I’m not sure of the exact moment that I understood all of the essential truths of the gospel. And I’m not sure of the date and time when I sincerely turned in faith toward Christ on the foundation of understanding those truths. But I do remember that on September 7, 2010, a Christian friend text me a P4CM spoken word video and after watching that video (and after months of the Lord bringing me to a place of humble brokenness), God began writing the story of my personal Exodus.
I’ll admit right upfront that a massive chunk of the motivation for my initial seeking of a better way of life was directly related to the scary circumstances I found myself in. From high school onward, I trudged deeper and deeper into substance abuse and sexual sin—eventually finding myself to be in a situation where I had been exposed to HIV at least once to my knowledge….maybe multiple times considering the dozens of sexual partners I had in a year’s time. After this (known) exposure in June 2010, whenever I’d be alone and left with my thoughts, I would be crippled by the fear that I had contracted HIV. Thoughts of sickness and death overwhelmed me. I was being brutally confronted with the reality of my mortality… and it was more than I could handle. So I tried to drown out these thoughts with more alcohol, more partying, more guys. Every week I would find myself weaker than the one before, more hopeless than the one before, more fearful than the one before… and more reckless than the one before. I was waking up in hotel rooms with strangers, stumbling on foot along darkened highways in the middle of the night… the list goes on.
If I had been left to myself, I don’t know that I’d be alive right now. But God intervened. I feel weird saying that. Part of me even resists saying that… not because I don’t believe it to be true, but because it sounds so cliché. But God did intervene. He began opening my eyes to all sorts of realities that I had previously been willfully blind to.
The reality of the dangerous way I was living
The reality that God actually existed
The reality that I was a sinner
The reality that I should turn away from sin and gain God’s forgiveness somehow because of Jesus (I didn’t really understand justification at this point).
Surely the fear I had of maybe having HIV played a big part in awakening me to my need of God, but even after getting an HIV test in October and finding out I didn’t have the virus, I was still consumed with these new realities I was beginning to see. Fear of sickness and death may have gripped my soul at one point and caused me to initially buckle and bow before God, but now that fear was gone and for the very first time in my life, the desire I had to know God gripped my soul in such a way that I was willing to let go of everything I had to in order to gain Him. I was willing to let go of the gay sex/relationships/dating, the partying and the whole manner of life that I was so engulfed in—and so I did. I was still very blurry on the truths of the gospel, but I started reading my bible, spent time discussing the Bible with other Christians and began attending a church.
It was at this church that I really heard the gospel of justification in Christ and understood it for the first time. The pastor explained how Jesus loaded upon Himself all of the guilt we carry because of our sinfulness, and how He willingly subjected Himself to death on a Cross where He was crushed by the righteous wrath of God for our sin (this is what I had never understood before). Then, after putting our sin away by His death, Jesus resurrected— proving Himself to be Lord over everything and everyone—and having authority to deal with us as He pleases, He joyfully chooses to clothe all who trust in Him with His righteousness. He casts away no one who comes to Him in sincerity, and promises to save them completely and forever.
After hearing this pastor’s sermon, I understood more deeply that all of my willful rebellion against God earned me His condemnation; and how no amount of good deeds or “positive life change” could change or undo that. My only hope was Jesus, and I began to believe in Him with more ferocity than I ever had before. This deep, fierce trust in Jesus has only intensified over the past three years. He is everything to me, and with the Apostle Paul I say, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)
I write these things today because as a friend of mine said yesterday, it’s vital for us to step back and reflect upon how good God has been to us. It’s vital to remember what He’s brought us out of. Just as God rescued the Jews out of their slavery to Pharaoh in Egypt thousands of years ago, He continues to rescue people from their slavery to sin through the power of the gospel and triumphantly ushers them into the true promised land: eternal life in Jesus. I hope that you will stir your heart up in worship toward our gracious God by remembering the story of your own Exodus. If you believe in Jesus in a saving way today, God has been overwhelmingly good to you and brought you out of a darker darkness than you’ll ever realize.