‘Fear and Failure’ or ‘Grace and Greatness’
This article is based on Mat Kratiuk’s presentation at the 2017 MCF Forgiven Seminar and is also published in the Nov 2017 edition of Crossfire magazine. To gain a copy of the magazine please digitally access it here or contact the MCF Office to request physical copies.
As a boy I began to rebel extremely. I was expelled from two schools and started flirting with drugs and alcohol. For twenty years I would continue to get deeper into the underworld; all fuelled by my ego. To set the scene, I had everything; dream cars, women, power, I had a seventy thousand dollar shoe collection, I wore a hundred thousand dollars worth of gold around my neck. I could have whatever I wanted when I wanted it. The more that I had, the more I wanted. It was never ever enough and I was never satisfied. I was in and out of gaol over the years. I always had a gun on me 24/7. When I joined one of the most notorious clubs in the country, in the world for that matter, it just furthered my ego. I was completely out of control.
Then out of the blue my father died; I hadn’t spoken to him for years. I’d pushed him completely out of my life and it brought on real guilt. I’d become this angry, remorseless, sociopathic man and then suddenly guilt set in for the first time in a long time. That guilt would unravel me.
I started to self-destruct to the point that I was trying to kill myself with drugs. My own club were scratching their heads about what to do with me, I was so out of control. One day I walked into my own club and I didn’t make it out – I woke up in intensive care.
I woke up with nothing and no-one, a broken man. I’d gone from having power, and resources all around the world, to having nothing but what was on me. I was broken mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually in every single way.
For the first time in my life I asked the most fundamental and profound question of all – Who am I? …Who am I now? Who am I when the title is gone, when the power is gone, when my house and car are gone?
There I was a broken man with nothing and no one left, and so the search began. At the time I was certain my days were numbered. I actually escaped from Intensive Care, broken bones and all; left everything behind, got on a plane and fled to Sydney.
I was heartbroken and physically broken and I was smoking ice every day to not have to deal with my reality. My bones were literally crumbling and wouldn’t be fixed until a couple of years later. I was existing hour to hour, doing crime to support my drug habit and that was it. Alone in a flat in Western Sydney, I had decided “this is it”. I had this gun that I was using for crime and thought I’m out of here. So I wrote my Mum and brother a letter. I put the gun to my head and clocked it back. Just a millimetre of pressure and I was gone. I held it fast to my head in anticipation. As I closed my eyes in that moment I saw my Mum and my little brother’s face. I hadn’t seen them in so long. I’d pushed them completely out.
I put the gun down and I realised for the first time in my life I needed help. So I punched ‘rehab’ into google and the Dooralong Transformation Centre came up, a centre run by the Salvation Army. Three months later I got in there.
The most profound moment of my life (other than giving my heart to Jesus) took place 6 weeks into this program. I was an extremely violent, extremely angry, extremely broken man who’d lived his whole life like that and at this point in the program I was on the phone to my ex-partner and it was a very toxic relationship, horrible stuff – yelling at each other about hating each other and this 5”3’ lady that I’d never met before walks out of the chapel (I was the furthest thing from a Christian at that point). She walks up cool as a cucumber and says “Excuse me, Mathew is it, you need to come into the chapel it’s about to start.” In a much less polite way I told her to “rack off I’m on the phone”. She didn’t even flinch. She says “Righto” and walks back into the chapel.
I’d finished the phone call and sat down at the table. I was still fuming over the conversation, swearing away. And this guy hesitantly comes up to me to let me know, “Hey Matty, You know who that was?” No who was it?! “Mate, that’s the boss’s wife.”
No way, what have I done? I’ve done this before, I know how this works. When you stuff up the world persecutes you. As we speak, this lady is no doubt calling security and I’m going to end up off the program.
I was not prepared to go back to that world, I’d just made it in. There was nowhere for me to go, I’d pushed everyone away. I’d decided, unbeknownst to this lady, that when I got off the bus I’d go and hang myself on the nearest tree. What she did next changed my life – she walked out of the chapel again, came up to me and said “Matty Can you stand up please?”
I stood up next to this small lady and thought righto here we go I know what’s coming next.
And then she said “Mate, can I give you a hug?”
“Can I give you a hug?”
What for? What do you want to hug me for?
“Because I love you mate.”
I took a step back.
“Can I give you a hug?”
Uhh I guess so.
I didn’t know what to do. She said, “Come here mate, come here.” She put her arms around me and said, “it’s going to be alright” and then she put her hands on my head and she started to pray for me. No one had ever prayed for me before. Something happened to me and I exploded – twenty years of tears came out that day. As I cried I realised I hadn’t even cried at my father’s funeral.
That’s what fear looks like.
Now I want us to see what grace looks like.
My fiancé Kimmy is my best friend. We didn’t talk for 13 years and in 2018 we’re getting married. She’s another amazing example of my restoration story. That God would bring my best friend back, who would also become a Christian. Whilst we were both gone we would both come back as Christians.
The point of talking about Kimmy is to explain something clearly. I love her, I love her very much, in fact I’m in love with her. I’m in love with her because she’s compassionate, she’s understanding, she’s forgiving, she’s non-judgemental; all these amazing qualities, qualities like Jesus.
I would not be in love with her if she lacked forgiveness or if she was judgemental. Why would I be in love with that?
Why would that be any different with God? Why would I love a God whom I was afraid of? I wouldn’t. Maybe I’d worship him and look up to him – but love him? I wouldn’t be in love with him. I couldn’t. I’m passionate about this because I get the privilege of travelling all over the world sharing the gospel and I witness in so many churches, Christians who haven’t figured out that they don’t love God yet but that they are still afraid of him. Receiving God’s grace is a choice you need to make, but you need to be in love with Jesus.
Self-condemnation: “I’ve stuffed up again”, “God’s angry at me” – that is not of God. I do not subscribe to any fearful pressure to becoming a Christian or to follow the rules. What I do subscribe to is that falling in love with Jesus will change us and bring about change.
The devil knows that your fear will hold you back from your calling, from your purpose, from your true relationship with Jesus. That’s why he is in your ear telling you you’re not good enough, you stuffed up again, he’s angry at you.
Your sin has already been paid for and to suggest that it hasn’t is to suggest that what Jesus did on the cross was not good enough. As faithful Christians, for us to not accept the grace of God is to say that what Jesus did on the cross is not good enough. This is a life changing truth.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love.
1 John 4:18 NLT
Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying of the hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind [self-control].
2 Timothy 1:6-7 NKJV
You will never step into the greatness for your life until you receive God’s grace completely.
For if by one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ.
– Romans 5:17 NKJ
I receive his grace on a daily basis. Someone might say to me “so what you’re saying Mat is you can go out and sin and you’ve got a sin free card?” – no you’re not getting it. You’re making it about what I do and not about who I am. When you fall in love with Jesus it ceases to be about what you do and the boxes you tick and it becomes about who you are and who you are naturally comes out in what you do.
If all the Christians on the earth fell in love with Jesus! Think about how a handful of men spread that message to the known world. Imagine what a third of the planet could do. They fell in love Jesus, they accepted that they were misfits, that they were tax collectors, that they were murderers, they accepted that they’d stuffed up, but they fell in love with him that much, they understood the grace of God that much that it didn’t matter. Think of Paul who called himself the greatest sinner, even sitting in prison waiting to die, all he could think about was telling people about Jesus.
You can do your daily walk out of fear or you can do it out of gratitude. There’s no in-between. To not receive his grace does not bring him glory, because of the price he paid. You will make mistakes, but when you fall in love with him down the track you will look back at what has changed since I got that! Look what God has done.
One of my favourite sayings is, “Grace will take you places where hustling cannot” (for context I actually have hustler written on my throat). My life is such a blessed example of that. I don’t take it for granted; why would I? Why would I want to do something wrong by someone I’m in love with? That’s the point. I wouldn’t, because I’m so in love with them. When they ask me to do something a lot of the time I may not want to do it but I do it because I love them so much. That is what will change your life.
My life changed after the encounter with the lady who loved me back to life, through a selfless act of love. Where the whole world would say, “tell him to rack off”, she was so in love with Jesus she didn’t even flinch and just said I’m going to love on this guy. That’s the only thing that’s going to work. Through that act of love something happened to me. I started to change.
It was around that time I’d been working with my counsellor. He was helping lead me through my anger – literally the closest people to me had tried to kill me and he was telling me, “You’ve got to forgive them, you need to pray for them.” Eventually I did start praying for them and I got released from my anger. Amazingly those involved are all actually my friends today. These are people who I have been intimately able to pray for and minister to. Something had started to shift.
One day I thought that I’d pop my head in for this Bible study that was on. I sat right at the back and the leader had said something along the lines of, “If you receive Jesus as your Lord and Saviour all your sins past, present and future are forgiven based on Jesus and nothing else.” I stood up and was like, “whoa! Wait a sec, so you’re saying if I receive Jesus as my Lord and Saviour I can leave rehab and go have a bit of fun and it doesn’t matter what I do? Everything I have ever done or will do that it’s all forgiven?” He paused and said, “Yep.”
I was excited about this and I was stopping people on my way back to my cabin letting them know what I’d just found out – thinking I’m going get up to all sorts of things. I got back and sat on my bed and I started thinking about all the stuff that I’d done. Wow! And I thought to myself the God who created the things that I love – my mum and my brother – that same God that created me has forgiven me for all of that stuff.
I realised for my whole life I’d done my daily walk out of a place of fear. That was the day I really started to understand the grace of God and the next day I woke up as a 33 year old man and for the first time in my life, I did my daily walk out of a place of gratitude, head lifted up.
Thank you Lord that I’m a work in progress. Thank you Lord that I’m forgiven.
The freedom in that is life changing – nothing compares.
Grace is where it’s at. It’s to change your life. It’s in the gospel and it’s in me.