I have been learning of God’s wonderful grace since 1985 when my sister sent me a book called The Life That Wins, by Watchman Nee. I later studied for myself Galatians, Romans, Ephesian, Collosians and Phillipians and began to see something I had never seen before, this whole thing we call Christianity is about our incredible, powerful, amazing God; not me and what I do. In 1990 I went through the most desperate time of my life. Deeply depressed over the failure of my ministry I read Robert McGee’s Search for Significance.”I discovered my problem, my whole life was spent trying to become significant and while I and others were impressed at times; God wasn’t. Immediately upon finishing that book I read Charles Solomon’s book, Handbook to Happiness. I saw it! Brokenness! That’s what God was doing in my life! The failure I was experiencing was all me; but He was not helping. As a matter of fact, I sensed He was thwarting my efforts (to bring Him glory, and okay, maybe myself too). I had not sensed His presence for over three months. I felt abondoned and forsaken by Him; and yet, Solomon said this failure would be to bring me to the end of myself and the beginning of Him. Well, Solomon was right. I have not be the same since.
The week after reading Solomon’s book, our pastoral search committee was receiving a candidate from Delaware. We had heard his audio tapes and he was a great preacher. When I met him I thought, boy this guy is shy. He was different. He dressed casually and didn’t seem to try to impress anyone. He was somewhat alouf. We talked privately after a meeting and I don’t know how the subject came up but I told him about the book I had just read and He lit up like a Christmas tree. F. F. became our pastor and I really began to get set free! He had experienced the same kind of devastation as me several years before. He had found the same answers as me through a ministry called Grace Fellowship. It had been started by Charles Solomon years before. His shyness later became clear to me. He wasn’t sure if he could share the truths of the New Covenant in this church or not. He took a chance.
The church grew greatly over the next few years. It turned out that there were many who challenged him on almost every point. After about 6 years, the challengers moved on. Me too. I moved to Indiana in 1993, only two years after F.’s arrival. I missed the fellowship of our congregation and F.’s teaching, but I had other brokeness experiences ahead of me.
Ya know, teaching and proclaiming the wonderful truths of the New Covenant are very important. However, I couldn’t have know the doctrines better but I still fell victim to pride and self gain. I moved to Indiana to take over a ministry that had failed for years and every time they tried to “fix” it, the “fixer” failed. Well they called the right guy this time. Ya see, I knew the gospel of grace and how to walk in the Spirit, so I would get the job done. Have you already figured out what happened? Yep! I gloried for about the first year in how wonderful it is to be consider the “golden boy” who would save the people from their ministry woes. After about a year and three months I was calling F. for HELP. He asked if I was at rest. At REST!, are you kidding. I am dying here!
To make a very painful story short, I was fired in May of 1996 from a job I hated by people who thought they were making a right choice. Whether it was right or not, I have discovered is the wrong question. A better question is, “what happened as a result?” The answer is, I got to transition into the ministry I am in now and He provided the finances and opportunity in a way that I could not have orchestrated had I been given a year to plan it. Again my suffering led to one of the most remarkable testimonies in my life. Again, the thing I regret most about that experience was my thorough understanding of the New Covenant and how it did not equip me for the self-deception that I fell victim to. My point is, the grace of God is trivial to anyone who seeks “life” in anything other than the Real Thing. I love and appreciate the grace of God, but I will have to admit that I have sensed the love of God since I was a kid (I trusted Christ @11), even though I did not know much of the New Covenant. I discovered, first hand, the ultimate importance of the Cross. Most of my adolesence and early adult life was spent knowing the love of God, but not sensing a desperate need for it because I had my life together and was doing just fine. The times that I have ended up flat on my face, buried in total exasperation, have been the times that I have discovered the need of my God and appreciated the fullness of His love and grace.
Be sure never to leave the Cross out of your message. The road to life runs through the Cross.