“What time is it?” I called out to the bartender, who was leaning against the beer cooler at the other end of the bar. He struggled to take his eyes off the TV that was attached to the wall near him. Looking at his watch, he said, “It’s 12:30.” Then as he turned back to the game that was on he grumbled, “Buy a watch, why don’t ya!” I shook my head and picked up my drink and stopped in mid air thinking, “I wish I could afford to buy another watch or get my good one out of hock.” But I knew that wouldn’t be happening any time soon. Shrugging my shoulders, I brought the drink to my lips and took a long pull. Life in the fast lane was not all it was cracked up to be.
I drank for another half hour, then decided to hoof it home. My car had been repossessed so I didn’t have a lot of choice. Just as I was getting up from the bar, I spied a dealer I knew coming in. We had done business before and as he walked past me he nodded but did not stop to chat. I could see he was heading toward the bartender. I thought, “Maybe a few free lines could be had!” I ambled over and stood next to the dealer. He didn’t look at me but could see me in the mirror behind the bar and said, “What you doin’? I ain’t here to talk to you.” I nodded and said, “Just thought I would say hello. Being friendly, you know.” He looked at me then and said, “I heard about you, man, so broke you don’t even have a ride anymore. So again, what you doin’ comin’ over here?” I shrugged and said, “Thought maybe I could get a taste, you know, nothing special, just friendly.” He drew close enough so I could smell his breath and said, “You got no friends, get it? No money, no friends. Do I look like a charity to you? Like they say nothing is free, now hit the bricks or I will ask Lou over there to toss you!” As I turned to leave I heard him laughing.
Nothing is free. I have heard that all my life. In fact, I grew up in a home that was based on the adage: “There is no free ride.” Everyone of my brothers and sister contributed to the household or at least got a job to support whatever needs we had. There was little money to go around. But also, as I grew up I was taught that there was no free ride with God either. It seemed like He too required that you earn your way with Him. Kind of a tit for tat thing. If I was a good kid and kept all rules I would get a free pass to heaven. But if I was bad and broke the law, it was hell for me, literally.
It was no better when I was on my own and as addictions took over more and more of my life, I knew there was no longer anyway to play by the rules I had learned. I had become a lawbreaker and the God I knew had no use for me. So, in return, I came to believe I had no use for Him. I could no longer work my way to heaven, so why even try.
Results were a bitter and broken man. Yeah, a lot of it was that I was ingesting poisons into my body daily. But there was more to it then that. I had no moral center. Yet the crazy thing was that with all of it, I would tell myself that I was still a good guy.
If I had to do someone wrong in a drug deal, that was only because I was protecting my dealer’s product. If I had to lie and cheat at a business deal that was ok too because that was the way business was done or that is what I was hired to do. If I ran from my son because I chose drugs over him. It was all ok. Everyone is doing it. Just the way of the world. I have my own truth and so do you. So easy to get lost.
Problem is there really only one truth and His name is Jesus Christ. It took me a long time to be able to say that. I really did not want to accept or believe even as the evidence in God’s Word confirmed it. The real proof was how the more I input that Word into my life, how that life began to change. Not all at once, but slowly, I found swearing, cheating, lying and even drinking no longer could exist. And I also realized the only good and righteousness one was Him who died for my sin.
The other cool thing I found was that it wasn’t tit for tat. I could not do a thing to change any of it, not one work I did affected anything. It started to happen when I believed that: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And not through your own doing, it is a gift from God.” (Ephesians 2:8) That is when the miracles occurred. I had found the one free thing, the grace of God. Nothing has ever been the same. Bitterness became joy. Brokenness was made whole.
Today, I find myself wanting more. Yes, this world still tugs at me. So, each day, I look to the cross and say, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) I can’t earn something Jesus already did, but I can surrender daily and as I do he continues to do the work in me. Awesome.
Years ago, I left that bar defeated, humiliated and cursing my life. It was a low point and if some one then would have showed me the love of God, my life might have been different, but no one did. I offer it to you today. It is a free gift. Grace, forgiveness, and hope. You see Jesus already paid the bill. What you got to lose?