Jeff Struecker is a founding pastor of 2 Cities Church in Columbus. Jeff’s topic will be rediscovering our true worth in the context of God’s original purpose for our existence—not an easy thing to do in a world in which we’re constantly told our purpose is acquiring wealth and influence. Refocusing our lives on that purpose, he says, is essential to fixing what’s broken inside us. “Our beauty and value and self-worth have all been terribly distorted, and it was us that distorted it. So for me, restoration simply means, hey, what if the Gospel exists, and Jesus came to help people reclaim that beauty and worth and value that God originally created all people to have?”
Welcome from The Redeemed
Hello and welcome! I’m Paul, the founder of The Redeemed, an organization getting men of all backgrounds, a supportive judgment-free environment where we can speak freely about the challenges that we face in life.
I would like to welcome you to a special program, the second in our series called Pursuing Restoration. It’s a series of live web events sponsored by The Redeemed, featuring insights and advice from some of the region’s most dynamic speaker. These speakers have diverse backgrounds and experiences, offering wisdom and insights into life’s challenges and how we can recover and heal from the problems that we may encounter.
**Note: The Redeemed web events are originally hosted through Crowd Cast, a technology that allows for us to actually interact, and allow crowd participation. We want people to be engaged and excited about hearing and communicating. Listeners can post comments and questions throughout the webinar.
Introduction of Special Guest: Jeff Strucker
We have a very special guest; I’m honored and honestly humbled that Jeff Strucker would be joining us. Jeff is an American war hero, someone who fought on the front lines and truly was outstanding for our country and help protect our freedom at the same time. Jeff, after 10 years, decided to go back to Divinity school and become a chaplain for the US Army. He served 10 more years as a chaplain and is now the founding pastor of 2 Cities Church in Columbus, Georgia.
Rediscovering Our True Worth
The topic of this webinar is rediscovering our true worth in the context of God’s original purpose for our existence.
I would like to talk for just a few moments about what God originally created when he built the first man, and I like to use that language, built to the first man.
I’m of course, talking about God creating Adam in the Garden of Eden. What happened when sin entered it to the equation? What did that do to God’s creations?
What does it looks like to be restored to factory settings?
Like when something goes wrong with your phone. Really, really wrong with your phone, and you have to go all the way back to the original factory settings!
The Socket Story
OK, true story. A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to help my daughter put some furniture together in her bedroom, and I took my little socket set from the shed and I brought it upstairs because I needed to screw the legs into the tabletop. I have this little string of sockets of all different sizes. I wanted to make sure that I had a socket that would certainly fit.
So I’m upstairs and I’ve got the ratchet and I’m sitting there working it, and no matter how hard I spin, this bolt is not getting tighter. You guys know the deal, I am thinking “Okay, maybe I have the wrong socket, let me go to the next smaller size.”, “This is a quarter inch, so let me go down a size and see if 76 or 38, it’s going to fit.”
Now, I’m kind of confused. I’ve got all of the sockets in front of me and they’re all in the correct order. The one that I’m using doesn’t fit and neither does the one that’s smaller. Out of desperation, I think… “Okay, I’m just going to try the bigger socket.”
I don’t even know what I was thinking! Why would the bigger socket work when this socket is not working, and the smaller socket is too small? But I try the bigger socket anyways. Maybe 58 or maybe 9-16 for work. And of course, that just spins free.
Now I look like an idiot in front of my daughter, as you can imagine. I’m sitting there looking at my sockets, and I’m looking at the legs on this table trying to put it together like, “what’s wrong here?” I take the socket, put it back on and try it again. Nothing is working!
Finally, I go downstairs, and get a handful of other sockets of the same size. I try the same size socket, just a different tool, and sure enough, works perfectly, and I tighten it back up, I tighten the furniture up, everything is great. Now, I’m really confused. So, I go get some light, shine it on the inside of this socket, and that’s when I realized almost all of the teeth on the inside of this socket have been ground down. And so now, this quarter inch socket, it doesn’t work.
It won’t fit on a 78-inch or a 58-inch bolt. It doesn’t tighten a half-inch bolt, it’s way too big. It’s way too small for the 58th. It’s way too big for the 38th. This socket is now worthless.
Luckily, it’s a socket that’s guaranteed for life. I will be taking it to the tool store and ask them to replace this broken socket.
Lesson Behind the Socket Story
I brought this little object lesson to show you what happens when you are the tool that is broken, stripped and not accomplishing the thing that it was built to accomplish.
This quarter-inch socket, it is only supposed to work on quarter-inch nuts. When it doesn’t work on quarter-inch nuts, it literally doesn’t work on anything, it’s worthless. It cannot tighten anything in my toolset. It doesn’t work on any tool because it’s stripped so bad on the inside.
You know, I think guys will sometimes chew off some of the teeth. Life will sometimes get harder; we will sometimes turn to things in life that will start to wear down the teeth on the tool that God created… called men. When those teeth start to get worn down, we look at other things to replace or to fix what’s going wrong inside of us, and it wears the teeth down a little bit….and it wears the teeth down a little bit more…until life as ground the teeth down so much that the tool itself becomes worthless.
Not MY Language
This is not MY language, this is actually a language that Jesus used. He said, if salt loses its flavor, it’s worthless. You can’t do anything with it. You can throw it out and step on it, but that’s all that it does for you. It doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do anymore, because it’s lost its flavor.
If you were to use this analogy, Jesus really could say if a quarter inch socket loses its teeth, it’s worthless. It’s good for nothing. You can throw it out because it’s not going to tighten anything in your house or in your tool shed anymore.
I really feel like sometimes I have turned to things that have started to grind the teeth down and made my life less than what God created me to be.
God Created Man
If we were to go back and just sit on the sideline when God was creating the first man, when God was building Adam in the garden, and He fashioned man with his hands and He breathed into man the breath of life. The Bible says, Adam became a living being. That language is that he has a life that will go on forever, Adam has a living soul (some translations will say). And because you have a soul, that soul will continue to exist long after our body wears out here on planet earth. There really is an eternal heaven and eternal Hell.
God built Adam for a specific purpose. That very specific purpose was to be in a very close, very intimate relationship with Him.
The Original Plan
Those of you who know the Bible, you know that God also created paradise for Adam. He gave him trees and plants, and he gave him a job to do in the garden, which gave Adam a sense of fulfillment. Adam went home tired, but good tired at night, because he was working in the garden. God gave Adam animals and birds and fish to hang out with, in fact, Adam had a job to name all of those creatures. If you know the first couple of chapters of Genesis pretty well, you also know that Adam didn’t find a helper in birds or the fish or the animals. Adam didn’t find a companion in the mountain views or in the babbling brooks, he needed more. God recognized that it’s not good for Adam to be alone, and God created a woman as a helper for him.
The original plan for both men and women were to be in a very close, very intimate relationship with each other, and they very close and even more intimate relationship with God.
In fact, we get this language from Genesis Chapter 3, that God was in the habit of coming down from heaven, hanging out in the garden of Eden and spending time with Adam, walking with Him in the garden in the cool of the day! Genesis tells us at the beginning of Chapter 3, that Adam broke the beautiful, perfect creation that God made when Adam committed the first sin.
Now, I don’t want to spend time talking about who took the fruit and who ate the fruit first, but ultimately the Bible says, Adam, this is your responsibility, therefore, this is your fault. For the rest of scripture, Adam is the one that the Bible points out as the one who did wrong in the Garden of Eden.
I want you to think about what happened to his relationship with Eve? What happened to his relationship with God when he did this?
Adam Was Warned
God warned Adam. Adam I created paradise, literally perfection for you. You can have anything and everything that you want. I’ve just got one thing that I’m going to hold off limits from you, everything else is free game. These are easy rules to follow Adam. You’re not going to forget this one, there’s just one tree that you don’t eat from. Anything else, everything else…It’s all free game.
And of course, you guys that know the Bible know the rest of the story. After a period of time, Adam and Eve saw the tree. Adam and Eve started speaking to the serpent in the tree. Adam and Eve believed this fruit really does look good. And then tragically, Adam takes a bite of this fruit that God already warned them… If you eat it, you will die.
What happens immediately after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, was God comes down from heaven and walks with Adam and Eve in the garden to cool the day…. [and listen carefully to what the Bible says next]….. It says that instead of coming to meet with God, Adam dives in the bushes and he hides from God.
This is the first time that there is anything that breaks the relationship between God and man. This is when ALL of the teeth from the socket got stripped off. Because of that one incident.
Now, instead of running to meet God as a father and wanting to spend time with him, Adam dives in the bushes and tries to avoid God.
Of course, God is all knowing, all powerful, all present… so you can’t hide from him.
God calls out to Adam and says, ‘Adam, where are you?’ And the story goes, Adam says, ‘I was hiding because I was afraid.’ And God says, ‘Why were you afraid? Nothing that I created in the Garden of Eden should make you afraid. Why are you afraid right now?’ And Adam says, ‘Because I knew you were coming to be with me and I did wrong.’
So, God calls Adam and Eve to an account. When God has Adam and Eve standing in front of him, and He says, ‘Adam, what did you do? Adam, did you eat from the fruit that I commanded you not to eat from?’
Now, God already knows the answer to this, but He wants Adam to say it out loud. Instead of admitting his mistake and saying, ‘God I messed up and I need you to fix what, I’m sorry and I need you to fix it, I need you to forgive me.’ Instead of doing that…Immediately, his relationship with Eve is hurt.
Instead of Adam taking responsibility for what he did, he points to Eve and he says it’s her fault, she’s the one who gave me the fruit.
When God turns his attention to Eve, she uses a strategy she just learned from her husband, she points her attention to the serpent, it says ‘it’s his fault’.
Of course, God deals out justice for the serpent. Then he deals out justice for Eve. Then the Bible says something fascinating (that should terrify us a little bit). It says, ‘Adam, because you listen to the voice of your wife, because you ate from the fruit that you’re not supposed to eat from… here’s what’s about to happen next. Your life is about to become hard, and it’s going to stay hard until you die.’
When God said… ‘Because you listened to the voice of your wife’, I really think, what God is saying is ‘Adam, I told you not to eat from that tree, and instead of listening to me, you listen to your wife. When she offered you the fruit, you knew you weren’t supposed to eat that fruit, but you took it and you ate it anyway! You listen to her, not me. Now the punishment is for what you did, it’s not for what she did, it’s certainly not for what the serpent did.’‘Adam, this is between me and you big boy, and now you’re going to have to experience the consequences. The work that was easy for you in the garden is now going to become back-breaking and you’re going to work by the sweat of your brow just to bring in the paycheck.’
What would it take?
What would it take for God to restore Adam completely and totally back to the factory settings?
Back to the beautiful, noble, strong, Godly creation that He made when He fashioned this man in the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life, into him?
The answer: it’s going to take death.
The wages of sin is death. Adam, If you eat from it, you will die. And even when God is pronouncing his punishment on Eve, he tells her, nobody’s going to have to die for this. The serpent is going to strike at your child, Eve, and they’re going to bite your child on the heel, but your child will ultimately crush the head of the serpent.
Somebody is going to have to die for this and that somebody… of course, is Jesus.
How Can I Be Restored to Factory Settings?
There is no way to restore a man to factory settings and to restore the relationship between a holy God and a sinful man until you eradicate sin. That is only possible through a sacrificial debt. The perfect son of God, willing to leave heaven and come to earth and to pay the penalty for Adam’s sin, for my sin, for your sin, so that you could be restored to factory settings.
Anything apart from that is going to leave a man longing for more. God built you in such a way, that you long for and will only be satisfied by an intimate relationship with him. The kind of relationship that Adam had in the garden before he committed that first sin.
What guys will do, what I have done, is that they will turn to other things to try to fulfill that longing.
- Some guys are going to turn to the bottle.
- Some guys will turn to prescription drugs.
- Some guys will turn to women.
- Some guys will turn to work, and they will think by getting the corner office and by becoming the CEO and having the prestige and the power that goes along with my job, I’ll feel satisfied on the inside.
- Some guys will turn to fame.
- Some guys will turn to success.
I promise, you from personal experience, none of those things will fill that void that God created all men to have.
Until you have that intimate relationship with him, like Adam had. Until you enter back into the perfect relationship with Him through the sacrificial death, through the perfect life and sacrificial death of his Son.
The Battlefield and Faith
While I was still a sergeant in the Army, serving in the Ranger regiment, I wanted to test myself. In fact, one of the reasons I joined the Army, one of the reasons I volunteered to serve in the army 75th Ranger Regiment, (those of you are not familiar with the military, this highly elite special operations unit that would be the first guys onto the battlefield in virtually every war the US has fought since World War II) is because I just really wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to see if I was tough enough to serve with the best of the best. I wanted to go to war. I wanted to do my part to protect our country and to preserve our freedom, but I also wanted to just place myself in the situation where I was put it to the ultimate test.
Those of you who are familiar with my story, or with the movie Black Hawk Down, know that by 1993, I’d been in the Army for six years. I’d already been to combat in the invasion of Panama and in Iraq before and in Desert Storm in Kuwait before getting sent to Somalia, but ultimately took part in the big battle that ended up being depicted in the book and the movie Black Hawk Down.
I got shot out when I was there. For most of the big 18-hour firefight, I was absolutely convinced that I was going to die. But I also had this rock-solid faith in Jesus Christ and was totally convinced of where I would spend eternity.
When my friends were stressed out, when my friends were scared to death, and when some of them didn’t have the courage to roll back into the city streets again and again, I could literally go through those city streets absolutely certain that I was going to die, but without any fear of what happens to you after you die.
I could perform on the battlefield because of my faith. Many guys will go to combat because they want all of the awards, they want all of the glory and the recognition when they get back. I went to combat just because I wanted to do my part and I wanted to serve my country.
Best Ranger Competition
After getting back from Somalia I wanted to show the Army, I wanted to serve, I wanted to give my all, and I wanted to try out for the Best Ranger Competition.
I won’t go into details about this competition but do a Google search of the ‘David L. Grange Best Ranger Competition’. It will give you the details of what is typically considered one of the top five most difficult endurance competitions in the world every year.
In 1994 and 1995, I competed in and finished fourth in the Best Ranger Competition. It got to the point that I was dedicating so much of my life, so much of my time, so much my focus and my energy into the Best Ranger Competition, it was consuming basically 18 hours a day for months of my life.
Some much so that by 1996, I decided I’m just not going to do it anymore. It had become an idol to me. I placed way too much emphasis on winning this Best Ranger Competition. In 1996, the teams were starting to get prepared to compete again, and I just made the decision, I’m not going to try it, I’m not even going to do it this year.
My boss, the big boss, the commander of the Ranger regiment, called me into his office and he asked me as a personal favor if I would consider doing Best Ranger in 1996. I told him, ‘Sir, I’m not sure. I’m going to have to go home and I’m going to have to pray about this, and I’ll give you an answer tomorrow.’
I went home and I told my wife, that because I waited so long, everybody else has been training, they’ve all been working for weeks, now I’m way behind the curve. If I do this, this will consume every minute between now and a few months from now until the Best Ranger Competition. Basically, you won’t see me for the next couple of months because of the training that I’m going to have to catch up with. I also decided, I think I’m going to give it a try. I don’t know how this thing is going to turn out. I’m just going to leave the results up to God.
[Timestamp: 24: 51]
Guys, I’m going to confess something to you. In my heart I thought by winning the Best Ranger Competition, it would fulfill this deep longing inside of me. The fame, the glory, the prestige. There’s no way to tell you, to over-exaggerate, how much attention and how much applause goes along with winning. You’re basically an overnight celebrity, if you win the Best Ranger Competition.
Long story short, in 1996 I competed. My partner and I won the competition that year. Immediately after winning the competition, I became an overnight celebrity in the military. I remember going home and thinking to myself… ‘what a letdown.’ This is the thing that I basically devoted the last three years in my life to? I have pursued this with every fiber of my being? I thought when I got this, I would ultimately be fulfilled. I would be satisfied. I would have all of the things that I’ve been longing for fulfilled inside of me. Now that I’ve got it, it’s actually kind of let me down a lot. It really didn’t satisfy me the way I thought it would.
I remember thinking to myself, after the Best Ranger Competition was over with… Is that it? What’s next? Now that you’ve reached the pinnacle and it didn’t fulfill you… What’s next?
I’m telling you about the Best Ranger Competition to say, be careful what you’re chasing after because you just might get it. When you get it, you may realize that still left a deep hole inside of me.
The one thing that I assure you, if you chase after it, if you give this the energy and the attention that it deserves, it will satisfy you deep down on the inside…. pursuing your relationship with Jesus.
The only thing that can ever reset a broken man to factory settings is to be made new through the radical surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Maybe for some of you, you need to make that kind of commitment. For others of you that have done that, but started chasing other things, maybe you need to turn your attention back towards your relationship with Jesus.
My Challenge for You
This is what it looks like to be restored to factory settings… I’m going to turn this socket in and I hope they melt it down, re-fashion it and turn it back into a quarter-inch socket that really will tighten nuts because right now, this socket is, work is worthless.
I hope something that I said tonight has challenged you, that you will pursue your relationship with Jesus until the point that it changes you so much on the inside that you start to become like what God originally created in the Garden of Eden. Noble, strong, godly man that God originally built way back in Genesis chapter one.
- Do you think the fear of having to sacrifice holds people back from restoring them to factory settings? What do you think it is that holds people from actually achieving this?
There is no doubt, YES, fear holds guys back. In fact, I’m convinced us guys have a lot more fear than we would like anybody in the world to know about. We do our best to stuff it down inside so that nobody sees it, but it’s still there and you know it’s there. Some of what’s holding us back from really being the good, godly, noble man that God has created us to be is we’re afraid of what it’s going to cost us.
I think when you start to look at it in that perspective, you’re looking at the wrong side of the equation. Yeah, it’s going to cost you something, but what you gain is infinitely more valuable than what you’re going to lose. In fact, Jesus even said that when his disciples said to him, ‘Hey, Jesus, we’ve left our farms, our businesses, and our families to follow you.’ And Jesus is like, ‘Yeah, I know! What you will gain will far surpass, what you gave up to follow me.’
I think fear of what we’re going to lose, will hold us back from ever gaining what we could receive by becoming the man God has called us to be by following Jesus radically.
- There are so many stories in the Bible that Jesus calls upon people to give up or sacrifice certain things. What is it that ultimately you believe God is asking for us to sacrifice specifically in order to find our way back to factory settings? [Timestamp: 30:13]
The longer I live and the longer I am in full-time ministry, the more that I believe the problem with most people all over the globe is with the first commandment. What we struggle with is giving up something that’s of infinite value to us. Basically, what God is asking us to do in the first commandment is not put any other gods in front of him.
If we are really, really ruthlessly honest with ourselves, we are pretty much the God of our own life. We are pretty much making the decisions and calling the shots and going where we want to go. When you do what you want to do, and what you don’t want to give up is the authority or the control over your life. So really, what you’re saying is, I will happily be god of my life and make all of the decisions, rather than give all of that up.
Where I’m going to go, what I’m going to do with my time and my money and my energy, all of that stuff has to be surrendered to Jesus.
Most guys realize what it’s going to cost them, and they decide, I’m not willing to give that up. They think, I would rather be god of my life, then put Him on the throne. So, you can’t get past commandment number one, much more work on the other nine.
- Jeff, you won the Best Range Competition, yet you felt disappointed and dissatisfied. What do you think you were looking for? What do you think you hoped you were going to achieve with all those hours and months and weeks of training that you put in?
A great question. Quick aside, the winner of the Best Ranger Competition, because I’m in the Army and the Army is paying me to be a soldier, they can’t really give me a cash prize for winning the Best Ranger Competition. I didn’t know this at the time, but the winners of the 1996 Best Ranger Competition and most years after that, got an all-expense paid trip for them and their family to Disney World. Literally at the end of the Best Ranger Competition, when the cameras put the microphones in front of my face, and they said, ‘What are you going to do next?’ I totally stole the line and said, “I’m going to Disney World!”
I really thought, and I was so wrong and had no idea how wrong I was until the other side of winning Best Ranger Competition, there was something missing inside of me. I knew that something was missing inside of me, and I thought having your name on the trophy that says you won the Best Ranger Competition will fill that thing that’s missing inside.
What I learned is even accomplishing that will not fill that void. That void is a God-shaped hole and only pursuing him can fill it. Money, power, prestige, fame, the super bowl ring will ultimately let you down.
I can speak to that personally; it will not fill that God-shaped void that’s inside every human heart because it didn’t fill it in mind.
- How does someone get to redemption when they feel so broken on the inside? There is ultimately a group of men out here who feel like what they’ve done or how they’ve approached life, or the things that are in their life just aren’t the type things that can be redeemed.
It is only through brokenness that you will ultimately get to wholeness. This is just the way that the world works today. We are all impacted by this sin-infested world that we live in. God shames the strong by choosing the weak. God pours into the people that are humble and He exalts them. But the people that feel like they’ve got it all together, the ones that are really exalting themselves, God humbles.
I say this to you because I was a child that had this overwhelming, paralyzing fear of dying for many years. It started back as far as I can remember and was a nightly occurrence that I would wake up and totally terrified about eternity. I knew I was going to die and I didn’t know what happens to you next. At 13 years old, for the first time in my life, somebody explained to me who Jesus was and what he did for me. And at 13 years old, I knelt by the side of my bed and I asked Him to forgive my sins and to redeem me. I also asked him to take away this terrifying fear of dying, and I really felt that God just worked a miracle overnight.
I believe that everybody who comes to faith in Christ, it happens a little bit different, and I don’t want people to expect to have the same story that I have. At 13 years old, God took away this fear of dying, and I really never struggled with it again, literally never thought about it again.
Until on the city streets of Mogadishu, and then I was absolutely convinced that I was going to die. The reason I’m pointing this out is because I was so broken as a child that when God put me back together, now I’m strong in ways that the guys that worked with me hadn’t been put back together. When they’re going on to that battlefield, not knowing where they’re going to spend eternity, they are totally terrified, and I think rightly so. I’m going out in the same battlefield, absolutely convinced, like them, that I’m going to die, but I have this sense of peace that I can’t take credit for.
I believe that God makes us strong in the broken areas. I think you break a bone, and when they set it and it’s fully healed, it is stronger where it was broken early than in the other parts of the bone. I think when God redeems a man, he makes us strong in those broken areas, but I would also say there’s no shortcut to this. You can’t come to Jesus on your own thinking that you’re good enough, you’re holy enough, that you’re pure enough to earn your way into heaven. You have to come to him, a broken man, realizing I have nothing to offer you but sin and struggles and mistakes and failures. But God, if you’ll take them, I’ll give those to you in exchange for your righteousness, your forgiveness, your promise of eternal life.
I think God believes ‘Now this is a guy I can work with!’ The guy who believes he’s pretty good, thinks he’s going to get into heaven on his own… ‘Psh… can’t do anything for you, man.’ When you get to the point that you realize just how broken you are…now we can work with each other.