Our First Estate
Having listened intently to the minister, Jim began examining his life. The talk of intimacy with God touched a nerve that revealed his inner need. During the question and answer session, Jim couldn’t remain silent. Rising to his feet, he explained that many years ago, he had given his life to Jesus. He said, “I have done everything I should do. I have attended church, been faithful to Bible reading and prayer, and financial giving to my church. Yet, I have rarely experienced intimacy with God. I have most often felt relational distance rather than a relational connection with God.”
Stepping down from the platform, the minister walked to the back of the room and stood face-to-face with Jim to ask an unexpected question. He said, “If your parents gave you a T-shirt with a label describing how they felt about you, what would it say?”
As Jim reflected, tears welled up in his eyes and began flowing down his face. He quietly confessed, “The T-shirt would say, ‘You’re an illegitimate child.’” The minister only asked one question in response. “Jim, are you willing to let Jesus have your T-shirt?”
Jim hugged the minister in an embrace and loudly said, “Yes!” As he wept bitterly in the arms of the minister, he began his healing journey toward an identity transformation. At that very moment, he gained the awareness of being a beloved child of God rather than being imprisoned as the victim of his pain.
The declaration that “it was for freedom that Christ set us free” (Galatians 5:1, NASB) became a lived experience for Jim.
Faithful discipleship requires attention to several disciplines. We must study the Bible for faith to rest on the solid foundation of God’s Word. We must give attention to sound theology in order to remain faithful to orthodox Christian belief. Most importantly, we must completely surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to transform us in Christlikeness through a personal relationship with God.
Being known by God will likely involve awareness of our felt experience with God, shaped by the relational and emotional mapping of the self, which informs our world view. Allowing God into those spaces is necessary so that we can experience God as He is, revealed in and through Jesus Christ and not as viewed through our broken selves.
John Wesley said, “To recover our first estate, from which we are thus fallen, is the one thing now needful – to re-exchange the image of Satan for the image of God, bondage for freedom, sickness for health . . . The one work we have to do is to return from the gates of death to perfect soundness; to have our diseases cured, our wounds healed, and our uncleanness done away.”1
Is there any label on your T-shirt that is defining you in your brokenness? Or is the unashamed love of the risen Christ the foundation of your identity and worth?
John Comstock is leader of The Discipleship Place through Sunday School and Discipleship Ministries International.
1. “The One Needful Thing" in Jeremy Ayers, "John Wesley's Therapeutic Understanding of Salvation," Encounter 63, no. 3 (2002): 273.
Holiness Today, March/April 2021
Please note: This article was originally published in 2021. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.