As an only child, most people said that I was spoiled, and although I didn't agree with them I guess that they were right. It hurt when people said "no" to me, hurt more than it should have. I became bitter. "Why did my parents spoil me?" I would ask myself. In spoiling me they had made my life harder because I didn't know how to face reality. Now looking back, I realize that I had spoiled myself. I called myself a man because I was tall, over eighteen years old, and my voice had changed to where I could sing bass without "cracking". But what does being a "man" mean? Back then I thought that it meant to look like a man, and to sound like a man. But in looking at other men to see what I should be, I studied only skin-deep, barely scratching the surface of true manhood. Now I know that a man is a man in the heart, and that you can only be a real "man" if your role model is Jesus Christ. To be a man is to be a valiant leader, a strong protector, a fighter of the faith, chivalrous, truthful, patient, loving, and trustworthy. That isn't what the world tells you a man should be, but Jesus tells us to be in the world, and still not of the world. So in other words if the world tells you how to be or do something, run the other direction, and don't look back.
I was raised in a nice church, very religious, and at the age of seven I was baptized and officially joined the church. After that I labeled myself as a "good person" and a "Christian" because I went to church twice a week, I tithed off of my allowance and from my summer job, and I gave to charities. What more could anyone ask from me? At the time I didn't realize that God was asking much more from me. What I gave was lip service, and He wanted heart service. He wanted me to realize that I was a sinner, just like everyone else, and that I needed Him for everything. Depending on my own righteousness to save me was like trusting in an old, rotted, moth-eaten rope to save me when I was drowning. When I finally did realize that I couldn't depend on my own righteousness, I panicked. Why would Jesus want a sinner like me in His kingdom? I had nothing to give to Him but myself, and even that is such a worthless gift! In those days I lived in fear and terror: "What if I die today? I'm not ready to die!" I cried it to myself, over and over again. And then one day I was driving to work, flipping through the radio stations, trying to find something decent to listen to. I found a Christian-Pop station and left it on for a few minutes, waiting for the commercials to stop and the music to start, and finally a song came on. It was so pop/swing that I was about to angrily flick the radio off when suddenly the words caught my attention. The words were, "I'm forgiven because you were forsaken, Lord, I am excepted, You were condemned. I am alive and well, Your Sprit lives within me because You died and rose again." At that moment I experienced the deepest peace that I had ever felt, because I realized that I didn't have to do anything to save me, God had already done it! Later on I learned more about predestination, foreknowledge, and imputations. It made everything so much clearer to me than it had been before. I still wondered about the whole faith versus works question, and the more I thought about it, the more it puzzled me. And then one year at the NCFIC conference Kevin Swanson did a talk about faith versus works, and he made an analogy about it that cleared up all of my doubts and perplexities. The story that told went something like this:
"Let's say that I am at my home in Colorado and it's the middle of winter, and it's snowing. Let's say that I ran out of wood for my fireplace, so I trudge outside with my ax to chop wood. I chop away for several minutes and then I look up and see my son in the window, reading a book, so I yell 'Hey Son! Come outside and help me chop wood!' He yells back and says 'Well Dad, how much wood do I have to chop to be your son?' And I say 'Son! You don't have to chop any wood to be my son, you already are my son!' So he comes outside and he starts chopping wood. A couple of weeks later I look out of my office window and see my son out in the yard chopping wood, so I yell out the window for him to come to me. He comes inside and I ask him 'Son, how much wood have you chopped?' He says 'two cords' and I say 'Son, I love you! I am going to by you a Ford!' And he says 'No, wait Dad! I didn't chop wood because I wanted a Ford, I chopped wood because I love you, and I want to honor you!' I said to him 'I know, Son, I know why you chopped the wood, but I want to buy you a Ford anyway, because you are my son, and I love you.'"
I cried tears of joy after Mr. Swanson told that story, and I wasn't ashamed of it. God had opened my eyes, and showed me how faith and works work together.
I am an old man now, and I don't always live up to the Bible's standards of manhood, but God is my refuge and my strength, and I know that God works all things together for good, for those that love God, and for those who He called according to His purpose.