Confessions of faith
A workout in the gym brought comfort to someone struggling to gain peace with God by his own works.
“Do more! Try harder! Strive for perfection!”
I am not sure how you feel when you read those words, but the first thing that comes to my mind is exhaustion and a major inability to be who I desperately want to be. We all feel the need not only to be better human beings but also to be better Christians. We feel this because the law of God has been written on our hearts. As Romans says, “They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts” (2:15). This truth really began to take hold of my heart back in 2011.
Before returning to Aiken, I had lived in Greenwood, South Carolina. I had received a baseball scholarship to Lander University in 2008 and lived there until 2011. Needless to say, Jesus radically opened my eyes while I was there. Late one night, when drugs and alcohol were the main attraction, I felt the weight of the law. I headed for church and was baptized on Nov. 21, 2008.
Living by the law
During the next three years in Greenwood, God did a magnificent work in my heart. He gave me a burning desire to know him more deeply, and I wanted to love him more effectively. But I had one big problem. My doctrine and my mind-set were all messed up. The focus of my Christian faith was all about my performance and not enough about Christ’s performance for me. I lived a very rocky Christian life. When I felt I was achieving obedience, I was happy. When I thought I was failing God, I was depressed.
After all the effort to achieve my salvation, I hit rock bottom in my faith. I finally came to a place where the law completely wrecked me. I was mad at God and turned my back to him. I can recall one day when I told God I was done following him and cursed him out. It seems absurd to curse at God, but I can say honestly that it was a great day in my life. I had finally given up on trying to obey the law. I had finally come to a place where I knew I could not do it. Little did I know that this was God’s intention for me. God wanted me to understand my inability to obey the law.
During the next couple of years, I rebelled. I gave up on following God. I knew that if being a Christian was about following rules, then I couldn’t be one. I still had a distorted view of the Christian life.
Even though I was living as a rebel against God’s way, God had a beautiful plan for me. God was leading me to the true and right doctrine. During that time, God led me to the beautiful gospel of grace, but I struggled to find assurance in it. I needed someone else to “get it”—to confirm me in it. I felt as if I was the only person that was itching and needing the pure gospel message. I wanted—and desperately needed—someone to tell me the gospel was really true.
Finding the true gospel
My story takes me to the end of 2013 and about 60 miles from Greenwood, back to Aiken. It was during a fitness orientation at Gold’s Gym in Aiken, where I worked, that I met this tall, skinny guy named Jonathan Bourman, whom I now consider a great friend and my pastor. Little did I know at the time that this fitness orientation would be one that would lead me to understand the true doctrine.
Jonathan had recently moved to Aiken to plant a church. When he told me that, I remember rolling my eyes to the back of my head and thinking, Aiken has enough law-filled churches. But then we began to talk, and he said a word that struck a cord in my heart. He said, “GOSPEL!” The joy that sprang to my heart after hearing that word was indescribable. I later came to understand that this guy “gets it” and I needed to hear more from him.
After my first encounter with Jonathan, we began to meet on a weekly basis. He began teaching me the Lutheran doctrine. I was blown away with the purity of this
truth. Each day Christianity became clearer to me. The gospel was the centerpiece in this doctrine. I began to see the true essence of my Savior. As time went by, I gained the assurance I was looking for, not from my own feelings of salvation but from God’s Word and my baptism. What a beautiful gift God has given me in seeing his pure doctrine.
Today, I proudly call myself a confessional Lutheran and will forever live to be reminded of the gospel message and to bring this freedom to other people.
Surrounded by God’s grace
I am extremely excited that Peace Lutheran Church started in Aiken. This church has become an important part of my life—and my wife’s life too.
My wife. Two words I cannot believe I’m writing. Lauren and I graduated from high school together and reunited four years after graduation. The crazy part is that we may have had only one conversation during our time at South Aiken High. We are newlyweds and blessed beyond our wildest dreams.
In my younger days, I was not involved in the church. But Lauren grew up going to church every Sunday. She was heavily involved in the youth programs and really sought to know the Lord. Yet during those early years in her life, she was in the same predicament that I was. Like me, Lauren was seeking to gain God’s approval and love by her obedience. She had a misunderstanding of what Christianity was truly about. She left the gospel totally out of the picture.
The beautiful quality about Lauren is that she desires to love Jesus more and more. During her senior year at the University of South Carolina, that quality captured my attention. Despite our lack of friendship in high school, we began hanging out. Not long after reuniting, we began dating. We both lived to gain God’s love by our lives of obedience. At that time we did not realize that we already possessed God’s love in the gospel. Soon the Lord not only began opening my eyes to this truth, but also Lauren’s.
Jesus loves us so much that he is constantly surrounding us with his grace. I can see the love of God in our lives because he is protecting our lives with the gospel. Peace Lutheran Church is one way that God is showing that protection and love. We are so thankful to be a part of what God is doing and going to do through Peace and are deeply grateful to have our faith grow in the gospel.
We both find comfort in the words of Jesus, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
Brooks Reames is a member at Peace, a new mission church in Aiken, South Carolina.
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Author: Brooks Reames
Volume 102, Number 1
Issue: January 2015
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