It began aged 13 at a Christian camp. The youth leader made the challenge and I… I was equal to it. I surrendered all. Later that evening I looked hard in the mirror to see if there was any change. Was there a light behind my eyes? A halo above my head? A funny feeling in my stomach? Was there anything to tell me my prayer worked! Nothing.
So I prayed again the next day. I find myself adding phrases like “really, I mean it” just to assure Jesus I was earnest. How earnest? I prayed again the next day and the next. I prayed a “prayer of commitment” most days between 13 and 17.
But as I closed in on the thousand prayer mark, how do you think I was feeling about God? I hated Him. There was I, super-committed. There was He, silent, presumably unimpressed by my devotion, always wanting more.
By the time I left home I concluded God didn’t want me. Therefore I didn’t want Him. So I went to university, determined to be free of His constant demands but it didn’t work. Switching from “elder brother” to “prodigal” didn’t liberate me. It only got me lost.
What brought me home? The gospel. The actual gospel. You know the one about Christ giving His life. That’s what the Bible is about: Not my self-offering – His!
Here’s a poem about my experiences and the gospel that saved me, maybe you can relate.
Two quick things to clarify…
1. I’m all for passionate evangelistic preaching. I’m all for conversion. I’m all for unbelievers meeting Jesus and getting changed. But may it ever be because we offer Christ. Let’s preach for conversion, but let’s preach in such a way that Christ is the great self-giver, not us.
2. I’m all for pouring out our lives for the world. As Martin Luther said “God doesn’t need your good deeds, your neighbour does.” The grace of Jesus is a down and out kind of thing. Down to us and then out to the world.
Funnily enough, in all those years of committing my life to God, I never thought to love the world. I was so busy establishing a vertical relationship with Christ I didn’t give two hoots for those around me. But the gospel liberates us from that religious slavery. It liberates us from a selfish concern for my own soul and it frees us to love. So stop giving your life to Jesus, but in His name and for His sake… give His life to the world!