Once upon a time I would say that I was spiritual rather than religious. I did that because my Christianity was more focused on a personal relationship with God as opposed to religious rules and rituals. I have been pursuing God from a space of grace rather than legalism.
I wanted others to know that I wasn’t one of those judgmental old fuddy duddies. I wasn’t going to shove Jesus down their throat and count the ways they were going to Hell. I needed them to know that I was one of the good guys.
However, when I notice people stating they are spiritual instead of Christian, I now hesitate. I am in a place in my relationship with God where I refuse to compromise. Funny how He keeps changing us along the way.
What that means for me is I proudly and without shame wear the label of Christian, because I am a follower of Christ. I refuse to water that down or tuck it under a shadow in order to make others more comfortable.
But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven. (Matthew 10:33 NLT)
The podcast “Black and Blurred“ spoke of someone giving a speech and thanking their mother but making vague references about “the man who poured wisdom into me alongside my mother”. That seems as if you have a grudge against your father. That analogy spoke so perfectly to how I have felt about boldly proclaiming Jesus as my savior.
When we alter our relationship with God in order to be more palatable to the world then we strain our relationship with Christ and risk our very salvation. Some would argue that you can’t lose your salvation. Paul mentions that action so goes along with our faith.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Phil 2:12-13 NIV
Our salvation is free and requires no effort on our part other than to receive it. However, in order to maintain a right relationship with God, we have to do our part, in submitting our will to God and crucifying (denying) our flesh. Galatians 5:16-26 NIV
From the moment the disciples became baptisted with the Holy Spirit they began teaching about yielding our lives to God in complete surrender. Yet just as devotedly, people have sought out a prosperity gospel that feeds their flesh more than their spirit.
If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. John 15:19
As Christians we are called to be different, to stand out. Jesus warned us that this would be uncomfortable and even painful. Following Christ comes at a cost. Jesus tells us to be aware of this and not take it lightly.
Cultural Christianity has become more of the norm in American churches, than a full commitment to Jesus. If the we look and act like the world, then we are missing a key component. How can we draw the world to Jesus when they don’t recognize a difference between us and them?
It all boils down to a very humanistic point of view. Our belief in God is fully steeped in self when any pain, discomfort, or inconvenience causes us to turn our backs on Him in anger. We are ready to reject Him and shake an accusing fist, when life doesn’t pan out quite like it should.
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
When I became a Christian I was running so hard after God and I was in this place of full submission for about 3 solid years. Then I suddenly hit the desert and I could not hear God, I could not feel God, I felt so isolated and alone. During this time I started to have vivid flashbacks of the abuse I endured in my childhood. It became so intense that it felt like I was being abused all over again in real-time.
Every time I would go to church or a Bible study, I would ask people to pray for me and their response kept being the same. That God was allowing me to experience this level of pain because there was sin in my heart. After going through this for months I finally became so discouraged that I just gave up and completely backslid. I became so angry at God, I was angry at the church and most of all I was confused.
I was confused because I did not understand how a God who allowed me to feel His love so tangibly, could just abandon me in my time of need. I could not understand how God could turn away from me when I was pursuing Him so strongly and giving Him so much of myself.
It took me years to come back and it took a lot of healing, a lot of grace from others, in helping me to navigate through those heavy emotions. What I realize now, on the other side of that, is me leaving my faith behind, was a very self-centered act. Now, most people can relate or empathize with why I left. Many will even tell me that it’s OK, that God understands.
I believe He does understand, He knows my heart better than I do myself sometimes but at the end of the day, I failed to see His sovereignty. I failed to trust that I was not in that battle alone. The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy. The point of his prowling, his attacks, are to destroy our faith and connection with God and by me focusing on my hurt rather than on my God, I allowed the enemy to win.
I have another article that goes more in-depth about the sovereignty of God. How can a good God allow bad things to happen?? That’s the question we always ask because we are viewing things from a carnal perspective.
That is a struggle and consequence of sin and our flesh, it’s something that we will always battle against, it’s something that we will always be under the burden of while on this Earth.
God paid the highest price to have us be a part of His kingdom. Some people frame it as “He bankrupted Heaven.” He gave us incredible resources and freedom beyond what we can imagine. Why wouldn’t we give Him our highest devotion in return?
I am not ashamed to be a Christian. Even when it is unpopular or uncomfortable. This world has only given me heartache and problems. The loyalty of the world is superficial and fleeting. The love of God has withstood the test of time.