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CONFESSIONS OF A GOOD CHRISTIAN GUY
By Tom Davis Tammy Maltby
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Tom Davis Tammy Maltby
All right reserved.
A Courageous Look at the Secrets Inside Us
My name is Tom Davis, and I'm a good Christian guy.
Let me tell you a bit about my life.
I've been married to Emily-the most wonderful woman in the world-for eleven years. We have six beautiful children, including an adopted daughter from Russia. I'm a good father. I work as the president of an international organization that helps orphans. In addition, I'm a leadership development consultant for midlevel to Fortune 500 companies. I'm a good provider for my family. I go to church. I read my Bible. By the grace of God, I wake up every morning excited about living.
I've also slept with countless women, snorted cocaine, stolen cash from people, and spent time in jail.
Here's the real surprise-all that stuff happened after I became a Christian.
Like I say, my name is Tom Davis, and I'm a good Christian guy.
This is my confession.
LIVING WITH SECRETS
Perhaps you have a similar story-maybe not with sins as glaring as mine, but there are issues in your life you wish were hidden. Maybe it's something in your past. Maybe it's happening today.
Has anything like this ever happened to you?
Driving home from church, some idiot cuts you off on the freeway. So you speed up, give him the bird, and cut him off. The jerk! One minute you're humming praise songs, the next minute you want to hurt someone. What gives?
Last night you were checking your e-mail, and an ad for a singles' Web site popped up. You clicked on it (just to check what's out there these days) and saw another link. You spent the next two hours looking at porn. You feel horrible.
You live a pretty clean life, but one time back in college things really got out of hand. It was spring break, you had too much to drink, and things took a nasty turn. Man, if anybody found out about that today, it wouldn't be good.
Ouch. This isn't us. Our desire as good Christian guys is to love the Lord, to work hard; to support our families, churches, and communities; and to be examples to others. We pride ourselves on walking the line.
But if we look at our lives honestly, we recognize some facades. Underneath are a host of harmful realities-hidden thoughts, nagging memories, bad decisions, broken dreams, shattered goals. Sometimes we feel mired in a pit.
It's not that we aren't outwardly successful. Many of us have good jobs and great families. We're respected in our neighborhoods and communities. At church, we're ushers and deacons and youth sponsors and worship leaders and Sunday school teachers-we're the ones shaking hands at the door with smiles on our faces. We're not backsliders or apostates or pagans or nonbelievers. We're good Christian guys, and churches are filled with men like us.
It's our inner lives that hold problems. Either there's sin in our past we want to keep quiet, or else we keep on sinning, often secretly. This nagging darkness in our inner lives stymies us.
Many of us grew up hearing stories of black-and-white conversions-once I was lost; now I'm found. We're used to thinking of Christianity in terms of before-and-after stories. The implication is that once a person has found Christ, his life should be tidy afterward. Now that we're believers, our slate is supposed to be wiped completely clean. But for some reason, our yuck is still there. In our honest moments, we admit there are huge places of deadwood in our lives-places of decay we wish weren't there.
We know a better way exists. In John 10:10, Jesus Christ says, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." We men were created to live fully alive. Christ wants us to be fully alive in our relationships, fully alive in our jobs, fully alive in our places of service. This is who we're meant to be. But somehow we're not truly living this abundant life, so we try harder to clean ourselves up.
We pray for relief ... but it doesn't come.
We read self-help books ... but the quick-fix answers are just annoying.
We beg God to be rescued ... but our behavior doesn't change at all.
That's what happened in my own life. I was a Christian, trying to live by my own standards, and my life was a mess. I had walked the aisle of a Southern Baptist church at the ripe age of ten in Midland, Texas, complete with choir singing "Just As I Am" in the background. I could argue the doctrine of "once saved, always saved" with the best of them. I knew if I died-and I was really pushing the limits at times-I would go straight to heaven because Jesus paid the price for my sins. I believed. But by no means was I living an abundant life.
Why was I living so low? What was so awful about my life that it drove me to regularly practice destructive behavior? Why wasn't my life working as it was supposed to?
That was the question I was desperately trying to figure out.
That's the question I know many of you are wrestling with.
Beyond Club Deadwood
This is a fact: good Christian guys do end up in the wrong places doing the wrong things. The Bible is filled with stories of men who had hearts for God and still blew it.
Abraham was a liar.
Jonah ran away from his responsibility.
David-one of the greatest kings of Israel-had an affair with a married woman and then ordered the murder of her husband. You can't get much worse than that.
We're in good company with our deadwood. I don't say that to minimize sin. I say that as reality. When you sit in church and take a good look around you, everyone (and I do mean everyone) has done things-and is doing things-he or she isn't proud of.
The first response is often to shrug off our responsibility. It's easy to pass the buck when it comes to sin. Men are fabulous at this. Maybe our boss is heavy-handed, so it drives us to drink. Or our dad was a jerk, so he's responsible for our failures today.
I have a good friend who is an alcoholic. This guy loves the Lord, but his life is completely out of control. He's caught in a vicious cycle of traveling, drinking, lying, being alone, drinking, drinking, and more drinking. His world is falling apart, but he won't yet accept responsibility for his actions. It's too easy to point the finger at everyone else.
For many years I pointed a finger at others for my problems. I acted the way I did because of my pain. And I could come up with a stockpile of reasons my pain was there: feelings of abandonment, rejection, confusion, lack of direction. Maybe I did what I did as a cover-up for how horrible I felt about myself because of what I suffered as a child, or because of my rebellious actions as an adult, or both. My pain was real, and I was in numbing, acting-out mode because of my pain-but that still doesn't give me an excuse for sin.
I know this for sure: we kill every chance of living a fully alive life if we refuse to accept responsibility for our actions. Everyone has pain. Pain is universal. When we're in numbing, acting-out mode, we'll attempt anything to deaden the pain in our souls-fill in the blank as to what your issue might be. But if we good Christian guys don't learn to accept responsibility for our actions despite our pain, we'll never move forward. We hurt, we struggle, we're disappointed with ourselves, we feel like failures, and we act out. But still, it's us doing the acting out. No matter how the pain got there, we have to accept responsibility for what we do.
Sometimes, even, we have to come to the end of a rope before anything changes. I call that the place of despair-a place without hope. I came to that place. At one point, I actually hated my life. The strange news is that despair can actually be a gift, because it can be a motivator. It can slice through our pretenses, show us our need, and make us willing to do whatever it takes to change directions. If we let it, despair can drive us into the arms of God.
What's your level of despair? On a scale of one to ten, how desperate are you right now? Are you at rock bottom? Or do you feel a few steps away? Maybe life isn't all it's meant to be, but you could continue in your pattern a long time before you reach the bottom.
Guess what? All are places of despair. There is no hope when you're heading down a path toward death. Left unchecked, where will your actions lead you in five years? Ten years? Tomorrow? What relationships will be harmed? What job will you lose? What ministry position will you be unable to fulfill?
God's invitation to us is to choose life. When we realize our despair, we become willing to give up our quest to be the best Christian guy ever and let God remake us into the kind of sons He wants.
When we acknowledge our despair, or when we give up pretending to be somebody we're not, we start to put our trust in God, where it belongs. We have to give up our hope in ourselves before we can accept the hope that Christ has to offer.
Ezekiel 47 gives us a picture of what God is able to do with the deadwood in our lives. Ezekiel describes a new city of God with a river flowing out from a new temple. The city is surrounded by dead things, but everywhere the water runs becomes alive again. The water heals and restores everything. The water is a picture of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us a new kind of living. The real miracle is God's constant pursuit of us, even while we are sinners. God brings things back to life again.
My prayer for us as men is that we will accept responsibility for the deadwood in our lives and open up a crack for the Spirit of God to get in. The crack is an admission of our brokenness; it's the end of the superficial image we've tried to present; it's admitting our failures-as hard as that is for men. That crack can widen and expand, allowing God's healing water to restore us to the abundant life we were meant to lead. We don't deserve it. But Christ promises abundant life by His grace.
The Good News of Grace
That's the real message of this book-we good Christian guys need that grace.
We needed it when we first came to Christ, and we continue to need it even now that we're believers. At the end of the day, the grace of Jesus Christ is the only thing we have to count on. Sure, we have responsibility to own up to our sin. We need to take steps toward accountability, toward safeguarding our lives, and toward running with perseverance the race marked for us.
But at the end of the day, it's always God's grace that saves us. It's always God's grace that leads us to the lives we were meant to lead. We good Christian guys need grace as much as any unbeliever does.
Grace doesn't mean that we need to "snuggle up in the lap of Jesus"-that type of warm, fuzzy thinking doesn't work for most men. And grace never gives us a license to lie down on the job or get sloppy with our lives. "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?" the apostle Paul asks. "By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Rom. 6:1). Christ calls us to own up to our sin.
Rather, the message of grace is that God is rock solid in His commitment to us. He never gives up on us. Never. Christ saves us when we turn to Him, and He never leaves us, even when we're sinning. Christ is the One who truly heals and restores us and leads us to a place of abundant living. It takes our responsibility-yes, but ultimately, He's the One who lifts us out of the deadwood and into fully alive lives.
When I think of the message of grace, I think of Romans 7 and 8. We have to take these two chapters of the Bible together.
In Romans 7, Paul talks about all the mistakes he makes and the struggles he has with sinning. He tries all the time to do what he should, but he always seems to do the opposite of that. He keeps sinning. And sinning some more.
Then in Romans 8:1, Paul makes this amazingly strong statement: "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." No condemnation. None whatsoever. That's grace. And that's our invitation-to continually remind ourselves of that truth. In spite of our sins, we aren't condemned.
Grace. It sounds so simple, but it can be one of the hardest ideas to fully grasp.
Grace begins by believing that somehow God can turn our messy secrets into something better. It begins with understanding the reality that Christ died for sinners-which includes all of us good Christian guys, as well as those who don't know Him at all. It begins when we open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts in wonder to His grace.
In the end, it's all about grace.
Loving, forgiving, fully alive grace.
Strengthening, overwhelming, truly amazing grace.
That type of grace is the reason I've written this book in the first place. Because in so many ways, grace is the story of my life-and I want to tell you why. So this book is my confession to you about times I've lost my way. And about the many times I have been sought out and rescued by a persistent, always strong God.
God loves us always, in spite of who we are.
That's grace, the real message of this book.
A Fully Alive Invitation
What kind of a God doesn't condemn us in spite of our sins? What kind of God runs, not from us, but to us, even when we might be a long way off?
That's the type of God we're invited to experience.
One night as a young man, I had mixed a cocktail of all the drugs in my apartment and was busy trying to snort myself happy. In the midst of tears and hopelessness and a bleeding nose, God spoke to me. I knew it was God-though His voice wasn't audible, His message was clear: Do you remember the story of the Prodigal Son? Go back and read it.
I started tearing through boxes, looking under furniture, hurling books off the bookshelf in search of a Bible. I finally found it, the one my grandparents gave me as a child. I turned to the Gospel of Luke:
Once a man had two sons. The younger son said to his father, "Give me my share of the property." So the father divided his property between his two sons.
Not long after that, the younger son packed up everything he owned and left for a foreign country, where he wasted all his money in wild living. He had spent everything, when a bad famine spread through that whole land. Soon he had nothing to eat.
He went to work for a man in that country, and the man sent him out to take care of his pigs. He would have been glad to eat what the pigs were eating, but no one gave him a thing. Finally, he came to his senses and said, "My father's workers have plenty to eat, and here I am, starving to death! I will go to my father and say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. I am no longer good enough to be called your son. Treat me like one of your workers.'"
The younger son got up and started back to his father. But when he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt sorry for him. He ran to his son and hugged and kissed him. The son said, "Father, I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. I am no longer good enough to be called your son."
But his father said to the servants, "Hurry and bring the best clothes and put them on him. Give him a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. Get the best calf and prepare it, so we can eat and celebrate. This son of mine was dead, but has now come back to life. He was lost and has now been found." And they began to celebrate. (vv. 11-24 CEV)
As I read that familiar passage, tears streamed down my face. I felt like that passage was written for me. It described exactly how I felt.
I had run off and wasted everything in wild living. I was living in the midst of the pigpen.
I sinned and didn't feel worthy.
But the Father ran to the young man ... hugged him and kissed him, put the best clothes on him, and gave him the signet ring. The young man was home and forgiven, restored and renewed.
That's what God was doing to me in that very moment. He spoke to me through the story. I was beginning to feel like a new man! I was experiencing the Father heart of God-right there in the midst of my ruin.
That's the type of God we're invited to experience!
In the pages ahead, we'll take a look at a God who can change our lives into something we never dreamed possible. We'll take a look at how God encountered some good Christian guys who were literally at the end of themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. These stories tell us a lot about what God can do with people who have deadwood in their lives. These stories offer clear views of abundant lives in action.
This book is not meant to be a shocking exposé but an honest and courageous look at some of the secrets that often lurk behind a victorious Christian facade-secrets that range from sexual sins to anger to addictions to thoughts of suicide.
Throughout the book, we'll see a strong testimony of the Lord's eagerness to cleanse and heal those who turn to Him.
There's also a strong invitation to us to own up to the sin, brokenness, and shame in our midst-within the church as well as outside-and to extend to each other the same persistent and healing grace that Jesus extends to us. Think of this book as your key to genuine, safe accountability. That's the beginning of change.
The invitation contained in these pages is your call to a fully alive life. Think of it: God really does have an amazing plan for your life. God's method of working in the world has always been to use people: Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, John the Baptist, Matthew, Peter, Paul.
Excerpted from CONFESSIONS OF A GOOD CHRISTIAN GUY by Tom Davis Tammy Maltby Copyright © 2007 by Tom Davis Tammy Maltby. Excerpted by permission.
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