Christ Redemption Through Grace (Identity and Purpose)

On 12 August, I was honored to share my Redemption Testimony in front of the CR Group for Journey Community Church in Augusta, Georgia. I was not allowed to record the session due to sensitivities surrounding the CR Group, but below is a transcript of my notes as I shared my own personal redemption through the loving grace of Jesus Christ.

Some have been Christians their entire lives, or at least for as long as they can remember; I myself am coming up on 11 years next month – to this, I give Him all of the Glory and Honor – Praise God!!  But, does my 11 years pale in comparison to the lifelong Christian? Is there a ranking that I am not aware of or cannot locate in the bible?  Does the lifelong Christian move along through life with no worries, no grief, no pain, no struggles?  No, for the struggle is real for all of us.

From my earliest memories as a toddler through roughly my pre-teen years, my dad would regularly remind me that I was not worth it, that I would not amount to anything. That I was worthless. When I reached my pre-teen years, this changed to silence and abstinence. We did manage 2 week vacations practically every year, but we were never close as father and son. We were not a part of each others lives. Thank God I recognized later how limited my thought processes were. My dad was doing the best he could based on his own flawed relationship with his father. 

Somehow, I managed to attend a Christian Elementary School (K-6) but my formative teenage years were stereotypical of a southern Californian kid during the 1980’s. Drugs, bicycling, boarding, and partying.  
 
I joined the Army in 1987 right out of high school. I needed to get away from dad and family, needed a new beginning, a purpose, a new identity. 
 
It was not long before I started to destroy people around me, which I did for more than 20 years afterwards. “Get out of my way” with a little bit of collateral damage along the way.
 
There were times when satan tried to take me out before I received Christ, and after. Physically, mentally, financially, relationally, and emotionally. Every time, every occasion, the hand of the Lord was there for me and my family. I just did not see Him.
 
What I realized after coming to Christ is that growing up through adult hood, I never knew my true identity. Because I did not know my identity, I did not understand my purpose.
 
I was orphaned as a sinner.  I did not know the names the Lord had given me.  I was victim to whatever the world threw at me, enveloped into the fallen world of Adam.
 
What do you believe your name to me?  Liar, thief, failure, unworthy, unloveable and unlikeable for starters? These were the names that I received from my father and I carried with me for almost 40 years.
 
I did not love myself, even with 20 years of military service how could my brothers in arms love me? I was not worthy of love and I was in short supply of love to give out.
 
It was during Desert Storm that I experience my first true “life pivot”. The details of this story can be found in my book titled “My Personal Desert Storm: Eating Crow and Humble Pie”, but in short, I managed to turn my life around, but I became obsessed with success – “Success Sickness”. I pivoted from the extreme right of the heart spectrum to the extreme left of the spectrum.
 
My wife recommitted to Christ while I was deployed to Desert Storm. She would pray for me for the next two decades. I experienced a very real and physical born again experience over labor day weekend in 2008. God did not give me a second chance, He gave me a new life.
 
Ephesians 1:18 (NLT)  I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.
 
For me, Jesus came to me as the Light of the world and saved me from the darkness I was just as written in John 8:12.  As we also read in 1 Peter 2:9, He called me out of the darkness and into His light.  This allows the character of Jesus to come out when I realize that what was once weak has been raised in glory (1 Cor 15:43). But the struggle is still real.
 
It was a few years after my born again experience that I recognized the wounds of my heart, given to me from the wounds of my father. Chains had been passed from son to son. -hurting people hurt people. My father had inherited chains from his father and so he passed them on to me. These are the results of generational sins and curses. Unfortunately, I would also pass my inherited chains and my own chains on to my first born son Christoffer.
 
I would later learn about the power of forgiveness. I also learned that it is not our parents fault. 
 
I would eventually tell my father that I forgive him -which I share in some detail in my book- after I had established a relationship with my heavenly Father. I was no longer orphaned. I had new names as I now recognize myself based on the Heart of my Father and Jesus Christ who died for me.
 
Jesus Christ did not die just so we could have a good day or get away with sinning on a regular basis. Galatians 5:13 reminds us that we shall not abuse the freedom we now have in Christ. The names of God (Holy Spirit): Advocate, Comforter, intercessor, spirit of Truth, spirit of God, helper (paraclete), Counselor, teacher,
 
1 John 2:1 ….And if anyone sins, we have an Advocatewith the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous John 14:16…. He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever
John 14:26. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teachyou all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you
Rom 8:26-27….the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered…..He makes intercessionfor the saints according to the will of God.
Isaiah 11:2. The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counseland might, The Spirit of knowledgeand of the fear of the Lord
 
Once baptized in the Holy Spirit, I was awakened to my new names:  worthy, trustworthy, lover, friend, and when my wife is angry at me, “Marcus Johnson!”.
 
We are flawed, but this flaw is in the flesh, not in our spirits.  His Spirit is with our spirit which has “freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Rom 8:2).  Romans 8:9 continues to remind us that we are not controlled by our sinful nature (our flesh), we are controlled by the Spirit.   Therefore, if we remain in obedience to Him and walk with him at ALL times, He will correct us before our fleshy temptations condemn us to an act of sin.  But the struggle is real. Paul reminds us: 
 
Rom 7:17  So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.  
Rom 7:22-23   I love God with all my heart, but there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to sin that is still within me. 
 
The good news: 
 
Rom 7:25  Thank God!  The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord…. 
1 John 1:9  But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 
 
In February 2011, satan executed a massive attack on my family when he took our oldest son from us. Killed in action in the middle east, this one almost worked, took me down. Even though it took a few years to recover from this one, if I had not had the Word of God in me and my wife, I would not be standing here in front of you today. His Word is clear to me in my heart and my mind. Though I flailed a bit like a chicken with his head cut off, I eventually recovered, stronger than ever.  The lesson is one of victimhood.
 
I am no longer a victim of what happened, I am now an expert in recovery from action.
 
A victim mentality will keep you bound to that trauma or frustration and will sabotage any hopes or attempts to prosper. A victim mentality is resignation to weakness and powerlessness, and it becomes ones modus operandi. It automatically disqualifies you and dictates what you will or won’t do. The challenge is whether you identify yourself as the victim, or the victimizer – and admitting/confessing it. How can you see what is in front of you if you fail to recognize what is inside of you? When our own hearts condemn us, there is no power in prayer, no power in preaching.
 
My born again experience was over powering and so over whelming that I instantly knew that I had been wrong my entire life. I had the epiphany that “I am all in and I guess I am now one of ‘them’”. I started in faith, I started going, and I started to press forward.
 
Some Christians are really skilled at covering their flaws and look pretty externally. And even those that look pretty on the outside usually get disillusioned or just end up judgmental because they are “nailing it” (heart issues??). I happen to be “that guy” that occasionally wears my train wreck on his sleeve. But I keep going, I keep the faith and I keep pressing forward.
 
The Lord reminded me that no matter who you are or what you do, God has chosen you. It doesn’t matter what you look like, where you live, how much money you have, your position, whether you are articulate or not. Let Him fulfill all your desires and worship Him.
 
But I learned, the hard way, that we have got to have a fresh encounter with God – every day.
 
I would not know my purpose if I had never learned of my true identity. My identity is as a warrior for Christ. Every warrior needs a kingdom to defend and a King to fight for. Therefore, my purpose is to serve as a soldier for Christ and the Kingdom of God. Wherever this takes me and whatever task He gives me, I am there for Him.
 
I used to be a solder for the US Army (20 years), this has instilled certain things in me, values, character traits (some good, some bad) and discipline. I have a voice that carries, I have passion, I get enthusiastic. I zig and I zag. I mentioned this to the Lord when clarifying His plans. The Lord chastized me with vibrant YES, He wants to use that, He has called me to transition from soldier to warrior. I am now a warrior for the Kingdom. But every warrior needs a weapon, warriors need a sword. Ephesians 6:17 tells us about the “The Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God”.
 

Logos – written word of God

Rhema – Spoken Word of God

God’s Word speaks to me, it lives in me. While challenged to memorize specific scriptures, I recognize God’s character.

John 7:38“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'”
 
We MUST arm our new warriors and we MUST get them their sword, else they are always on the defense and cannot take the offense. This is what excites me today. God took me from being rebellious to a revolutionist for Jesus Christ. Satan may have thought that he was winning at those moments where he tried to take me out but all he did was make me angry and strengthen my resolve to work harder for the Lord. I am tired of playing defense. His attacks on me have lit a fire in me to proclaim victory but that means we have to take spiritual action. I am in ministry training today but each day, through the gift of His spirit, I grow closer to Him, I know Him more intimately, and I will run the race He has set before me. We need to go out and take possession of the gift – the gift of the Holy Spirit.
 

Tit 3:5  He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

Rom 5:5  …. hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
 
I know that I am a flawed human being, but I also know that God loves me 100%, as is, right now. There are some church people that are good at following the rules but there are also many Christians out there acting out in judgment instead of compassion and love.
 
Like many here, I can be outrageous on occasion when I should be silent and I can be neutral silent on other occasions when I should be loud. And yet, God loves me and is cheering for me as I get better and especially when I fall down. Where I see failure, He see’s opportunity for growth. When I want to give up, He whispers “No, you can make it”. This is why, even if I may suck at being a Christian, I keep going, I keep the faith, and I keep pressing forward.
 
So maybe if we can all accept the idea that Gods love is wholly separate from our actions or our problems, receive it and give it to others, maybe then we’d have more Christians that look like Christ. Christians that don’t feel its important to beat people down with their theology or doctrine, but instead spend their lives in the gutter bleeding alongside other people.
 
Maybe then, even millennials will stop looking at Christians as bigoted and judgmental and out of touch with the times. I think that maybe then, we might even just see Christs kingdom here on earth. Here is the race set before me and others!
 
This is what I have learned based on this question – I have been in training for this my entire life, I just didn’t know it.
 
If you still don’t believe in miracles then ask my wife how long she prayed for my deliverance. Ask her if she ever thought that I would be standing in front of a group of people like this talking about Jesus and the life He has in store for us. 
 
I found my purpose. I found my strength. I want others to find theirs. No matter what it takes!
 

Amen