Monday, November 10, 2014

Near to Each One of Us (November 2014 Newsletter)

One of the benefits of sharing my testimony on a regular basis is revisiting the years before I met Christ. While I know that the past is gone and all things have become new, I have never forgotten what it was like to live without Christ. Many forget the hopelessness, pain, and confusion of a life without God. They have left those experiences behind and struggle to empathize with the lost. They no longer can remember with compassion their own gasps for air as they drowned in sin and shame, regret and loneliness, meaningless pleasure and insignificance. When we forget where we have come from, we lose our ability to speak to the reality of lostness.
I still vividly remember the pain and torment of life without Christ and without love. I remember the depression and the boiling torment that was so real and so palpable and had no release apart from an ensnaring self-abuse. I remember looking at the violence and depravity of the world, feeling the oppressive weight of pain that I had to rise above everyday just to get through life, and crying out inside to someone I didn’t believe was listening: “God! Where are you?” And though my heart screamed to the Creator I knew was there, my hatred and the deafening effects of sin prevented me from listening to His call: “I know your heart and your soul, and I love you so much I sent Jesus for you.”

I never cease to be awed that Jesus changed His whole life, laid all His plans and possessions aside, put all of His glory away and chose to live a life far below what He deserved, so He could lay it down for me. He not only left all the glory and all that was His in Heaven, but He stepped into all the depravity and pain that was mine on earth. He became my sin. He took on my shame. He took stripes for my healing. He was punished so I could have peace. He identified with my pain, so that I could identify with His joy. He exchanged His life for mine. He became all my sin and all my suffering on the cross. He offered all that He has and all that He is to me.

When He was dying, He cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” We know that He was quoting Psalm 22 and fulfilling messianic prophecy. But He was not only pointing to the Scripture; He was pointing to me. In the midst of the guilt and the shame, surrounded and overwhelmed by loneliness and helplessness I cried out, “God, where are you?” I had heard that God was supposed to love me, to care for me, to intervene in my life, but I could not see Him. I could not listen. I felt profoundly alone. Yet even in my God-forsakenness, Jesus joined me. Though He was God, He entered into the state of isolation, the confusion of humanity, and cried out with me, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He identified with my unbelief. He joined my sorrow. He answered my prayer. He stepped into the worst of what I was, proving once and for all time that He loved me and that He is and always will be Immanuel: God with us.

Today I can tell the lost that God is near to each one of us. Not because of some nursery rhyme or empty words of comfort. But because Jesus took nails in His hands, was mocked and blasphemed, and joined us in the lowest state so He could raise us as Sons to sit on His throne. What a Savior and what a Gospel! He never leaves us or forsakes us. Whoever comes to Him will never be cast out. Today He offers life to the world through you. You are His minister of reconciliation. Immanuel lives within you. Reach out to the forsaken.

Read the rest of the November 2014 Newsletter
Read previous Newsletters