The Blood of Jesus Saved a Wretch Like Me

You won’t be free until you see the cross of Jesus Christ for what it truly is.   This is why St. Paul said that he desired to know and preach nothing else besides Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).  The words of that wonderful hymn are true:

Would you be free from your burden of sin?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood
Would you o’er evil the victory win?
There’s wonderful power in the blood

The writer of Hebrews says this about Jesus, our sacrifice:  “He entered once for all in the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscious from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:12-14).

Would you be free?  Would you be purified in your mind and heart and enabled to serve the living God with a clean heart?   You must know the power of the blood shed on the tree of Calvary.

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One of the biggest obstacles to our freedom is our tendency to minimize our sin, thereby minimizing the cross.   After many years of theological education which taught me all the many theories about why Jesus died on the cross none of it had any power to change my life like the simple truth:

Jesus had to die to save a wretch like me.   

Sin is a serious thing to God and the cross is proof of this.  Sin is not just inconvenient, or messy, or harmful, or depressing, or selfish.  Sin is deadly.  Sin destroys.  Sin is of such seriousness that it required God’s own Son to die in order to deal with it.   If you have any doubts about how serious God takes our sexual immorality or other habitual sins just look at the cross and see his bloody Son.   

I remember the day I first saw Jesus on the cross as though for the first time after nearly 36 years of being a Christian.   I had just completed a strongly recommended assignment while at Pure Life where I locked myself away in a chapel for about 6 hours and wrote out everything that came to mind in Charles Finney’s Breaking Up the Fallow Ground exercise.   When done, I gazed at the 20-some pages of offenses I’ve committed against this God I claimed to love and my heart was crushed like never before.    As I wept over the utter wretchedness of my life I looked up at the cross on the chapel wall and cried out,

HOW???  HOW COULD YOU DIE FOR SUCH A MESS LIKE ME???  HOW COULD YOU DO IT!!?? WHAT SORT OF LOVE IS THIS??!!

In that moment there was no longer  a question of WHY Jesus died for me.  I knew in my heart of hearts that there was no other way.  The WHY was morphed by HOW.    How could God do this for me?  I remember shouting,  I am so unlike You!  I became mesmerized by this holy, awesome, wholly-other God who would put on flesh and bones and shed His righteous blood for a wretch like myself.   Give me this Jesus!   I no longer wished to argue about nor doubt why he died for me but desired nothing more than to live for a God who showed such love for me!   There was no doubt in my mind and heart that from that moment on I would make Jesus the Lord of my life forever, and that I would one day be with Him in glory.    I knew the price with which I had been bought, and it was now a joy to honor God with all my heart, mind, and strength, including my body (1 Cor. 6:20).

My hope and prayer for you who are reading this blog is that you would see the cross this Easter season for what it truly is.    The why is simple:  He had to die to save a wretch like you and I.   The how is marvelous:  What sort of God is this who would do such a thing for you and I?   When you see the cross for what it is you will know that you know that you know that you are Christ’s and He is yours.

If you are serious about putting to death your habitual sin then I challenge you do print out the Breaking Up the Fallow Ground and read it, pray over it, and do it.   Take as many hours or days as it requires of you, and ask God to show His Son to you as though for the very first time.   He will do it!

A pastor friend of mine who came to me for help after decades of bondage took this exercise seriously and sent me the following text:

I am free! The surrender is as complete as I can do for the moment.  I have the assurance that I am Christ’s and He is mine.  There is NO more condemnation!  I am walking out of this sanctuary as a new resurrected person in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, desiring to walk in holiness and to do things not my way, but His.   Praise God! Thank you Jesus. I have the assurance of my personal salvation for the first time in my life!  Praise God for His mercy, His patience, and His faithfulness!

He has been free for over 2 months now, praise be to God.    Will today be the beginning of your freedom?     Run to the cross.   There is power in the blood!

 

 

Radio Interview

 

Hey Desire Mercy readers, I have been invited to speak on the Jesse Lee Peterson show today (Monday) at 10AM EST.   The host of the show discovered this blog and wants to talk about the journey God has had us on and our restoration as a family along with the work I do as a pastor.    The show is broadcast live in several markets nationwide but can also be heard online from anywhere.   The link to learn more about how to listen is HERE.

I’d appreciate your prayers this morning that God would use this time to encourage, challenge and equip someone listening.   Thanks for your support!

 *addition added following the interview*

I apologize to anyone who had to listen to that.   I was invited on the show under the pretense that I would be talking about my former addiction and the way God has restored my life and my family.    What it turned out to be was something very different.   I take responsibility for that. I should have done my research before accepting an interview like this.   Please accept my apologies.

God is not content with 99% of you

Luke 15 is one of my favorite chapters in the bible.  It’s what I preached from Sunday.  I spent most of the time in the story of the prodigal son but ended with the story of the lost sheep.   Here, Jesus asks an important question of his audience full of sinners and religious professionals:

Which of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open country, and go find the one that is lost until he finds it?

 

The answer to this question is one that might surprise us:   NONE OF US!  We are quite content with the 99, aren’t we?  If one foolish sheep goes and gets itself lost we are not going to jeopardize losing 99% of our profits for one dumb sheep, right?  That would be bad business.  99% is not a bad return in our economy.    Besides, the one lost might count as a write-off.

But this story isn’t about us. It’s about our Heavenly Father.   Jesus is trying to show us that unlike us, this Hound of Heaven will not rest until He finds and brings home every one of His own.   When we wander off the path and get stuck in a thicket, we can count on our Good Shepherd hunting us down till found.

jesus-sheep

At least two applications come to mind, the first being more obvious than the second.

First, God is not content with just 99%.  He is a jealous God and wants all of His children, or sheep, home.   He is not interested in preserving the flock that is at the expense of the flock that should or could be.  This means He will move out from our little church pastures where we have grown comfortable with ourselves and the 99 we have in attendance to go hunting the dark corners of our communities in search of the one that is missing.   He will not rest till every lost soul is found.    And therefore neither should we.   We are to be like our Father in Heaven, discontent with the number we have and always seeking to find the one hung up in the bushes out back.

Second, yet every bit as important, I sensed the Lord saying to me that I am all-too-often content with giving Jesus 99% of my heart when he wants it all.   Far too often I think it’s a good return on my investment if I can give God most of myself while holding back parts here and there.   I assume that God is like me, content with the 99 and willing to write-off the part I’ve withheld.    But God is not like me.  He is a jealous God and wants, and deserves, everything I have.

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

Back when I was addicted to pornography I got good at minimizing this sin by focusing on all the other good things I was doing (pastoring a church, going to seminary, adopting children, etc).  I convinced myself that God would be satisfied with the good I was doing and overlook this “one little black spot” in my life.

Perhaps porn is not your “one thing” but something else.   Maybe gossip is your thing, and you know it’s wrong and you shouldn’t do it, but believe 99% of your heart is good, what’s the big deal about this one thing?    Maybe it’s an addiction to any number of things or people.  Maybe it’s anger, or fear, or envy, or lustful thoughts, or bitterness, or lying,  or crude speech (Eph. 4:25-32).  It is so easy to comfort ourselves in the pasture made up of the 99%, where we go to church, attend Sunday school, pay our tithes, and give a dollar now and then to the beggar on the street and think God doesn’t care about the one dark corner of our heart hung up in the brambles.

The good news is that God does care.   I know that may not sound like good news at the moment.   It may sound like judgment.   And it is.  God’s word judges our hearts and minds, but never for the purpose of condemning us but to free us.   He is a holy God who “yearns jealously over the Spirit which he has made to dwell within us” (James 4:5).   If there is part of you which is lost, which is inconsistent with the will of the Holy Spirit, God wants to correct it, heal it, and free it.   He wants us enslaved by nothing in this world (1 Cor. 6:12).

So God is not like us.  He wants ALL of our heart, ALL of our SOUL, ALL of our STRENGTH , and ALL of our MIND (Luke 10:27).   If God wants this, then He will impart to us the grace by which we can accomplish living fully unto him rather than partly, or even mostly.    We can trust all of our heart and mind to Jesus because he is a GOOD shepherd and knows exactly and completely what is best for us (John 10).

What is your 1%?    Pray with me…

Dear Jesus, I thank you that you care enough about me to want everything.   Forgive me for being content with giving  you what I thought was most of me when you want all of me.   I give you permission to seek out and find and bring home the parts of my life that are lost and in darkness.   Expose them for what they are and help me to see my sin in the way you see it.  I don’t want to be enslaved by anything, and ask you to take complete control of my heart, my thoughts, my desires, my words, my body, my will.   Thank you, Jesus, for loving me enough to save every bit of me.   Thank you for forgiving me.   Amen.

The story of the lost sheep ends this way:

I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven  over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance (Luke 15:7).

Heaven is rejoicing over you!

 

 

Prayer: The Deeps

A friend sent this to me today.  It’s an old Puritan prayer, and it’s too good not to share.   

Prayer: “The Deeps”

Lord Jesus, Give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, a dread of its approach; help me chastely to flee it, and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be thine alone. Give me a deeper trust, that I may lose myself to find myself in thee, the ground of my rest, the spring of my being. Give me a deeper knowledge of thyself, as saviour, master, lord and king. Give me deeper power in private prayer, more sweetness in thy Word, more steadfast grip on its truth. Give me deeper holiness in speech, thought, action, and let me not seek moral virtue apart from thee. Plough deep in me, great Lord, heavenly husbandman, that my being may be a tilled field, the roots of grace spreading far and wide, until thou alone art seen in me, thy beauty golden like summer harvest, they fruitfulness as autumn plenty. I have no master but thee, no law but thy will, no delight by thyself, no wealth but that thou givest, no good but that thou blessest, no peace but that thou bestowest. I am nothing but that thou makest me, I have nothing but that I receive from thee, I can do nothing but that grace adorns me. Quarry me deep, dear Lord, and then fill me to overflowing with living water.

Advice to the one who has cheated from one who has been cheated

One of the more common questions Chad and I receive from men who have confessed to their wives about their sexual sin and are now walking in freedom are:  Why does my wife keep throwing the past up in my face? Why can’t she just move on like I have? 

As a wife who had to walk this road I’d like to give some insight into what goes on in your wife’s head after you’ve disclosed your past.

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First, it’s a wonderful thing that you’ve decided to break away from the sexual sin that had you bound and move forward with Christ! After bringing all those old secrets out into the light and beginning to walk in holiness before the Lord most men are feeling wonderful. Your wife, however, doesn’t feel the same way. She has just had a Pandora’s Box opened and now has to begin the long process of working through it all. As you are beginning to walk in the light, she is stepping into a dark valley. It takes time for her to process those memories and piece together what she thought was going on with what she now knows really happened. It may feel as though things are going wonderfully and out of nowhere she bursts into tears or starts an argument about something you did 7 years ago. That’s because her mind is always working. It’s trying to sort through those memories and make sense of them. She’s grieving the loss of the husband she thought she knew.  This is a painful process.

But there is hope! That she is feeling this pain at all is only because she is trying!! She could choose to move on and not put herself through the pain of reliving it all. Many, many women choose this road. It’s one I considered many times myself and even pursued on more than one occasion.  I’m so glad I didn’t follow through!    If your wife is still beside you, even if she’s screaming, there is hope.   She is choosing to do the hard work even though it feels unbearable and makes little sense to her or others. If you want to help her move past the pain then she deserves and needs a few things from you.

  • She needs support.  Being defensive with your wife feels to her as though you are protecting that which has hurt her. So when she comes to you weeping once again over an incident from years ago, rather than saying, “It’s all behind us now, why can’t you get over it?” you should say something like, “I know this must be so painful. I wish I could take the pain away.”  Or say the best one of all:  I’m so sorry.  You may have to say you are sorry a multitude of times for the same sin. Say it! You both are making steps toward freedom and reconciliation with each time you say it and she hears it.

 

  • She needs a safe place to be vulnerable. Your wife probably doesn’t want to run to you when she’s hurt. From where she’s standing you are the source of all her pain. She most likely would love to vent with someone else and not have to deal with you in the process. It is helpful for her to have a strong Christian woman to talk with but working through this together is necessary for you two to make it. You have to be open with one another in order to forge a new relationship.   So when her girlfriend isn’t available to vent upon, you are it.  If she wakes you up at 3am to talk about her feelings, you need to be willing to lose some sleep to help ease her racing mind.

 

  • She needs time. I know you feel as though she’s going around in circles. Be patient. Healing will happen. Just as you are learning to walk with Christ in a new way, so is she. She is learning what it means to trust God when she can’t see how He can fix this and she is learning to lean into Him when she feels as though she cannot bear any more. Developing an eternal perspective will help. Realize this is a marathon not a sprint. You are forgiven, but the consequences of your sinful lifestyle do not just go away because you decided to confess and get your life right. Being patient with your wife as she works through this will help her tremendously!

 

  • And most of all she needs you to chase hard after Jesus. As she begins to see you chase God and daily walk out your faith she will be able to trust that God is truly at work in all of this. As she continues to see the new life that is in you she will begin to see that a new life together is possible as well. Jesus has to be at the center of it all, for apart from him we can do nothing.

Complete and total restoration and reconciliation is possible for your marriage and God wants that for you! It will require you to be like Christ, continually humbling yourself. God did that for us!  What I am sharing here is not meant to make us sound like we did it right all the time.  I was so very angry!  I brought the same questions to Chad over and over. I cried. I screamed. I hurt so deeply. But God was faithful to us. The more Chad supported me, gave me time, and chased after God the more I began to trust him.  Three years later we don’t have a perfect marriage but we have a great one.  Far better than we ever thought it could be back when we were in the thick of it.  The pain of the betrayal is now just a memory. God made all things new when we both gave ourselves to Him and surrendered our own desires. I pray that you will know that same freedom and peace in your marriage.

Share your Testimony!

I love getting an opportunity to share how God has delivered me from the bondage of sexual sin and how He has redeemed much of what I had broken through my pride and disobedience.  In February I got to share my testimony in a chapel service at Bryan College.   If you would like to listen to it you can do so HERE

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I am working on compiling some testimonies from readers of this blog whom Amy and I have had the joy of walking with towards freedom and healing.   If you have a story you would like to share, please send it to my email at cjwh74@gmail.com  Unless you tell me otherwise, I will scrub any names so as to protect your anonymity.  

God’s word tells us that we shall overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (Rev. 12:11).  So let’s hear some testifying!  Looking forward to rejoicing with you!

 

 

 

Noah, and all the bible I found there

This was initially shared as a Facebook Note, but due to the number of shares it was getting I thought I’d post it here as well. 

I saw Noah last night and thought it would be fun, and hopefully helpful for some, to recall some of the parts I found to be very  biblical.These are just some quick thoughts that come to mind as I think of the movie and it’s biblical story, found in Genesis 6-9. I’m sure there are more, and I’m sure there are plenty of artistic liberties taken. When I go to movies, I don’t expect to receive sound biblical theology from Hollywood. I go to be entertained and to be extorted by popcorn and Coke prices. With Noah, however, I was both entertained and pleasantly surprised by how much bible I found there. But with any movie taken from pages in our most sacred of books, I hope it causes you to turn to the primary source, as it did for me.  Don’t go to the movies to get your bible on when we have in our hands – and take for granted –  what Noah would have died for to have in his. 

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1. Creator. The name “God” does not make an appearance in this film, but “Creator” is named numerous times. It is very clear in the movie that there is a Being which created all that is, and that this Being has a will and a plan for Creation. It would have been unbiblcal for Noah to have called this Being “God” because the name for God does not come till many, many years later to Moses.  The movie reminded me that Noah didn’t have a bible to refer to while he was alive and had far less revelation than we have today about who God is and how God acts.

2. Veggies. Noah and his family, who are called “good,” eat only the plants and seeds of the land. The “wicked,” who are called Sons of Cain, eat meat. Noah is obeying the commands of Creator as found in Gen. 1:29, where the Creator gave Adam and Eve all the plants and seeds for food, but not animals. It is not until after the flood that the Creator grants permission to eat meat (9:3).

3. Evil. I thought the movie made it clear that the reason the Creator was sending this flood was to wipe out humankind due to their wickedness and to begin again. A number of times there were flashbacks to Cain’s murder of his brother Abel and reference to the evil that spread through the land due to Adam and Eve’s first transgression.

4. Nephilim. These are called “sons of God” in Gen. 6:4 and are mentioned again in Numbers 13:33. The Hebrew word literally means “giants” and these “Watchers,” as the movie called them, were as good a guess as to what they were like as any one else’s. I thought they gave a plausible account to how Noah might have built such a huge boat.

5. Heavy. In the biblical story we are not told much, if anything, of Noah’s thoughts or feelings. The movie depicts Noah as being very heavy-hearted and burdened by the task given him. And no wonder! Noah watched the world, and everything in it, die, while only he and his family and the animals on the ark survived. If I were in his shoes I would have had nightmares over the screams heard outside the ark as people drowned. I would have wondered, “Why me? What good am I that I should be saved?”  and I would have second-guessed all the time whether what I was doing was right (remember, Noah didn’t have a bible).   I appreciated this interpretive look into the heart and mind of Noah, which I think rings true. If you are expecting a story of hope and joy and butterflies and rainbows, where Noah is excited about watching the world drown while he pets sheep, you will be disappointed, and, I believe, recalling unbiblical renderings of the story from our green felt-board days in Sunday school.

6. Cross. My favorite line in the movie was when Noah, wrestling with being obedient to the Creator above all else, says, “We have been entrusted with a task far greater than our own desires.” What a beautiful foretaste of the Cross of Jesus Christ and the calling of everyone who bears His name! Whether the director intended this or not, he put in the mouth of Noah words which echo throughout all of Scripture: That obedience to God is more important than the desires of our flesh. All who wish to follow Jesus must live by these same words.