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The Story of JD

WHAT DO I HAVE TO SAY

I have often wondered what the purpose of my life is.  If I were to have one opportunity to make my case, what case would I want to communicate?  What is the message of my story?

I believe that I have a story that is worth reading.  I will allow you to be the judge of that.  I believe it is of value not because I am special or have done anything special.  I am very ordinary and have done merely the typical.  The value of my story lies in the foundation of truths that are beyond my life and my time.  My hope is that through my story you may be pointed in a direction that is far beyond me and my understanding.  That is what I have attempted to do here in these following words.  This is my feeble attempt to tell you what is of most importance to me and why I think it should matter to you.  I have no idea who may read this story.  I am not advocating a certain form of morality or lifestyle.  I am writing this because I really care about you and your future regardless of your lifestyle.  I ask for your patience while you read since it is long but please know that I write with the intention of only wanting the best for you.

HOW I GREW UP

I grew up in rural Idaho, USA.  The memories of what still feels like home to me are set on a farm a few miles outside of a small agricultural town.  The home of my youth was an old farm-house surrounded by a large yard and mature trees.  This landscape had plenty of trees, rock piles, and space for a boy to explore, build forts, and allow his imagination to run wild.

baseballI spent my youth roaming our farm, hunting, playing sports, going to school, doing chores, annoying my sisters, and going to church.  My parents are Christians who lived by the proverb, “Train-up a child in the ways of the Lord and when they are old they will not depart from it.”  As such, I cannot remember a time when I did not know about Jesus.  My earliest years were spent in Sunday school classes and Vacation Bible School.   My parents prayed before every meal and read the Bible often.  God was an ever-present blanket of my youth and I grew-up in full acceptance of the beliefs of my parents.

MY PROBLEM & YOUR PROBLEM

I believed what the Bible told me about myself.  That my actions such as lying, fighting, disobeying, being angry, being mean and unkind were all sin.  I did all of those things and I knew that.  I knew that those actions revealed a condition that separated me from God.  The Bible tells us that God is holy and righteous and that no one who is sinful and unrighteous can be in his presence.  I understood that every person sins and as a result of those sins already faces the condemnation of God, which is hell.  I knew that I had a problem, even as a little kid who had not done anything terribly wrong; I still knew that I had a problem.  I had broken God’s law in a myriad of ways.  It did not matter if they seemed inconsequential.  I knew I had broken God’s law and I knew that I could not keep it.  I was not right with God.  The Bible showed me that when I died that I was going to have to face God and be judged.  I would be found guilty of violating God’s law and face the penalty for my own actions.

The Bible is clear that every person has to be made right with God because of their sin, the breaking of his law.   Merely being sorry for my sins or confessing them does not make me right with God.  That does not solve the fundamental problem.  God would not be a just judge if He allowed me to simply violate his law, say “I am sorry,” and do nothing.  For God to be just, he must have grounds on which to release me from the penalty of my own actions.

GOD’S SOLUTION TO OUR PROBLEM

Cross & CloudsThat is why I love to read what the Bible tells us about Jesus.  The Bible tells about how God had done something for us that no one can do for themselves.  God sent his own Son, Jesus, to this earth to live a righteous life and die to pay the penalty for my sin.   Jesus came and died on a cross for the purpose of solving the impasse that every person has with the righteous and just judgment of God.  Christ died on a Roman cross to pay the penalty of my sin and every person’s sin.  When Jesus rose from the grave after three days, it was God’s seal of approval of the fact that Jesus’ precious sacrifice was sufficient to pay the penalty of my sin and all sins.  He became the grounds upon which God could show me mercy and declare that the penalty of my sin had been paid and still be a just judge.

However, the substitute of Jesus’ payment for our sin is only available to those who believe in Him.  No one can reject or be indifferent about Jesus Christ and expect that his sacrifice on the cross will do anything for them on the day that they stand before God.  Jesus’ payment is available only to those who believe in him.  We become his when we confess:

I am a sinner and have earned the punishment of hell.

I believe who Jesus said he was, the Son of God, that he came as a man, and he died for the sins of the world, my sin, that he rose on the third day, and is now sitting on the right hand of God.  That he will stand with me when I come before God and will say, “This one is mine; I have paid the penalty for this one’s sins.  He has been adopted into our family.  My sacrifice has made this one a child of God.”

I am turning from my sinful life and putting all of my faith in Jesus alone.

This is what we call the good news of Jesus Christ, the gospel.  I believed this good news early in my life and I accepted Jesus as my savior because I did not want to go to hell.  I have no idea how old I was at the time.  It seems to me that I have always been a Christian.

TRYING TO BE GOOD ENOUGH

From my youth, I have believed in Christ as my savior and tried to follow Him.  I tried to follow Him by doing all the right things that a good Christian person is expected to do and not do.  I had learned growing up in the Church community what the list of commandments a good person was expected to keep.  I was a good kid for the most part.  I did what my parents told me to do, for the most part.  However, I was trapped in a mentality of performance.  I remember a family trip when we were traveling on Sunday.  I questioned my Dad about stopping to eat at a restaurant.  I asked, “I thought we weren’t supposed to go out to eat on Sundays,” to which he replied, “You want to eat, don’t you?”  I did want to eat but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to hell over a Happy Meal.  This Sabbath breaking meal did trouble the good little commandment keeper in me.  I wondered if God was disappointed in me because we went out to eat on a Sunday.  I worried that if I did things to make God unhappy with me that I might not really be saved.

In fact, I spent most of my youth trying to keep God happy with my good behavior.  I won the Sunday School awards and I thought that would make God happy.  I read my Bible because I thought that is what God expected.  I dutifully prayed.  I tried to keep separated from the bad things of the world.  I burned my Def Leopard record because I thought it had back-masked devil music on it.  I tried to do all the right things but found that I kept failing.

LEARNING THE SKILLS OF A HYPOCRITE

As I entered my adolescent years, my desire to keep God happy came increasingly into conflict with my desire to make myself happy.  I found that I really liked it when people liked me.  I learned that there were certain behaviors that brought me positive affirmation from my friends but were on my religious list of “don’ts”.  Increasingly, I chose to fit in with my friends over God.  Many of these friends were from my church youth group.  However, we were not that interested in God or the things of God.  We were interested in what made us feel good.

I found that girls made me feel really good – so I pursued them.  I found that being in the cool crowd made me feel really good – so I pursued that.  I found that alcohol made me feel really good – so I pursued that.  I found that the combination was literally intoxicating on many levels.  Therefore, I wanted to continue feeding these intoxicating loves.

I became the classic Church-going hypocrite.  I knew all of the right Church answers but I did not want to do them.  I wanted to live and satisfy all of my pleasures but not go to hell.  I just wanted a ticket to heaven and to live however I wanted to live without judgment from God or people.

I went from one crisis of faith to another.  I read in the Bible about how those people who were doing the things that I was doing could not be assured that their faith was real.  I read about how people can be deceived into thinking that they are saved when they really aren’t.  I read how on the day of judgment that some will stand before Christ and claim to know him but will be cast aside and Jesus will say, “I never knew you.”  I wondered if that would be me.  I struggled with knowing if my life was informing me and the world that I was not really a follower of Christ.  I knew I was not really following Christ and that I did not really want to follow Christ.  I wanted to do my own thing.  I wanted to do the things that made me feel so good but I did not know if what I was doing was going to keep me out of hell.

I would hit the periodic altar calls at church events and re-dedicate my life in an attempt to get right again.  I would tearfully confess my sin in the darkness of the night.  I made deals with God that I would never do a particular sin again if he would just forgive me one more time.  I did not like myself very much nor the person I was becoming.  I would get so tired of trying to deny myself and live according the standard of what I thought a Christian should look like.  When I felt that I could no longer deny the powerful demands for pleasure within me, I consciously made the decision to satisfy myself but appeased my conscience by reasoning that, “God would just have to forgive me, again.”

I lived in this miserable condition for some time and not very many people knew it.  I was pretty good at living a lie and keeping my two worlds separated.  In so many ways, I was a good example of a modern Christian.  I maintained the appearances of righteousness but I really was a hypocrite.  I knew all the right religious words but was not living by them.  I was learning how not to take my faith so seriously as to interfere with the real world and how to suppress my guilt.

WHEN MY FAITH BECAME MY OWN

That changed one Sunday morning after the sermon was preached.  This particular church always had an appeal after the sermon.  The pastor would come down from behind the pulpit and invite anyone to come forward and either accept Christ or re-dedicate their life to following Christ with all of their heart.  I felt this enormous tug in my heart as he spoke.  I was half way down the aisle before I really knew what I was doing.  I had made several of these walks but this one was different.  I was not walking down that aisle because I was afraid of going to hell.  I was walking down the aisle because I was amazed by the grace of God.  I was astounded by the love that had been shown to me through my savior rescuing me and giving me eternal life.  I was walking down that aisle because I wanted to and not because I had to.  It was during that walk that I believe my faith in Jesus Christ as my personal savior truly became my own faith and not the faith of my parents or peers.

From that morning on, I have been learning that God is not looking for religious, self-disciplined, obedience.  When Jesus was on this earth, he rejected the faith of the most religious people of the time because they did not love God.  People will do what they love.  I did what I loved most.  My problem for many years was that I loved the things of this world more than God.  I followed God because I did not want to go to hell but I did not really appreciate his gift to me.  I did not follow him out of appreciation and love for the grace, mercy and love that he had shown me.

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  I am still learning that lesson.  I am still being shown areas in my life where I love myself more than God.  Thankfully, he is still changing my heart.  Following Christ is the most natural of responses when it comes from a heart that is doing what it wants to do; when it comes from a heart that loves Jesus.  I have been given the greatest of treasures – eternal life.  I have been adopted through accepting Christ’s sacrifice on the cross into the family of God.  I have been allowed to become a child of God, an heir of God!  There is nothing in this world that can compare to the value of that gift.  I now follow Christ, not because I have to but because I get to.  I still make bad decisions, in many ways I am still a hypocrite, but I know that those decisions are a reflection of remaining misplaced affections and I am valuing something more than my Savior.  Therefore, I now strive to set my eyes on the grace and mercy of God.  I am always amazed by my wonderful Lord when I set my mind to thinking about the wonderful things of God and what he has done for me.  It is when I am intentionally setting my mind on the things of God that my love for him flourishes and obedience is as natural as breathing air.  I serve an amazing God.

COME TO CHRIST WITH YOUR WHOLE HEART

San FranThat is my story.  I tell my story as an appeal to you.  If you do not believe in Christ, then I appeal to you to consider God.  Look at the world that you live in.  Where did it come from?  This incredible universe that we live in which is so finely tuned to allow life to exist on it.  How did that just happen?  Look at the intricacies of your body; the wonder of your own eye to be able to see these written words.  How could that just happen?  The whole world screams that there is a God.  Since there is a God, that changes everything.  Your life is not within the context of yourself.  Your life is within the context of a God who has created you.

Just like there are physical laws, there are also spiritual laws that are just as real.  The God that created you and established the physical laws that we know so well, also created these spiritual laws that rule over us.  God has revealed those spiritual laws throughout history and they have been recorded in the Bible.  If you go and read the Bible, you will see that God takes these spiritual laws very seriously.  You have the same problem that I had.  You are breaking God’s law in a myriad of ways.  That is why you need to be saved and that is why God sent his son, Jesus Christ.  It is the only way that God has made available to us.  I don’t want you or anyone else to face the judgment of our God, particularly when the payment has already been made.  I appeal to you to find a Bible and read the Gospel of John to see the incredible gift that the God who created you has provided.  You just need to accept it.  Accept this free gift as I did and you will be saved and will be given eternal life as a child of God.

Also, I appeal to those who may have prayed to receive Christ but have not experienced much or any change in their life.  We are told that we will be different when we accept Christ’s free gift.  We are told that we will have new desires and loves.  If you are living a life that comfortably separates your religious world from your secular world, then I urge you to examine your faith.  What do you love most?  Are you following Christ because you don’t want to go to hell or because you love God?  There are many people who sit in Church on Sunday that seem to be going through the motions.  Often, I see people following the expectation of their families and peers without much passion or love.  We know that there will be many people on the day of judgment who thought their ticket to heaven was punched only to discover that they have been deceived.

What is the basis for your assurance that your faith is real?  Are you relying upon a confession from a decade ago?  We can have assurance that our faith is real but we have to look.  You should be able to look back at your life and see the Spirit working.  You should be a different person than you were ten years ago.  You should be able see the fruit of the Spirit in your life – you should be more loving, more joyful, more peaceful, more patient, more kind, more obedient and faithful.  If you don’t see that, then you have to ask yourself why.  Why is the Spirit not working in your life?    The Spirit will confirm with your spirit whether you are a child of God; ask the question.  The lack of change in your life may be due to a lifestyle of sin that you need to turn away from – then do that.  However, the lack of the Spirit working in your life may be due to the reality that you are not saved.  Examine yourself, seek out God, and get right with him while you still have time.

FamilyThank you for your patience in reading my story.  I pray that you will receive it from my heart as I intended.  I earnestly desire for you to be with me in the family of God.  I earnestly want you to know the peace and love that can only come through a right relationship with the God who created you.  You have an amazing God, accept his free gift of salvation and know him forever more.

May God richly bless you!

146 comments

  1. JD, your “About” is an inspiring testimony to the power of faith and resilience. Thanks for visiting one of my sites. May God bless you as well.


  2. Thank you for sharing your story, JD. I found the link to it from Sherryn’s “Narrowing Path.”


  3. […] Read the rest of J D’s story here. […]


  4. Hi JD,

    Happy new year brother! I was just updating my blog links and had the joy of rereading your testimony and the clear gospel message (of necessity) contained within it. (Would you mind if I reblog it under the title ‘An Ordinary Story’ with a couple of the introductory paragraphs and then link to the full article on your blog?)

    May the Lord continue to bless you and make his face to shine upon you as you proclaim the good news of Christ and him crucified for our sins, until He returns or calls you home!

    In Christ’s service, Sherryn


    • Hey Sherryn – Thank you very much for the kind words. I would very much appreciate the reblog. God Bless! JD


  5. Thank you JD. I related so well yo your story. The only difference being I left church, but continued feeling messed up, wanting to avoid hell, but wanting to do my own thing. Praise Jesus that He does not quit calling, is persistent and patient.


    • Praise God! Thanks for sharing your testimony. God Bless! JD


  6. Love this post. So moved by it. I am making baby steps back to God. Some steps are tougher than others and possibly the biggest problem is being afraid to take my hand of the steering wheel and letting God do the driving. Afraid of what others think of me and my faith. Afraid of sticking my head up above the parapet.
    I like to think of learning to follow God as being a new leather glove. I am the stiff new leather glove. God is the hand. I can move with him but it’s stiff and awkward. To follow his movements smoothly I need to be broken in and that breaking in process is painful but at the end, it is worth it.


    • It will be so very worth it! I think every follower of Christ can relate to being afraid of taking our hands off the wheel and letting God drive. I believe that control is just an illusion of a sinful mind. God always has the wheel and always will for those who are in Christ; we just think we are in control. One of my favorite verse is Hebrews 12:2 – Jesus is the founder and perfecter of our faith. The Christian life is a life of constantly being perfected by Jesus. We participate by looking to Jesus and not others, which then enables us to lay aside every weight and sin that clings so close so that we can run with endurance the life God has given us. My encouragement to you is to simply look to Jesus the founder and perfecter of your faith. He can be trusted and He is worth more than anyone else’s opinion. God Bless! JD


  7. […] well.  I believed these lies for long enough to know the truth of their destructive nature.  The Story of JD chronicles my swallowing of the same old lie packaged anew in this John Ritter song.  Consider the […]


  8. Thanks for your thoughtful words and faith, JD, and for your visit to my blog


  9. Thanks for sharing your testimony. I am looking forward to reading more of your blog.


  10. I love how you say this, “I was not walking down that aisle because I was afraid of going to hell. I was walking down the aisle because I was amazed by the grace of God.”


  11. God bless you and your family


  12. How nice to bump into another Christian from rural Idaho! I look forward to seeing more of your posts, God bless!
    Lyn


    • Thanks for the note; I do run across other folks from Idaho on wordpress very often. So, good to hear from you.


  13. I spent a while reading through your site. Good stuff here: real, honest, encouraging. Your devotionals are making a difference (the right one). Just wanted to say thank you. Oh yea, and thanks for the visit and like the other day. Blessings . . .


    • Charles – thank you very much for the encouragement. You will probably never know how timely it was. I was praying last night about continuing to blog. I appreciate you kind words. Thank you. God Bless!
      JD


  14. Thank you for visiting my blog and ‘liking’ my post. I am very newly sharing my story of how God is redeeming my brokenness for good, and your encouragement means a lot. I love that you shared your testimony on your ‘About’ page – what a fabulous idea (since the About page receives the most first-time traffic). I hope we will connect again soon!
    Blessings friend 🙂


  15. I could almost use your story as my own. This experience is too common in the church these days. Praise God for his grace.


  16. Thank you for stopping by my blog and for making the commitment to live an honest life (which is a very different thing than living a perfect one, as we both know). Much grace to you, JD, over and over again, every day. 🙂


  17. Beautiful…thank you so much for your honesty and your inspiring story. Also, thanking for stopping by to visit my blog! Blessings!


  18. Thanks for your testimony, JD, and for reading my blog! Blessings. Larry Dixon


  19. Thank you for sharing your personal testimony. Your humble and sincere spirit shows in your words. The world needs more Christians like you.


  20. Thank you for sharing JD, that was truly wonderful. God bless you brother 🙂



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