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Observations that I have learned from “My Life”

I thought that I would take some time to share with you some observations that I have learned over the years in reference to my testimony I have posted over the last week.

1. Understand that sin is deceitful and worthless. This is for those of you who find yourselves stuggling with sinful lifestyles that seem to have you chained to a wall. I know you have heard this before, but my testimony demands its repetition. We sin because we are by nature sinners (Eph 2:3). The sin that creates this desire while enticing, causes you to waste your life. It really does. The satisfaction is always empty, even if the pleasure is there for a moment.

One evening after I had been out of the lifestyle for some time, one of my unbelieving bar scene friends asked me, “Michael, why does God get so mad about me sitting here and getting drunk playing video games with friends. It is fun. I am not hurting anyone. What does he have against that.” I thought about this very carefully for a while and then responded, “I don’t think God is so bent out of shape over people getting drunk, He just does not like you to waste your life. You are created for something more.” He responded, “That makes sense.” We are all created with a desire that can only be satisfied by God. Attempting to satisfy yourself with other things is wasting your life.

If you have yet to listen to it, I encourage you to listen to this sermon that I did on sin called “Red Stuff.” Download it to your ipod or find time to listen to it here.

    
   

2. Don’t ever give up. Winston Churchhill’s famous “never give up” speech applies to Christians. There are so many times that I have been tempted to throw in the towel and give completely in to sin. During the time of my despondency, wrestling with God seemed to be a hopeless endeavor. My encouragement to you is to never give up. When you have fallen down once, get back up immediately. Upon ten failures don’t stay down. When your failings weary your heart and your mind and traverse the century mark, get up faster. Once you hit one thousand falls, say “I have just begun to fight!” God will never cease to forgive you. That is one of the radical realities of grace. His forgivness has no bounds. Grace has no regard for either the quantity or quality of your sin (Matt. 18:21-22). Get back up!

3. Don’t make your testimony the standard. It is tempting for people who are miraculously delivered from particular sinful strongholds to make their experience the norm for those who are truly being led by God. I have seen many well meaning Christians discourage struggling Christians, telling them that if they are not delivered from a __________ then they are not serious about their desire to quit ___________. This is simply not true. As I said before, I don’t know why God chooses to deliver people the way he does. My simple advice is to stand strong against sin, but be gracious towards the weak. My two best friends that I mentioned in my testimony who were Christians in the scene of debachury like I was are still in that scene fifteen years later. Still stuggling. Still conflicted. I don’t know why God has not delivered them. I don’t know why I found the purpose and will to leave. I don’t condone what they do and I always encourage them to quit wasting their lives, but at the same time I know, but for the grace and mercy of God, I would still be at the Dugout. 

3. Mothers can have a tremendous impact on a child, don’t forget that. My mother was and still is my inspiration in so many ways. She alone in my family was responsible for teaching me the ways of God and illustrating how this is lived out. Without her, I would have never had the foundation from which to engage in the battle against sin. Thank you mom and thank you to all moms who find themselves alone in their attempts to rear their children in a godly way.

4. Don’t judge people to harshly. My experience has contributed much to my theology. In particular, with reference to the “Lordship Salvation” debate. I don’t have time to get into it much here, but in sum there are many well meaning Christians who understandably seek to rid Christianity of the problem of nominalism. Nominalism is where people simply claim the gospel and Christ, but have no lives to reflect their confession. I know that there are many nominal Christians out there. Some, holding to a strong view of “Lordship Salvation” insist that in order to be a Christian, the person must forsake all sin in their lives. If they have not, then they are not Christian. This is tough. I tried for years to forsake the sin in my life. I am still trying. But, even at my most depraved, even when I was so diluted that I actually prayed that God would help me to find a girl to sleep with one night, I still knew and trusted Christ for my salvation. I did not get saved once I gave up that lifestyle. I eventually gave it up because I was saved. Be careful, you never know what people are going through. Be both strong and uncompromising, calling sin, sin, but also be gracious and merciful, being mindful of your own weakness and your ignorance of what is going on.

I am sure there are more, but that will do for now.

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13 Responses to “Observations that I have learned from “My Life””

  1. Michael – What this blog series on your life has made me realize is this –
    I struggle, you struggle, we all struggle with sin in our life. It is not
    just me! So many times I thought I was the only one who went
    through these things. No. 1 – We need to keep on fighting it and take
    each hurdle as it comes, one step at a time. And realize that each time
    we come up to one of these hurdles and jump over it successfully,
    it has brought another lesson to our lives that we have struggled
    through and learned from. No. 2 – To remember that we are not here
    to judge anyone else because of their sinning. God is the only one
    who can and will do that. It is up to us to help others get
    through these hard times.

    Michael – Thanks so much for sharing all of this! You really have no
    idea what it means to me (and many others as you have seen the comments)
    to know that it took you to climb a mountain to get where you are. And
    to come to understand that everyone goes through these struggles.
    But to realize that the struggles are worth the fight in the end because
    of everything we learn and how we become better Christians because of it.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is thanks for letting me know that you
    are human! Sometimes when we see people who seem so well adjusted
    we don’t think about how they got there, just that they are there and they
    appear perfect. We put them on a pedestal and think we could never
    be like them. You made me realize that there is potential for me and/or
    anyone who is struggling with sin during their life.

    Cheryl Mann-McLaughlin

  2. Fantastic log and sermon on “The Red Stuff.” I have heard the episode of Esau and Jacob preached on so many times and with so many different conclusions, but it never hit home until I heard this sermon. Thanks for sharing your story, and for seeing how it can be used to help others.

  3. Michael,

    What a killer sermon in “redstuff.”

    To me one of the most telling parts of the sermon is not that we each have our own desires for redstuff (I certainly do), but that by giving in to our own redstuff on a continual basis, we each risk it taking over our lives and creating enmity with God and thus trading our birthright for the most temporal of things.

    Great, great sermon!

    Bill

  4. As usual, another insightful article with a lot to think about. As others have said already, I’ve found your testimony hits very close to home and is very helpful.

    One (unfortunately long) question I have is in regards to your first point. I’m probably misunderstanding something (which I tend to do a lot) and this question may seem a bit exaggerated (as most of my thoughts seem to be.) I assume that your main point was with the drinking, but it touched upon some questions I’ve been having for a while now. Also, I apologize if this sounds sarcastic, it isn’t intended to be, but it’s the only way I can think to express the question. So, here it goes:

    If God isn’t so much upset with your friend because he gets drunk, but rather for wasting his life, does that mean that things like playing video games with friends is sin? If so, then is it because he isn’t doing something useful; like something vital for his existence or something that relates to God? If so, then wouldn’t most things people do be questionable? Most, if not all, recreation (watching movies, reading books, gardening, stamp collecting, etc.) would be sin; even taking a nap. Going to work would be a sin too, unless maybe if you had a really important job or made a lot of money, but for someone who drives a truck or cuts people’s hair, they’d be sinning too; after all, it could be argued that people with low level jobs like most of us (and probably even most with what the world would call important jobs) are wasting their lives with such things, in a sense.

    Today, I had the day off, so I had a cookout with my parents and brother, then we watched some movies, and in a few minutes, I’ll probably be helping put together an office chair and after that I might read a comic book or a chapter of a novel; “It is fun. I am not hurting anyone. What does God have against that?”

    Even your example from your article “Don’t Forget to Enjoy Life”, about watching Justice League with your son, could be considered wasting time. Of course, I’m not in any way suggesting that there’s anything wrong with it, and I hope that you don’t mind me using it as an example; also, this may sound argumentative, but really isn’t meant to be in the least. But, what’s the difference between your friend playing video games with friends and you watching JLA with your son? Both of you are enjoying yourselves doing something that could be considered useless, so what is the difference? It could be argued that spending time with your kids is important (which it is), but what about those of us without children? For instance, if you and I were watching JLA at the same time, you with your son and me by myself, would it be a sin for me and not for you? It could also be argued that you being a theology teacher do more for God than me (I’ll represent the truck-driving hair-dressers of the world for the moment) and can take time out, but what about those of us who aren’t preachers, missionaries or whatever?

    I guess the real question is: how do we know when we’re wasting our life (playing video games with friends or, maybe worse, by ourselves) and when we’re enjoying life (watching cartoons with our kids)?

    Again, this isn’t supposed to be as sarcastic or argumentative as it may sound and it’s also probably extremely exaggerated to the point of being a bit stupid, but that’s just the way my mind works and I’m a bit of a spiritual hypochondriac. And, again…again, great article, as always and thanks for all you and your ministry does. As someone else said above, you have no idea how much you’ve helped me; not just with your testimony, but you’ve really helped keep me going these last few months.

  5. I want to say that your blog series on your life (and this conclusion) really touches home on a lot of levels.

    I can certainly identify with much of what you did Michael in the early 90s. I never had an issue with drinking but there was some serious sexual impurity going on in my life. I know I was saved during that time. You will never find me saying, I “thought I was saved as a child but it wasn’t until my early 20s that I really came to know the Lord”. The truth is I knew the Lord when I was living my life in such a way.

    If someone on the outside were looking in they NEVER would have thought I was a Christian. However, I knew (and still know) something that they didn’t. They couldn’t see my heart; they couldn’t see the misery I was drowning in as a result of the conviction I was under.

    I thank the Lord for keeping me through it all. He never forsook me, He was always there. When I look back on it all I think to myself “if I did this stuff when I was saved, what would it have been like if I weren’t?!”. I thank the Lord for being there to keep me from doing even more horrible things than I did. I thank Him for His abundant grace.

    That is really what this blog series has brought to mind -the miraculous nature of God’s grace and how truly undeserving we are of it.

    Thank you Michael. and ^ 5. 🙂

  6. Seeker,

    Great points and good question. I think the waste in drunkenness is that you are continually someone you are not. It is necessarily a waste of your life as it is a denial of your life in favor of an alternate state of consciousness. Therefore, it is not the things you are doing, but a denial of yourself. You are not who you are when you are drunk. This is a waste.

    Michael

  7. I have to say, reading this blog has been very encouraging, especially the past few days. So, thanks.

    I like that Seeker006 describes himself as a “spiritual hypochondriac.” That is great! I had a case of that myself not too long ago. I don’t know what causes spiritual hypochondria for anyone else, but for me, it was a reaction to the “Lordship” view of salvation. The more I learned about sin, the more I saw it in my own life, and the more I began to freak out about the state of my own salvation. Fortunately, I had a very good friend going to DTS, who explained to me the Lordship position and why she believed it to be false. Interestingly enough, I find that people who hold strongly the Lordship position tend to be big advocates of the Christian subculture (your mileage may vary). Maybe someone should write a blog on that. 🙂

  8. Chad Winters 2007-06-18 at 10:18 pm

    Excellent question Seeker!! I was asking myself the same questions. Personally, I need a little down time and I hope its not wrong to occasionally meet an old friend at the White Horse Inn (haha) and share a round or possibly even two of good ale and discuss Moreland’s latest book, or the economy or the war in Iraq.

    That to me would not be a sin, but many would disagree. On the other hand, drinking your friends under the table and waking up next to strange women would definitely be way over the line. I think like all NT things its the condition of your heart and mind that makes it a sin, not the specific thing.

    For example spending the whole day watching Justice League reruns you’ve already seen while ignoring your neighbor struggling to change his flat tire out of sheer laziness would be a sin. We have to remember the heart and the intention when we try to codify sin/not sin

    just my 2 cents off the top of my head on something I struggle with 🙂

  9. “For example spending the whole day watching Justice League reruns you’ve already seen while ignoring your neighbor struggling to change his flat tire out of sheer laziness would be a sin.”

    🙁 Did that today.

  10. Thanks for the replies. I tend to freak out a lot and usually end up taking the worst case scenario. Chad’s comment stated what I’ve always thought about sin in a lot of cases, that it is the motives of your heart that are important to a great degree. The trouble with me is that I know that there is always someone in the world “changing a tire” that I’m not seeing, even some people that might be around me that I don’t know about; and most times it seems I don’t know how to help even when I do get the opportunity. I guess I just worry that I’m missing something and that God is going to get mad at me.

  11. Chad Winters 2007-06-19 at 8:06 am

    That is actually very interesting and something that bothers my conscience a lot. When the bible was written and talks about your neighbor you lived in a small village and knew everyone. The world is so small now that you know that someone somewhere (thousands actually) are in need every second of the day. It is overwhelming

  12. Recipient of Grace 2009-01-02 at 4:22 pm

    What is a Biblical platform for growth? Personal growth? Growth beyond sin? …Spiritual growth?

    Here’s a plausible answer.

    http://store.cloudtownsendstore.com/howpegrbo1.html

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Parchment and Pen » My Life: simul iustus et peccator (3) - 2007-06-18

    […] Thanks for listening. I will proceed with this more soon. For now, here is some observations that I have made considering “my life.” […]

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