This past Friday, as I was at a convention, I saw an older man wearing a hat and jacket that displayed he was obviously a veteran from many years past and a recipient of the Purple Heart for being wounded in combat. As a fellow veteran, I began a conversation with him asking where he had served and the nature of his service. As we spoke, I learned that he had been wounded in Vietnam after losing a younger brother to WWII. He shared several short stories about his time in the Army over the 10 minutes or so that we conversed and shared that he now continues to serve as a chaplain to some organizations that focus on helping servicemen and women overcome PTSD and other challenges after seeing combat.
I really enjoyed getting the opportunity to hear about this man’s past and just a little of what part he played in military history. He was truly a pleasure to converse with. However, there was just one thing he said that stuck with me more than anything. I don’t recall his name, his units, where specifically he was when he was wounded, how he was wounded, or any other details. However, this one thing he said may very well stick with me the rest of my life.
As we were recognizing it was time for us to go our separate ways and continue about our days, an older lady who had been sitting several feet away and listening to our conversation said, almost simultaneously with me, “Thank you for your service.” Without missing a beat, the man replied, “Some of you are worth it.” As you can imagine, you could hear a pin drop as the lady and I tried to comprehend what we had just heard until she almost accidently let out a loud chuckle and responded, “Well I certainly hope I am one of the ones that were worth it.”
The man explained, “I started to notice years ago that people were thanking me for my service almost as a reflex and just saying it because ‘that’s what you’re supposed to say to a veteran.’ So, I wanted to start giving a response that would force them to think deeper about what they were saying and why they were saying it. Hopefully even make them wonder if they are a life that is worth someone risking their life for.” Just then, his wife came up and we all knew it was time to part ways. We shook hands and exchanged blessings and that was that … but, for me, that wasn’t the end of the conversation.
Since then, I have been thinking a lot about what he said, but not in relation to military personnel … in relation to Christ. I have asked myself, “Am I living a life that Christ can say is worth dying for? If today was my last, would he welcome me home and say, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant.’?” Most definitely my response has been a resounding “No!”. I have thought about the words I speak, the thoughts I have, and the actions I take. I have looked at the selfish desires I have, the love of self, the love of money, the service to the world instead of God, and a host of other failures in my life.
When am I going to get it right!?! I love God and I love his word. I teach Sunday school. I read my Bible. I pray. I go to Bible study and three church services a week. Anyone who knows me knows I would rather talk about God’s word than anything else in the world. I love helping others. I give where I can and feel led to. I participate in discipleship processes to help me grow and help others grow. So, with all this time I spend intentionally desiring to be more like Christ and to serve Him more, why do I still see this sin in my life?
Suddenly I found myself having the conversation that Paul had in Romans 7:14-25. I don’t want to sin, but I still do! Of course, there are several directions I could take this from here on how to correct sin; how to change sin habits; ways to walk more in the spirit…the Scriptures cover all of this and we are all well advised to seek these things out in study and prayer. However, there is something else I find maybe even more important in our walk as Christians that I got to see today in the life of my son.
As we prepared to take part in remembering our Lord through the sacraments of the Lord’s supper today in morning service, we were encouraged to prepare our hearts through prayer and confessing our sins to the Lord prior to taking the bread and wine. Considering the thoughts I have had the past couple days about sin in my life, I took this seriously and bowed my head and prayed. After I raised my head and opened my eyes, my wife gently tapped my shoulder and nodded in my son’s direction. As I looked, I saw the redness of his skin and the tears streaming down his cheeks. He also took the need to pray and repent seriously. The brokenness revealed on his face confirmed the repentance in his heart.
This is part of what is missing in many of our lives today as Christians, but we need it so badly. To look on and think about the way that Christ sacrificed His body and spilled His blood for our sins should break our hearts when we recognize that we have sinned once again. Our new heart of flesh he has given us should bring us to our knees when we fail our Savior. If we are listening to the Holy Spirit and seeking His guidance in our lives, we should be broken and contrite when we see our sin. It should pain us that we grieve our Lord.
It doesn’t stop there. We must turn about and set our course back on His path. He has promised us that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 CSB) He will purify us anew and set us back on His path if we will simply humble ourselves and seek Him. This is part of what takes place as God sanctifies us. He trains us and allows us the freedom to make mistakes. He punishes us when we turn from Him, yet He opens His arms to us as a wayward child when we turn back to Him and acknowledge our sin before Him.
I am so thankful today that God works not only in my life to help me see my sin, but that He shows me how to give it to Him so that He can do in me what I can’t do myself. I praise God that He is working in the life of an 11-year-old boy in such a way that his sins against his Savior bring him to tears. I am humbled that I get to serve in a church alongside others who take discipleship seriously to train and encourage one another to recognize sin and repent before the Lord; where those responsible for ministering to our children don’t make everything about fun and games and “just some old stories from the Bible” – they take God’s word seriously and teach it in a loving way that encourages our children to truly see God at work in their lives. God is good…all the time!
Are you living a life worth Christ dying for?
If not, why not take some time right now to repent and seek Him and let Him put you back on the path He has called you to walk?