I recently saw something in the circle of “Christian news” that I wanted to stuff inside a closet and never unleash said discovery. When there is built-in sin that can disgustingly harm and destroy people of the Church, there is something in me that wants to spread that news. I believe this traces back to my “fight for the underdog” mentality as Jesus seems to be the underdog in this secular city. I want people to understand that when there is deep pain and resulting trauma, this…this is not the Bible. This is not the Church. This is not who Jesus has called us to be. There is this desire that shouts, “Woah! Woah! Woah! Hey! This is not what the Bible says. This is not a representation of who Christians are!” Christians, I pray that we become better at being a light in this world. I pray as we walk looking to serve and love one another. We need a savior in this broken country.
But what’s inside the closet is something that I do not want to talk about, yet like the adult I am, let me show you what I’ve been hiding.
Not all people who give Jesus a chance decide to stay with Jesus. Not all people who grow up in the church stay in the church. Not all Christian authors stay committed to their faith. You know this. You know people walk away from their faith. You know the snippets of controversial Bible verses. You know that evidence exists that disproves God. You know that the Church has an embarrassing reputation at times.
Listen, though my greatest hope is that we will someday sit down for the most amazing coffee in Heaven, I know that the unfortunate reality is not all will give their life to Christ. I get that. My friends who have experienced wounds that no one else will ever understand, I do not blame you for leaving the Church when it was the Church who caused those wounds. They will answer to God when the time comes. They will answer for the trauma they caused. Wounds by the Church deeply pain my heart because this, this is not who Jesus is. This is not what the Christian faith is about.
It also does not surprise me when I see kids who grew up going to church suddenly stop following God after their college buddies decide to bring up Scripture that this poor Christian was never taught. We love sharing 1 Corinthians 13, 1 John, the gospels, Romans 8:1, but what happens when you’re asked about the awkward passages in the beginning books of the Bible? What happens when verses from Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are quoted and you lack the needed context? Or rather, what happens when your unbelieving friend asks you about these tough texts in the Bible that you never knew existed? My Christian friends, dive into the Old Testament, go to a church that talks about these tough texts in their proper context, and equip yourself for the arrows and questions that come your way. Every book of the Bible points to Jesus. That’s your starting point. Go read your Bible.
The unexplainable for me is when I see Christians who know their Bible, have studied the evidence that exists beyond the Bible, and still turn away from God after spending more years than I’ve been alive following Jesus. I do not know what to make of that.
“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” The convicting refrain from “Come, thou fount of ev’ry blessing” by Robert Robinson. There’s actually this whole theological debate involving the semantics and I’ll spoil the ending for you, this is not a quote from the Bible, but I bring it up because I find it applicable.
Folks become real nitpicky with wording, particularly it is the word “prone” in this case. My non-Christian friends, if you want to start some sort of argument between believers, bring up the word “reckless” from the song “Reckless Love” and you will probably hate me afterward. All jokes aside, I am thankful for people that are careful and intentional with their words. That’s needed when it comes to explaining who this Jesus is.
With that aside, this idea of being prone to wander is something that I see in my life and with other Christians. I’ve studied Scripture. I go to church. I lead a small group. I have read the evidence for and against the Bible and have found the Bible to be the inspired word of God. There is no other religion that I have studied that is as complex, historically accurate, science-based, and detailed as the Bible. With all that being said, I constantly feel a tug to do the very thing I do not want to do. I constantly feel the desires of my flesh to disobey God. It is a battle that I face every single day. I love God and I want to honor God but sin is so tempting.
The idea of being prone to wander and prone to do the very thing I do not want to do is under this same umbrella in my mind. It reminds me of Paul in the book of Romans as he beautifully describes the very struggle that I am referring to:
We know that the Law is spiritual, but I am a creature of the flesh [worldly, self-reliant—carnal and unspiritual], sold into slavery to sin [and serving under its control]. 15 For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled and bewildered by them]. I do not practice what I want to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate [and yielding to my human nature, my worldliness—my sinful capacity]. 16 Now if I habitually do what I do not want to do, [that means] I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good (morally excellent). 17 So now [if that is the case, then] it is no longer I who do it [the disobedient thing which I despise], but the sin [nature] which lives in me. 18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh [my human nature, my worldliness—my sinful capacity]. For the willingness [to do good] is present in me, but the doing of good is not. 19 For the good that I want to do, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want to do, I am no longer the one doing it [that is, it is not me that acts], but the sin [nature] which lives in me.21 So I find it to be the law [of my inner self], that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully delight in the law of God in my inner self [with my new nature], 23 but I see a different law and rule of action in the members of my body [in its appetites and desires], waging war against the law of my mind and subduing me and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is within my members. 24 Wretched and miserable man that I am! Who will [rescue me and] set me free from this body of death [this corrupt, mortal existence]? 25 Thanks be to God [for my deliverance] through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind serve the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh [my human nature, my worldliness, my sinful capacity—I serve] the law of sin. Romans 7:14-25
I hope you experienced an entourage of confusion yet relatability reading that. It’s always a fun passage to try to read out loud to students. Five dollars to anyone who has been able to successfully read it without stumbling.
I am a boring college student that does one of two things: works out and reads about Jesus. With that being said, the best I have for you is a fitness analogy to describe my struggle with wandering and doing the thing I hate. It’s like dieting. Suppose in the middle of your kitchen table there is a marvelous plate of endless chocolate chip cookies, better than what grandma can make, dare I say it. You pass by it day after day. There’s this temptation to eat one that constantly haunts your thoughts. There’s this deep desire to say “screw the diet” and just binge completely. You know it’s not worth it though. You’re four days away from show day, oh, did I mention you are an IFBB Pro bodybuilder in this analogy? As much as you know the consequences of what these unwanted calories can do, there’s a lingering temptation. Let’s pretend you are not a bodybuilder and instead you were someone who once was 100 pounds overweight and now you live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. You eat well. You are able to get in your daily steps. You know that you are healthier now. You know this yet sometimes all you want to do is go back to your old diet. There is something about it that tempts you.
Sometimes I would love to eat the greasiest foods you can find, all day, every day for a month. Similarly, there’s this temptation to go against God. I understand the consequences of what could happen and I understand that I would be doing the very thing I would not want to do but there’s this temptation that exists. On some days, especially, these temptations are loud.
Let me be real with you, friends, as I have only looked to share you what it actually means to live through faith and grace.
People leave the Church and leave this Jesus guy all the time. I will not hide that from you. I will not hide my temptation that I face when it comes to this unwanted desire to leave Jesus as well. This temptation is not because I do not pray enough or because I’m a “bad Christian”, but rather it is just my human nature. We aspire to be our own gods and our own savior. We seek to be self-reliant and we do not want to answer to anyone. We look for the fastest ways to please our own flesh. We long for constant gratification. Just because I follow Jesus does not mean I do not have the same desires as everyone else.
I see the way that Christianity gets painted without its proper context and I get it. I get why people leave if their view of Jesus was inaccurately portrayed by people who called themselves “believers.” I get why people leave if their church has never explained God’s wrath and how it all still points to Jesus and the need for a savior. I get why people leave their faith the moment evolution is introduced as if there are no outside sources that affirm the Bible. I get why scholars who have written several books on Christianity renounce their faith. I get why even after knowing everything about the Bible, there is still a temptation to do the very thing you do not want to do. I get why it happens. I believe that people walk away from their faith because of this misconception of who Jesus is.
Scholars who walk away from their faith are the ones I have the most troubling accepting because I look at them and I think, “You’ve studied more about Christianity than I ever will in this life. How could you leave? What is it that you found?” and though this is all a guess, I am reminded that we simply will never understand everything about Jesus. Not in this life can we fully understand the God we describe as indescribable. Not in this life can we completely understand everything about Jesus who is a miracle worker. Our finite minds can only barely understand an infinite, immutable, and omnipresent God. That is not meant to be a cop-out, it’s profoundly logical and consistent in who God is. We forget the wondrous mystery of Christ. My friend who has studied everything there is to know about the Christian faith, do not let yourself get too wrapped up in trying to understand a God who cannot be fully understood in this life. Allow yourself to be humbled and in awe with the mystery that exists in precisely who God is.
Christianity sometimes gets painted to others as a blind faith which is ridiculously inaccurate especially as you begin to look at the faith required to believe in anything else besides what these crazy Christians believe. That being said, we forget that believing Jesus is God still does take a baby leap of faith. In my humble opinion, the most beautiful mystery of Jesus is understanding that He died for our sins so that we can be given the gift of eternal life. May you consider the Miracle-worker who painted the Way to heaven. May you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that He was raised from the dead so that you can be saved.
Our fleshly desires make it impossible to follow a works-based salvation process that is presented in every other religion including atheism. It’s this idea that if there is a heaven or some sort of afterlife, as long as I am good enough I’ll make it. Jesus comes into the picture and pulls out the greatest “Uno Reverse” in history. Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Not through your works, not through your temptations, but through the grace of God can you be saved. Christianity is the only faith that can guarantee salvation. Christianity is the only faith that says your salvation is not dependent on your works. You know our broken world needs a savior. Would you please give this Jesus guy a chance? Would you please consider reading the Bible?
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.9 God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. 10 And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. 11 Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.12 God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. 13 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him. Ephesians 1:3-14
May that bless you. It is a beautiful day to give your life to Christ. You are loved fully, known entirely, and made worthy in Jesus alone.