I grew up with the reputation of being a squeaky-clean church kid—and I liked it. I had the approval of my parents, peers, and teachers. What could be better?
Unfortunately, this approval led to self-righteousness and self-centeredness. I thought life was about me—and I had it good! I didn’t need to think much about seeking or obeying Christ because I assumed I already was doing both. I didn’t use bad words or get in trouble at school—that must mean I’m pretty good, right?
I began to take my faith more seriously in high school when friends in my public school started asking me questions—questions I didn’t have the answers to. In addition, I knew my squeaky-cleanness was only external—secret sins had a grip on my heart in a way Christ didn’t. I knew answers were out there for these questions and my struggles, I just hadn’t found them yet.
A Growing Desperation
I never expected my first semester at a Christian college to thrill me and challenge me like it did. I enjoyed new freedom and new friendships. What I didn’t enjoy was my new identity crisis. Who was I and what was I about? The answers seemed to change daily. “Squeaky-clean church kid” didn’t mean as much in a sea of squeaky-clean church kids.
I learned the hard way that trying to be like someone you’re not is a great way to embarrass yourself. I learned the nasty cycle of sin that leads to isolation that leads to even more sin. I learned what it felt like to cry myself to sleep at night.
One day while getting my hair cut, I came to grips with how bad things were. As chunks of my hair fell to the floor, I realized I couldn’t go on alone. I tried to please people and be someone I wasn’t—and I hated it. I felt like my life had fallen apart.
The passage that changed everything
That January I took an intensive Bible course that required students to read the whole New Testament in a few weeks. As I read the Bible, something happened that had never happened to me before: I was gripped by what I read. I had always respected the Bible and would have verbally said it was true—but this time it was as if someone had unlocked the secrets of the universe for me.
As I tried to absorb the rich truths of Scripture, I stopped in my tracks while reading Jesus’ conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:24–27, CSB):
Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. It collapsed with a great crash.
I was stunned. This was a familiar passage to me, but it was as if I read it the first time. I looked up from my Bible and thought: “I’ve built my life on the sand for my entire life. That’s why things have come crashing down.” I had heard the words of Christ all my life but had never desired to put them into practice. Christ revealed my wickedness to me, and it was like a sledgehammer to my soul.
As I considered the rubble of my life, despair turned to hope as I realized that Christ would put me back together—and put me back together He did.
In the Lord’s grace, I grew in leaps and bounds as I sought to repent of my sin and obey the risen Christ. I finally came to grips with who I was‑a beloved child of God; and what I was about, pleasing Him with all I do and think.
The good life came not by keeping God at arm’s length, but by drawing near to the risen Christ and surrendering all of myself to Him. His was the only approval I needed, and this solid truth was something I could build my life upon.
This article originally ran at GospelProject.com.