Jireh is a third year applied mathematics major who enjoys recreational powerlifting, studying, long walks, theology, discipleship, and finding seemingly disproportionate amounts of joy in little graces.
I was born to believing parents who homeschooled me with the desire to raise me up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. I grew up learning the content and commands of the Bible, but I processed it all as legalistic parameters, masterfully dishing out all the right things to say and conducting myself in such a manner so as to impress parents at church or earn rewards. I went to church and excelled at its activities as my only means of socializing and because even if singing praises for all eternity sounded exhausting and boring, whatever heaven was like sounded a whole lot better than hell.
However, behind my perfect facade, I was lost in a lifestyle of sinful self-indulgence. I was a whitewashed tomb, outwardly righteous for others to see but full of lawlessness. I worshipped the lust of my eyes and my flesh. I deceived my parents by lying, stealing, and cheating my way through homeschooling. I wasted away my days in idleness and gaming. All this time, even as in the hardness of my heart I worshiped myself, I was blinded to the gravity of my sin and my utter depravity, and I genuinely believed that I was saved. Empty praise and insincere repentance left my mouth, arising from a hardened and calloused heart. In such a way, I professed Christ from a young age, placing my faith in cheap grace and fighting for false assurance. My deceitfulness was able to fool my family, my friends, and even myself.
I can’t pinpoint a specific time in my life when I was saved, but I believe that it was during the years of transition from homeschooled middle school to public high school that the LORD used the faithful exposition of the Word of God at my church to bring me to genuine repentance and a saving knowledge of God. One sermon that particularly jostled me was on 1 Corinthians 6, which warned that “the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.” I remember our pastor explaining that while one could never out-sin saving grace, those who lived in perpetual unrepentant sin were most likely not saved.
This absolutely terrified me as did many other sermons on sin, and rightly so, for such was the lifestyle I led on a daily basis, one of helpless enslavement to sin. I was completely calloused to some sins, reveling in them all the day long without a second thought or morsel of grief. Other sins gnawed at my conscience and filled my heart with guilt, but I laboriously suppressed the truth. In the face of temptation, I bolstered my false assurance, telling myself that God’s grace would abound to me for even this next sin. In times of guilt and fear, I would qualify a terse apology as repentance or once again invite Christ into my heart.
There was no broken and contrite heart in my half-hearted apologies (Psalm 51:17). There was no mourning or sackcloth, and likewise no dancing, gladness, or praise to follow (Psalm 30:11-12). There was simply fear, guilt, shame, and slavery to a sinful flesh. Such was the darkness of my life, characteristic of one dead in his trespasses, under the dominion of death and sin, and of a mind set on the flesh, hostile to God and unable to submit to God’s law, unable to please God and living a life that leads to death. I beheld clearly this wretched state in which I wallowed and was terrified at the thought of the infinite judgement of a holy and just God that I so rightfully deserved.
But along with these warnings that rattled my soul, the gospel was preached. The message I had heard for years but had grown calloused to was presented with greater clarity to my dead soul, and in His time, God softened my heart to His salvation found in the Gospel, and He saved me. Entirely by His irresistible calling, God, in His infinite grace and mercy, brought me to truly trust in the perfect substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross and His resurrection in victory over death for the forgiveness of my sins and deliverance from His just wrath, to genuinely repent of my sins, and to follow Him as Lord of my life. In this miracle of regeneration, God took out my old heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh with the capacity to love and delight in Him. God crucified my old self with Christ on the cross and set me free from sin, making me a new creation. Praise be to God!
Now, I’m still a sinner, but one saved by grace. With a God-given hatred for the sin that offends Him, I flee from temptation and grasp every foothold to fight it. Though I still fail and sin against my Father who created me, though I still grieve the Holy Spirit who dwells within me, though I still continue to shed Christ’s blood on the cross, I hate my sin and despise this wretched unregenerate body in which I reside, seeking sanctification and holiness while waiting eagerly for the redemption of my body in glorification.
When I sin, Christ Jesus, the one who died and was raised and is interceding for me, holds me fast and justifies me by His righteousness such that God has nothing but love for me in His heart. Such immeasurable grace that He continually shows me leads me to brokenness and sorrow over grieving the kind God who rescued me, and such contrition leads me to repentance. When I return from squandering the grace of my God and wallowing in the mud and feeding the pigs to confess before Him, my Father runs to me while I am still a long way off, embracing and kissing me, and shows me the forgiving love that has already been in His heart (Luke 15:20). Fully justified in His presence, I can forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead, pursuing the holiness without which no man will see God. Because of the completed and continual work of Christ on my behalf, I can draw near with confidence to my God and continually taste and see that He truly is good.
God has been faithful, by way of His Word, prayer, fellowship, discipleship, trials, and other scriptural means of sanctification, to steer my affections away from the weak, fleeting, and destructive pleasures of this world, and towards Him who is infinite uncreated joy, in whose presence is fullness of joy, at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore. Though I still often fall to the enticings and deceitfulness of sin, I have found incomparable joy in glorifying my God, in beholding His glory, and in living in obedience to Him. Such is the salvation that is freely offered to all who would call upon the name of the Lord. As Milton Vincent writes in A Gospel Primer: “I don’t deserve any of this, even on my best day; but this is my salvation, and herein I stand. Thank You, Jesus.”