I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
Like Paul, I did not come to faith by the preaching of men. I’m not saying that some did not attempt to share Christ with me, but unlike most people, God had to reach out to me directly – pretty much by the scruff of my neck.
Commanding a Non-conformist Not to Conform
Paul had a blinding light from above. God chose to reach me through my own blind pride from a billboard above. Specifically, it was a billboard that had Romans 12:2a on it. That verse reads, Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
In my foolishness, I thought of myself as the ultimate non-conformist. I hung with a group of outcasts but I pridefully observed that I did not conform to them either: I was a self-proclaimed non-conformist to the non-conformist. All this really meant was that I was lonely and alone; foolish & prideful; lacking everything while I thought I was wise.
In his great mercy, God somehow held this weekly rotating church sign from changing for six weeks so that I could see it long enough to first make fun of the church for their failure to update it, then move to taunting the scripture (what could hypocritical church people know about non-conformity), to disbelief that such a statement could even be in the Bible which drove me to the decision to look it up.
Our heavenly Father has such a great sense of humor and irony in his patient and faithful love pursuit of his children. In my life, God used my own juvenile and pathetic crown of non-conformity to get me to surrender to his Lordship so He could make me a son and crown me himself with the eternal crown of life as a co-heir to his son, Jesus.
I’ve always been able to relate to C.S. Lewis in his account of his conversion in Surprised by Joy – “I came into Christianity kicking and screaming. You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen [College, Oxford], night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”
About Hypocrites – Takes One to Know One
My personal claim was that Christians were clearly hypocrites in their pursuit and push for moral perfection. My Catholic upbringing left me filled more with guilt than the grace of the Lord. I decided I could do without them if they could not accept me. Yet here I was opening one of our dust-collecting, Bible decorations to look up Romans 12:2.
Being Catholic, we never used the Bible, just church missalettes so navigating scripture references was a novel experience. Growing up in church, I occasionally marveled at the exploits of missionaries who sent letters that would be read during the service. The Priest would read a letter from the missionary to different people or churches.
I noticed the majority of our letters were from a missionary named Paul and I used to think, “Wow, he really gets around and he really writes a lot”. Imagine my surprise to find the proliferate missionary in my Bible as I opened to “The Letter of Paul to the Romans”. I think I might actually have exclaimed out loud, “It’s that guy!”
I continued to decode this book figuring out what scripture references meant and trying to determine what “R” and “T” meant in margins, I found myself cross”R”eferenced to the Gospel of Matthew where I discovered some of the letters were black and some were red. Examining these, I soon determined that the red letters were the words of Jesus and before I knew it, I had read through the Gospel of Matthew and had completely and totally fallen in love with Jesus.
The Only True Non-Conformist – Jesus
What I was amazed to find was that Jesus loved the “wicked” (like me) even though he did not condone their sins but instead forgave them their sins. Also, he loved the righteous (like the Pharisees) even when they were hypocrites though he did not condone their sinful pride but instead forgave them theirs sins. It wasn’t that Jesus took sides or that he was about us being morally good. He taught that none of us could be good but that God alone was good and that his love alone could nullify our sins and transform us from sinners into children of God.
It was hard to imagine but I discovered that Jesus loved me just as much as all the good Christians who I thought were condemning me. I thought non-conforming through rebelling against the establishment was who I was but I discovered that my non-conformity was not non-conformity at all but merely living in the same sins as everyone else: lust, greed, and pride.
Our Father was so gracious in the way he revealed his son to me. Jesus Chris is the one and only true non-conformist because he is the only conformist to God, the Father. I discovered that night that Jesus was the greatest non-conformist who ever lived and I decided to give my life to him fully. That radically changed my life and I will be eternally grateful. Romans 12:1 says, Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
27 Years of Real Non-conformity
All of this happened when I was 18 and my life has been a river of blessing flowing to the sea rushing bigger and more powerful in Christ each year. Besides having a wonderful wife and four amazing children that each have come to know Christ through the Savior’s leading, I have a had a life of increasing purpose and joy. It is not that I have not had hard times because I have – but when I have them, I know the one who can give the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, and will guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:7.
I have also been blessed to love so many people and watch them grow in Christ by the work of Jesus in my life. This is not from me – anymore than what I received was from other men. God uses people to reach others but it is always his work.
I can promise you this – if you are reading this, the God of the universe is pursuing you mightily. How can I say that? First, that’s what the Bible says 2 Peter 3:9, . Secondly, we are having this conversation through my blog or some other means. Since the Father loves you and is pursuing you, I pray that our Father will reveal his son in you as he did for Paul and as he did for me.
But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me