(I think myself Happy II)
“…one day it dawned on me, that I was going to have to tell my three sweet innocent little daughters that their Daddy used to be a drug addict and did a lot of stupid things.“
In Acts 26 Paul finds himself standing before a lot of people who want to hear his story. He’s supposed to be on his way to Rome, his new God given destination. But he’s, shall we say, being detained a bit. It’s not always where we are going that is important in the day, it’s what we are doing with today. Telling our story is also an important element in the journey. It reminds us of where we’ve been and why we want to keep moving forward.
I have no doubt that Paul was not proud of who he had been nor eager to share what he had done. Except that reminding himself and others of the kind of person he was gave stark contrast to the person he now is in Christ, and gives his testimony as to the redeeming power of God through his Son, credence. And reminds Paul of why he wants to keep following his Lord.
Our sins are forgiven, but if we forget—we will fall back into that snare that is our sin.
Paul was not a good person. But Paul knew, as we must, that the person who committed those sins, the person he was before Jesus, is now dead and gone, A new creation in Christ, it is no longer Christ who lives but Christ who lives in him—and in us who receive as well.
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me Gal 2:20
The old sinful person we were is dead, but the story lives on. We all have stories to share and share them we must with those who will hear. Because many of those who hear are still living that story and must know that there is a way out of their nightmares.
It can be hard. Many of our stories are embarrassing. I’m sure Paul didn’t revel in the fact that he was responsible for the death of many of the saints he was now counted among. No doubt he would like to have forgotten all that, put it all behind him, never talk about it or have to share the horrors of who he was with anyone again. Just pretend that he has always had it together, always live a righteous life and never hurt anyone.
I know I do. So why did Paul think himself happy to share the story? Because it proves the love of God for us sinners, and shows that no matter how bad or destructive you were to yourself or others, you can be forgiven and redeemed—even changed in an instant.
Yes, the stories can be hard to share, embarrassing and shameful. But we must remember that the person who once was is no more. And that story— keeps it that way.
I have such a story. A story of night and day, drunken, stoned,—do whatever feels good and I can get away with—Dan on one side, and ‘Holy Smokes Jesus is real, he loves me and he’s right here!’ on the other side.
And I set out from there, from my Damascus road experience, to share my story with everyone I could. Because I wanted everyone to experience the freedom I was. How could anyone not want to know this Jesus that showed up in my living room and set me free from a life of drug addictions and anxieties?
So I told my story to all my friends, in the Jails, at youth detention centers, and at churches. I saw many, many people find hope and give their hearts to Jesus as a result.
Then one day it dawned on me, that I was going to have to tell my three sweet innocent little daughters that their Daddy used to be a drug addict and did a lot of stupid things.
It was shortly after we had helped start Hope Center on the south side of Billings and I was getting more and more involved in ministering to those struggling with addictions. My daughters were getting to the point where sooner rather than later they were going to hear my testimony, I could no longer keep that part of my ministry away from them.
One of the hardest days of my life was when I had to explain to my girls that I was once dumb enough, and weak enough, to have used drugs. And those were the words I used. I explained to them that yes, I had done these things but I no longer did, nor did I want to, because Jesus had set me free and the person who once did those things is no more. So long as I keep choosing to trust and follow Jesus.
Now there’s incentive to stay away from the old life, to keep the sinful flesh at bay. I do not want my girls, my wife nor my grandchildren now, to know that old me before Jesus. I want them to know only the new creation that I am in Jesus Christ. A new man who loves them, will sacrifice and work diligently to serve them and the Lord who blessed me with them.
I actually felt a bit of relief coming here to pastor in Red Lodge. Getting away from some of the more intense ministry to addicts, because I don’t have to share the story of that old man quite as fervently and frequently as I once did.
But that story, and the many Jesus stories I have been blessed to experience since then, are still my greatest weapons in my fight to advance the Kingdom of God and I consider myself fortunate every time I get a chance to share my story, the story of my Savior.
I love to share from the pulpit, in my writings, and in my many web platforms. But I still look for and find opportunity even apart from the various pulpits.
I told the story just last week to an electrician on my job. I didn’t plan it, the opportunity just presented itself and I thought myself happy to share.
And another arrow was taken away from the quiver of the enemy as a result, one aimed either at me, or at my electrician friend. Probably both. Because the scripture tells us that that is how we overcome him the enemy.
“Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Revelation 12:10-11
Whether or not it seems anyone is listening, the power of heaven is released when we tell our stories. And in that is our victory because the Lord is listening, and the enemy is listening, one is magnified and the other diminished.
King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.”
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” Acts 26:27-28
Agrippa is nearly convinced by Paul’s story. But he is too proud to receive the grace that could have freed him from himself. He refused the power, and would forever be the villain in his own story.
I told you long ago, when we were doing our series on overcoming the wounds of sexual abuse, Wildflowers, that we need to redeem our stories.
That’s exactly what this is all about.
Redeem your story.
Take the power of it away from the enemy. My story isn’t about what the devil did to me, it is about what Jesus does for me.
Your story is no longer about what happened to you, it’s about what Jesus did for you—and what he continues to do.
Let me tell you ‘bout my Jesus!