Why would someone devote their entire life to promoting the name of Christ and dying to themselves? Wouldn’t it be more fun to divulge in every desire of the flesh? If there’s so much suffering in the world and God is God, then why isn’t He doing anything about it? How can you be certain?
Whew. So many questions to answer in so little time.
So, I grew up in the church, had some serious identity issues due to being back-braced, having Scoliosis, being a nerd, and not being as athletic/studly/awesome as I thought my friends were. Everyone finds their identity in SOMETHING, though, so what did I find mine in at the time? I found it in being the church-boy–the “Jesus Freak”. I plastered a bumper-sticker on my truck that said, “On Fire for Christ” and a license-plate that says, “got Jesus?”, was involved in every leadership-team imaginable, and even taught on a handful of occasions at youth-group and youth-conferences. None of this was necessarily bad. I was learning a ton about Jesus, how to lead and teach, and about people in general. I discovered sin-patterns in the world around me, general apathy toward the Gospel, and a strange desire within American culture (and perhaps even around the world) to discount, disprove, and deny the relevance of Christ.
This led me to reading books like “The Case for Faith” and “The Case for Christ”–books written by an atheist-turned-Christian that rocked my world with eye-opening facts about the reality of Christ’s existence. However, for every great book about Jesus’ life, there is some blog, book, or article written by someone that can find some element of fault, so that was disheartening. Intellectually, I was confused. But being a the church-kid I was, I fought for the faith the best I could, getting into heated Facebook debates (if you’re a Christian and have Facebook, you’ve probably done this, too), which, I discovered, was NOT the way to win people to Jesus. Like most fights, it left both parties disgruntled, and resulted in my tone being anything but gentle and “Christ-like”.
So, did I believe in Jesus in junior-high/high-school? I would say, “Yes.” However, that faith was very immature–very young, undeveloped, and based on premises that I would disagree with today. I came to faith because I was afraid of Hell and the wrath of God, not because of His love, mercy, grace, and a knowledge of my adoption into His family. Fear is a great motivator, but grace a greater one. Fear causes decisions made out of panic, not reasoning or relationship–when adversity strikes, or sinful desire rears its’ ugly head, your “decision” based on fear is likely to crumble. Grace, on the other hand, is patient, reasonable, and leaves room for long-term character change that has the potential to last. Decisions made upon the firm foundation of grace will last far beyond those made upon fear. I believe that Jesus did not come to scare us, but to awaken us–grace is understood by awakened hearts.
Then came K-State. College provides everyone with the opportunity to redefine themselves. Some use it as an opportunity to make an entirely new identity–church-kids become party-crazed, trashy girls become classy, and classy girls become trashy–people you never talked to before in your life suddenly want to be friends with you, and people you’ve always talked to, suddenly don’t talk to you anymore. It’s a WEIRD transition. I didn’t change all that much, other than becoming far more extroverted. The one other thing that did change was my church-attendance. I just stopped going.
As I “left the church”, obviously my faith declined, and I became spiritually “absent”. I had to find a new identity, so I tried to find it in girls. I “dated” (without really dating) one or two, played games with the hearts of one or two others, because I liked the feeling and idea that someone else liked me. Guys, it sucked. It was so disappointing. They were never “pretty enough”, or “loving enough”, or “encouraging enough”–they were never enough–it was an entirely empty well, yet I stubbornly continued to attempt to drink from it. I hated myself, because I knew it was all wrong.
Thankfully, I was still involved in campus-ministries at the time and I still had older, Christian men pouring into my life. They had so much wisdom and discipline when it came to their relationships with Christ and I envied that. What I really admired and envied, though, was their hope. I had none. Absent from Christ, there is no hope. I started ask myself questions like, “What is the purpose of existence, without Christ?” and I came to the conclusion that there was none.
SO, WHY JESUS?
There is hope in Christ. Despite my lukewarm, on-and-off faith, Jesus still loved me, and still wanted me to come home. So I did. I went home. I returned to The Church. A side-effect of hope is joy. I was filled with life again, as the Spirit finally had the necessary grip on my heart, as I no longer resisted convictions’ pull/nudge in the right direction.
I’ve invested summers of my life in internships, discipleship-training-programs, and conferences on missions, and all of that was very good, but none of it compares to the countless prayers I’ve seen Jesus answer–the thousands of times His grace has been extended to me when I didn’t deserve a lick of it. I’ve studied the Bible and Christian books more than most young men my age, but those benefits/rewards pale in comparison to recognizing that I’m one of God’s children, not just some subject of His wrath, if I do not believe/surrender to Him.
I’m still a work in progress. I still resist conviction sometimes. I still rebel occasionally. And I still attempt to override His leading with my own. The difference between now and then, is that I wrestle with God–I have a real relationship with Him–I know that He loves me and will never leave, nor forsake me, and I know that because of His great love for me, He will never let me win a fight (when wrestling with Him), if it is not for my benefit. His patience with me is astounding and only causes me to love Him all the more.
Christ bridged the gap for me. There’s no dam (or wall in my heart) His love cannot overcome, no ocean He cannot cross, and no valley too low or dark for Him to reach down into and pluck me out from its’ grasp. My heart and yours is and was worth saving. Jesus believed that when He died on the cross and rose again for us. Do you?
I find it better to ask, “Why not?” Your reasoning will be comfort–desire to remain in sin and remain unchallenged–you will not want to be called to anything higher. But, are you content with what you’re chasing instead of Christ? You can feign contentment all you like, but I personally believe that you will never be entirely content, without the love of Christ. There is a God-sized hole in your heart that only He can fill. You can attempt to plug up the hole with whatever you wish, as often as you like, for as long as you want (you have free will, do you not?), but you will always need more–something new—something else–until you surrender to Jesus.