Not Too Far Gone

My wife and I used to be involved in jail ministry. Those incarcerated are often viewed as monsters or worthless. While such a ministry has its challenges, my wife and I did not minister to monsters or worthless ones. We ministered to men who made poor choices, yet had families they loved and cared about. 

Many of the men we talked to grew up in the tough parts of a notorious city. Numerous times persons would tell us, “My daddy is a gangbanger, and my uncles, and my brothers, and my cousins are all gangbangers.” Such criminal living is all they have ever known. I remember looking at my wife one night and saying, “If I grew up in this city and all my family was gangbangers and drug dealers, I doubt my choices would be any bit different.”

Something that broke our hearts is how many men would say something like, “Don’t pray for me, I’m too far gone. But pray for my kid(s), that they don’t make the choices I’ve made and wind up here.” Numerous times we would have to tell them, “We will certainly pray for your kid(s), but you are not too far gone! Jesus loves you so much He died for you!”

No one, no matter what they have done, is too far gone if they truly turn from sin and turn to Christ in faith. The apostle Paul writes,

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. ~ 1 Timothy 1:15-16

Understand, Jesus is not a “get out of jail free” card. His love does not minimize the seriousness of sin or its consequences. However, His love and compassion reveal at least two things. First, they reveal the great value of the souls of people; and second, they reveal that human depravity does not come from a vacuum. Besides the complexity of original sin, there is the intricacies of personal makeup and various life experiences.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. ~ Hebrews 4:15

Perhaps you feel that you are “too far gone.” If so, Jesus gives this promise:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. ~ John 6:37

Do not let your fear or shame of feeling too far gone prevent you from responding to Jesus’s good and gracious promise.

“I Did Not Make It—No, It Is Making Me”

One of my favorite musicians is the late Rich Mullins. In his song, “Creed,” based on what is commonly called the “Apostle’s Creed,” [1] Mullins writes,

“I believe what I believe,
It’s what makes me what I am.
I did not make it, no, it is making me; It is the very truth of God, not the invention of any man.” [2]

Christianity is not about people having it all together, for if that was the case, why would we need a Savior? No, Christianity is about the living God and Redeemer who puts people back together, who are ravaged by sin, through the death and resurrection of His dear Son.

As Romans 3 tells us, we have all, like sheep, gone astray. All of us have searched for other pastures, seeking to satisfy our longings with anything but God. We have all become corrupt, each of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We have resisted God, succumbed to our desires, and defiantly sang to God, Frank Sinatra’s, “I did it my way!” As a result, our lives are broken, splintered, and ridden with emptiness and shame.

But then comes God’s grace and truth. Understand, the two must be together. Too many people profess grace while their behaviors are left unchanged. On the other hand, you have those declaring truth, but their lives do not display the love and compassion of the God they claim to profess. The grace and truth of God, together, builds and repairs our lives.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. ~ John 1:14

But think about Mullins’ words. “I believe what I believe, it’s what makes me what I am.” He is not simply talking about a creed, but the very Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is this which is remaking and remodeling him, not man’s philosophies, pop psychology, or religions.

“I did not make it, no, it is making me.” This comes from something outside and other than him. He did not “pull himself up by the bootstraps,” nor did he apply mind over matter or positive thinking.

“It is the very truth of God, not the invention of any man.” What is making him, rebuilding him, and restoring him is the very truth of God and His Gospel. God, alone, gets the glory.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. ~ Romans 1:16

Is the Gospel making you? God extends His glorious Gospel to you, my friend, no matter what you have done. No, you nor I can make it, but it is what makes us.”

[1] I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,  the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

[2] Rich Mullins, “Creed,” from the album, A Liturgy, a Legacy, & a Ragamuffin Band, Reunion Records, 1993.