What was life like before you met Jesus?
Before I met Jesus, I was on a self-salvation project. I didn't even realize it. My deepest fear of abandonment, underlying all my fears, was combated through achievement and approval. Exceptional grades, excellence in the arts from music performance to volunteer organizations to teaching endeavors – I had an innate desire to be accepted by everyone and thought I found the most effective way through achievement. People would say, "Wow, Brett...you are so organized. Wow, Brett, you are so put together." I understand now that I may have been organized and I may have "looked" put together but the motivation was to protect myself – to counteract that deep-seated fear of abandonment. What I might say to those people now is "No, I was just more scared than you!!"
How did you meet Jesus?
I met Jesus during the Derecho in 2020. I remember walking around my neighborhood, making several calls to some of my closest friends, genuinely posing the questions like, “What is the point? What is the purpose? What is the meaning of my existence?” Yes, an existential crisis of sorts. I had been 3 years sober at this point and "God" had become part of my everyday life through prayer and meditation, but I did not believe in a personal God. After a life of drunken debauchery, I was finally seeking a morally righteous life. I had become the President of the Safe Place Foundation, a home for recovering men of addiction. I was sponsoring other men within a 12-step recovery program. I was volunteering to serve for committees, conferences, events, the list goes on. But, why? I started asking extremely honest but scary questions like, “What is the flipping point? Why am I doing all of this?” I had been living as if I needed to achieve salvation or create my significance through good works. I opened a can of worms with purpose, meaning and existence leading to morality and ethics. I started to look more clearly at principles of the Bible, rather than the people who represent those principles. What if people are just inherently flawed? If so, they might not have the capacity to live up to those principles. And, now reading the gospel of Luke, it seems as though Jesus was the hardest on the hypocrites and the Pharisees, all the holier than thou promoters of the law. So, that couldn’t be the reason I didn’t believe in the Bible. Then I started to look at the differences between religions with clarity and honesty, willing to seek truth wherever truth took me. I found every religion to have so many beautiful aspects, the main difference being that the teachings and teacher were pointing to God, whereas Jesus makes the claim in John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus claims he IS God! The God of the Bible became poor so I could become rich. Luke 14:11 “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” This God actually came to the earth, through the life of Jesus, to a manger, living a life of poverty and rejection and suffering that I wouldn’t have to achieve my own salvation through works! Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Jesus dealt with my deep-seated fear on the cross. Jesus suffered cosmic abandonment for all of mankind that we might never feel abandoned but eternally secure! The gospel not only cures all our fears, it gives us our purpose, meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity and hope for true justice and reconciliation when the world is finally restored. John 1:1 says ”In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In the Greek translation, Word means Logos or Reason. In the beginning was the reason for our existence, the reason for our existence was with God and the reason for our existence was God. The Westminster Catechism says the purpose of Man or Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. I finally have a purpose not manufactured by myself or any other human entity. It is a purpose and reason for existence that comes not from the created but from the Creator himself.
After being saved by Jesus what is your life like now?
How does Christ meet my needs practically today? Hebrews 2:10 says, “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” We have a person in Jesus Christ to model our lives after when tempted to whine, complain, and get angry at God. Jesus suffered to perfect salvation for mankind. So, practically, I can suffer knowing that in faithfulness he has afflicted me. Psalm 119:75 “I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” Whenever I have perceived challenges or hardships in my life, it reflects and parallels the Israelites of the Old Testament. I walk away from God, and in faithfulness, He offers me a lifeline or reminder via challenges, adversity, or struggles that get me back on my knees seeking Him and only Him. It is the wilderness that makes the honey of the promised land that much sweeter. And rules and laws will not keep my hand out of the cookie jar because my human nature wants what it cannot have thus Jesus came to fulfill the law (Matt 5:17). Now, inversely, I get to follow the rules not to get to God but to evidence God’s grace and Christ’s righteousness imparted upon me. If I loved the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind (Matt 22:37), and it was Him only I served (Matt 4:10) I would be completely liberated! I would not be serving my bank account, my image, my approval ratings, doing everything to fight off the fear of eternal abandonment. Instead, all of the wonderful deeds and works I sought during the self-salvation project could be the very things that glorify God if my motivations could shift from Brett glory to God Glory. Today, Christ has changed my motivations that whatever I do, I work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men (Colossians 3:23). Because of God’s unbelievable grace in my life to open my eyes and bring faith to a lost child, not by my own works or my own doing, I am united with Christ and His works and His righteousness are now mine. It really is freaking unbelievable.