Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Garth Young: Lost and Found, Part Two

Last Sunday, Garth Young began telling his story about being a member of the Oregon City Followers of Christ Church. Today, Garth continues his story of seeking biblical answers. Please come back Sunday to read the rest of the story.

* * * * *

There were problems but problems are a part of life. From today’s perspective, I know the problems of life come from living in a fallen world. We are all born with a tendency to be self-centered which is sin and contrary to being Holy. The problem with sin is it stains. Afterward we decide to do better and move on, but the stain is still there and our record of wrong doings cannot be erased. The only thing the natural man can do is cover it up. 

I remember one time as a teenager, a friend told me he was speeding down the highway and a police car pulled him over, my friend jumped out of his truck threw open his hood and exclaimed the gas pedal was stuck and the truck would not stop, of course there was nothing wrong with his truck but he was so convincing that the officer let him go. My friend justified his actions by saying his dad told him to do whatever you can to get out of a speeding ticket. On the other hand there are some people that would never tell a lie – or at least not a big lie like that – because good people have standards to meet. Good people come to the erroneous conclusion that doing what is right will make them righteous people; these are the same people who are thankful they are not like the sinners, like the Pharisee praying at the temple (Luke 18:10-13). Being good and doing the right thing in an attempt to become righteous is just another way of covering up sin, but the stain is still there. I thought that I was better than my friend who lied to get out of a ticket, because I lived by a different standard when it came to telling the truth. The problem is I had lied in the past, and that made me a liar.

Serious questioning about the destination of my soul became very burdensome by the time I was thirty.  I read that the greatest commandment is - And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30) This was a problem because the love I was supposed to give God had been given to other things. I’ve come to realize now that loving anything more than God is not small - it is a crime against God and he will not sweep it under the rug. The biggest fear for a sinner like me was that accounts will be settled.

It’s hard to recall a more difficult time in my life than this. Discontented best describes my overall state of mind. Every time I tried to succeed in an area of my own personal righteousness, I would fail in another area, it seemed I could do nothing right. Going to church wasn’t helping me; I felt like a foreigner who didn’t speak the language, there were no answers. I was isolated in my thoughts and wanted out of the confines of this torment that seemed hidden from everyone’s perception of reality.

My dad died when I was 10 and my mother died when I was 21. Chances were, physically speaking, that I would not live much longer. Listening to people outside of our group for answers was not easy but it seemed a reasonable alternative.  If you would have asked me what I was doing at the time there is no way I could have articulated it as clearly as I can now. There was definitely a fear of the unknown because I had been told my whole life that people outside of our church were worldly, and there was for sure a fear of being alienated from everyone I had known all my life. Often I listened to Christian radio programs and sometimes would call in to ask questions. There were at least five different Christian speakers that I listened to regularly from all around the country, they all had different styles and techniques of communicating but what they all had in common is the gospel.

What happened next was nothing short of a miracle, I understood what the bible said. Before this, the truth of the gospel was foreign and unseen, everything that was important to me was only about me and was incompatible with the holiness of God; I didn't see how great He is. Everything I had stood for was wrong. I said I believed in God and no doubt he was real but it wasn't a belief that pleases the Lord, it wasn’t a belief that propelled me into worshiping God, and neither did I see Jesus as glorious and loving. There had been a complete focus on my righteousness.  This new understanding of who I was and who Jesus was broadcasted in my heart and mind that I was catastrophically stained, unable to pay my debt, and without hope. But Jesus is the great and mighty Savior, as we often praised His name in the following classic hymn: 

Not the labors of my hands

can fulfill thy law's commands;

could my zeal no respite know,

could my tears forever flow,

all for sin could not atone;

thou must save, and thou alone.

Rock of Ages by Augustus M. Toplady

The words “thou must save, and thou alone” had come out of my mouth hundreds of times in the last thirty years.

Toplady wrote such profound biblical truth that he has blessed the church for centuries – even though he himself had none of the essential qualities my group considered necessary. From 1740-1778 Augustus M. Toplady lived his brief life in England, attended Westminster School, London and Trinity College, Dublin. He preached God’s word without any recording of being called through prophecy, tongues or dreams and was never a member of the Followers of Christ Church and yet had a profoundly accurate theological understanding of God’s word. How is that possible? But perhaps the bigger question is how could I have mouthed those words so many times and not really understood what I was saying? The answer is that I was blind, I was dead, and I was an enemy of God. And there was nothing I could do to cure myself because only God can give life to the dead.

Having my dead eyes opened to see biblical truth, I was about to enter into becoming a disciple for the first time.


  1. Wow what a great read I feel your excitement. That is so wonderful you have found the meanings to the songs you had sung for so many years. I also was blind to Jesus but now I see. Again what a great testament to God. I hope you can regain your relationship with your family. That God's glory and riches could be shared by all. I can't wait to here more. Now I have two reasons to be rejoice this Sunday.

    1. That is truly beautiful. I can't think of a more perfect way to put it. Thinking that your saved because you were told, is far different from knowing your saved because you honored his promise, sought him, found him, then turned yourself over to his will.You don't write the way you have without inspiration. Thanks for putting your feelings in the first person, not throwing stones, or taking cheap shots.

  2. I too had sang many great songs for years out there and now when I hear or sing them now the words mean something and come from my heart and not just my mouth. LIKE WOW! What a difference! I love everything you wrote- But I wanted to touch on something. We are not really in God's family without accepting Christ also from our heart, not just our mouth or our head as with a mental understanding of our need to accept Christ,but accept Him into our heart. I believe there is head knowledge and heart knowledge. It is not at all about us but Him and what He has done for us. But God so loved the World, He loves all of us. Much like with our own children we love them all, happier when they are behaving then being bad, but the love does not change. About being an enemy to God- I think some people can be an enemy so to speak, ones that hate God, but God still loves everyone. It took me years to understand God's love and I don't even think I understand the depth of it now- and it will keep growing on that concept as it is kind of endless as learning His Word. What I am trying to say, mean people, God haters are an enemy to their self and other people and to God so to speak, but let's never forget His love. Some of the most wonderful testimonies I have ever heard came from people that used to be awful, horrible and mean hearted, but now their life is now serving the Lord and loving people. Maybe that is all what you meant, and felt separated through wrong believe until you got out and learned His Truth?

    1. Dear Anonymous,
      Thanks for reading and following along. You have brought up some great points and I hope you will allow me to respond. I have been chewing on your words for a few days now.

      I agree completely that our heart is the problem and needs to be changed so that we can be, as you say, part of God’s family. You are right, this change of heart does not happen because of a mental realization or words spoken. The only way the heart can change is for God to replace it. As we read in Ezekiel 36:26
      26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

      God is the one who changes the heart. The point where we differ is our desire or ability to want that change. Before God changes our heart, we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:5), and therefore, have no desire for the things of God, until he makes us alive with Christ.

      Yes, you must do something; you must receive, believe and trust Jesus. You must repent of sin and unbelief. You must turn to Jesus and follow him, persevering in the faith that was given to you by God, but you cannot do any of this before you are spiritually alive.

      The natural person cannot receive the things of the spirit of God. This is what the apostle Paul says in 1Cor 2:14, because trusting Jesus is foolishness to people in their natural state.

      In John 3:3, we read the story of Nicodemus coming to Jesus in the night; Jesus told him that a person cannot see the kingdom unless that person has been born again.

      The way this change happens is through God’s word. Peter tells us that we are born again through imperishable seed, the word of God that lives and abides forever (1 Pet 1:23). The word of God must come into our hearts and begin to grow.

      These are just a few verses that point to our inability to receive anything that pleases the Lord before we have been made a new creation in Christ. I would ask that you think about my words as much as I have thought about yours, but mostly that you would go to God’s word and see if what I am saying is true.

      I also understand your apprehension about your seeing yourself as an enemy of God. I have also had to wrestle with what this means, and I think most people do. This really goes back to the previous point, because before God calls us and brings us into his kingdom, we are therefore against and contrary to his will.

      The apostle Paul teaches us about the reconciliation of God, because while we were enemies, we have been reconciled to God by the death of His son. (Rom 5:10)

      Because sin had created a barrier between man and God and rendered man hostile toward Him. The sacrifice of Jesus, the holy Lamb of God, is the only way for there to be peace between man and God.

    2. About the subject of being an enemy of God- I have studied that and found some interesting things. I looked up Enemies in the Strong's Concordance and found out you are right. Romans 5:10 - For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
      Colossians 1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
      The meaning in Greek for the word enemy in those scriptures is- hateful, hostile, adversary (used by satan) enemy, foe.
      I do also believe that everyone has came from a different place and in timing through hurt, fear or abuse come to know God and fully accept Jesus into "their heart". That was my case as I was so broken. I loved God but had a hard time trusting. I didn't come from a loving home and had hurt piled on top of another. I know God understood. Not that we should have excuses to live wrong and for me that certainly wasn't what I was trying to accomplish.
      We all need to be reconciled to God through Jesus :) There is no better life!

    3. Anonymous, you just made my day.
      You do realize that not everyone sees what you see. There are many who will scoff at your peace. Some will say, there is no way someone like you could know righteousness.
      Jesus says, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine who need no repentance. (Luk 15:7)
      Thank you for the friendly conversation.


  3. I believe that anyone who is not cleansed by Jesus blood, saved, redeemed, born again, however you want to say it, is an enemy of God, as it states in Romans, and in James. " Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God". -James 4:4 (NKJV) who is the world? Anyone who is not in Christ. Yes? Who are those in Christ? They've accepted His cleansing power for the remission of their sin, acknowledging they are a sinner in need of a savior. Asking Him to forgive their sins and live for Him the rest of their lives, obeying Him and repenting when they do sin.
    " But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation."-Romans 5:8-11 (NKJV)
    So it is correct to believe that before one accepts Christ, they are an enemy of God.
    He does love us,
    He created us,
    He also wants all to be saved.
    Some will reject Him, and He knows this. It is Him that chooses us because He has forseen that no one will choose Him.
    Please correct me if I'm wrong, this is just something I've come to understand this year, in better depth, than when I became a saved believer, Christian, redeemed, etc. 12 years ago.

    1. Garth, I need to apologize for jumping in and commenting about the enemy of God comment. It was brought to my attention that I shouldn't have defended you, and let you speak for yourself. Please accept my apologies.

    2. Thanks Maggie. I know you were just trying to help. I appreciate that about you.


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