First, this is a long post.
Second, it is a personal post.
Third, my purpose is to tell a part of my story to help - no one in particular, but in humble worship of Christ, everyone in general.
Fourth, to some it will read as a typical conversion to Jesus story. I confess it has some of those elements, but that is why I am telling the story - because there is so much more to it! If you choose to read to the end I am confident you will understand.
Fifth, you must promise me you will read the corresponding link I show at the end of this post.
Sixth, enough with the disclosures...
Thirteen years ago, about this time of year, I was desperate. I had a plan for my life but things were so messed up. I was messed up. Even at age 24 I felt I needed to be so much more in control of my life than I was - but all these bad things kept happening to me (I reasoned). Drinking and doing drugs was the only activity that kept my dreams alive. When I drank I could "see" my grand future and my problems did not seem so insurmountable. When I drank I really was the person I wanted to be and I accessed an illusionary power inside of me that convinced me I could "make it all happen"! In the bar, as the drunken haze warmed my tongue and dulled my fear, I'd tell myself that tomorrow I'd start working on what I really wanted in life. I'd go after what's been missing all these years (I was 24).
But I had a problem thirteen years ago. The power of vision I got from drinking was turning on me. I started to see a gap between my dreams and real life. I started to notice that I was getting no where with my plan. Even though drinking was still fun I began to see it had much more power on me than I thought. Drinking was keeping me from my plan. Drinking became my enemy. I killed the intense drinking-to-get-drunk almost immediately. How? I turned to Jesus to help me. Instead of the grandiose visions produced by drinking, I saw now how belief in Jesus would not only straighten me up, but He would help me achieve my goals. I heard from others how my life would be much better if I had Jesus. I accepted that and took on a new attitude toward my goals. I never let my goals go. I still had a wonderful plan for my life and Jesus was going to help me.
For the next eight years I soaked it all up, responded to the calls of right living through Christianity, and fashioned a belief of how God works. Life was remarkably different for sure! Life was better. I no longer had problems outside of myself. I was saved! But, soon enough though I could see my attempts to achieve my life goals were still falling short. The harder I tried the more elusive were my goals. I became aware of a crisis! My whole live I've been characterized as melancholy but this crisis pinned me down into some very dark corners for roughly three years. I wrestled with despair realizing that Jesus was not helping me with my life goals. I struggled yes, but to cut to the chase, in the end I wanted to die and suicide was a logical option at the time. I faced the reality that from a young age I thought death would be better than life. Sometime, early on in my life, I committed myself to whatever it took to save myself from myself. I had remedies to my biggest problem. I thought my biggest problem was that life wasn't working the way I thought it should - there should be only happiness, achievement, and easy fixes for suffering and pain.
Another crisis entered my life. I did sincerely believe I was a Christian, chosen by God for life. But I could not act on my desire to die as there would be dire consequences. I began to realize I've always held an Ace card in the hole. If things ever got bad enough I could quit life. With this card I still retained control of my life. Oh, I've since ripped the card up and so it has no ultimate power. I still carry the card but only to keep tearing it into smaller pieces.
For the last five years I've been rethinking this gospel of Jesus - the gospel I had put together with the support of emotionally charged evangelicalism. It is a therapeutic gospel. Have I been believing the wrong gospel? Do people I know believe in the wrong gospel? NO. This is not a matter of who is really saved and who is lost (ultimately I suppose it is, but my aim is not the enter that debate with this post.) It all comes down to the matter of which gospel will master me! The therapeutic gospel can bring someone to see their need for Jesus but it has no real power to change a person's heart. The real Gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives by changing all the inclinations of the heart so that Christ is sufficient and THAT is what I am after in my life and yours.
P.S. For more understanding of the therapeutic gospel please read this article by David Powlison. Let me encourage you...you must read it and wrestle with it!