Longing For Freedom Without Repentance
After spending life together for five years, K and I made the decision to get out of bed one Sunday morning and visit a new church. Although we both grew up as #churchkids, we spent our twenties rebelling against God and His word. As a part-time worship leader, I practiced hollow religion and followed the desires of my heart outside of the church; sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. In no way, did I practice what I preached. For K, she served in a young adults ministry revolving around drinking. They held a weekly service at a church, but the spirits flowed best at the bar afterwards.
Naturally, we belonged together.
Kaitlyn and I spent the previous couple of months visiting congregation after congregation, trying to get plugged in, but something always seemed to be missing. Even when we tried to put down roots, we couldn’t get connected. It felt like God was calling us somewhere else, but where that was - we had no clue. Then one day, while stopping by my employers workspace kitchen, a newly hired coworker invited us to his church. Even then, something about his invitation stuck out. Like waves breaking against the shoreline, I couldn’t stop thinking about our conversation. After lunch, and returning to my desk, I looked it up and texted K. Discussing it in detail, we decided to give it a try the next Sunday…but then we we slept in.
What can I say? The Church of the Inner Eyelids was calling.
Like never before, we felt a conviction for not attending. Laying in bed and looking over, K said, “Next week, we’re going.” Without knowing what was on her heart, mine felt the same. Even though it had been quite sometime since either of us desired to be part of a church community, for some reason, we wanted to be there. We felt drawn there. Even though we knew next to nothing about it, God was calling us there.
We didn’t know it then, but the Holy Spirit was at work in our marriage, leading us back to God.
As newlyweds, we struggled navigating the currents of marriage; in-laws, friends, travel heavy schedules and work-life balance. In addition, within the first couple months of our marriage, I had gastric sleeve surgery. We experienced so much change in such little time. Although surgery helped restrict food intake, it did not thwart the spiritual malady of addiction. Without Kaitlyn knowing, I transitioned from eating my feelings to sniffing my feelings. Within months, I went from a late night dollar menu item problem to an up all night cocaine problem. 100 lbs lighter - and with a new addiction - we walked into church June 28th, 2015.
Pulling into the parking lot, we experienced the type of welcome reserved for family- and it didn’t stop there. Even after we were seated, people continued walking over and introducing themselves. In an effort to get to know us, they asked us questions, they invited us to coffee; they loved us well. Because it seemed to good to be true, I looked for areas to poke holes in but could find none. The music, along with the preaching and the people, seemed anointed. Though I was brimming with pride, I had no reason to fault their effort. This was better than any of our experiences elsewhere. Not because of performance, or ability, but because of the seemingly genuineness of it all.
Afterwards, when Kaitlyn asked me how service was, I broke down in tears. Addicted to the point of doing drugs after service in the church bathroom, I knew I had a problem. I knew I needed help, but instead of confessing, I concealed. I told her the service was too much - that what God wanted from me was impossible and far too overwhelming. I knew He wanted me to step into an intimate relationship with Him but, out of self-pity, I rejected Him. I knew He wanted better for me but I resisted. Deadpan and without accusation, Kaitlyn replied, “I know baby, but we’re going back next week.” I sulked in silence on our way home.
The next Sunday was as consistent as the one before, but this time something was different. During the message, the pastor gave an invitation to follow Jesus and I responded. For the first time, in a long time, I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It felt like a first-love relationship all over again. The pledge I made as a kid, I again made as an adult. Ecstatic at new found grace, portions of our lives began to change. Kaitlyn and I started experiencing tremendous growth. I even cleaned up for seven months.
We got plugged in. We put down roots. We started serving. We got mentors. Then, I relapsed on methamphetamine. Like pennies on a funnel shoot, it was the beginning of a slow and brutal spiral out of control. There are several contributing factors leading to my decision use drugs, however they are all an exaltation of things above Jesus. Trusting in drugs, alcohol, and pornography I pushed Jesus aside. Even though stress, anxiety, abuse, and trauma have to bow to the name of Jesus, I did not.
I confessed Christ as Lord but I did not walk in repentance. The evidence; I treated Jesus like a friend with benefits. When using, I walked in shame - and where there is shame, He is not (Romans 10:11). Although very much convicted, I ignored my gospel responsibility of confessing and repenting. Like lying to a doctor about sickness, I approached God. Regularly, I pleaded for Him to treat my symptoms but neglected to confess the root issues. Because I trusted in things outside of Jesus, He wasn’t invited into my suffering.
Though God is our Healer - like a doctor - He desires for us to tell Him where the pain and suffering is; self inflicted or by others.
Instead of experiencing freedom through total repentance, I caused my family - along with others - a lot of hurt. The growth we once experienced, pales in comparison to the rock bottom I took us too. God is true to His word and because of this, He cuts down and prunes every tree and branch that does not bear good fruit (John 15:1-8). As the scriptures reveal, proclaiming God as Father, does not make Him one. Following Him obediently out of reverent love does.
8 So produce fruit that is consistent with repentance [demonstrating new behavior that proves a change of heart, and a conscious decision to turn away from sin]; 9 and do not presume to say to yourselves [as a defense], ‘We have Abraham for our father [so our inheritance assures us of salvation]’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children (descendants) for Abraham. 10 And already the axe [of God’s judgment] is [swinging toward the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire
(Matthew 3:10 AMP)
My actions revealed I loved the world because I did not obey Him (John 8:31).
Because I did not confess freely, I was not healed (James 5:15, Proverbs 23:18, 1 John 1:9).
Because I covered up my sin, I did not experience forgiveness (Psalm 32:5, Proverbs 28:13, Acts 3:19).
Because I ran from Him, I stayed out of His presence (James 4:8).
Like Thomas’ fingers pressed against the nail wounds of Jesus, with a hand in His side, I denied Jesus was real until He became my God. Professing Jesus as God requires following Him, not our desires. Out of our love for Him, following Him alters our behavior because we enjoy obeying Him - not out of a legalistic or moralistic set of virtues or values. When we spend time in His presence, He transforms our hearts, thus producing different behaviors. Likewise, we cannot obtain intimacy through rule-keeping; Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for trying.
For years, I longed for freedom without repentance but without repentance, I never experienced freedom. My prayer is that you wouldn’t learn the hard way as I did. However - from my experience - rock bottom is a great starting point to laying a strong foundation. Even Jesus said it:
24 “So everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, will be like a wise man [a far-sighted, practical, and sensible man] who built his house on the rock.25 And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
(Matthew 7:24-25) AMP
In Your Corner,