For by grace

I read an amazing thing today as I was continuing my summer reading.  This came from John Newton, author of Amazing Grace.  He stated, “I am bound in conscience to take shame to myself by a public confession, which, however sincere, comes too late to prevent or repair the misery and mischief to which I have, formerly, been accessory.  I hope it will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.”  Now if you know of John Newton’s life, you know that he was involved in the slave trade.  This is particularly what he was referring to when he wrote this statement.  As I read it, I immediately applied his words to my own life.  How would I then live if this is the way I thought about all of my past sin?!  Wow!  I could guarantee we all would live very differently.  In this momentary reflection, I then took time to reflect upon my life.

I grew up in a Christian home.  In fact, my dad was raised in a Christian home.  It was my Grandpa Stevens that established that the Stevens’ home would be firmly rooted in faith on the Word of God.  He is our “Anchorman“!  Growing up in a home like mine, I was constantly surrounded by the Bible, prayer, church, youth group, Christian school, retreats, bible studies, and on, and on.  I didn’t grow up with parents strung out on drugs or alcohol.  I wasn’t abused physically or emotionally.  I had a wonderful upbringing.  Yet there was something that I was always taught by my parents.  “You, Cameron, are accountable to your own faith.  Just because you were raised in a Christian home, doesn’t make you a Christian.  You need to own your faith.”  Or, as I heard for the first time from singer/songwriter Keith Green, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, any more than walking in to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.”  There would come a day that I would need to be accountable to the Lord.

That day came when I was in the 6th grade.  It was another day at church.  To be honest, I can not remember what was being taught in Sunday School.  But what I do remember is that when my teacher gave everyone the opportunity to give their life to the Lord, I raised my hand.  This is the point in my life that I proclaim that I began a new.  From that point on, life has had its up’s and down’s, just like everyone experiences from time to time.  What I can claim however, is that I always knew that I was accountable to the decisions I made.  I’m not here to give you a look in to the entirety of my life, but there was a time that made me identify with Newtons claim.

I was in my Junior year of college.  I had allowed myself to walk a path that was in no way honoring to the Lord.  I chose to live a life of drunkenness.  There was one particular time when I reached rock bottom.  What I specifically remember is that I drank so much that I ended up on the floor of the bathroom.  When I woke up, I was lying in a pool of my own vomit with my arms wrapped around the toilet.  I was also informed by my “friends” that they were making a game of how many times they could hit me with loogies; therefore, I had been spit on I don’t know how many times.  “I hope it will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.”  This statement couldn’t be more true to me to this day.  Whenever I reflect upon the “business” that I was involved in, it makes me cringe.  Whenever I tell my testimony to others, this story is always one I struggle through.  It’s difficult to tell this story without feeling completely ashamed.  Yet, there is a part of this story in which I’m never ashamed to tell.  After I had cleaned up, I knew what I immediately needed to do.  At the school I attended,there is a large wooden cross in the corner of the athletic stadium.  I literally ran to that cross, got down on my knees and wept.  I cried so hard in realizing how ashamed I was. I had completely rejected God’s call for my life.  I was taking advantage of what He had done for me on the cross.  It was at that point in time that I rededicated my life to Jesus Christ.  I needed to return to my first love.  I needed to ask for forgiveness for the atrocities I had committed against Him.  From that point on, I needed to live my life for Him, completely!

Being in a position where you have nowhere else to go is not a fun place to be.  It means that there are circumstances that are against you, weighing you down, or you’re caught between that rock and hard place.  Being in a situation when all you can do is fall on your knees, look up, and cry out to the Lord is extremely humbling.  So much of us wants to have control of our lives.  We want to proclaim, “I’ve got this under control.  I know what I’m doing.  I don’t need help.”  But here’s what it comes down to…You are nothing without Jesus Christ.  You can not do anything without Jesus Christ in your life.  He is what you need to fill the void in your life that you’ve been looking to fill with the emptiness of this world.  One of my favorite quotes is attributed to President Abraham Lincoln which he proclaimed in the wake of his son’s death and the American Civil War, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”  Ultimately, it takes humility to release what ever pride you think you have and give yourself completely to Jesus Christ.  In Him, you’ll find everything you’re looking for.  God bless you!!

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14

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