Yesterday it was my privilege to hear a moving conversion story from a young man who opened his life to Jesus Christ a month ago. Not raised in church, losing his father to a tragic car accident before he was even born, and living his life of twenty-four years without God or any plumbline of morality, this young man teared-up as he described how in a very dark moment of his life last month, the knowledge of his need for Christ became a reality, and he gave his life to God, expressing his belief that he was on a path to ruin, and only God could turn him around. He came to me because Emmanuel was really the only church he attended during his immoral days where "he felt loved and not condemned" and he wanted to be baptized at Emmanuel to publicly share his new life in Christ.
I offered some words of encouragement and then gave him a copy of Happiness Doesn't Just Happen. Do you know what my words of encouragement were? You may be surprised. Here is what I told him.
"You have been saved. You may not realize all that means right now, but it's all good. God has loved you, reached down in His mercy and opened your eyes to your need of Him and revealed to you what Christ has done for you. He has become the Father you never had. You have been born from above. His love for you is unconditional, His kindness toward you is immeasurable, and His mercies will be new and fresh every morning. Everything in your life He will now ultimately work for your good. He is that good. That's His name - God - the abbreviation for the English word good.
You are going to screw up again. You will morally fail again. You will struggle in the future with the desire to party the way you used to party. Your old friends will seek to pull you back with them. Your old patterns of living are not gone - the battle is just beginning- and there will be days you will fail miserably.
Remember this. When Jesus died all your sins were future. He carried all your sins away. Your future screw-ups no more cause Him to love you less than your past screw-ups. You can't promise Him things to get Him to love you more, and you can't perform better to get Him to be good to you. He treats you just as if you never sinned and just as if you never will sin even though you have sinned and you will sin. Your relationship with the invisible, immortal and omnipotent God of the universe is good-to-go because of your faith in Christ, and all blessings of the obedience of Christ toward the Father are now yours because of faith. God sees no sin in you anymore. Period.
Then why change? Why transform? Because of the nature of sin. Sexual immorality, hatred, drunkenness, stealing, cursing, (_________ fill in the blank) is sweet like honey when it happens, but in time it is like gravel in the mouth. Living life without thought of God brings only temporary pleasure and guaranteed pain. You can't help but change because your perspective is changing. You are now thinking of the eternal. You recognize that there is more to life than just the immediate. You change because you are changed - by God.
My job is to help you realize that your relationship with God is like no other relationship you will ever have. Everyone else loves you, accepts you, stays with you, embraces you, guides you, protects you, enjoys you because of your performance. Not God. His favor towards you never changes because His Son has accomplished for you in the past what you will never be able to accomplish now or in the future. The great privilege of being a Christian is to unlock the riches of His grace and to continue to discover His immeasurable love."I am convinced that if we preachers spent more time exalting Christ and less time being concerned about people's present or future screw-ups, more people would experience the life changing transformation of God's amazing grace through faith in Christ. I am often accused of being an antinomion ("one with no law"). So be it. Christ is the end of the law for me.
In His Grace,