They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
~Romans 1:29-32 NIV~
I’m seeing a lot of posts and comments that bash Christians for living a life based on what is in the Bible. Just to clarify, being a Christian means that we are to live our lives based on the principles set forth in the Bible. So that means that we take the Bible very seriously and we try to live as God wants us to live. In the same way that not being a Christian can mean to disregard what is in the Bible and do things your own way or if you follow another religion, to follow its precepts. So, if it is okay for people to choose to live a life that doesn’t take anything that is in the Bible to heart, then it should also be okay for Christians to live their lives according to Biblical standards and not be treated as though what we are doing is somehow wrong.
“My troubled thoughts prompt me to answer because I am greatly disturbed. I hear a rebuke that dishonors me, and my understanding inspires me to reply,”
~Job 20:2-3 NIV~
Part of following the Bible is to do what it says. The Bible states that Christians are to teach God’s word to whoever will hear it. If you don’t want to hear it, we move on. But, even if only based on our status as Americans, we have as much right to speak on God’s behalf as you do to speak on behalf of whatever it is that you believe. Christians have as much right to their beliefs as anyone else and if you hate Christians, then you cannot possibly have a complete understanding of Christianity. You are basing your judgments against Christianity on the worst examples of Christian life and not on the true intent of a relationship with Christ.
A relationship with Christ frees us from the bondage of sin, but there are many who would choose that bondage and all the misery that it brings in order to avoid being obedient to the One who created them. There are many who choose to continue on a sin-filled path because right now, it is fun or provides satisfaction on a superficial level and they believe (falsely) that they are in control.
I became a Christian when I was fifteen years old. At that point in time, I really didn’t know what I was agreeing to. I had no idea what it meant to follow Jesus and so when the storms came, I was washed away from it all and decided that I could do better without Him. He hadn’t done anything special for me, so why did I need Him? I spent the rest of my adolescence in a depression; moving forward in no particular direction. And my way led me down a path of destruction. At 22, I moved away from home and I began to drink heavily and spent too much time in the company of others who did the same. I made the choice to do so more out of anger and boredom than out of a desire to have fun and party. During that same year, I was raped by a long-time friend who took advantage of the fact that I had too much to drink one night and had blacked out. Physically, I could have died that night from the amount of alcohol that was in my system, but instead, I died spiritually. I lost hope and my alcoholism spiraled out of control. I spent the next few years in a cycle of drinking and promiscuity that I believed was giving me back the control I’d lost as a result of that attack.
Slowly, but surely, I stumbled down that path and finally saw a light at the end of the tunnel. But I fixed my hopes on something that wasn’t God and again, was disappointed. I got married and had a child. I had a great job. We had just about everything that we could have wanted. But we still weren’t happy. We tried having more children, but I miscarried five times before we finally gave up. I went into a deep depression once again and eventually, my marriage fell apart. Just before I made the decision to divorce my husband, I had started going to church again. It had been over twenty years since I had set foot in God’s house and my sister and even my little girl had been working on me; trying to get me to come and check out a service. My attitude at the time was that all Christians were fake and that they didn’t really care about anyone. They only wanted to condemn those who didn’t show up at church every week and then make those who did feel as though they weren’t good enough to be there. In short, I had a major chip on my shoulder about going back.
But I went back and as I was dealing with the anger and frustration of being separated from my husband, I struggled to stay on the right track. I went for a few months and then stopped going for a few months. I wrestled with God for a while and finally, He brought me to a new place. I attended my first Bible study; it was Beth Moore’s Breaking Free. It was the first time I had ever participated in anything that actually taught me what God’s word meant and it set me free.
When I had attended as a teenager, church had taught me absolutely nothing, except to fear God. After I dropped out, I pretty much let society teach me what it meant to believe in God. So until I returned to church and went through this Bible study, I had thought that being a Christian meant that we took some sort of an oath to act self-righteous and that we were somehow supposed to act like we were better than everyone else once we had been sworn in. This, of course, was not correct. Contrary to popular belief, there is no oath. There is no swearing in. There is no self-righteousness attached to being a true Jesus-following Christian. There is, however, complete acceptance and complete forgiveness by God. And when we decide to lay down our idea of what is best for us and begin to listen for God’s leading, we begin to see some big changes in our heart and mind.
We begin to see how the world has been grooming us for destruction and trying desperately to lead us away from God’s grace and redeeming power. We see that the devil is so jealous of God’s children that he works double- and triple-time to trip us up and make us believe lies when we should be believing what God has promised us. He (the devil) spends all of his time and energy trying to get us to fall for misrepresentations of God’s truth and because the devil’s version appeals to our innate unwillingness to be obedient to God, we often go along with him for a time. Until one day, we begin to see that he has tricked us into betraying the only One who truly loves us. And we are either convinced that it is time to understand Him or we are so overwhelmed with shame or guilt and feel that we cannot approach Him for any reason. So, we can fall deeper and deeper into sin, unless…when we get to a place where none of what this world has offered us makes sense, we take a bold step off of that path and ask God this question, “Can I come home?”
His answer will always be a resounding, “Yes!” And He will welcome us with open arms. Even though we may still make mistakes once we get there, He will work with us to teach us what is His will and what is just more of the devil’s campaign to sway us from receiving God’s love. Because he rejected God and is forever condemned to hell, he doesn’t want anyone else to live in God’s light. And like a jealous child, he tries to set boundaries to reaching God so that we are convinced that there is no need to try. He does this through hate campaigns and divisiveness. He does this through greed and injustice. He does this through violence and poverty. He does this by convincing us that money or fame is more fulfilling that the love of God. He does this by convincing us that God is the one who won’t let us be happy, when it is actually our own choice whether or not we live a life of bondage or freedom.
This is probably one of the longest posts I’ve written on Leading the Follower, but I really felt the need to try and explain my walk with Him to show you that I’ve been through many dark times when I didn’t trust God and when I was sure I didn’t need Him. I thought that I had it all under control and that those who followed Him were just weak-minded morons who didn’t know how to be happy. I was never more wrong in my life. And I say that today in hopes that you will not look at the Bible as myth or as stories of injustice and self-righteousness that are meant to glorify bigotry or violence. Read out of context, anyone can pick things out of the book that run contrary to God’s message of love and hope. The stories in the Bible are meant to illustrate times when people were out of God’s will and how He dealt with them through those times. There is a great deal of history that we aren’t taught in our mainstream education that would shed light on the various covenants that were made between God and His people. And until we truly understand the covenants and how much patience and love and mercy have been demonstrated by our Creator since the beginning of time, we cannot understand how He works in our lives. Being a Christian doesn’t erase all hardship, it just makes it easier to understand how it builds our character and brings us to a place of peace and Divine reward if we just trust that God has our best in mind. He won’t do all things the way we want Him to, because He has the plan for our lives and He really does know what is best for us. He is not surprised that we don’t agree with Him, but He wants us to trust Him and love Him anyway. The same way that all of these groups of people on earth who are fighting with each other want us to trust them and love them in spite of what we don’t understand about them. Funny, it’s all pretty much the same concept…only the focus is different. We must fix our eyes on Jesus and let Him lead us to absolute love and mercy. He is the only way to get there and He’s waiting for us to join Him.
And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
~Romans 13:11-12 NIV~