“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
Galatians 6:14 NIV
I’ll never forget the afternoon this truth changed my life.
I was 21 and confused. Though at this point I had begun to realize little by little just how real God is, I hadn’t quite found the spiritual strength within to change my ways. But I understood His never-ending love for me, His approachability, and my desperate need for Him.
Therefore, I did talk to Him and acknowledge Him throughout the day, even in the midst of sin – particularly, my daily habit of smoking marijuana.
I often combined cannabis with Christ; like that time I listened to Hillsong United’s “Oceans” while stoned. I also have fond memories of smoking a bowl on my night off before heading to Gingerman; where I’d sit at the bar, flirt with Andre the cute Colombian bartender, and nurse a crisp, cold beer served in a wine glass – all while reading C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and telling those around me about Jesus.
Remember, 21 and confused…
One day, after smoking a bowl out of my bedroom window, I decided to listen to a Tim Keller sermon. I chose one on random. Truthfully, I don’t recall if this was the specific Bible passage or any of his signature three key points. But here’s a summary of what I do remember:
“You see….in so many instances, young people cycle in and out of church their whole lives. They come in, feeling convicted for their sins, and pray,
‘Oh God, forgive me, help me not to sin in this way, I promise I won’t sin anymore.’
Then, what do they do? Yep. They go back into the world, they’re good for a few months…until they fall again. So they stay away from church for a while longer until they feel guilty and convicted enough to come back and start the process all over again.”
Now, my eyes are wide open. My heart pounding, my breath quickening, “He’s talking about me…”
He continued, “Here’s the thing – these people never actually become Christians.”
And, now I’m sobbing.
“Okay now, for one second, I want you to do this – I don’t want you to think about your sin. Now don’t go post on Twitter that ‘Tim Keller says don’t think about your sin’, I just mean momentarily: stop thinking about your sin. Instead, I want you to ask yourself something. What is it that you boast in? If you boast in your looks, your work, your likability; or even another human being, you are validating your existence by something that you may one day lose. But if you boast in the Lord, in His death and resurrection – that’s something you’ll never lose.”
I lost it.
Now when you’re high, you have a ton of different conversations blabbing on in your head at the same time. Mine basically were as such:
“Wow, God, you’re really there and this message really is for me….No, no, I’m making this all up, I’m overthinking because I’m high…WAIT. NO I’M NOT. I believe in You when I’m sober, too! GOD!!? IT’S YOU!!!”
Hm, not as profound as I remembered.
But, its effect was long lasting.
After that day, I asked Him to help me loosen my grip on the habits, relationships, thoughts, and emotions I had accrued from living in the world. I began to ask God to replace me with more of Him. I remember my parents raised eyebrows as I told them my convictions, fully aware of and understanding of their reluctance to believe me.
Nevertheless, slowly but surely, God took away everything I once boasted in – the freedom of a car to stay out late after work, my ability and craving to manipulate men, my somewhat impressive weed and alcohol tolerance and desire for it altogether, my immediately judgmental and profane thoughts about myself and others….just to name a few.
And what did I gain? Exactly what I asked for: more of Him.
Let me be clear – I can truly boast in the power of His spirit. How else could I have stopped drinking? How else could I have stopped having sex? By my own willpower? I’m afraid not. I tasted His presence, and saw that it was good. And I learned that the momentary sacrifice of a glass of wine is well worth the sweetness of His presence in obedience.
I’ve also learned His presence slowly destroys any fear or apprehension of sharing the gospel. When Jesus becomes the center of the wheel of our lives, each spoke of each day originates with Him and goes out into the lives of others. And with constant blessings flowing through us, we become delighted to boast in our Lord and deflect the glory back to Him. We know it is HIM at the center. We’re just the vessel.
But God doesn’t need a perfect vessel; God doesn’t even want a perfect vessel. He wants You. He wants You to trust Him, because He; unlike your physical attributes or your mental abilities, will never grow weak or disappear. And as you begin to boast in Him, He begins to unfold the unsearchable treasures of your new life; that can only be found in Him.