I always felt different inside.. because I knew about Jesus and I knew in my head what I was doing was wrong— as if knowing set me apart or put me in the right standing with God. I was lying to myself. Everything I was doing or involved in were the same things as those around me; and mind you, I was not hanging with the church crowd. I wasn’t any different. I was just as sinful as the girl next to me in the club. I was lying to myself because I knew— I didn’t belong there, and when I say there, I’m not only talking about a club, I’m talking about a lifestyle. By being in that crowd, doing all the exciting sinful things, living a vile life— I was the same as the world. I was the very person I judged in my head. My actions defined me, not the deceptive thought that ‘because I knew better, I was better’ (regardless of how I behaved). Wow. Not only was I completely and utterly wrong, the Bible actually addresses this lie from the enemy in Luke 12:47-48:
And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more, will be required.
That being said, it’s noteworthy to make sure we are responsible stewards for the knowledge revealed to us because we are being held accountable, regardless of what we choose to do with it. I believe this applies, first, in our own lives and relationship with God Almighty (YHWH) and Jesus Christ (Yeshua), and then to those around us. The most effective way to accomplish this is by modeling our lives after Jesus and being a living example to others. Unfortunately— it’s people like me that give Christianity a bad name. Hypocrites. If you had asked me my beliefs I would have claimed to love Jesus and had been a Christian my entire life.
Jesus said in John 14:21, “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them."
Yeah, newsflash, I never kept God’s commandments in mind, and even when I did the right things, it was only because of social expectations. I mean, I’m not some crazy outlaw. I am mostly civil, and stay out of trouble, now that I am older (lol another post, another day). So that should be good enough, to be considered a good person, right? But by whose standards? The corrupt world? regardless of politics or religion, I GUARANTEE the majority of people I ask these two questions:
- Do you think the world is corrupt?
- Do you believe you’re a good person?
They would answer ‘yes’ to both. Do you see??
So again, I ask... by whose standards? Where is the true validation? Who holds the honest scales? None other than God himself-- The One who creates the standard. Our scales of judgment are warped because of the sinful nature of this world. But, ultimately, it was God who set standards in place at the beginning of the world; And luckily for us, He gave us the bible so we would have a reference for our lives and be able to gauge accordingly along the way.
It seems as though in today's world, the Christian claim is thrown around as if it's as common as a common cold. In 2019, 65% of 18y+ Americans describe or identify themselves as Christians. If we look around us, it's hard to take that number seriously. The USA has gradually pushed God out of our nation in the past decades and is continuing the process today. There are so many verses we could tie into this but for the sake of argument, we will use this one in Matthew 7:13-14:
“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”
Honestly, this verse is quite disturbing if you take a moment and think about it... Only a few will ever find it. I want to address something that has really haunted me ever since I started truly following Jesus. If you didn't know, I grew up in church and as I’ve said before, I always thought that I was saved. Why? Why did I believe I was saved despite none of my values aligning with God, my vile lifestyle, and living for myself? Because I believed a lie. A lie that I think the enemy uses more than any other lie in the church regarding salvation... “If you just repeat a prayer, you will be saved.” I repeated that prayer every time I heard a pastor recite, “repeat these words after me.” I wonder just how many times I have prayed that prayer in my lifetime, ‘the sinner's prayer’.
Here is where many Christians have differing opinions.. But I can tell you first hand why I wholeheartedly believe this IS A LIE and can very easily deceive the masses.
Repeating a prayer is not repentance! Repentance is actively turning in a different direction. Repentance is seeing sin for what it is and deciding to stop. I cannot stress this point enough. True repentance is when we hear the Holy Spirit, feel convicted, see our sin-- how God sees sin, understand we need a savior, stop moving in the direction we were headed, and change our course. True repentance requires change. But see, when you are truly repentant and justified through Jesus, the change starts to happen naturally. You will begin to want to change>>> This actually blew my mind-- I thought I was saved from saying a prayer my entire life but nothing had actually ever changed inside of me. When I heard people say ‘your desires will change’ I literally thought that it was just a byproduct of them being a goodie-two-shoes. I found it so annoying that people would say this in part because I was ignorant to it but also because I didn't want my desires to change. I was still on the other side of the cross. Not wanting to change is another indicator of the deception of thinking one is a ‘Christian’.You see, being born again begins as an inward process that eventually shows on the outside to others. I do not believe it is possible to be a new creature in Christ if nothing changes and that someone stays the same. When we are living for ourselves and making life choices based on what we want and our own desires, we are not living for The Lord God. BUT when I actually surrendered my entire life over to God, my wants and desires legitimately began to change and still are every day. I have begun to see things with a completely different perspective-- one only God can give. Through the Holy Spirit inside of me, I am able to make better choices and my goal is to ultimately love and obey God. This is what we call the sanctification process, which takes our entire lives until we die and are glorified through Christ, with Christ in Heaven. That is a whole different topic that we can go into at a different time. I am just learning about this whole process myself :)
Jumping back to the lie about repentance... Here is one of the verses the Holy Spirit used to wake me from my sleepwalk:
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” Matthew 7:21-23
We aren’t saved by simply believing that God exists. James 2:19 puts it into perspective, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder”.
I had always heard that there is a difference between head knowledge of God and truly accepting Jesus Christ in our hearts. Someone I was close with during childhood is the perfect example for this-- In addition to being an extremely intelligent human, he also attended seminary and even claimed to have memorized most of the bible. But he has never shown any resemblance of being a Christ-follower other than attending church and stating the claim. In fact, if you really knew him, you would think quite the opposite. I was deceived into believing ‘head knowledge’ referred only to people like him that are well versed and educated in and about the bible. Meanwhile, the devil was not only deceiving me into thinking it's only this category of people that statement applied to; I was distracted by putting my focus on someone else, judging and saying that he was the prime example of head vs. heart knowledge instead of looking into my own heart.
Now, back to repentance. Again, repeating a prayer is not repentance. Repentance is not simply repeating a prayer. I know I have repeated this a few times now (no pun intended), but I want to really emphasize the reality of how common and deceptive this lie is. Remember, this is a lie >>> A sly deceptive lie that had me believing I was safely heaven bound when I was not. When we are being deceived we do not know it, otherwise, it wouldn't be deception. It is imperative that we understand the only repetition in repentance is continually actively asking God to forgive us for our sins while simultaneously striving to live more like Jesus every day.
This leads me to the next topic: We cannot earn our way into heaven. So if repeating a prayer doesn't get us there, surely striving to live a life as Jesus did will. Well, in fact, that is a lie too. “I am a good person so I believe I am going to Heaven.” Noone, not one person will get into heaven on the basis of being a good person. Why would God punish good people to eternal damnation? Just remember, ‘for everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard. Yet God, in His grace, freely makes us right in His sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins’ Romans 3:23-24. It’s sad to know that by ourselves, we will never measure up but He did not leave us hanging. Instead, Our God came down so that He, Himself, could hang, on a cross, and be a worthy sacrifice and payment for the world’s sins. God came down to die in order to save you... And me... What God does that? What “power of the universe” is going to take on an earthly life form and be tortured and mutilated to save mere human beings? None. Because there is no other God AND even fictitious gods throughout history can’t even measure up in theory AND they are imaginary. No one, nothing, no idea will ever be able to compete with who He Is.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
That's deep. Those are some of those verses that when I read them, my back stiffens and I stand or sit up straight and feel like I should immediately bow down to God out of respect and awe. He is such a higher being worthy of praise.
The "I will when" lie
I have come to the conclusion that we can deceive ourselves easier than someone else can deceive us, especially when we are listening to the wrong voices; And when I say voices, I'm not speaking of invisible ghosts. it’s as simple as a planted thought from the enemy himself. He loves to distract-- have you put things off. “I’ll change my lifestyle when.. I’ll repent when… I’ll forgive when.. I’ll return to the Lord when.. I’ll settle down and give my life to Christ when.. I’ll do that when.. Just not today.”
Most of the time we don’t even realize when things are being whispered into our thoughts we just automatically agree with them and claim them as our own. But here's the problem with this thought process... We don’t own time. Imagine this: Google calls me out of nowhere for a lifetime opportunity job and wants to meet with me. When I received the call, I was unsure of the number so I was hesitant to answer especially because I was out with some friends and it was bad timing. I listen to the voicemail and realize the opportunity at hand-- Google was literally giving me a dream job, and I had not even submitted an application. This was a once and a lifetime chance, you could even say it was a miracle. I desperately need a job and on top of that, Google is like the best place to have a career!? However, I decide to hold off on calling them back... But why? Well, there are many reasons why... Fear, doubt, Uncertainty, moving across the country, losing friends, unfamiliar territory, leaving family members behind, change of schedule and daily routines, accountability and responsibility, and so on. Who knows how much I would have to ‘give up’? I could go on and on and find numerous reasons for why. (BTW, there will always be things we have to ‘give up’ in order to level up in this lifetime or for the next, religious or not religious. That is just the way it works. We are too used to instant gratification.)
How many more times is Google going to call me and try to get my attention in order to give me something free, a job that, not only did I not apply for, but one I’m not qualified for, and quite frankly acting uninterested in? How long will Google wait until it's time to move on and give someone else that job? At some point, we have to realize that if we never answer the call, or call back, we will never get that once in a lifetime job.
Because we aren't actually talking about a job, I want to make it clear that God does go after his sheep. All of us were like sheep that were lost, each of us going his own way. But the LORD made the punishment fall on Him (Jesus), the punishment all of us deserved -Isaiah 53:6. But because we are not God, and will never be able to understand his ways or thoughts, and because we do not know how much time we have on earth before we die-- we do not know how much time we have to answer that call... This was a gamble I made for 29 years. I am here to tell you, never gamble your eternal soul.
So quickly recapping; We now see that we begin in a state of deception, then we are called out from among others by God, convicted by His Holy Spirit, recognizing our sins and seeing them from God’s perspective, which then leads us to understand and confessing we need a savior whom we know is Jesus Christ. Finally, this is all followed by repentance which is an active decision to change the course of our lives by dying to our own desires in order to follow Jesus Christ.
Etymology. The Greek word Χριστιανός (Christianos), meaning "follower of Christ", comes from Χριστός (Christos), meaning "anointed one", with an adjectival ending borrowed from Latin to denote adhering to, or even belonging to, as in slave ownership.
The definition above was another reason I ran from a Christian lifestyle. I didn’t want to be a slave. Seriously, who would want that? Who doesn’t want to be his own master? Look, I am only 29 years old and it did not take me a lifetime to figure out that what the world has to offer is a beautifully wrapped present of bondage. I wish it hadn't even taken me that long but, hallelujah, in time, I finally answered ‘Yes’ to God. There is also a purpose in what I consider my ‘wasted years’. God is the ultimate DIY craftsman and can take junk that I see as ugly and useless and create a magnificent masterpiece.
—— Jesus is the king of heaven and Earth and came down to earth to be a servant and a friend to the sinners. I didn’t appreciate the cross until God revealed to me, opened my eyes to how unclean and inconceivably sinful I am. How undeserving I am. Without Jesus Christ dying for me, I would be bound for Hell. Eternal punishment. My mom used to always quote the verse, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” John 8:32. It wasn't until recently I truly understood the meaning. I will be a follower of whoever dies for me so that I don’t have to face eternal punishment in a lake of fire-- Even before I accepted, acknowledged, believed, and wanted his redemption— He died for me. He chose to die for His chosen people.
Again, Paul with his instructions, wisdom, and insight... “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time. And I have been chosen as a preacher and apostle to teach the Gentiles this message about faith and truth. I’m not exaggerating—just telling the truth.” 2 Timothy 2:1-7
So how do we know where we stand with God? How do we know we have really given our life to Jesus Christ and that we aren’t falling back on the notion we know Him because we know OF Him? What does it really mean to be a ‘Christ Follower’?
Seriously, take a minute and ask yourself these questions.
When you become a true follower— when God reveals himself to you, your mind will change. This is another indication that you are a child of God. You will actually start to morph into a different person. Your thoughts, wants, and cares.
Jesus says, “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way, they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
God often uses fruit as an analogy in the bible. For instance, the good fruit Jesus is talking about here is the fruit of the spirit. Galatians 5:22-23: But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
We are identified by our actions, not by what we claim to be by our words. Until recently, I would say that my tree had always been bare, dead, and fruitless. I have been told by 2 people whom I am very close to that they can ‘see fruit’ in my life and it was so encouraging.
So through God’s grace, we are accepted and forgiven. We are adopted by God The Father and are called a child of God— (we are called his children because he is our Heavenly Father).. and as children, we look to our parents for guidance and ask permission for almost everything we do... where we can go.. parents guide our steps and we trust them. Why? Because children do not know any better. Children do not understand the implications of decision making and the consequences that follow; Because children do not always know right from wrong. When you become a disciple of Christ, you will begin to want with all your heart to please God. To honor Him. To obey Him. To make Him proud. Serving God does not enslave you or put you in chains and a cage but quite the opposite (another lie exposed). Obeying God is knowing and having boundaries for protection, joy, and life. God knew to set rules and boundaries to help his children develop into healthy, responsible, loving people. Where does everyone think these principles originated from?
Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow James 1:17.
When people have a dog, they build a fence around the yard-- why? So the dog can have a yard to run around in and play safely. The fence is there to give the dog freedom while keeping him safe and loved. We do this because we want to give our pets the best life possible while simultaneously caring for and protecting them. ProtectYoungMinds puts it this way, “Basically, we have fences around our yard to keep the good things in, and the bad things out.”
Why can we accept that our parents 'only want what's best for us’ but not our Master Creator? The One who knows the beginning all the way to the end. Why is it that we can't trust Him?
Paul instructs Christians to ‘examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith’. 2 Corinthians 13:5
For our souls' sake, and the souls at stake, we need to start self-checking by Jesus’s standards and identifying ourselves by our fruits. For those who claim to be Christians because they have heard the gospel but live a sinful lifestyle— I dare you to pray these verses. These are some of the very verses that opened my eyes to the lies I was believing and God’s light started pouring in. It was when I truly sought him that he revealed himself to me, and that was when I knew I had not known him all along.
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” Matthew 7:7-11
And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32
Instantly something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. Acts 9:18
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. Ezekiel 36:25-27
Pray that God would break my heart as his heart breaks so I could see things as He does.
Pray that God would replace my desires to match only His desires for my life.
Pray to bind my will to the will of The Heavenly Father and bind my mind to the mind of Jesus Christ’s.
Pray that He would open and close doors in my life according to His will.
If you are in need of Jesus, cry out to him. If you have any sprinkle of doubt where you stand, pray. Pray those prayers above and ask God to reveal himself to you. It is important that we humble ourselves before the Lord God. Jesus gives us the model prayer in Matthew 6:5-15. Notice, Jesus starts the prayer by praising the Father and I think this was very intentional... Remember, God does not owe us anything, but we owe Him everything!
For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation. I helped you. Indeed the ‘right time’ is now. Today is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2