“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” John 10:10b
I heard a story in a sermon a couple of years ago that had an eerie parallel to my own past.
The sermon story: Success
My own story: Failure (but not permanent!)
(Do note: the following incidents happened before the days of all this stuff being readily available on the internet!)
Our pastor told a dirty magazine story.
At the end of the semester, cleaning up in the dorm, he found a dirty magazine under a mattress and threw it away. He had a conviction against keeping the mag, even if no one would see or know that he took it. He threw it away, thinking how it would be a wrong against his fiancée and God.
At first, I felt discouraged after hearing our pastor’s dirty magazine story, remembering I had done the exact opposite back then! At the end of a semester, as the dorms were emptying, I found dirty magazines in the trash bin for the building, and I kept them.
Without making an excuse for what I did back then, I do see how my weak understanding of how Jesus works let me do it so casually. Back then, I viewed it as OK to take the magazines. It’s only a magazine, I thought. I’m not actually doing any of the stuff that is shown there. If someone from church had seen me taking the magazines, I would have felt embarrassed that I was caught, but my discomfort would be from being caught and exposed, and not because I viewed taking the magazines as wrong.
What kept me from remaining discouraged for being so far below the level of maturity and obedience during college that my pastor described, was to admit that I was wrong back then, and to be thankful that I am forgiven for it.
So, the big question is how am I handling it now? Jesus has been after my heart. It’s taken a long, long time to shift to a deeper level of obedience where my most private actions and thoughts are brought more into conformity with what Jesus wants. And I am driven not by fear of punishment as much as seeking something better in life.
I am glad when I do pass a similar test today…. yet I am warned to not get overconfident. I cannot blithely guarantee that I will pass every test for the rest of my life. But I do know that I really am quicker to turn from crummy thoughts and attitudes than I used to be, because Jesus really does provide forgiveness and abundant life.