Riding my bike through a busy parking lot next to the beach, an old Volkswagen van caught my eye. It was covered in stickers from bumper to bumper, roof to tires. Easing to a stop, I pulled my phone out in hopes of snapping a photo when I noticed the van’s owner rummaging in the front seat. His long blonde hair and deep tan told me he was a fixture at the beach and had probably surfed his fair share of waves. Not wanting to seem rude, I approached him to ask permission before taking the picture. He was happy to oblige and eager to show me his favorite sticker on the van that read: “Why Worry? God’s in Control.”
What followed was a 20-minute conversation about our mutual faith in Jesus. It was an unexpected “God Moment” in the middle of a Newport Beach parking lot.
The van owner enthusiastically told my husband and me the story of God’s redemptive hand in his life. As a young man, he’d embraced a carefree lifestyle with no plan, purpose or direction. He’d spent his days surfing and his nights partying and carousing with different women. What had started out as fun soon enslaved him, leading to 35 years of drug and alcohol addiction. He described a life of hopelessness, living in the shadows and alleys, unable to hold a job or make meaningful relationships. But it all changed when he found God.
Now, 17 years sober, he lives and works in a rehab center, sharing the good news of Jesus and helping others make the journey from the darkness of addiction to the light of freedom. He exudes God’s love and proudly refers to himself by the nickname he’s been given around town “The Jesus Surfer.” Although he still lives in the same community, his purpose and identity have changed as a result of his encounter with the living God.
I thought about the Jesus Surfer and his dramatic transformation as I read Priscilla Shirer’s definition of righteousness this week: “Righteousness is upright living that aligns with the expectations of God.” She explains that those who follow Jesus should affirm God’s standard and then align their behavior with it. Choosing righteousness means rejecting deeds done in darkness and embracing the light of God’s truth. Although Paul doesn’t mention the breastplate of righteousness until chapter 6 of Ephesians, he gives a clear description of what a righteous life should reject and embrace in an earlier chapter:
“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving…. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them…
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:3-4, 8-11, 15-20, NIV)
Paul admonishes us to “make the most of every opportunity” and to “understand what the Lord’s will is” and “what pleases God.” Once the Jesus Surfer moved from darkness to light, he made it his goal to share Christ–whether he was sitting on his surfboard waiting for the next wave or leading a group at the rehab center. He even made the most of meeting perfect strangers (my husband and me) to share his love for God and his story of transformation. He pores over God’s Word and applies the truth he’s learning at church. He was eager to tell us about the latest sermon he’d heard and how it was impacting him. His enthusiasm couldn’t be contained, making his delivery disarming and winsome.
Although some of our stories may not be as dramatic as the Jesus Surfer’s, anyone who has accepted Christ has moved from darkness to light. With that transformation comes the mandate to pursue righteousness and reject sinfulness. Our location doesn’t have to change, but our perspective does. As you look at Paul’s lists, is there anything you need to leave behind? Anything you want to pursue more fully? Will you pray and ask for opportunities to bring light into the lives of people you know? Invite the Holy Spirit to help you live righteously and to pursue a deeper understanding of God’s will.
If you’d like to see and hear The Jesus Surfer for yourself, click on the link to view a brief news story that was done on him a few years ago. Let his life transformation inspire you toward living the righteous life God calls us to in His Word.
Priscilla Shirer, The Armor of God, Lifeway Press, 2015.