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  • Kevin Finkenbinder

A life of sin


DEWITT – When I was growing up, I attended the same church as Nicky Cruz and had the opportunity to hear him share his testimony. For those who don’t know, Nicky was a gang member who was the focus of David Wilkerson’s book, The Cross and The Switchblade.


Nicky was the head of a street gang on trial for murder when God used Wilkerson’s ministry to reach him and other gang members with the gospel. They came to the crusade as a way to have a gang fight without the police being involved and tried to steal the offering from the event, but instead God stole them out of the devil’s grasp.


Once he had shared his testimony, he allowed us to ask questions. One person introduced his question by saying, “I wish I had a testimony like you, but I was raised in a Christian home.” Nicky jumped on him before he could even get the question out. Nicky emphasized that this young man had a much better testimony than Nicky ever did because God had saved him from a life of sin instead of out of a life of sin.


While I agree with Nicky’s heart in his answer, in my opinion Nicky was wrong. Nicky’s testimony wasn’t greater or less than this young man because both of them are infinitely beautiful examples of God’s grace. While I identify with the young man who questioned Nicky, I think that in my testimony you will see that even in my life, God saved me from a life of sin.


I was blessed to be raised in a Christian household. My parents faithfully attended church each week. My grandparents and great-grandparents were missionaries in Latin America. I was blessed to be in an environment where I heard Christian things all the time. When I was about 5, I was in children’s church at Christian Center church in Colorado Springs when we sang the song, The Lord’s Army:


♬♪♩♫ I may never march in the infantry  ♬♪♩♫ Ride in the cavalry  ♬♪♩♫ Shoot the artillery  ♬♪♩♫ I may never shoot for the enemy  ♬♪♩♫ But I'm in the Lord's army!


After singing that song they asked us if we wanted to be fighting for God or against God and I raised my hand saying I wanted to fight for God. As far as I can remember, that is the point when I first asked Jesus into my heart. My parents might remember something different, but that is what sticks in my heart and mind.


From that point my life, externally, looked pretty good. I was active in Sunday school and the youth group, eventually being seen as a leader. I even joined the Bible Quiz team and memorized large portions of scripture. I was a good kid. I believed I was saved, but my view of salvation was “fire insurance”. If I died, I wouldn’t go to hell, but other than that I lived my life for myself.


I wasn’t a good kid because I was letting God work through me, but because that was my nature. I would regularly raise my hands during the singing at church, not because I felt called to glorify God, but because someone had once told me how impressed they were when I did that. When I was a good Christian youth, it made me look good and, I thought, made God look good.


When I was a junior in high school we went to a youth retreat. I honestly don’t remember much of what happened that weekend, but one thing I do remember is on the first night hearing the speaker say, “It is pretentious to claim Jesus as savior unless you also make Him your Lord.” That struck me to the heart. It was all I could think about for the next couple days.


That weekend in the back stairway of a resort hotel in Vail, Colorado, God got ahold of my life. I don’t honestly know if I was saved by the ignorant prayer as a 5 year old or if the moment of salvation was in that stairway, but after that moment, I knew God had a special plan for my life.


From that time my life changed. Externally people would not have seen a difference, but my motivation changed. I now wanted to act in a way that pleased God, and wanted Him to get the glory.


My life was not all roses from that point on, I still struggled to let God be in control. I wanted to be an engineer and struggled against God’s call when I felt he was calling me to be a minister. That fight with God led me to a time of clinical depression as I tried to get God to see things my way, while simultaneously trying to follow His guidance (James 1:5-8).


That fight also led me into traps of immorality in my thoughts that still attempt to reenter my life. Over time, I realized that the fight was not about what God wanted, but about truly recognizing that God’s plans for me were better than my own.


Once I surrendered to His guidance, God ended up having me complete an engineering degree in computer science, and has used that to help provide since most of my time in ministry has been bi-vocational. More importantly, once I surrendered to His full control, I had peace and was able to trust Him because He proved Himself faithful.


It took me far too many years to recognize the fullness of the gospel. You may ask yourself, what is the gospel? The gospel is good news, but to understand the good news, you must put it in context of the bad news. As you read this, picture yourself each time you read “I”.


I have sinned. Whether the sin is murder or pride in living a “good” life, all of those sins are equally abhorrent to God and should be abhorrent to me. If my sin is not abhorrent to me, then I don’t recognize the depth of my own sin. Romans 3:10-18,23


I deserve God’s wrath. When I sin, it is against God, anyone else I harmed was a secondary victim. My sin rejects His plan for my life. My sin asserts that I believe I can do things more effectively than God. My sin mutilates the image of God in my life and the way that others view God. My sin damages others made in God’s image. In short, I deserve death and hell.


The only way to pay for sin is by a sacrifice of blood, but the sacrifice of animals, or even my own blood, is insufficient to erase my sin against God. Leviticus 17:11, Romans 6:23a, Hebrews 9:19-22


I cannot stop sinning, I cannot clear away the consequences of sin in my life, I cannot make up for sin. Even when I resist sin in my own strength, I become prideful in my ability to withstand sin, thus again living in sin. Romans 7:19-25


God loved me in spite of my sin. Jesus loved me enough to die for me. Even more startling to me, now that I am a father, is God loved me enough to allow His Son, Jesus, to die for me. God loves me enough that He wants me to live forever with Him. John 3:16, Romans 5:8


While I can do nothing to earn or merit salvation, God paid the penalty for my sin and was a blood sacrifice on my behalf. Since He is infinite and perfect God, His blood perfectly and permanently covered the penalty of death my sin deserved. Hebrews 9:24-28


I am not saved by doing right things, but by accepting His gift of salvation. Romans 6:23b


I accept that gift by believing He died to pay the price for me and rose from the dead to prove His victory over sin. As a result, I can trust Him to direct my life (be my Lord) and will share that with other people. Romans 10:9-10


I can now let God work through me trusting that He has paid the price and confident that one time I will spend eternity with Him. Whether you are new to church or have been a pastor for decades, I pray that you too can join in that confidence, if not, ask a Christian to help you understand and to pray with you today.


 







ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kevin Finkenbinder has been the pastor at FBC DeWitt since 2020 and lived in Michigan since 2005, marrying his wife, Amy in 2008; they have 3 kids. Kevin was raised in Colorado Springs, CO.




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