It hit me last night.
I have been struggling. At least that's what I told myself.
A few years back I heard one of those sermons that stick with you. I was at a pastor's conference with my dad put on by World Challenge and Gary Wilkerson. It was up in NYC and the event was in Times Square Church. Gary was speaking last, but honestly I don't remember what he said. Tullian spoke the night before. And even though I still see him as a hero, I don't remember anything he said either.
Francis Chan preached the sermon that has long stuck in my mind. As he began I'm sure I bellowed out a few 'amens'. But what should have been a third of the way through he just stopped. He stopped and had a look on his face that led one to believe that he grew up in the south and his dog just died. It's the type of face that I have had a few times and hope to never have again. He stood in a pulpit that has housed giants and began to cry. As he did so he took his notes, balled them up, and threw them away.
I'm not sure if you've ever been in a room where the guy on the mic began to cry. But if you have then you know that the only response is silence.
My fear was that this was a youth camp gimic. I thought that this man, is any, was above that sort of thing. But I was wrong.
Chan began to weep and confess that he had chosen the sermon because he knew it would get a lot of 'amens'. And I had testified to that for the first few minuets of the sermon. He told us all that he simply pulled it from a file. Put it in his bag. Flew to NYC. And began to preach.
But he went on. And as he did he admitted that he no longer loved Jesus the way that he once had. That the fire was now only coals.
Honestly his honesty years ago has been going around in my head. Because I don't love Jesus like I used to. For the past few weeks I have seen that I haven't been fighting sin. Just trying to be good. I haven't given my all to be like Jesus. I have just tried to be better than the next guy. I have been slipping. I have been struggling.
But last night one of my best friends came over around 1am. Honestly I almost didn't answer. I knew that he had just finished a fast and was doing a lot better than me spiritually. But I am the friend that used to pastor. I am the friend who has been a missionary. I am the friend that gives the words of life. I don't like being the friend who needs them. But last night I knew that he had them. And I knew that i needed them. I didn't like that recipe. I didn't like knowing that if I answered that door that I would have to be open. I would have to say that I was in need. I would have to actually believe that I was the sinner that I know I am. I would have to allow my friend to be the hands of Jesus when my pride told me that I needed no hands and my shame told me to fide from them.
But my friend was actually like Jesus. He came to my house full of grace and truth. So often in the South we either get one or the other. And each time that happens we get half of Jesus and all of the enemy.
Over chess and pipe smoke I admitted that I am scared. I'm scared that if I give everything to Jesus He'll take it all away again. I admitted that I'm scared that I'll never be able to be the type of person that my little church plant needs. I admitted that I am scared I'll be single forever. I admitted that I am a mixture of thankful, angry, privileged, and scared that the only girl I have given flowers to since I was engaged wants me to be her 'brother'. I admitted that I am scared to fast because that last two times I did so Abba answered loudly..."NO". I admitted that I am scared to be honest because I theologically know that I have an Abba who works all for my good, but I am scared that I am wrong. I am scared because I am struggling.
But that's a nice way to put it. We like, myself at the top of the list, like to say we struggle. We like it because everyone will pat us on the back and tell us to keep fighting. As if that's what we were doing.
I like to say that I'm struggling because is sounds better than what it is. I like it because it sounds better than, "I am in rebellion against God." We like it because no one wants to say, "I am in sin and I think I have made a peace treaty with it."
We like to say that we are struggling because we are so scared to be honest.
So let me take the lead.
I have been in rebellion against my loving Abba.
I have believed that He sent His son to die just to make me miserable till I get to Glory.
I have believed that if I trust Him, He'll screw me over like a old ex or a bad friend.
I have believed that a serpent was right.
And I have tried to cover myself with fig leaves of my own making.
So, here is my confession. I am terrified to fast and to fight this. I am haunted my the last few times I fasted. I can replay all the times I have fought and lost. But fight I must. And I must because I'm tired of saying that I'm struggling as a proper Southern Christian way of making light of sin.
I echo Paul when he said, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.*"