remember wondering if there was a God and if He cared about me. I remember being frustrated and afraid. I remember looking at a blood red moon and inwardly trembling because I thought Jesus might appear bring my doom.

I sought satisfaction in peer approval, girls, hobbies, and education. But it was vanity. Nothing satisfied.

I remember going to English class and philosophy in college and learning that there is no truth. I learned that since there is no truth it is okay to do what you want because you are the final arbiter of right and wrong and no man can judge you. This thought sunk me into deeper misery. I realized that if there were no truth, then there was no point to life. Whether I ate or drank or lived or died, it was all the same. I was dust in the wind.

I remember staying up at night and weeping in misery and calling out to a God I did not know. I had been enlightened in the ways of the world. I had drunk from its fountain to the bitter dregs, and I longed to be rid of it. I wanted there to be a God desperately, and I wanted to know who He was. Prayers were answered with silence. There was no dawn to drive away the darkness and no sun to warm the chill. My heart was as dead as a stone and frosted like grass in winter.

On August 12, 1996 I saw light for the first time. This is what it looked like:

"God (said), 'Let light shine out of darkness,' (and the light) shone in (my) heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the light of Christ pierced the veil of my dark heart. It was the most terrifying and glorious moment of my life. I knew that I was guilty before a Just and Great God. I was certain that I was bound for hell, and I marveled. Even though I greatly feared that He would certainly cast me into hell, I worshipped Him for His greatness. I, as a sinner, saw the beauty of a Righteous God. I cried out for undeserved mercy because I wanted to live to serve this God. I asked for forgiveness, and I knew that it was mine in Christ. Heaven came down and glory filled my soul. I knew peace for the first time in my life.

It has been almost nine years since God overwhelmed me. I still remember the fear I felt when the light of the truth of Jesus Christ dawned on me. I know to this day that I will never fear anything the way I fear Him. But I also know that I will never love anything as fiercely as I do the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. I shudder to remember my misery, but I rejoice to remember its cure.

I remember now that I once craved popularity, and that echo of pride is still with me, but it is quiet now, a memory of what once was. I remember my desire for companionship, and now God has granted me His own daughter. I treasure her, not as a mere object of fleshly desire, but as a gift from the hand of my Father. She is a gift of marvelous charity, a certainty of His favor, and a reflection of His grace. For she was won by Him at great price, and He cherishes her with an everlasting love.

He has taken me, pitiful man that I am, who has no courage to speak of, no wit or charm save by His grace, and placed me over a small flock of His children. He has granted me the honor of teaching them His Word. If they knew of me half of what He knows, I would hide my face in shame. Yet He suffers me to teach them, and allows me to guide them to the grace that is found in Jesus Christ.

I cannot here exhaust the richness of God's grace toward me in Christ. He has given me life, friends, honor, love, and a glimpse of glory. He has entrusted me with a wife and a son. I have come to the end of this remembrance. Oh how good it is to remember! I plead with you to remember the goodness that God has shown to you. I beg you to remember your former life without Christ. I end with this exhortation, and I hope you have the patience to read it:

"I love the LORD, because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the LORD.
'O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!'

Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest;
for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you" (Psalm 116:1-7).

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