I grew up believing in God. I can’t ever remember a time when He wasn’t in my life to save, love, comfort, guide, teach, convict or correct me. He has rescued me and healed me, been my Restorer and Redeemer.
I don’t remember the first time I asked Jesus to come into my heart (I was a small child), but there were many additional times along the way when I asked Him. I used to pray for Him to come into my heart almost daily, asking Him to forgive all my sins. I believed in Him without question, though my wayward heart took priority over Him many times. He was present in my life and I knew it, but I was always afraid that my sins might make me miss my salvation. I had it backwards. Obedience to God is what should follow my salvation, not what guarantees it.
Salvation belongs to the Lord and He is the One who saves. He paid the debt of sin that I owe, all of it, when He gave His life on the cross. He is my righteousness. Nothing I will ever do can earn me a better standing in God’s eyes. I literally have nothing to add to my salvation.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8, 9
There are innumerable Christianity commentaries/ideas readily available to access through Youtube, blogs, radio sermons, and even Christian songs which can powerfully advance different Christianity perspectives. Notice I did not say ‘Christian’ perspectives. I have noticed that our American Christianity, way too much of the time, reflects the opinions, agendas, personalities, and interpretations belonging to other people in the church. We seem to follow one another. This is dangerous as some even try to alter the Word of God in order to justify the cultural norms. This breeds confusion if we look to others to validate our relationship with God.
I have recently learned a lot about certain passages of Scripture that I never understood before. Though somewhat jarring, this is not a bad thing if it makes me cling to the Word of God and study it more closely. These sorts of shake-ups are beneficial in their effectiveness to strip away pre-conceived, man-made notions that are more cultural in nature than Biblical.
Sometimes the popular songs and books that are widely popular really are not all that Biblical. The words might seem nice and pleasant and even have our favorite memory verses woven in to appear solidly faith-based. But we can get used to looking at Christianity through a certain comfortable lens and not even notice the ideas and thoughts that are self-seeking and that do not line up with Scripture.
When there are popular messages of encouragement leading us down a path that cause us to focus primarily on this earthly life or our own gain we should pause and look further on down that path to see where it is leading us. Is there daily surrender and true discipleship down that path? Or are we looking for more than the cross to save us, looking to add some of our own righteousness to secure our right-standing with God? Or maybe we can feel really good about a message that justifies, in some beautifully sounding way, our own will for our lives. If we ourselves are the front and center priority in the answer to these questions we may need to examine the words in these messages and see if they line up with the overwhelmingly clear call for believers to die to self.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who 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 Then Jesus told His disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24
If God’s Word isn’t instructing us as our primary source of spiritual food (Matthew 4:4) it is all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of the teachings, books, podcasts and song lyrics suggesting that God is here to accessorize our best life and make our dreams come true. The reality is that our purpose is to worship and glorify Him, testifying to others of His salvation. He indeed has good things in store for us, but we don’t get to tell Him what those things look like or whether or not we’ll see them this side of eternity. I was moved by this quote by Elizabeth Elliot who knows about loss and suffering for the cause of Christ in a profound way.
"To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss. The great symbol of Christianity means sacrifice and no one who calls himself a Christian can evade this stark fact."
I have had wonderful pastors, teachers, and parents – all true servants of God. They provided a solid foundation as they taught me the Scriptures. Still, my faith is my faith. It is between me and God. I am learning a lot as I seek continually to know the truth of God’s Word. In our time in history there are no shortages of assertions regarding spiritual things. I have let doubt and fear creep into my heart at times when I listen to what others have to say more than what God’s Word says. I dare not neglect His Word! Those same childhood fears of whether or not my salvation is secure can still haunt me if I take my eyes off of Him and start listening more to the ideas that are out there than to His voice as I study the Word of God.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3
For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
God does not want us to be confused. When there are so many different ‘takes’ on the Christian life in this modern day, the only voice we need to hear is His. My Bible is my lifeline! Truly! Answers to my anxious questions don’t always fly off the pages, but then I keep praying and seeking Him. Sometimes I think that it’s best that we don’t know all the answers. It keeps us more dependent on His day to day, moment by moment sustenance.
For God is not a God of confusion but of peace... I Corinthians 14:33
My relationship with God is personal. It is not subject to someone else’s opinion. I think of the song In The Garden where it says “And He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own…” That’s the God that I’ve known and He never changes. I’ve looked at some things I’ve written throughout different times in my life in the margins of old Bibles and journals and I am reminded that yes, I do know Him. I have seen His hand move over and over again. Even to the smallest detail sometimes. May I never forget all the many personal ways He’s led and healed and provided in my life.
We need to ALWAYS keep our priority and worship about Him.
Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:12, 13