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Today, September 22nd, I turn 40 years old, and this past year God has been wrecking me and leading me to what Henry Blackaby calls a “crisis of belief.” One of Blackaby’s “Seven Realities” in Experiencing God is:

“God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.”

For the past year, I’ve been listening to and sitting under the teaching of my pastor and friend Derwin Gray. One of Pastor Derwin’s key themes that he weaves into most of his teaching is justification. Justification is the action of declaring or making righteous in the sight of God. Because of what Christ has done, we are justified, we are forgiven, we are free, we are as righteous as Jesus Himself.

This may not be news to you, but over the last year, this has taken its toll on me. God has used this message to open my eyes to pride in my life and the sin of self-righteousness. If you’ve ever heard Derwin preach, you may see him cry or get emotional. Once, when traveling with him, I asked him, “What do you do to keep your heart so tender?” He replied, “I think of what Jesus has done for me.”

Again, this may not seem like much to you, but it was revelational to me. You see, I grew up in a strong Christian family (which I’ve taken for granted) and I thought because I became a follower of Christ at a young age (before I had gotten into too much trouble) that I didn’t have a good testimony. This, too, is self-righteousness and pride – and it is a sin.

Hear me: EVERY salvation is a miracle.

This past Sunday, Pastor Derwin preached what I believe is the most powerful sermon I’ve ever heard. You can view or listen to it HERE. There was a strong call to repent in this sermon and I found myself repenting all throughout it. Repenting for pride, repenting for self-righteousness, repenting for thinking I didn’t have a testimony.

At one point in the sermon, Derwin said something about not understanding Christ-followers that don’t wake up every day in awe and amazement of what God has done in their life. THIS, my friends, is my midlife crisis. This is what has to change in my life going forward for the second-half of my life.

May I never take for granted again what Jesus has done for me. May I daily reflect on His love, His grace, His mercy, His sacrifice, His forgiveness, His justification. May I go forward from this day in awe and wonder of Christ and all that He’s done in my life. The truth is, friends, I DO have a testimony! I have experienced amazing grace. I just need to remember it and let it lead me to worship.

So, on my 40th birthday, I proclaim my love for Christ and my gratefulness that He would rescue a sinner like me. I pray God would lead you to a place of repentance and thankfulness, too. Be blessed today, friends.

Greg Atkinson

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