Summary: Excerpt from the book, Living Forgiven
Becoming a believer and experiencing the transforming power of God’s forgiveness in salvation requires you to confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. The Bible tells us that "it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." (Romans 10:10)
I am sure all Christians believe that "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) But we often don’t experience or feel forgiveness even after we have confessed our sins, even though we know that this promise is true. What lies at the heart of this is our inability to accept forgiveness!
As a young man I struggled with my identity in Christ. I knew intellectually that I was forgiven for my sins but I just could not separate being forgiven from the feelings of guilt as a result of my behavior. I wanted to be a true Christian, one who would live as a committed follower of Jesus. When I sincerely tried to do or say the right thing, I would inevitably do what was wrong.
I hated my hypocrisy so much that I decided to separate myself from my fellow believers and not call myself a Christian, because I didn’t want to bring shame to the cross of Christ. Once I figured out how to live a true Christian life I would return to the church. I called all my church friends and told them I was bailing out until I could figure out how to do it right. During this time I did some foolish things that made me hate my behavior even more. I ended up living in a studio apartment with no phone, TV, or radio.
My friends at church were told to stay away from me by the youth pastor because I was "reprobate." This really hurt me deeply-so much so in fact that I began to hate anything and anyone associated with the church because of how I was being treated. I felt really alone for the first time in my life.
Each night as I would lay my head on the pillow, just before dozing off to another night of troubled sleep, I would hear a sweet and gentle voice say to me, "Craig, I love you." I knew it was the Lord speaking to me, but I couldn’t accept it because I couldn’t accept myself. However, each night as this happened I found myself slowly re-opening my heart to Him.
During that tumultuous time there was only one Christian friend who came to see me. Greg Reid was a guy I had met in passing one night at church when my car was out of gas and I had no money to buy some. I asked if anyone could loan me a couple bucks so that I could get home.
Greg was the only one who responded to my request. He gave me the money I needed and I promised I would pay him back as soon as possible. He said I didn’t need to worry about paying him back because his money was God’s money and God would take care of him. This really amazed me. But, more importantly, something happened supernaturally at that moment. I didn’t understand it at first, but a spiritual connection took place with him at the moment he freely and unselfishly handed me the money.
Later, during my time of living alone, Greg-fully aware of my circumstances and standing in the church-came to visit me. Even in my "reprobate" state he invited me one Sunday to a new church he was attending. I agreed to go, partially because he was pretty persistent, but primarily because he was the only one who was willing to spend time with me in spite of my current "apostasy."
The church was located in Topanga Canyon, California, a place known for its unique subculture, made up of actors, artists, and musicians. Everyone who attended the church was distinctly unique in their own way. The pastor, Glen Adkins, was a big man with a lot of kids and a real sweetheart for a wife. Glen was a bigger-than-life character whose size was intimidating. Yet, he had the heart of a lamb and the voice of an angel. He would go down into the village during the week and start singing about the Lord in front of everyone.
In the church, one person in particular stood out among all the others: a gray-haired saint named Doris Shumate. Doris was in her seventies, but had the energy of someone half her age. I remember one time in particular when she wanted to ride motorcycles in the desert with some of us from the church. She began to cry because she thought she was too old to join us on the bikes. We let her ride with us and she had the most joyous smile on her face the whole time!