When I first arrived at Bible College I was a hypocrite. Nobody that knew me would have thought that about me, nonetheless it was true. My life had all the trappings of godliness. I had been teaching and even preaching the Bible since I was fourteen years old; I had lead people to the Lord; I was a worship leader in the church; I had even done a year long internship in my home church.
To many I was the very picture of adolescent godliness, yet in my heart I longed for my glory and not God’s. When nobody was looking, my life was full of lust and secret sins. I had no prayer life; I did not love the Bible; and I didn’t love the true God of the Bible. What I did love was the image of a god that I had constructed in my head. A god that was okay with my sin and did not require my own personal surrender; a god that promoted my own self-glorification and did not require true worship; a god that “loved” me so much that I was not required to love him (or anybody else) in return. Yet I was so good at playing the “church game” that everyone who knew me was convinced that I was the “real deal”.
When you are a hypocrite you never realize that you are one. Quite to the contrary, I was convinced that I was exactly what God had called me to be. In reality I only had what Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls “cheap grace”.
I had missed the entirety of God’s command to come and die, and without dying with Christ I could not be raised to new life. I was very much like the rich young ruler. God was calling me through His gospel, to abandon everything I had and follow Him alone, and I, like the rich young ruler, was unwilling to abandon everything. It was not wealth that I held onto, it was self.
More than anything else I wanted others to know how great I was, and I had no desire to be humbled so that Christ could be exalted. As a result I turned away sadly and did not follow Him when He called me. Even though I put on an heir of peace, in my heart there was nothing but turmoil and sadness. While I believed myself to be a Christian, I could not understand why peace was so elusive and why hope was out of reach.
My heart was so hardened that I could sit through any class and avoid conviction. Well, any class but one. I took Old Testament Survey with Dr. Harris in my first semester and my hard heart could not take the onslaught of truth that came as he plainly explained the Scriptures. I became so overwhelmed that I skipped his class the third week because I could not handle it. In the fifth week of class we had reached the book of Joshua.
We ended our class that week in Joshua 24 with the very familiar text of Joshua 24:14-15:
14 “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Dr. Harris explained how the people of Israel where already tempted by the foreign gods that were in the land and even by the gods worshiped by there fathers in Egypt. It was not so much that they did not want to worship Yahweh, it was that they did not want to worship Yahweh alone. However, to serve Yahweh in faithfulness is to serve Him alone. To serve other gods but claim faithfulness to Yahweh would be like dating other women and claiming faithfulness to your wife. Suddenly I began to see myself in this text. Did I have a truly monogamous faithfulness to Christ?
Suddenly the crusted layers of my hard heart began to peel back as God’s two-edged sword began to pierce to the very center of me. I saw the idols I had erected in my life and was disgusted by them. Tears filled my eyes and repentance filled my heart and for the first time in my life I worshiped the one true God and Him alone! From that moment forward my life has never been the same.
There is no substitute for new life. Christianity without regeneration is nothing more than another religion. All the Christian piety and accomplishments I had amassed to my young name amounted to nothing from a Kingdom perspective. What matters is that God saved my unbelieving heart.
The free gift of God’s grace through the cross of Jesus Christ, killed my dead heart (Romans 6:6). And the free gift of faith raised me to new life (Colossians 2:12). The entirety of my salvation is a gift from God I did not earn; I was not even looking for it (Ephesians 2:8-9) but once I truly saw it, I longed for it. Praise God for the riches of His grace in Christ Jesus.