“Pain was a great motivator, and I never wanted to hurt that way again.” – Marcelo Unterbug
“I used to feel a deep sense of guilt and shame whenever I walked into a church,” said Marcelo Unterbug. “I felt like I just didn’t belong – like everyone was better than me. I wasn’t brought up with knowledge of the Lord. I stumbled into church a time or two with my brother when we were children, but had no idea what a real relationship with the Lord was.”
“I smoked my first joint when I was seven years old and moved on to stealing, smoking and other drugs through the age of 13. I took a break from drug use in high school, not because I was virtuous or trusted in the Lord but because my friends did not do drugs. So, as a people-pleaser and to fit in, I participated in sports, drank and had inappropriate relationships with girls. Having fun was my motto!
“During college, the door opened to drug use again. I tried cocaine for the first time, and over the next six years, I became a full-blown addict. I suffered every imaginable consequence that comes from addiction: no God, shattered relationships with my family and friends, lost jobs and opportunities, legal and financial consequences, suicide attempts and addiction to pornography. I went through six different treatment centers and passed in and out of many emergency rooms.
“My father did the best he could to help me. But he was an atheist and was unable to teach me about humility, godly character and the ways of the Lord. Not knowing how to truly equip me, he ‘loved’ and enabled me almost to the grave.
“I don’t know why, but February 19, 2003 was the day I finally surrendered. Pain was a great motivator, and I never wanted to hurt that way again. I cried out to the Lord, ‘Where are you? Save me!’ It is true that God is ‘close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit.’ I did not have to work or earn my salvation that day (or any other). God’s free gift of grace was available to me in Jesus.
“As James 1:21-25 makes clear, I needed God’s help to become a ‘doer of God’s Word’, and not a hearer only. After trusting in Christ, God gave me a clear understanding of the man staring back at me in the mirror. I was selfish, addicted and overly concerned with the opinion of man rather than what God thought of me. I was in denial about who I was and the harm I had done to others and myself. But by God’s grace, I was broken – finally aware of how much I needed a Savior.
“I was five years sober when I came to re:generation, Watermark’s biblical recovery ministry. I was used to telling my story to others in recovery meetings. But this was the first time I was open about my story in a Christian setting. I learned that God wasn’t afraid of my sin, but wanted to redeem the past by bringing my whole life to Him (Romans 12:1). So I plugged in at Watermark and got into com- munity with others. I found hope in Christ, and the church began to feel like a hospital for sinners rather than a museum for saints.
“Since then God has done a lot of work in my life. I used to find it necessary to take advantage of people. I was ‘that guy’ – the one who would take whatever someone was willing to give, especially when it came to women. If you said that change was possible in this area, I wouldn’t have believed you. But God taught me how to be a man who strives to treat others with love (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).
“All my life, I tried in vain to fill the void in my heart with women, drugs and others people’s opinion of me. But when the void was filled by the Lord, I was finally satisfied. Now I try to glorify Him in everything I do. He has changed everything…the way I spend money, how I work, the way I handle conflict and where and how I spend my time.
“Do I still fall short at times? Without a doubt! But God has put other men in my life to encourage me and hold me accountable. This new life God has given me is available to everyone – whether you’re a workaholic, a porn-addict, or the person that ‘has it all together’. He saved a wretch like me, and He offers this same hope and help to you.”
“I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13-14)