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,Â one of myÂ unbelieving bar sceneÂ 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 thingsÂ 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.
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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 forÂ eitherÂ 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 IÂ 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.Â
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 inÂ their attempts toÂ rear theirÂ 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 understandablyÂ 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.
C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger.
Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I’m a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]