Focal Passage: 1 Peter 1:13-2:1
It’s one of those memories I wish I could forget, because it
reminds me of a season in my life that I wish had never happened.
During my college years, I was the prodigal. And I was a
hypocrite to boot. I was a Christian; and on Sunday morning I still behaved
like one. But the other six and a half days of the week were another story.
It happened one New Year’s Eve as I was leaving an
establishment, having fully participated in the usual revelries that accompany
that “holiday.” I was searching for my truck, unable to remember clearly where
I had parked it, when I heard a young woman’s voice that was all too familiar.
“Joel? Is that you?” she asked in an excited voice,
expecting a renewed friendship.
I was so startled that I glanced up. I guess that in my
self-inflicted condition, I just couldn’t think fast enough to avoid eye
contact. Even in the dim orange glow of the parking lot lights, my face was
I recognized her too. We had grown up in church together. We
had been on youth retreats together. We had spent most of our lives attending
the same Sunday School class!
That was the “Joel” she was expected to meet. Her smile
evaporated as she examined a different “Joel” standing before. Her eyes darted
back to the door I had left just seconds before. With a flash of confused
disgust, her mouth uttered the question that was already on her face. “What are
you doing here?”
I will never forget that question. It was her voice, but the
question came directly from God’s throne, and it pierced to the depths of my
heart. I knew I didn’t belong there. I was a born-again, Spirit-indwelled
adopted son of God. I was to “be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). And yet, I was standing in a parking lot in the middle
of the night, stripped of all pride, wishing I could crawl into a hole and pull
the dirt in on top of me.
God recalled her question to my mind several thousand times
over the months that followed. He used her words and her sense of disgust to
cause this prodigal to come to his senses. The hog pit is no place for the
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