My wife, Laura, and I used to argue a lot about abortion. I have always been pro-life. I was raised in a moral, conservative family that went to church every Sunday. In high school and college, I was a straight-laced kind of guy. I made good grades, was never tempted by alcohol or drugs, and tried for the most part to be a "good person," just like my Mommy and Daddy taught me. Unfortunately, I didn't have any real basis for my moral beliefs. I did not believe in God, much less in Jesus Christ, so I lived my life according to my own rules.
Probably the best example of my lack of a moral foundation is that although I was "pro-life," I was at the same time involved in pornography. My convenient little self-righteous morality system said that I should take responsibility for my own actions. I believed that if I fathered a child, I should be responsible for raising the child, and providing for it. That's part of what I liked so much about pornography. I didn't have to take responsibility for anything. While other people were running around getting pregnant and killing their babies, I was taking responsibility for my own actions, or so I thought. In reality, of course, I was simply crafty at hiding my sin, unable to admit that I was just as much a slave to my sin as anybody else. My addiction to pornography began in my early teens and continued through to my college years and even into my marriage. Neither Laura nor I was saved when we got married.
Prisoners of sin (Galatians 3:22)
Wedding day, June 16, 1989
Wake County Courthouse, Raleigh, NC
After we had been married a couple years, Laura came home one day and announced out of the blue that she's pro-life now. "Yeah, right," I thought. I figured this was just a new strategy, that she was just pretending to agree with me in order to promote harmony. I half-heartedly asked her what changed her mind. She told me some story about some Christian woman she met who was passing through town, a friend of a friend. The woman was wearing one of those "baby feet" pins that pro-lifers sometimes wear. Laura asked her about it, and was deeply convicted by the woman's response. I told myself not to get too excited. I was kind of glad, but I didn't really believe she had changed, and some of the stuff she said about Jesus worried me a little.
Months later, her story was the same. I started to notice. "What's gotten into you? Why are you suddenly agreeing with me?" It was starting to really bug me, because a new disagreement was surfacing: Jesus Christ. She finally agreed with me about abortion, but for the wrong reason!
She had been reading some Josh McDowell books. She told me about the "Lord, Liar, Lunatic" trilemma. Here it is:
Jesus claimed to be God. There are only two possibilities:
1. He was God. He was telling the truth. He is Lord.
2. He was not God. There are only two possibilities:
2a. He knew that he was not God. He was a liar.
2b. He did not know that he was not God. He was a lunatic.
If Christianity isn't true, then it is a terribly harmful belief system. So which is it? Lord, liar, or lunatic? In my church upbringing, I had generally thought of Jesus as some harmless nice guy who happened to die a painful death. But now it was obvious that my ideas about Jesus didn't even make logical sense. C. S. Lewis describes it this way:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
Random soil erosion?
It shook me up a little to realize that all my church upbringing did not protect me from having such a wrong idea about who Jesus was. So I started paying attention to the claims of biological evolution. I knew my college professors always presented it as fact, and there was some controversy about it, but I mostly didn't care enough to examine it for myself. After looking more closely, I had to agree with the creationists, that believing in biological evolution is like believing that my house was built by a tornado, or that Mount Rushmore is the result of random soil erosion. I had to admit that there must be a creator, but I wasn't ready to accept that Jesus was the Creator (or the Savior).
Perhaps the tornado will rip up some trees in just the right way to add a deck to the house.
I started to see, a little bit at a time, just how much pornography was damaging my relationship with my wife. I remember something my mother-in-law said about pornography (without realizing that I was involved in it): "It's just a cheap form of prostitution." That statement really stuck with me. It hit me personally, that all of pornography is that way, different from prostitution not in kind but merely in degree. The prostitutes in Playboy are just less risky and less expensive. Seems so obvious now, but that was a real insight for me at the time.
Every once in a while, I would be overcome with guilt, and I would try to get Laura to take my guilt away. I would ask her, "This is OK with you, isn't it?" She always said, "I want you to quit doing that, but not because I tell you to. I want you to quit because you know it's wrong." Ouch! That hurt, but it was exactly what I needed. Many times, I tried to quit, but I always failed.
Things just kept getting worse. Because of pornography, my marriage was sliding out of my control. My wife's loyalty to me was slowly but surely being eroded away because of my lack of faithfulness to her. After three years of marriage, she made it clear that she was very unhappy. She never mentioned pornography as the cause of her unhappiness. I don't think she knew the cause. Things were not as clear to us then as they are now. "Why are we both so sad? Why do we feel such emptiness? What is happening to us?" My marriage was hanging by a thread. The only thing that kept it together was circumstance. If the right man had appeared in her life at that time, he could have easily swept her away from me.
Man shall not live on bread alone (Matthew 4:4).
For some reason, we started going to church. I don't know how, but somehow we actually ended up in a real, live church, with true believing Christians and a gospel-preaching pastor. I started to pay attention in a new way to what the Bible says about God and man. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. There is no one who is good, not even one. You can't enter into the presence of the holy and righteous One unless you are perfect yourself. I felt insulted and encouraged at the same time. Insulted because I was being called a sinner. Encouraged because deep down I knew it was true, and a remedy was being offered.
One Sunday, our pastor said, "I dare you to start living your life as if you believed in Jesus." Ooh, a dare! Well, what's it going to hurt? I'll try it and see what happens. I had prayed the "sinner's prayer" many times before, and then waited to see what God would do. I never did anything myself. I had never made a commitment to God. It was about the time of a new year, so I decided that I would do everything I could think of to live my life for Jesus for one year. I don't actually have to believe it, I told myself. But I'll at least pretend to believe it. Maybe it will help fix this mess I had created in my marriage.
On January 1, 1995, I started getting up early every morning, reading the Bible, and praying. On the morning of April 28, I didn't do anything especially different, but I woke up with the overwhelming conviction that the Bible really is true. I really am a sinner. I really do need forgiveness. I prayed like never before, and for the first time, I knew that I was a forgiven sinner.
Now I know that I am on my way to heaven (1 John 5:13). I have been born again (John 3:7). I have peace with God (Romans 5:1). I have no righteousness of my own; my righteousness is from God alone, and He gives it through faith in his Son (Philippians 3:9).
Life has never been the same since! I have the same sinful desires today that I have always had, but now I am not a slave to them. And my marriage has never been stronger. I am called to love my wife as Christ loved the Church. He died for her so that she could live. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:25-28).
Some say that Christianity is a crutch. I certainly used to think so. But the reality is more extreme. To call Christianity a crutch is to vastly underestimate both the disease and the remedy. The disease is sin and death, not weak legs. The remedy is not a crutch, but the life-giving blood of Christ. I was not a crippled man in need of a crutch. I was a dead man in need of a life.
We might as well say that the heart which pumps our blood is a crutch. He who rejects the Lord Jesus is he who tears out his own heart for the pride of being able to say, "I don't need this crutch!"
What do you think? Who do you say Jesus is?