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About this series
Jesus Unfiltered - Testify
Testify is the 4th and final volume of Chip Ingram’s series, Jesus Unfiltered, an exposition of the entire Gospel of John. Testify reveals Jesus’ last days on earth and His final words to His followers, from then to today. It’s a bold, gritty assignment – far from the ease and prosperity of content religion. Jesus tasked His followers with a mission to testify; He promised a future of tribulation; He provided the limitless power of the Holy Spirit; and He guaranteed the hope of victory. Testify will encourage and challenge you to take your faith to the next level – to be strong and courageous – for the sake of His Kingdom to come.More from this series
I want to ask you a question, but I don’t want you to answer at all, out loud. But I do want you to really think deeply about what would be the most honest answer, just with yourself? And the question is: What is something in your past or in your present that you’re ashamed of?
Something that was done to you, or something that you have done that just, as honest as you could be, you do not want anyone to ever know about. Or if anyone, maybe one or two people that so know you and you so trust them, that you think they could handle it.
What is one thing that, if it came to the surface and people knew this about either what you did or something that happened to you, that you feel like they would think less of me? They would really view me far in a different way and probably a negative way. And every time I would see them, I would feel like they would look at me through the lens of that thing I’m ashamed of.
If you’ll open your notes, we are going to talk about restoration. We are going to talk about moving beyond forgiveness to restoration. Because you can’t testify unless God does this work in your life. And we all have shame.
Shame, as you notice on the front of your notes, is a painful feeling of humiliation or distress that is caused by a consciousness of a wrong or foolish behavior, regrettable, or an unfortunate situation or action. There’s about three major causes for shame, that feeling that you don’t measure up, that something is wrong, that we all have something to hide.
The first is it’s inherited. When our first parents rebelled against God, you remember the first thing they did? They covered themselves because they were ashamed. They covered their private parts with fig leaves and they realized – something has happened when we rebelled and sinned against God. There is separation from God and we feel, now, exposed and we are trying to hide. And we have been doing that ever since. Every human being has some level of shame.
The second way that multiplies it, and some people have layers and layers of shame, is something was done to you. In extreme cases, to be molested, to be raped, to be abused. There’s a reason why rape victims often, in the great majority of the time, don’t come forward, even though they are the victim is they feel ashamed and what would people think?
It’s not all that dramatic. Sometimes you’re shamed by labeling. “You’re fat! You’re dumb! You’ll never amount to anything! Why don’t you get with the program? You didn’t get in the right school.” These labels, in moments of weakness, from a parent or a teacher or a coach that stick with you.
I was a really, really late developer so I was 4’11” in seventh grade and 5’1” in eighth grade. And I wanted to be a basketball player. The basketball coach looked at me and said, “You need to go out for wrestling. You’re too small and too skinny.” Why do I know that fifty years later?
I was the shrimp. I heard that. “Hey! Here comes Ingram! If he turns sideways, you can’t see him.” Right? And there is shame. I remember, as a senior in high school, big basketball game. The stands are filled. And my dad is drunk. And he is yelling things out and the police escort him out during the game. I was ashamed. What about you? What has been done to you that really produces a sense of: I wouldn’t want to know I wouldn’t want people to know about my family or what someone did or who I am associated with.
So, we inherit shame. People do stuff to us that cause shame. And we do stuff to ourselves. Our own actions bring shame, right? You do something you know is wrong. The big word is: you sin. But it can be everything from you were the abuser, to you lied or you cheated. Or it was years ago, and twenty-two years ago and no one even knows. There’s a divorce in your past and you have never told anyone. Or there’s an abortion in your past.
Or that small time when you were fired from a job and you weren’t fired because you had a lousy supervisor. You were fired because of what you did that was really wrong. And when you tell that story, you just really make it far different than it was because you are ashamed. We all have shame, and the thing is, shame does really, really bad stuff. We’re going to find that Jesus is going to restore Peter. He is forgiven. He has had a one-on-one with Jesus, we learn from the other gospels, but he doesn’t feel worthy.
When you have shame, you don’t measure up. Here are some of the words that are implanted in our soul. Words like: I am deficient, I am flawed, I am damaged, I am unacceptable, I am unlovable, I am rejected, I am dirty, I am inferior, I am broken, I am disgusting.
And sometimes, over the years, you push that down and it creates things that you’re consciously not aware of.
Three different ways we deal with shame. First, we hide. There is stuff that, even as I am talking, some stuff is coming back – you thought, I haven’t thought about that in years.
Theresa and I were talking yesterday and I was talking through the message and I’ve got a great wife. So, her, So, Chip, what are you ashamed of? And we had a very serious talk. But we hide.
The second way we deal with shame is we numb it. My dad numbed it. My dad was three and a half packs a day of cigarettes and almost a case of beer every day. And later on, he would sleep all afternoon and the weekends. He was depressed. My dad killed thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people in Guam and Iwo Jima. And he saw horrific things and he felt ashamed, even though it was a just war and he only talked about it twice. And he just numbed it.
Some people numb it with shopping, some people numb it with different addictions. Some people just, you want to hide and the way you hide and numb it is you eat. Others have explosive anger. And that works too, because when you’re one of those people that’s a powder keg, people don’t get close, and it’s a way to hide. Some of us compensate for it. They call you short and a shrimp so long… I remember sitting and my Marine dad. “Hey, Chip, what are you doing?” “I’m sitting down.” “You’re not getting anything done sitting down.” I got up! I have been getting up ever since. The fear that people would think I’m lazy. That’s how I became a workaholic. You think I’m skinny? You think I’m short? I’ll be a basketball player if it kills me!
Some of the most driven CEOs and some of you are in places where you have been extraordinarily successful, but it’s still not enough because the issue isn’t your work. The issue is there is this sense of you really don’t measure up. And we are trying to prove it.
What is great is there is another word. It’s called restoration. And to restore means to bring back or to reinstate. It’s to return something or someone to a former condition or to a position or to a place.
And we are going to learn in this passage, I can’t wait to share this as we close this series, we are going to learn how Jesus will teach us to put our shame behind us in order that we can be positioned and prepared to accomplish what He wants us to, to actually testify with our life and our words. You know what? It’s really hard to be bold with people if, down deep, you feel like if they ever really got to know me, then they would…whoo…reject me and reject what I say.
Notice, as you open the notes, that we are restored in order to testify. And the context is John chapter 21. Jesus has been resurrected. The text will tell us this is the third time officially He has appeared to His disciples. From all the other gospels, we know it’s about the seventh time He has appeared to someone. They were in Jerusalem, and Jerusalem was dangerous so Jesus tells Peter and the disciples, “Go to Galilee and I am going to meet you there.” And so they go to Galilee and let’s, Galilee is home, Galilee is where it’s comfortable, Galilee is where a number of them were called into ministry.
And so it’s a comfortable, safe place. And they were told to wait. And Peter is not great at waiting, which I can identify with. And some of you can too. And so He says to the guys, “I am going fishing,” and He is obviously still a leader because six others say, “Well, I’ll go with you.” And it’s interesting that he is going back to doing, remember? He left his nets when Jesus called him before. And Peter doesn’t know, I’m forgiven, but I don’t know if I’m in the game. I don’t know my role. I don’t know if I’m usable. I am damaged goods. Does that ring a bell? I’m damaged goods. I know God loves me…
Or how about this one? I know God has forgiven me, but I can’t forgive my…finish the sentence…myself. And when you, that’s shame. So God’s opinion of you is not quite as high as your opinion of you. Do the math on that one.
And so here we are and Jesus is going to go through a process to restore him. Follow along as I read, I want to make a couple major observations in the text. John 21. “Afterward Jesus appeared again to His disciples, by the Sea of Tiberius,” or, the Sea of Galilee, same thing. “It happened in this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee,” that’s James and John, “and two other disciples were together. ‘I am going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you.’ So they went out, got into the boat, but all night they caught nothing.” Interesting failure.
“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Him. He called out to them, ‘Friends,’” or, literally, it’s, “‘…lads! My children! Boys! Haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul in the net because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It’s the Lord!’ As soon as Simon Peter heard this, he said, ‘It’s the Lord,’ he wrapped his outer garment around him (he had taken it off) and he jumped into the water. And the other disciples followed in the boat, towing in the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire,” literally, it’s a charcoal fire.
“…with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ And Simon Peter climbed aboard, dragged the net ashore. And it was full of, one hundred and fifty three fish.” This is an historical account.
It’s not a metaphor, it’s not an allegory. This is an actual thing that happens. And if you know any fishermen, they know how many fish they catch.
“But even with so many the net was not torn. And Jesus said to them, Come and eat breakfast.’ None of the disciples dared ask, ‘Who is it?’ For they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, and He took some bread. He gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. And this is now the third time He appeared to this official group of disciples since He was raised from the dead.”
Well, what is going on here? What we are going to see is He is going to reinstate Peter. And I just have to believe there’s part of Peter who, we don’t know exactly, does he really need the money? Does he need the food? You kind of get the idea that he left the fishing business and feels like, God could never use me anymore, so he has gone back to what is comfortable. Does that sound kind of like what we do? Find a place where we feel like we are in control and we know what we are doing.
And then once again, he’s having an experience of failure. And I can’t help but believe that he also, as they are pulling in that fish, in the grace of God, the first time he met Jesus, remember? Jesus said, “Peter, can I use your boat?”
And he says, “Yes.” So He sits in the boat and He gets out on the water because as you speak it magnifies it. And then He gets done with the message and He said, “Just go out a little ways and put your net down,” remember? Peter, that day, had finished, fished all night and didn’t catch anything. And it was filled with fish. Two boats had to bring it in. And Peter said, “Depart from me, Lord. I am a sinful man.”
Isn’t it interesting that when He is going to restore him, He allows him to have the experience of failure and the experience of a miracle catch to say, You know something? That’s how I blessed you when you felt like you were so far away from Me. And I want you to know, My attitude hasn’t changed.
Another thing I think that’s instrumental here is that little phrase: a charcoal. Scientists tell us that our smell really triggers memory. It’s one of our strongest senses. Do you remember the last time that the text tells us that he was around a charcoal fire, warming his hands? And there was a little servant girl next to him. And remember? Remember what that event was about? “Oh! You’re one of His disciples, aren’t you?” “Blankety-blank-blank! I don’t even know Him!”
And so what you see is this setting of a scene and this is His kindness. Remember John chapter 1? Moses brought the law, but Jesus will explain God. He brings truth and grace. Grace: a hundred and fifty-three fish. Truth: We are going to have a conversation about what happened around the last time you were around a fire like this.
So let’s now look at the restoration process. It begins in verse 15. “When they finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Peter, Simon son of John, do you truly love Me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘You know that I love you.’ And Jesus said, ‘Feed My lambs.’ Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love Me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, You know I love You.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of My sheep.’ The third time He said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love Me?’ And Peter was hurt, because Jesus asked him a third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ He said, ‘Lord, You know all things; you know that I love You.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed My sheep.’”
And then He makes this prophetic announcement, “‘I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself, you went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ And Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.” And then the total reinstatement occurs.
“Then He said to him, ‘Follow Me! Follow Me!’” I have commissioned you three times. You think it’s an accident he denies the Lord three times and now three times, “Do you love Me? Do you love Me? Do you love Me? Follow Me!”
The text goes on, “Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them.” And I love Peter. His great wins are almost always followed by, at least, a little loss. “So, the other disciple is following him. (And this is the one who leaned back on Jesus’ breast and said, ‘Who is going to betray You?’) And when Peter saw him, he said, ‘Lord! What about him?’ And Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow Me.’ Because of this a rumor spread that somehow that John the apostle wouldn’t die.” But He goes on to explain in the text that’s not true and that’s not the issue.
But immediately, he went to, Okay, I want to know about his life, not just mine. And He is going, Wait a second. This isn’t about comparing yourself with other people. This isn’t about My agenda for them. This moment is about you. And it’s about dealing with your shame.
Now, notice three questions. Three answers. But there’s a few things that the Holy Spirit has put in here that gives some insight. In questions one and two, He says, “Do you love Me” Agapaō. It means, it’s, remember the John 3:16, the agape love? The selfless, unconditional, that no-matter-what-way that God loves us…
Jesus said, “Do you love Me the way God loves you?” And Peter responds, “I love you” – phileo. In other words, “I love You with this fond, friendship, endearing, I’m on Your team.” And so now Jesus, in front of the disciples who he dissed earlier. These are the same guys that Jesus said, “I’m going to go to the cross,” and Peter goes, “They, these guys, they might flake out. But not me.” He was arrogant. And then he betrayed Him.
And so Jesus asked, “So, really? Do you love Me more than these other men?” And Peter has learned a lesson. He said, “I love you.” Fond, deep friendship, affection. So He repeats it, “Do you love Me?” Agapaō. “Do you love Me with an agape, total commitment, selfless love that would never cave in under any circumstances?” And Peter responds, “Phileo – I love you.”
And each time, then He gives him an assignment, and with each assignment, what He is saying, “I have a job for you. I have a job for you.” What He’s saying is, “You qualify. You’re not disgusting. You’re not a loser. I care about you. I trust you.”
And so, finally, Jesus shifts it. And He changes the word. Phileo. “Do you have a fond, loving, affection for Me?” And Peter says, he’s hurt. “Lord, you know what?”
“I thought I knew myself. You know me better than I know me. Here’s the deal, Lord. You know I love You. You know I love You with an imperfect love but I’m going to give my best to follow You and be as loyal as I can.” But sort of embedded in this is, “There may be a day and a time when I kind of mess up. You know all things, Lord.” As pastors, we like to talk about the changes of the word in love, right? Which I have just done. There’s another change that I think is almost as important. The word know.
Peter’s answer is, “You know I love You, You know I love You, You know all things.” The first two times it’s a word in the Greek that, You know the facts. You know the truth. You know the data. You know the facts, you know the truth, you know the data. The last time when he goes, “You know all things,” it’s the change of a word for know in Greek that is: You, relationally, know me from the inside out. And what He is doing is restoring him and then He says, “Here is the agenda. Follow Me.”
The leader, the point person is a betrayer, fallen, shameful person who, if he tried to pretend with the other disciples that it never happened, he would have never been the man. And part of his testimony is not that he ended up a great leader and a great preacher and blazed the trail among the Jews. Part of his testimony is that he was a restored person who really messed up.
We think the sexual sins are bad, yes. Financial sins are bad. I don’t think there’s a sin that can ever be greater than to betray someone. And that’s what our leader did and he got restored and reinstated.
How does God restore us from that thing that I asked you to honestly think about in your life? That one night stand that no one knows about. That meth habit, that cocaine in the past, that lying on the résumé that you hope no one goes and checks. We have all got something back there, right?
So let’s find out what the grace of God looks like in people that are fallen and struggling just like us. Number one, here’s what we learn, Jesus meets us where we are and He meets us with both grace and truth. He is going to meet you where you are. You don’t have to wait until you get something straightened up or you get a little bit better or you get more clean. He is going to meet you where you are. He meets Peter where he is with grace and truth.
Grace: there’s a lot of fish here. The same miracle that, when he was far from God. Truth: there’s a coal burning fire. And he’s going to be reminded, gently, and then notice the truth doesn’t happen in isolation. As much as good counseling is helpful, I have had it; as much as talking one-on-one is helpful, I’ve had that; but this shame is brought out in front of the people that he dissed, because the restoration of real shame has to happen wisely and carefully but in the context of community.
Shame has got to get out, among someone trusted that won’t say anything to anyone that will allow you to deal with it, or you’ll spend your time numbing it. Do you understand that addictions aren’t like, “I’m going to try harder; I won’t drink so much. I’m going to try harder; I won’t take those pills. I’m going to try harder not to shop so much. I’m going to try harder not to eat so much. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
The core is shame! The core is you don’t like you and you’re numbing or compensating. And that will never get fixed until you let God say, Let’s look at this together. And what you’re going to get is you’ve got to be honest about it, but there is grace to cover it and love it.
And it’s more than forgiveness. It’s to restore you. We are convinced that if people found out about something we have done, that their estimation of us would lower. I would suggest that done authentically at the right way at the right time, just the opposite, often, happens.
The second thing that happens is He gently demands that we face the truth about ourselves. Did you notice that He asked questions and there wasn’t condemnation? For a lot of us, from our backgrounds, if we did something really, really, really bad, we would expect or some of you, like me, have this picture of God, at least I used to, His arms are crossed, you have done this terrible thing, His toe is tapping. “Hey! We need to talk about this. What in the world were you thinking? You’ve got a great wife and wonderful kids, why did you do that? I provided enough. Why did you cheat?” Right? You’ve got that in your head.
How did Jesus? Grace. “I love you. Let’s have breakfast. Let’s talk about this.” And then, instead of pointing the finger, He asked him diagnostic questions because what is the goal? What is the whole point of this? It’s not like God is going, Oh, if I could just figure out what’s going on in your heart, or mine. Gabriel, do you have any idea? “No, Lord, I have no idea.” Right?
The person that needs to discover what’s in your heart is you! And so He asks these questions to bring it to the surface. And He brings it gracefully, but He also brings it with truth. You have to own it. You have to see it for what it was. This is what I actually did. This is the feelings that it brings. This is why I don’t want anyone to know.
And secrets destroy your soul. Truth, He goes to the core, “Do you love me?” And then He helps him to see who He really is, like all the rest of us, broken, struggling people making progress. And He doesn’t ask them to make some promise. I hear people make promises to God, and promises to other people, that they can’t keep. So they set themselves up. “I’ll never cheat again. I’ll never lie again. I’ll never lust again. I’ll never log onto porn again. I’ll never spend money we didn’t agree on again. I’ll never, never, never.” Duh! How many times have you said that?
That’s not true. Stop making promises we can’t keep. How about, “By the grace of God, this is why I am doing what I am doing. And I am, by His power, and in the context of community and with the right kind of help, I’m going to keep moving toward what God wants.” And He will restore and He will heal.
We, early in our marriage, we went to seminary. And my wife, some of you know her story, and we were in a housing complex for poor students. And she was with another seminary wife and she felt like they were really becoming good friends and she says, “Well, tell me your story, Theresa.” And she goes, “Well, I didn’t grow up as a Christian, I had this really bad background, and I got married early, and then my husband did these drugs and ran off with another woman, and ended up getting divorced, and later I met Chip, and blah, blah, blah.” And she is thinking, Wow, we are really connecting.
And this lady looked at her and said, “Oh, I didn’t think they let people like you in seminary.” Shame. So we start our first little church. It was a mini church. You have heard of mega-churches. Thirty-five people. And so the first three years, Theresa didn’t tell anybody. The leaders knew our story, but it was like it was a secret. And we were probably five or six years in and she never felt like, she felt like she had this secret. She is divorced.
And then it got harder because our youngest son was born and he got to be five or six years old and so, funny story, we have this picture of our wedding, and in our wedding, Eric and Jason were, like, four-and-a-half years old. And they were the little ring bearers. So my son, my little son is six years old. He says, “Hey, Mommy, how come Eric and Jason got to be in your wedding and I didn’t?” Well, that gets a little awkward, right?
And so Dallas Seminary did a thing called LEAD – Leadership, Evaluation, and Development. And they spotted five or six people they thought might be leaders in the future and they took you through a week of analysis with a counselor and all aspects of your life and all these inventories. And we were sitting and we had done all that and one of my mentors, a guy that many of you might know, Bill Lawrence, a godly, godly mentor. And we are walking through and your life story and take all these tests, you write all this stuff out.
And I’ll never forget the moment. He just turned to Theresa and said, “Theresa, you really don’t get it, do you?” And she goes, “What do you mean?” He said, “You don’t understand; you’re hiding. You’re hiding because you’re ashamed. Don’t you understand that God has this great mantel in heaven and you’re a trophy of His grace. There are people that have been abandoned that need to know there is hope afterwards! There are people that need to know that you can have children that actually get adopted someday, someway. There are people who need to know that after the kind of family background that there is hope and God can work. You’re a trophy of His grace! Why are you hiding it?”
And we started to deal with our shame. And so we, little by little, she began to share with the church there and she had a talk with our little six-year-old and, “What am I going to say and how is it going to go?” And so she tells Ryan everything. She gets done, he goes, “Oh, thanks, Mom. Can I go out and play now?” See, we think that there is some big thing how people will think.
Well, we went to Santa Cruz a number of years later. And for us, it was a huge church. There were eight or nine hundred people at the time and really overwhelming. And so we went through a big interview process. And then my first Sunday morning, I taught and I’m, Okay, I’m going to be on my A game.
And they had a Sunday night service where the place was just packed. You get a new pastor. And a few days before, we are driving, and my wife is a real introvert. And she used to be super, super shy. Not true anymore and she rarely would ever get up in front of people. And I think she does a really good job now, in my biased opinion.
But for her it was like, Oh my gosh. And so we are in the car driving, she goes, “Sunday night, I want to share my testimony.” I said, “You want to do what?” She goes, “I’m not going to live here and feel like someone is going to find out my past. Chip, if I’m a trophy of God’s grace, if they don’t accept that I’m someone who came from a messed up home, that was married, and abandoned and forgiven and met you, if they don’t accept that kind of person, then I don’t want to be here and this isn’t the right place. But I am going to be clean and tell them, ‘This is my life.’”
And I remember that Sunday night and my little introvert wife brought it for forty-five minutes. And I’ll never forget afterwards, because I had done the morning. And people, when you’re the new guy, they, so there was three or four guys that I was talking to here. And we were done and my wife was over there. And there was a woman on this step, this step, this step, this step, this step – she was talking to this one. And that worship center, it went all the way around. And I couldn’t help myself, I counted forty-five or fifty women waiting to talk to my wife.
Her testimony was not, “I have it all together.” Her testimony was, “I am a trophy of God’s grace. And, by the way, this is my story. I wasn’t the victim in all of them. I made some significant mistakes along the way, and I have been forgiven and I have been restored. And guess what. God used and is using that.”
God uses your past and your weakness. And when that shame came off her shoulders, I got a new wife. What does God want to bring up out of you and get out in the open? And, by the way, she doesn’t share and I don’t share and you shouldn’t share everything with everyone, but you need to be sharing some things that you’re not now.
In fact, the third thing, here’s why. Notice He affirmed our value and He affirms our worthiness by commissioning us to service. See, you’ll be an ineffective testifier of the grace of God if you don’t deal with your shame!
Peter dealt with his shame. We have this whole chapter about Jesus and Peter that’s the end of all the gospels because this is the core. The Christian faith is not pray a little prayer, your life totally changes, you never have any problems, so come to meetings and sing songs and listen to people talk and be a good, little, moral person and be a bit nicer than others. That’s not it.
We must deal with our shame – why? Because the very last thing Jesus said before He
ascended was this: “All power in heaven and earth has been given to Me.” So resources will never be a problem. Now, “…make disciples of all nations, or ethnos, or people groups, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teaching them to observe, to actually live out all of the things that I have taught you. And don’t worry because I will be with you, even to the end of the age.”
Our testimony. We sang God wants to do greater things. He is going to do greater things when the person in your seat deals with your shame and you have a full testimony to share the good, the bad, and appropriately at times, the ugly. And what you’ll find is there is so much ugly out there, that will be the key to your boss or your supervisor or your babysitter or your workout partner or your mom or your dad or someone that you thought God could never reach, because they would finally realize there may be hope for me.
I grew up in San Jose and came from a great town, great family. Me and my dad and all my friends really bonded over sports, so that was really what I was into. My senior year in high school, I went out for the team and I ended up getting cut and that floored me. So immediately, the next day, I went to school looking for another crowd. Things quickly progressed because it felt like I didn’t fit in and I was afraid that I wasn’t going to make this team. When acting a certain way and talking a certain way wasn’t working I quickly started to obsess and started to think, What can I do to hold on to my image?
And so I got this idea and I said, I know what I’ll do next. I’ll rob a store. And I eventually did it. Not only once, twice, and a third time. And so the third time, I went in and I put myself in a situation, but I felt like I was losing control. And there I was, in that moment, I was thinking back and forth, I can’t stay and I can’t go. So I did the only thing I knew how to do, because I couldn’t let go. I did both. I pulled a trigger and I ran.
Two days later, I confessed completely to the detectives and I remember calling home to my family, telling them how sorry I was and I remember stopping and saying, “Do you still love me?” And I remember something so specific that they said. They told me, “Not only do we love you, but we will get through this.” We will get through this. Not, “You will get through this.” We. And in that moment I really realized God had shown me for the first time in the best way He could and in the best way I could understand at the time that love never fails, even when I do. Two days later, I was arraigned in superior court at eighteen years old for attempted robbery and first degree murder.
I remember the next few days just crying out to God, Help me! Help me! Help me! Help me! This wasn’t supposed to happen. This is not who I am. I thought it would all go away. I thought the walls would fall down around me and I would walk out and this would just be erased. But that didn’t happen. So one year later, after going through the process, I was eventually sentenced then, at nineteen years old, to twenty-eight years to life to stay in prison.
So in 2009, I eventually got my first opportunity to ask for a second chance, for that freedom. And when I was sentenced in 1993, no one had ever come home under a twenty-eight year to life sentence. Some people would tell me there’s not a chance. But I never stopped believing. So I went into the hearing in 2009 and essentially just put my heart on the table. It led to a recess where they eventually deliberated. No sooner than I got comfortable on the chair, they said, “Okay, we’re back on record. And we have concluded that the inmate is suitable for parole.” Just after they had told me, “We have found you suitable for parole,” I heard a voice as clear as I am speaking now, say, “I have been with you this whole time.”
And that’s when I lost it. That’s when I had my white light moment, but in reverse! That’s when God showed me the things that I did not understand, that He had been with me this whole time. That despite the pain, despite the shame, despite the failure, He didn’t let me go. He didn’t abandon me. I think the greatest lesson and the greatest insight and the greatest understanding that God gave me in my darkest hour was even though we may feel there are no answers around us, and we are alone and we need to be asking “why” and we have to keep up the dance on the outside, we are never alone.
You could be surrounded by people and feel so alone, be in such a dark place. But if we keep that darkness within us, and we do not share it, we do not open up, God’s grace can’t come in. I am getting the opportunity to speak to people one-on-one or getting invited to Stanford and speak to a group of kids who are there for the day at a camp. These are great opportunities and they are such a blessing. So when you just put your heart on the table, it’s amazing how that vulnerability can really set you free and how God can really step up and do amazing things and inspire people. And that’s really where my heart is, is just to continue to share God’s story.
I am guessing that what you’re ashamed of is coming into perspective. What is in your mind right now that you feel like you need to at least tell someone. What, out of your past, what are you currently thinking, feeling, or doing? What is that something that, in fact, parts of you in this room right now are like, you have wanted to run? When I started bringing these things up, you just wanted to run out of here, but that would have been very socially inappropriate and most of us would have thought, Ah, shame, shame, shame! See, something is wrong with them, right? So you stayed.
I just want you to hear Jesus saying, I’m not surprised. That can’t define you. But you’ll keep eating or numbing or hiding or compensating or being driven or faking it until you deal with the shame. No amount of memorizing Scripture, no amount of work for God will ever substitute for restoration from Him. I want to tell you why, okay? We have an assignment along with the disciples. Jesus says to them, I want you all to go and make followers or disciples of every people group on the earth. Every nation. The word is every ethnos.
It’s not just they pray a prayer. I want them to be fully blown disciples or followers. We would call them Romans 12 Christians and then I want you to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, which is about identity, of being fully in.
And then I want you to teach them all the things that I taught you, not so they know it, but so they will actually observe it. And I want it to be as you go, as you’re in your life, this is for everyone in the church, testifying. And you’ll never be alone. “I will be with you until the end of the age.”
Another passage, Acts 1:8, He tells them, “Now, don’t get thinking that the weight of this is on you. When He, the Holy Spirit, comes,” okay? “He is going to fill you with His power and you will be My,” get our word again, “you’re going to be My witnesses,” the goal is good ones, not perfect ones. But we deal with our past, we deal with our shame. And you will actually testify by how you live and by what comes out of your mouth boldly. Right where you’re at, your Jerusalem; your Judea; your Samaria, culturally breaking some barriers; and to the uttermost parts of the world.