A fair question, and one that I believe should be asked by anyone investigating this concept called Christianity, or religion in general.
Big fan of controversial topics and uncomfortable statements over here, so let me come right out and say that I am not a fan of the term “religion” and I do not describe myself as “religious.” We millennials would say I find it a “cringy” term. (No, my generational categorization is not what backs my dislike of the word). Many of the stipulations that are widely associated with it do not line up with what I believe nor do they describe my experience.
I have a relationship with God, not a religion.
I consider myself to be a Believer. My “religion” is based on a relationship with God, not rules. That does not mean that my beliefs are flaky, far from it. I believe wholeheartedly that God sent His son, Jesus Christ, to die for my sins. I believe that the acceptance of this free gift through faith is the only way to get to Heaven, just like the Bible says. But I don’t believe in Him just so I can get to Heaven one day and avoid the fearful pictures painted of Hell. Yes, I am a Christian by definition, but I am not afraid to say that there are many people in this world wearing the Christian label whom I do not want to be associated with.
My Jesus is full of unconditional love, despises judgement and is the reason I strive for the same.
I love to talk about Him. Not by throwing scholarly knowledge at you (although I have a deeply rooted nerd side that will gladly engage in such chats), but by baring my own life experiences that have proven, without a doubt, the existence of this Savior.
I have been in places of major doubt. I still wrestle with some today. I have questioned God’s existence and His goodness and lies about the latter still speak up in my head sometimes. Denial and I are very familiar and many seasons of my life have been marked by intentionally running in the opposite direction God’s voice, word, and presence. I still do sometimes. My past is a dark one, full of hurt and mistakes. There have been times when many churches would have shut their doors in my face had I tried to go; some really did. I have seen, done and experienced more in my short life than many would believe and my scars are plentiful – reminders of pain other people caused me and self-inflicted wounds as well.
I would not be able to write this stuff unless I had first-hand experience with what I believe.
I have seen and lived every bit of what I claim as truth. And because of that I can’t help but share it in hopes that someone might step into the same incredible love and life journey. I sit here on the other side of abuse, assault, suicide attempts, and decisions of my own that are still painful to type. And the only reason I am able to is because of a Savior who refused – and still refuses – to give up on me.
THE GOD I KNOW
Society has developed an image of God that looks somewhat like a ruthless, power-hungry dictator who wants nothing more than to suck the joy out of life. This could not be further from the truth. God sent His son to die for us for the opposite of that. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest” John 10:10.
This world is hard. God is not.
If you’re alive, you know that life is hard. This world is getting more corrupt even as I type. And there was a point in time that the fear of tomorrow dictated my life and paralyzed me. But that is no longer the case because of the God I have come to know and trust. He has carried me through valleys I would never have come out of alone. He has defied opinions and statistics that said I could never fully recover. Not only am I able to walk in the confidence of knowing I will always be able to get back up after being knocked down, but also the truth that because of Him I can then stand stronger than before. It isn’t wishful thinking. It’s a solid, guaranteed reality when God is involved. There is no other way to explain how I am where I am today other than His grace and love.
God isn’t afraid of our messes, and He loves us enough to meet us wherever we are.
We are also often given the impression that God only loves us, or wants anything to do with us, if we clean up our lives beforehand. There are certain sins that we can’t come back from, right? Wrong. Let me assure you that if this were true, this girl would NOT be writing this article. Sin is still no stranger, nor will I ever be in a place of perfection. My human nature frequently gets the best of me and I am constantly messing up. But the way God loves us has nothing to do with us and everything do with who He is.
God knew everything we would ever do, good and bad, before He created us. He knew that we would doubt Him, run from Him, and sin against Him. But guess what? He still created us. He loved us then and He loves us just as much right now.
A relationship with God takes effort, just like any relationship does, but it is not an effort to earn His love or prove ourselves worthy. For me, it was an effort to look past the fog of painful past experiences, fears and current influences in order to open my heart enough to allow God to show Himself to me. It was a choice to believe, and through faith see what I could not otherwise experience.
Maybe you don’t feel a need to be saved from anything; not everyone sees a tangible void in their own life. But I would tell you that what Jesus died to give each of us is way beyond the concept of a filler or even an enhancer. The fulfillment His love offers us is something that cannot be understood, but it can be experienced, and it is free.
The more I get to know God, the more I realize how much I need and want Him. And that desire is a beautiful thing that brings more stability than anything else I have ever experienced. He didn’t leave a void without something to fill it. He created us with an innate need for Him that can only be filled by Him, not to bring us to a point of satisfaction but so that He might give us more love and freedom than we ever imagined possible.
Giving my life to Jesus is the best decision I ever made, and having Him beside me in this crazy life is a gift that has become a lifeline. I don’t believe in Him because I have to. I don’t try to follow Him out of obligation. I want to be as close to Him as possible because I have tasted the supernatural reality His love creates. I don’t always remember it, and I certainly don’t always live like I want it. But every time I stray and am met with the emptiness of the things I once found purpose in He is right beside me with open arms waiting for me to come back, reminding me of a love greater than all my failure.
I have never made a decision to trust or obey God and regretted it.
My relationship with Jesus is not a sappy, feel-good thing I pretend is real so that I can escape the horrors of this life. It’s a 110% certain, proven, free gift that I can’t possibly doubt now. I have lived it. I know Him. He is real. He is my best friend. He is my protector and my healer. He has shown me more love than I could ever dream of earning. He is who He says He is, and I am His child who He loves more than life itself.
My unforgivable has been forgiven. My impossible is possible. My chains are broken. There is no such thing as ruin.
No one else can offer us this kind of salvation. It is all true for you too, friend. You are loved. You are treasured. You are wanted. You are given the promise of continuous help in times of trouble, hope no matter what happens, and strength that cannot be broken or stolen. Not because you have done anything to deserve it, but because of Who made you. If you give Him the chance, He will blow your mind. I promise.
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.
“You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you”John 15:14-15
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” Revelation 3:20
Further Reading – Who Does God Say He Is? Read Psalm 19:7-13