I fully embrace the counseling perspectives that are taught and practiced at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) located across the street from my alma mater, Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Bryan Pickering is a counselor in the CCEF movement for whom I have great respect. He holds an MA in Biblical Counseling and has done extensive work taking courses at CCEF. His undergraduate degree is in Biblical Studies and the History of Ideas from Southeastern College in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Bryan is the Pastor for Care and Counseling at Bethlehem Church in Minneapolis. He is a man of God and a man of wisdom.
His testimony is powerful, and his story is in many ways the story of every believer in Jesus Christ. In my blog for this month, I am sharing his testimony of the amazing grace of God in his life. It is a message that resonates in my own heart and life. I was powerfully moved as I read what Bryan has to say about the work of God in his life.
Bryan writes, “Mine is a story about the glorious, sovereign grace of God. He pursued me with his love. He chased me down and replaced my unbelieving heart of stone with a regenerate heart of flesh. I did not choose him (first), he chose me. I love him now—quite imperfectly—because he first loved me with his perfect, transforming love. I am a fellow bit-player in God’s grand story.”
“I grew up in a broken home, raised by my mother in Richmond, Virginia, after my parents divorced when I was two. Growing up as a child, I was fully engaged in living for me, seeking to please no one but myself, seeking to be my own god.”
“In my late teenage years, I began to perceive that something was terribly wrong. I was sinking in the cesspool of the darkness of my heart’s worship. The kickback I was getting from my actions was an aroma of death—it was flowing from my dead heart. Depression, despair, narcissism, violence, drug addiction. The awareness that something was wrong inside me was continuing to grow. God was at work; sin was not satisfying.”
“I had a job that took me into various church buildings on Saturday mornings when no one else was around. God saw fit for some of those churches to have tracts on a stand near the door. Knowing that I needed to be rescued from some vague consuming dread, I would grab those tracts by the handfuls and read them in the parking lot. It was through the word of God that I learned that the wages of sin is death. I discovered that the wrath of God was rightly on me because of my misplaced worship—I had good reason to dread. I found out that God created me to bear his image and to live for his glory—and that was the last thing on my mind. God revealed through his word by his Holy Spirit that he is holy; I was anything but. I was offending a personal God. I was his enemy.”
“A little more than a year before we were to be married, Debby gave me a Bible. God put a desire in my heart to read it and I couldn’t put it down. God was drawing me in, like a fish caught in his net of sovereign mercy and grace. A man invited me to come to his church; Debby and I did—and we kept coming back. God was still at work. Week after week I heard the gospel proclaimed. God had me in his sights of his steadfast love.”
“It was here that I learned that God had enacted a divine rescue plan for sinners like me. God showed me that although I was without any hope of saving myself—I was dead in my trespasses and sins—he had sent his own Son to take on human flesh; to live a perfect life of active obedience; to die a substitutionary, atoning death on the cross on my behalf; and then to rise triumphantly out of the grave. Jesus took the wrath that I deserved. He took my sin on myself, though he himself never sinned. God gave me his perfect righteousness and the eyes to see this, and the heart to believe in and trust his gracious provision of Jesus, the Spotless, Perfect, Lamb of God. He caused me to be born again. He redeemed me. Now I am his, and he is mine. Though I am weak, frail, and still sin, the Lord is at work in me to fulfill his promise to complete the work he began in me—to conform me fully into the image of Jesus.”