This material was developed for my memoir Masterpiece: A Love Story but not used in the book. (A five minute read)
Who am I now, anyway?
For many years I answered that question only by comparing myself against the signposts I saw in the world. That left my identity fluid, easily distorted, and subject to my whim of the moment. I used to compromise my values in the moment for the moment, instead of faithfully investing for the long term.
This all led me through about 40 years in the wilderness, where I refused to choose God’s best for me. Everything good was relative. Victory meant I got ahead of you. Success came when you thought I was doing well. Prosperity was about avoiding lack or punishment, not enjoying a full life.
These battles were all fought on the human playing field, the one where no one truly wins for long. When I suited up for that game, I had no time for God. He was the bad guy anyway, keeping me from the things I desired. If I couldn’t reach them, it was because He hadn’t made my reach long enough.
Apparent Failure is Not the End
But God being God, showed mercy, even though I was his enemy. My loss of a moral center had made me morally destitute. But God can redeem anything and anyone, including me. And He always has His best in mind.
Sometimes I still doubt that. When I do, it means I temporarily believe one or more lies about myself, instead of the truth. My recovery program is simple. I read the prayer written by the apostle Paul for the church in Ephesus. It’s a reminder of the promises God made to those of us who believe in Jesus.
It’s powerful to read it aloud and insert my own name in place of the words ‘we’ and ‘our’ and ‘us’ and ‘you’ and ‘your’. I won’t quote the whole thing here, but here are a list of the promises it contains. The next time you doubt yourself (or the Almighty!) remember these. And if you aren’t yet a follower of Jesus Christ, well, these will be true for you as well, when you take a knee for Him.
A Few Promises
- You are a saint
- You are faithful
- You are blessed with every spiritual blessing (though Christ)
- You were chosen by God before the foundation of the world
- You were chosen to be holy (set apart)
- You were chosen to be blameless before Him (thanks to the sacrifice of Christ)
- You were predestined to adoption (into God’s family)
- God’s grace has been bestowed to you (in Christ)
- You are redeemed (through Christ’s blood)
- You are forgiven of your sins (through repentance)
- God has lavished the riches of His grace upon you
- God will make known to you the mystery of His will (through the Holy Spirit)
- You are part of God’s eternal plan
- You have received an inheritance through Him
- You get to live for the praise of God’s glory
- You have been sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit1
A little further on, Paul reminds me about the sinful lifestyle I used to live. Yes, I still wrestle with these temptations, but they no longer guide my steps, just cause an occasional stumble.
I was spiritually ‘dead’ in the sins I used to walk in, Paul writes.2 This was all the way the world and the devil said I should live – insensate. I once pursued these things with abandon, and they almost killed me. I did only what my body and my mind demanded, and I was by my very nature a disobedient enemy of God.
When the Light Changes
What changed? He met me in a seedy motel room in Vancouver, Washington in August of 2003. I was a broken-down drunk crying out for mercy. I meant my plea. He knew it. He responded. By grace I was saved.
He pulled me out of the dung heap I’d made of my life.3 Why? Because, as Paul concludes, ‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’ 4
There’s a plan. I’m an important part of it, and so are you. Our success only comes by being who God says we are, not what others say we should do.
So – how does it feel to know you are part of God’s plan to save the world?
1. Adapted from Ephesians 1:3-13
2. Ephesians 2:1-3 ‘And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you formerly walked..doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind.’
3. ‘I waited patiently for the Lord, and He turned to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet on a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth, even praise to our God; many will see it, and fear, and will trust in the Lord. – Psalm 40:1-3
4. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)