For years I had been “Following Jesus”. What does that mean? Many people today claim to be Christians but they don’t really follow Jesus. I know what that looks and feels like; I was one of those people for many many years.
Recently, I heard someone on the radio say, “If all of the evidence of your life was gathered, would there be enough evidence to prove you are a Christian.”
If you read my blog post titled “The No-Plan Plan, Part 1 and The God Plan, Part 2” you can see my salvation story. I accepted Christ when I was twelve years old. I was soon baptized and later became a member of our church. Shortly after that, I came into my teenage years. Many of you that are grown know the rebellion and the heart ache that comes along with being a teenager. I was no different and spent a lot of my life following my own heart.
We are often told to follow our heart and follow our dreams but if we are followers of Christ that is sometimes very far from the truth of Living for Christ. Let me explain by sharing a bit of my life with you.
These two verses could summarize a lot of my life, denying my Lord and being afraid He would look me eye while doing it.
Luke 22:34 But Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows three times tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
Luke 22:61 At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered at that the Lord had said, “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
I began doing many things that I am not proud of. I was hanging out with a crowd of really great people but when I was with them I often did things that deep down inside felt wrong. The reality is that I never felt peer pressured to do those things because they were things that I did out of my own sinful nature and my own personal desires. It was even to the point that I was sometimes putting myself in real danger.
I went through my high school and college years continuing to live on my own path. After five years of college and a double major in Early Childhood and Elementary Education I was sure that I would have no trouble finding a job.
I spent one year as a substitute teacher in my hometown. With no prospects for employment I decided to move to a bigger city and seek employment there. After several really promising interviews, I ended up subbing again. When subbing wasn't paying the bills, I had to seek full time employment completely out of my field. Sound familiar to anyone?
All this time I was trying to figure my life out on my own. I am a very independent person and thought that if any trouble arose; I could figure it out no matter the situation. I did what I wanted to do with no real strings attached or so I falsely believed.
I ended up moving 5000 miles away to a beautiful island called Oahu. Completely clueless what life would bring me, I thought that I was moving for a job but in reality I was moving away from my life. I thought that I would find a perfect life if I got far away from my real life. With two suitcases, a one way ticket, a hotel reservation, and a job, I left for the beautiful city of Waikiki.
At first glance, everything seemed like a real paradise. The ocean, the palm trees, 5000 miles away from reality…
The problem with always trying to seek happiness in the things of this world is there are so many disappointments along the way. I had made many poor choices in my move there. Not necessarily in the move itself, but in the choice to move with someone. We were both moving out the convenience of running away from reality and that turned into a lot of hate between the two of us.
Here was the thing. I had lived my life up to that point doing everything that I wanted to do. I would call myself a Christian but my life showed nearly zero evidence of a real faith in Christ. My disastrous decisions and being in “paradise” weren't enough to cover up that lie that I continued to tell myself.
You know the lie. It is the same one that we are constantly being feed. If we follow our heart and our dreams, if we are happy, then we are making the right choices and everything will work out for good. I don’t want to disappoint anyone but that lie has real consequences.
This is how the devil works. He will fill your head full of lies; he will promise you the world and even give it to you. There is just one catch. You have to follow him and live life for yourself, which really means for him.
The problem is he cannot promise to ease your mind or the trap you may find yourself in. In fact, after all of the lies he will begin to cover you in the dirt you dug out of your own pit. He will tell you how awful you are and how this is all you will ever deserve.
For some of you who may not understand what that statement means, let me be real frank with you. You have two choices in life. You can go on the path that Christ has planned for you or you can go on your own path and live for yourself. You can be a slave to the devil and his work. The latter was the path that I was choosing.
I was choosing my own desires and it led to so many feelings of guilt, shame, resentment, fear, and worthlessness. In the process, I was denying my Lord.
The thought that I lived with for years was this, if I keep going on my path, never look over my shoulder (literally), I will never really face the Lord and all the offenses I had and was committing against Him. I knew that He was there watching over me which made the things I was doing feel so much worse. I gave Him a front row seat to my own selfishness. I honestly thought to myself, if I keep going straight ahead and never look back, I will never have to face my sin. I was in absolute denial for a very long time.
If this sounds confusing, answer this question. Have you ever done something, possibly pretty bad, to someone that you really love? The last thing you may want to do is see that person, talk to that person, or maybe even face that person. You know the moment you see them there will be some hard feelings or possibly even a serious consequence to what you have done. So you avoid them, at all cost.
This was me, and as I stood before my Lord it was easier not to face Him or look Him in the eye. What I was really avoiding was not facing all my shame and sin. My life was standing before me and it was in serious turbulence. When I left my Hawaiian paradise, I felt inside that I was at the pit of my life and I was ready to escape it.
I started packing my heavy baggage. In went the guilt, shame, resentment, fear, and worthlessness, covered in a facade of living a great life. The only thing left to do was head for home. Over the next several years my Lord, who would never leave me or forsake me, began to pour out His grace and mercy. He had much bigger plans for me.
Please come back for the rest of the story on Thursday. My great Lord had many blessings waiting for me and He has them for you, too. If you are carrying any extra baggage, pack it up, come back and see how we can unpack it and live for the hope of a brighter tomorrow.