I remember that day well. After school, my mother and I drove to the church building to talk with my pastor. God had been working on me, drawing me ever so gently toward himself. Upon arrival, my pastor was thoughtful enough to provide an after-school snack of chips and Coke. We went to his office and talked. I listened to him explain the gospel with clarity.
I walked out of that office a different person. I entered condemned; I left justified. I entered a rebellious defector; I left a joyful servant of the King. I entered dead; I left alive.
That was 25 years ago, and it was a great day. But equally as weighty and strong and meaningful have been the over 9,000 days since then. These have been days of God’s merciful, sanctifying work—work in which I have not only believed in Christ, but I have learned Christ. I have learned that the Truth I confess with my lips is bringing profound comfort in my life. Looking back over this span of sanctification, I am stunned by God’s patience and grace, and I am laid low at the thought of his goodness toward me. Since that Monday afternoon in 1990, I have learned many things, five of which are here:
I have learned the bitterness of my own inability, weakness, and sinfulness.
I had one sense of inability, weakness, and sinfulness as a nine-year-old boy. I have a much different sense of it now. I’ve seen it, felt it, been pulled by it, hated it, crawled back to it, ignored it, attacked it, depended on it, been overcome by it—myself, my own flesh—for a quarter of a century. Now, more than ever, I know that “nothing good dwells in me,” (Rom. 7:18) and apart from Christ I can do nothing (John 15:5).
I have learned the sweetness of God’s grace.
There is a profound relation between the knowledge of our own sinfulness and God’s grace. The more bitter the taste of your own sinfulness, the sweeter the taste of God’s grace. The uglier the darkness, the more beautiful the light. The drier the desert, the more satisfying the deep, cold drink. “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” (Ps. 34:8) I have. And I do.
I have learned new values, desires, and ambitions.
Tasting the goodness of Christ changes us, and this change shows up in what we love and admire and value. The longer we walk with Christ, the more the things of this world grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace. Our desire to receive glory grows dim in the light of a love to give God glory. Empty excitement and temporary pleasure grow dim in the light of an offer for full joy and pleasure forever (Ps. 16:11). And we don’t have to will these changes; Jesus changes us from the inside as he works on us, and we want these things.
I have learned the slow guidance of God’s patience.
God is a good and gentle guide. Oh how many times he could just do away with us and be totally justified in it, but he leads us with his patience and forbearance! Instead of being put out with us and venting his frustration, he draws us into his disciplining love, refocuses our eyes on the cross of Christ, and whispers in our ears, “This is the way, walk in it,” (Is. 30:21).
I have learned what it is to be filled and yet always seeking more.
In one sense our relationship with the Christ is completely settled. We are his. We stand in his salvation. We’re justified. But on the other hand, there is a journey we are on—a pursuit that is taking us ever deeper in our knowledge and identity in Christ. “I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus,” (Phil. 3:12). Christ laid hold of me that Monday afternoon and has never let me go (and never will). I am so thankful for his grace and patience and purpose in the years since, and I am looking forward to the continued pursuit of knowing Him as supremely satisfying in the next 25.