Just As I Am . . . When I Give Up the Jug?

By Keith Miller | February 9, 2009

My dad was raised in the church, but he drinks a lot now. Even though he keeps saying he’s going to quit, it never lasts more than a few days. When I told him that God can help him quit drinking (because God has helped me quit), he said, “I can’t surrender my life to God because I’m still drinking, and I can just imagine the pastor’s face if I showed up drunk after I joined. I’ll come to church when I get my drinking under control.” Can you help me know what to tell my dad?

One evening many years ago now, I was taking a young friend out to dinner. He had just graduated from the university and was going off to enter the Christian ministry the next day. John was one of those fine, clean young men who somehow get through college without scar or blemish from the world. I found him hard to believe, but he was evidently sincere. We had eaten in a cafeteria and were talking about his future when a good-looking young woman sauntered up to our table in a pair of very short shorts, sandals, and one of those brief bikini tops.She was followed by a tiny daughter in a similar outfit. I recognized the woman as a member of the adult Sunday school class I taught. The class was rather large, and I had seen her only as a member of an audience. A few times I had spoken to her briefly before or after class, but I had definitely noticed her.

Somehow in the cafeteria, however, she looked very “un-Sunday schooly.” I introduced her to my young friend as a member of the same Sunday school class, and asked if she and her daughter would like to join us. She did, and said at once, “There is something I’ve wanted to talk to you about for months.”

“What’s that?”

“Paul, I think he was a sex deviate.”

I noticed that John’s eyes were protruding slightly in horror, and I sort of wished I hadn’t asked.

“Paul who?” I asked, smiling weakly.

She laughed, “You know who I mean, Paul the Apostle.”

So we began to talk about Paul’s views concerning women and sex. After about forty minutes it was apparent that

Paul was not the problem she wanted to talk about, and I told her so.

Her whole attitude changed. She said almost wistfully, “I really believe you’ve found hope in your faith, and I would honestly like to make this beginning commitment of my life to Christ . . . but I can’t do it.”

“Why not?” I asked gently.

“Because I’ve got a personal problem that I can’t seem to resolve.” She was biting her lips and looking down at a paper napkin she had folded into a small bulky square.

“But that’s why Christianity is called‘good news,’“ I said, coming on strong. “We can’t solve our own basic hang-ups and separations, and God is offering through the Holy Spirit to furnish us the motivating power to cope with the seemingly impossible situations in life. That’s why I’m such a nut about Christianity. I can’t promise to change anything. All I can do is accept His love and grace.”

“But,” and she hesitated. “I don’t feel acceptable until I whip this problem.”

“Listen, Susan, the old song doesn’t say, Just as I amwhen I whip my major problem.’It says, “Just as I am withoutone plea,’one promise, one guarantee!”

She looked at me with the strangest dawning look of hope. “Do you really believe that?” she said.

“I’d bet my life on it.”

She looked down at her hands for several minutes. “All right,” she said, almost as a challenge.I’m committing adultery every Thursday night with a man who has a wife and several young children.And Icannot quit. Now can I come into your Christian family?”

I just looked at her. I certainly had not expected that. My first conditioned reaction as a Christian churchman would have been to think she was not ready for Christ or to say something like, “Don’t you think you could at least cut down a little?”

Suddenly I realized how phony we Christians are. Of course wewouldexpect her to quit committing adultery. We don’t mean “just as I am without one plea.” We actually mean, “Just as I am when Ipromiseimplicitly to straighten up and quit my major sins.” And this girl had nailed me with her honesty. She had heard therealintent of our church’s congregational invitation and knew she did not have the strength to meet its requirements—to quit her “sinning.” And yet it was her weakness which had brought her toward Christ in the first place.

I thought about Jesus and what He would have done. Then I looked up at her. “Of course, you can commit your life to Christ just as you are,” I smiled. “He knows you want to quit seeing this man, and I don’t know where else you can ever hope to find the security and strength to break up with him. So if you commit your life to Christ right now, then Thursday night, if you find you can’t help meeting your friend, take Christ with you in your conscious mind through the whole evening. Ask Him to give you the desire and the strength to break off the relationship.”

And she stepped across the stream and became a Christian.[1][1]

Sometimes at that moment [in despair] a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: “You are accepted.You are accepted,accepted by that which is greater than you . . .”

Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations

There are many religions which know no divine welcome to the sinner until he has ceased to be one. They would first make him righteous, and then bid him welcome to God. But God in Christ first welcomes him, and so makes him penitent and redeems him. The one demands newness of life; the other imparts it. The one demands human righteousness as the price of divine atonement; the other makes atonement in order to evoke righteousness.

J. S. Whale, Christian Doctrine

Thank you, Lord, that the guarantee of strength and integrity in this relationship is yours and not ours. Thank you that Susan saw this and wants to change because you have accepted her. Thank you that John was there and that he was able to accept Susan in her weakness. Help me to know that I canpromiseyou nothing except myintentionto be your person. I pray that you will give me the desire and then the strength to put aside any actions that separate me from you and your other children. But I am very grateful that your love does not depend on my success in doing so.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy . . . Titus 3:4, 5

The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery . . . he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Jesus~ John 8:3, 7

Topics: Christian Living, Weekly Devotional | Comments Off on Just As I Am . . . When I Give Up the Jug?
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