Lord thank you for forgiving me. Lord I have been forgiven so much. I thank you that while I was a stranger you called me. While I was in open rebellion against you, a hypocrite, partying and lying, you loved me. Thank you for dying for us. Thank you for dying for a broken man like me.
Do you remember before you embraced Christ as your Lord? Some of you have been Christians a long time. It can become easy to forget our past lives, but it is so important for us to remember, to remember where we were, so we can share the work God has done, what he has forgiven and how he is changing us.
Growing up I always felt like an outsider. We moved so often in fact, as a child I never lived in the same house for more than two years. The average was less than a year. So I never felt part of the group. I was the youngest of four with the closets sibling being four years older than me. I was really a lost child. My father was distant, my brother whom I admired would humiliate and belittle me every chance he got.
Finally, by the time high school rolled around, my life was good, I thought. Or at least I tried to tell myself that. I had what every teenage guy wanted. I lived in Daytona Beach, in a condo on the beach. I had a job hanging out on the sand everyday renting four wheelers. Think about this… I was 6’ 1 and 125lbs. Awkward doesn’t begin to describe me. I was a dork, but for whatever reason, it seemed to work. This was during the days of MTV Spring-Break, and co-eds would camp out in Daytona. It was an era of endless debautery. My father used to joke with me that I could never be a politician or pastor because there were so many questionable pictures of me floating around the town. I’m still waiting for a couple of those old photos to pop up on Facebook. I was a sloppy, sloppy drunk.
I loved it, or at least that’s what I told myself. Endless girls would come into the town looking to hook up. No strings attached. It was an endless party. I was filling myself with everything the world had to offer. The internet was coming on to the scene, and that little porn machine was quickly becoming my best friend. The more I gave into my desires, the emptier I felt inside.
Suicide became a regular thought process. I felt completely alone in the world. Relationships came and went. And this rage was building up inside of me. I remember one night my older brother had spent the evening destroying any last fiber of self confidence I had. I sat in my car running through different ideas on how I would kill myself or him. Pain and rage boiled up inside me. Then I saw my brother walking at the end of our driveway, and murder entered my heart. I closed my eyes and floored my car hoping beyond hope to open my eyes to see my brother dead. But Somehow by the grace of God I missed my brother. I floored my car and kept driving. Rage turned to the desire to die, which then turned to brokenness, and I sat and wept.
During this season in my life, I was being pulled in two directions. I found myself befriended by a group of Christians. These people were crazy to me, but compelling at the same time. They seemed absolutely nuts. I wanted more than anything to poke holes in their perfect little lives. They didn’t cuss like me, they didn’t drink like I did, they weren’t in the clubs every night like I was, and when they went to the beach they went with their families, and their church. They didn’t go to the wet-T-shirt contest with me. Whenever they would show up, I hated it, not that they ever once made a comment about my life. In fact, I don’t think they ever did, but just by them being present it made me feel as if they were throwing all my brokenness in my face. But more than what they didn’t do, I hated that they cared. I hated that they showed me love.
One man in particular would visit me at the beach while I was working. He would bring me lunch, and he would come by and help me at my job. It was bizarre. He helped me clean the bikes, and he listened to me. And I remember one day just losing it. Why do you care? Please stop. It hurts! I don’t understand. I don’t want you to care.
Broken Things Can Become Forgiven
You see the light of Christ was shining off of this man and revealing to me my depravity, revealing to me my need for a new life, my need for a do over, my need to be born again.
I became a Christian in the midst of some of my darkest moments of my life. Some broken Christians showed me love. They showed me that even though I was broken, I was sinful. They wouldn’t give up on me. They loved me despite my sin. They accepted me while I was lost. And they shared with me that God loved me no matter what I had done or what had been done to me. It was the greatest feeling I have ever experienced. I realized that I was forgiven. I realized that I didn’t have to be perfect. I was on fire to share this love. I wanted more than anything to share the love that I had received. I wanted to tell everyone.
And that’s what I did. It didn’t take long for me to get in trouble…
Friday, Pastor Phil will tell us the rest of the story…