In a sermon from Luke 7:36-50 by Matt Adair a few weeks ago, he made this statement:
‘The greatest power to set you free from the addictions, afflictions and assorted troubles of this world is the felt love of Jesus.”
I think we can all say we know the difference between believing we are loved and then feeling loved by someone. We have asked members of our church to share stories of a time when they really felt loved by Jesus. There is so much power in the stories of believers, so we hope you are encouraged by these.
Our twelfth story is by protege member Jim Tocci:
Over the summer of 2010, I decided to go on Summer Leadership Project (SLP) with Campus Outreach in Panama City Beach, Florida. During my stay, I continued with my struggle against binge eating that had developed after going on extreme diets in order to prepare for bodybuilding competitions in prior years.
On July 1, after a particularly destructive night session of binge eating, I wrote in my journal:
“God, I come crawling back to you on my hands and knees, too ashamed to even look at you…Like a pig at a trough, I have stuffed food into my mouth over the last day… Silently, I crept in the middle of the night to the food shelf and without tasting, jammed cookie after cookie into my mouth until I feel asleep in a drunken, sweaty, comatose state. I could feel you tapping me on the shoulder, reminding me of what I was doing, only for me to turn back to the trough and dive back into the sin I was shamefully enjoying…I ask that you truly take this desire through whatever means you see fit. Break me, God, and give me the strength to make it through. Put me back together from the new foundation that you have laid in me. Give me the willingness to want to want to change. I can say this now, as I sit here in self-loathing and disgusted by my actions, but in the heat of the moment, when that taste is on the tip of my tongue and the cravings cannot seemingly be defeated, do I really want to beat this? My flesh tells me how good it will feel and taste, and it does…for the moment…So God, I beg of you, take this cup from me, I cannot do it any longer. You and only you are the thing that can save me from myself.
The next day, morning of July 2:
“God, I know that I said I come crawling back yesterday but last night and this morning I completely disregarded that statement and shoveled large amounts of food into my mouth to forget what I was feeling (loneliness, inadequacy, etc.) and to feed my flesh. I lusted so hard for that food, I just sat in front of the shelves, almost drooling, my weak self unable to resist the earthly treats in front of my face. God, why can’t you just take this desire from me? I don’t want to live like this anymore in my Spirit, I just beg that you would remove it or break me of my sickness. My addiction to food is the same as a drug user, in my mind even worse. I just wish that I didn’t have to eat again, I wish I could be fully satisfied in you God…Each time I think I have the battle under control I lose…God, please let me love you.
Later that day, the Lord used his great power to remind me that this life is not about me and my personal sin management as much as it is about him and how good, great, gracious, and glorious he is. This is what I wrote:
“I am wearing the filthiest, most digusting, disease infested, putrid smelling, sin soaked flesh jacket that could ever cloathe a human. I cannot wait to shed this jacket for the righteousness I have inherited at my own spiritual funeral. I will stand before the Lord Almighty and will cry, “Thank you for saving a wretch like me God.” I did nothing to deserve your love, only deserving of your just and perfect wrath am I. The grace you have given me to walk through this blink of an eye we can call life, with the ability to see just how filthy I am, is baffling. The line, “I once was blind, but now I see” resonates so loudly within me, I was DEAD, but you pulled me from my grave. I was deaf to your words, but you gave me the ability to hear … (A deaf man literally just walked into Panera Bread with a deaf-educational-system card! You are so powerful.) I was BLIND but now I SEE. What did I deserve to anything, or see anything? NOTHING! You gave it all to me God. You gave your Son as a sacrifice for me and my sins. Thank you.”
Through this amazing revelation, he showed me in that moment that he is fully in control. I had wanted him to sprinkle a little of himself into my life and fix the problem so I could go on my way and feel better about myself. I continued to struggle with binge eating that summer, with victories and defeats throughout.
I am thankful that today I can say that binge eating is not an issue in my life. However, that’s not the point. I still struggle with sin and I still want to just be fixed, but I’m realizing more and more that that’s not what this life is about. I wanted and still want to functionally “be God” in different areas of my life, but I’m seeing that he wants all of me and is not content to let me destroy myself. That is slow and painful, but it’s so good for me to be exposed to who I really am. I read this last week in Porterbrook (our learning material for Protégé):
“We cannot simply tell ourselves to stop sinning. We need to direct the desires that sin falsely satisfies towards that which truly satisfies and liberates: God himself. If you told someone to destroy his house, then you might persuade him to do so reluctantly. But if you promised a far better house in its place then he would destroy it gladly. Tell someone to stop sinning and they may do so reluctantly and partially. But give someone a vision of knowing God and his glory, and they will gladly root out all that gets in the way of their relationship with God…The key to continual and deeper spiritual renewal…is the continual re-discovery of the gospel.”
Thanks be to God that life is not about improving our performance for acceptance that leads to change, but that it’s about the realization of Jesus’ performance for us that leads to change. It’s a slow and painful change, but if it wasn’t we wouldn’t need him. I’m rambling!!!! Amen!