This one is for churchgoers, especially those who are sincerely seeking to follow Jesus for real. That’s where I was at for a long time – for 12 frustrating years I was trying…
I hadn’t grown up on this stuff. I met Jesus in a church in London when I was 27, fell in love with him, read the gospels from start to finish and was totally convinced it’s all true – though I managed to miss a pretty crucial part, but I’ll come back to that later – and on 8 April 1990 I stood in that church and made a public commitment to follow Jesus. A sincere commitment.
You see, I had read the gospels and was impressed with the person I was seeing there. And impressed with his teaching. I wanted to live the way he said we should. I just didn’t realise that it’s impossible.
Impossible without his help. Impossible without being born again through the Spirit and having him living in me. I had committed to obeying Jesus while missing the point of why he came to this earth and went to the cross.
All that stuff in the Bible about how we should live – it’s not a list for us to tick boxes in and try somehow to complete. When we try to do that, we fail – and that’s a big massive clue to point us to our need of the Saviour!
I remember the constant frustration of trying to somehow be the kind of person the Bible said I should be – trying, for example, to be loving towards that girl at work who always rubbed me up the wrong way. I could do it for a bit, now and again, but not consistently…
I would stand in church on Sunday and say things and totally mean them – but my life during the week was not the life I kept saying I wanted to live.
Good intentions are not enough – you can’t change your own nature just by wanting to!
Jesus did speak about how we should live, but he didn’t leave it at that. When I read the gospels back then, I somehow managed to miss the whole point of him going to the cross to save us! I saw a good man, a good teacher, and a good role model. But when Mary was pregnant, an angel told Joseph to name the baby Jesus (in Hebrew it’s Yeshua, which means salvation) “because he will save his people from their sins” – not because he would teach us how to live! And when John the Baptist saw Jesus he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” – not just another teacher, not someone who would tell us to sin less (as if that can really help!) but a man who would be the ultimate sacrificial lamb, whose blood would atone for our sin!
He was born to die as our saviour, and yes, once we put our faith in him he does call us to live differently – but not in our own strength. It was never supposed to be us doing it in our own strength. Our main sin is that we chose to reject God and try and live as though we don’t need him. Jesus is God’s amazingly gracious, loving and merciful answer to our rebellion – not another teacher telling us we could do better, but the perfect sinless man dying in our place and offering us a way back to God. Not “imitate me and you’ll be ok” but: you can’t fully imitate me, but I can give you a piggyback ride to the Father anyway!
It took me over 12 years from that moment of making a commitment I couldn’t keep, to the moment the penny finally dropped and, on 1 July 2002, on my own in my mother’s spare room, I acknowledged my need of salvation and started a new life.
Thank you, Jesus, for your amazing patience, for loving me enough not just to die for me but to stick with me through all those messed up, mixed up years, when I was claiming to be yours but in so many ways I was letting you down. Thank you for bringing me through all that mess and finally giving me the gift of new birth.
Great is thy faithfulness.