recovery in Christ when life is broken

God Changed My Church Through Regen (Confessions of Rev. Dumpty)

As a kid, do you remember the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme? Let me refresh your mind: Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, all the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.” (Do you need a Kleenex?)

In many ways, the church I helped start and pastor for twenty-one years was full of Humpty Dumptys, me being the lead, Reverend Dumpty. We are all hanging out on the same wall, and we’ve all taken a sinful fall or two or three or…, and we’re left with broken, shattered lives and dreams. Let’s be honest. Church is messy because people are messy (even pastors are messy and broken).

Ultimately, God wants to do more than repair our broken pieces or patch us up. He wants to make us new. We know this. Jesus’ payment for our sins through His death and resurrection makes new life possible. The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

We have a new life in Christ, but how do we work out this new life in our daily lives, repairing the brokenness in our lives? Discipleship. It’s following in Jesus’ footsteps, learning from Him and obeying His commands and principles. It’s taking steps to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus.

So, when Watermark Community Church offered our church the opportunity to be a host site for a Christ-centered, twelve-step recovery program called re:generation three years ago, the Humpty Dumptys of Heartland Community Church jumped in and began the journey of experiencing what this new life in Christ could be.

Now, three years later, how has God used re:generation in the lives of our church?

  1. God changed me, Rev. Dumpty. When I went through Step 4 (Inventory) God revealed some personal life-long sin patterns and misplaced worship. The people I hurt, attitudes and actions I had spiritualized away, and untamed pride were exposed and addressed (Ouch!).
  1. Masks came off. As I stopped hiding my sin, so did many others. We stopped masquerading as spiritual phonies and Heartland became more authentic. We confessed our brokenness and now openly shared our hurts. Sure, it’s messier (embrace it!), but as a church family we became healthier spiritually and relationally.
  1. Miracles happened. I’ve seen God do miracles in hundreds of lives. I had hoped after 33 years of ministry to say I had walked on water, moved a mountain, or changed water into Dr. Pepper. But now I can only say, that I am just one of God’s walking miracles. The stories of radical life change at Heartland are off the charts. I’ve found that a “church success” isn’t measured best by attendance, square footage or budget, but rather by the miraculous stories of life change through God’s power at work in people.
  1. Leaders were developed. As participants found freedom and discovered their new life in Christ through these biblical twelve steps, their response was to then lead others as mentors or group leaders of other Humpty Dumptys who had also fallen off the moral wall. Our leaders began to grasp Jesus’ Great Commission of Matthew 28 to go and make disciples—to tell and lead others to a new life in Christ. In many ways, re:generation became a leadership factory, cranking out fully devoted leaders for Jesus.

But remember this, re:generation is only a tool—a catalyst for change in churches that are willing to change. Every step of the curriculum directs people to follow fully the One who does the changing—Jesus Christ. Christ is the one who makes us new. The Apostle Paul reminds us of this in Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV) Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

-Roger P.

Why I Can’t Forgive Myself

 

“I knew better. How could I have acted so foolishly? I can’t believe that I would stoop so low. I’m better than that. I don’t deserve to go on. I’m not worth forgiving. I’m worthless.”

Have you ever said one of these things to yourself? I have. Maybe you say some of these things to yourself every day, suffocating from guilt and shame because of a sin or mistake. Or maybe you spend your days obsessing about how to overcome the past, desperately searching for a way to somehow “forgive yourself.”

“Forgiving yourself” is common terminology used to describe self-release of personal guilt and shame. You don’t have to go far in recovery circles to hear someone say, “I know that God forgives me, and the person I’ve hurt forgave me, but I just can’t forgive myself.” Many books have been written on the subject. Even medical websites carry articles about the importance of self-forgiveness. The problem is that self-forgiveness is not a concept rooted in biblical truth.

If you think about it, no one in society has the authority to forgive themselves for something that they have done wrong. Teenagers can’t “un-ground” themselves. Prisoners can’t declare themselves forgiven and walk out of prison. People in a debt crisis can’t forgive themselves the remainder of what they owe. In all instances, we need a higher authority to pardon us or to declare that the debt from the sin is “paid in full.” Come to think of it, if we could forgive ourselves, we wouldn’t need Jesus.

But some of this confusion is semantics. When a Christian says, “I cannot forgive myself,” it usually means he is mistakenly holding on to guilt and shame for sins already paid for by Christ. He is struggling to truly accept Christ’s ransom for his soul as the lens through which he views himself.

God didn’t excuse sin, Jesus paid the debt of sin for us. Christ paid the debt of sin in full with his own blood, being nailed to a cross, so that he could offer forgiveness as a gift. Those who receive the gift are declared sons and daughters by God, forgiven, clean, righteous.

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

 

A continual struggle with guilt and Shame is often rooted in one of these reasons:
  • Pride. Pride whispers, “I cannot believe I would stoop so low. I am above that sin.” Pride struggles to accept God’s charity; it wants to earn back God’s grace (an undeserved gift). A prideful person wants to think well of (or lift up) his or her sinful human nature.
  • Idolatry. God’s word is not authoritative for the person. He or she believes another claim more than God’s declaration of forgiveness (Satan’s lies, the accusations of someone they offended, a parent's voice, or his or her own thoughts and feelings).
  • Low self-worth or misplaced identity. When thoughts such as “I do not deserve forgiveness” or “I am not worthy of forgiveness” lead someone to feel guilt or shame instead of gratitude to Christ, he or she is seeking value and identity apart from Jesus. God claimed our lives as valuable to him through Jesus’ blood. There is no greater cost that the Father could offer than the life of the Son to purchase your soul. Christ’s ransom (not our own self-worth or merit) defines your true value and identity.
  • The person may not yet be saved from sin. He or she has not truly believed and received Christ’s sacrifice as the only payment that satisfies the total cost of sin. If someone has not accepted Christ’s sacrifice as the payment for his or her sin, God may be convicting that person of his or her guilt so that the person may turn to Christ and be saved from hell.

 

The truth is that we are all great sinners by nature, unable to overcome sin. We are capable of great evil. It is because of God’s great love for us that He offers forgiveness as a gift. God reclaims those who accept Christ’s undeserved, unearned gift and calls them forgiven, righteous children.

If you have accepted Christ, but continue to struggle with guilt and shame, pray first. Thank God for His complete forgiveness of all of your sin. Thank Him for seeing you as valuable enough to ransom your soul through the Son. Thank Him for naming you as clean, forgiven, righteous, and a son or daughter of God. Confess any pride. Confess if you have allowed something other Christ’s sacrifice to define your worth. Ask God to renew your heart and mind so that you see yourself through the lens of His word. Then, memorize scripture that claims who you are in Christ; your feelings will often follow your mind as you remind yourself of these truths. 1 Corinthians 6:11 and Psalm 103:12 are two great verses to write on your heart.

“Forgiving yourself” will never free you from guilt and shame. You receive freedom from guilt and shame when you accept Christ as Savior, trust that God’s claims upon your soul and identity are true, and allow His claims to define your life.

 

- Nate G.

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recovery in Christ when life is broken.