In my small group time this week, we were challenged to tell our story. First, to write it down. Second to share it with someone. Statistics tell us that the majority of believers in Jesus Christ will not share with non-believers the story that changes everything. They will not share how they came to faith or what a difference Jesus has made in their lives. They will not lead others to the foot of the cross where Jesus died for everyone’s sin. It’s uncomfortable to share something that others might reject us because of it. However, rejection is all a part of the story. It’s all about the tree. The first tree, in the Garden of Eden, is where the story begins.
You might have heard the story of Adam and Eve and bite that changed everything for humankind. Adam and Eve took the forbidden fruit off the tree of good and evil. The bite was not the sin that was introduced to the world; it was taking the word of the serpent over the word of God. The tree of good and evil brought death. It brought spiritual death. Spiritual death was brought on by the broken relationship between God and Adam and Eve. When the “fruit” of sin became part of Adam and Eve, they passed it along through their DNA to each generation. It’s a natural part of us. And in our natural states, we are far from God. We are clothed in nakedness with guilt and shame; with no hope of a relationship with God. The fruit of sin does that to us. It makes us offensive to God.
However, God didn’t leave the story of humankind to that one bite or that one tree. He had another tree in mind. God created another tree that would one day become the place of death that would bring spiritual life. At God’s appointed time, and through His way, He brought the answer to our brokenness. Jesus. Jesus became the only way to right the relationship between God and us. Jesus is the bridge of hope for us all. It is by God’s design through Jesus’ death on a tree (also known as a cross). Jesus died so that we could have eternal life. This tree brings life – spiritual life.
I have heard Jesus’ story all my life. I was raised in a Christian home. So I knew about Jesus early. On Easter Sunday, 1973, on the front row of my small Baptist church, I heard a word to “Go” when the invitation was offered. I moved out of that seat to walk the small distance to the preacher who asked me if I wanted Jesus to be my Savior. I said yes. This wasn’t a life altering decision for me. I was almost eleven years old on that fateful day and had no clue that I was naked and covered in shame and guilt because of my sinful ways. I just heard the word go and I did.
I believe on that day, I had the covering of Jesus’ blood. I believe on that day, I became protected and His. My faith journey resembles the faith journey of Jesus’ disciples. They walked three years with Him to get to know Him but it wasn’t until the death and resurrection of Jesus when their eyes were truly opened. My faith walk took more like twenty years. It wasn’t until the death of my friend in 1993 when my eyes were truly opened to Jesus’ death and resurrection and what that meant for me. I recognized my sinful nature as it truly was; a broken relationship with God and no way out of my mess except through Jesus.
It has been a long process to come to the place where I can totally confess with my heart that Jesus is Lord of my life. I had already confessed that He was my Savior; but when He became my Lord, everything changed for me. I liked to think of my faith journey as a fishing analogy. Jesus is the fisherman. He caught me on His line in 73; He gave me a little line to wear me out so that He could finally reel me in. I fought the process for twenty plus years, but eventually He reeled me in. He got me in His boat, cleaned me up, and released me back into the waters. I was released to bring others to Jesus’ line, not to go back and live a life of sin. Like the disciple Philip where he finds Nathanael and tells him about Jesus; we are told that we are to testify about Jesus – to be a witness of Jesus’ work. Philip said to Nathanael “Come and see.” This is the purpose of our stories.
My story isn’t really that exciting. It’s the process of learning about Jesus, knowing Him fully as Savior and Lord, then experiencing His transforming work in me as He leads me each and every day. Two trees changed everything for all of us. The first tree took everything from us; the second tree restored it all through Jesus. It’s with this thought I leave with you – have you been changed by the second tree?
It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!” Romans 9-10 (MSG)