Part 1 of 3
It is very difficult today to know where Christianity is going and whether or not it is going in the direction God intended it to go. Around every corner there is a different opinion on what is true and what isn’t. A common one is the whole debate around Joel Osteen and the preaching of prosperity Gospel. Another one is Hillsong church which is often criticized to be more of a business than a church. On the other hand you have all these different church denominations, each having their own doctrine and as a Christian I am confused to why there are so many. After all God only gave us one Bible.
That said I have come to know that if you really want to, you can manipulate the Biblical message to say whatever you want it to say. As a theology student a significant part of my studies is about philosophers and theologians and their opinions on certain topics, on a lot of topics actually, and through this I have to decipher what the right or most accurate answer is. Based on the theology of ten others I have to form my own theology and then when I graduate I share my theology with others. So I understand where all these different perspectives and opinions come from. My concern though is that what if we all go out and share our own view on Christianity, but fail to share the truth.
I would want nothing more than to have you reading this blog, study the Bible and decide for yourself whether or not what you are reading is Biblical or not. Don’t just take my word for it. I honestly believe in my heart that I am writing that which God wants me to write. I started this blog because God told me to start this blog, but it would be very naive of anyone to read my blog and just declare it to be truth. I pray that you would study the Bible, pursue Jesus and decide for yourself whether or not it is beneficial for you to read this blog.
Today we become hooked on the latest update on what Christianity is and establish that to be the truth. Every opinion we hear, every article we read and every sermon we listen to form our image of Christianity, but we don’t even bother to read the Bible ourselves. For almost a decade I have been a Christian and for the majority of it I followed the latest, most persuasive view on Christianity that had fallen on my ears. So many times I felt disheartened because I did that which the church said I should do in order to be a Christian, but internally I never experienced it having a real transformation in my life. I missed the whole point of deciding to be a Christian, because I never pursued understanding Christianity for myself.
Part 2 of 3
At the age of about 10 or 11 years old I decided to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Till this day I have no idea what the date or time of that decision was, but I know I did it. Often I would get these thoughts that maybe I didn’t really commit to Jesus and that it is just a created memory. Even though I knew this were all lies I was led to think that I needed a day, a date, that I can recall on which I decided to follow Jesus. As a result of this I felt I needed to answer an altar call and physically in that manner accept Jesus. So on the evening of the 20th of October 2013, in a Hillsong Somerset West service I raised my hand and stood up at the altar call and physically proved that I accept Jesus in my life even though I was a Christian for about 8 years at that point. For the following week I felt really close to God and was determined to change my habits and prioritize my life even more around Jesus. I was motivated to study the Bible and actually live my life according to it. Unfortunately though this only lasted for about a week and then everything slowly faded back to how they were before I stood up in church. Yes I was still a Christian by faith, but just without the passion and devotion to God, saying I follow Him but not necessarily proving it with my entire life.
The following year God started to say to me that I should get baptized. I grew up in a church where you can only get baptized as a baby and even though I was baptized as a baby God would often remind me that He still wanted me to get baptized; and so in 2014, on the 16th of August I got baptized. Even though I knew that baptism doesn’t determine whether or not a person goes to heaven, I still viewed baptism as a requirement. Something God requires us to do before He enable us to live a life that pleases Him, but two days after being baptized my life was back to normal. I thought I was going to experience something amazing inside of me, something that will make me follow Jesus with a great passion for the rest of my life, but that wasn’t the case. I still had the same desires to do wrong, the same meek desire to read the Bible and to do what it says.
My Christian life was constantly up and down and I would often attend church and afterwards go home, declare to God that from now on I will seek Him above all else, but then after a day or two it would fade away. It’s like going to a Christian conference and afterwards being fired up and ready to change the world, but then after a few days the passion fades away. It is like having terrible tooth pain. When you experience the pain you tell yourself that you will brush your teeth every day, floss and do a daily mouth wash, but when the tooth pain goes away, suddenly you forget about the pain and lose your discipline to care for your teeth.
As a Christian my desire is to be fully committed to Christ. I don’t want to be a hypocrite that speaks a life different to that which I live. God says in Revelation 3:16 that He spits the lukewarm out of His mouth. I don’t want to be lukewarm and for the majority of the last 10 years that is exactly what I was. I pursued a moment where everything would instantly change. I thought I would have a burning bush moment and that everything will change forever. That I will never have bad desires or sinful thoughts ever again, but I had it so wrong. I misunderstood baptism for what it is intended for. I misunderstood what the altar call is all about.
Christianity is actually very simple and it can be described in one sentence. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). It is really all about this. God wants us to love Him with our entire being, with everything that we are. This is what Jesus wants from us, a heart that desires after Him every second of every day, but to get baptized and hope to receive such a heart is being naïve. To raise your hand at an altar call and expect to have such a change of heart is being naïve. Baptism should be a reflection of the change of heart that has occurred within you and the same with responding to an altar call. Raising your hand is a physical sign of the change of heart that has taken place inside of you. Anyone can get baptized and anyone can raise their hand in church, but not everyone has a heart that is consumed with pursuing Christ.
I have heard it been said that a lot of times people make emotional decisions in church. Some of the pastors today are amazing speakers and with the keys playing in the background you are most certainly going to feel inspired and motivated. The thing is that if you have a change of heart then these moments, whether emotional or not, can only add to your relationship with Jesus. Even though after a few days that specific inspiration may fade away it doesn’t reflect the state your heart is in. Our hearts should already be for Jesus and this will only help us to be more committed. What one shouldn’t do is to pursue a cycle of inspiring moments.
Let’s say for example that your tooth hurts every Tuesday. So every Tuesday you feel pain and are determined to from now on brush your teeth every day, but by Friday you’re not motivated anymore so you stop brushing your teeth as often as you said you would. What this only indicates is that you aren’t really committed to having healthy teeth. The same goes for our Christian life. If we get inspired to live a Christian life every time we hear a good sermon, after a few days our inspiration will fade and then what? But if our hearts are already for Christ then the sermons we hear can only give us a greater love for Him. It’s like already brushing your teeth every day and then when Tuesday comes you realize you need to brush it even more. By Friday you won’t stop brushing your teeth, because you already have a desire to brush it. So the tooth pain on Tuesday functions as an extra inspiration to help you excel in that which you are already doing.
It is a frustrating thing though if we expect that a moment will give us a change of heart, a complete devotion to following Jesus. Of course there are moments in our lives that change us, for example I think about Paul on the road to Damascus. When he encountered and spoke with Jesus it all changed for him, it was a moment that determined his entire life forward. Was it an inspiring moment? Certainly, he spoke with Jesus after all, but Paul didn’t lose interest in Jesus after a few days when he got his sight back. What happened on that road was a change occurred in Paul’s heart. He wasn’t the same person anymore. Sure he looked the same, but internally he was a different person. Did Paul get baptized shortly after he got his sight back? Yes, but his baptism was a declaration of what had already occurred inside of him.
What I for almost a decade pursued was a moment like this, a moment where everything would automatically just change, but I now realize that what I needed to pursue was a change of heart. I realize now that this is how Christianity works, well for me anyway. To say that all Christians have and need the same process to get to Jesus is totally wrong.
Part 3 of 3
Now what I want to talk about is that change of heart. What is it really and how does one have one’s heart changed? In Matthew 16:24 and Luke 9:23 we read about how Jesus said to His disciples that if any of them wants to be His follower, he must turn from his selfish ways, take up his cross and follow Him. The part that we often don’t realize is that this actually includes carrying our cross as we follow Him. Jesus isn’t describing a dead lift here. Jesus didn’t say pick up your cross, then put it down again, and now follow me. It is one action, one movement. On a different occasion Jesus spoke to a large crowd that followed Him, and told them that if they wanted to be His disciples, they should first calculate if they have what it takes. He used a story of a builder among others and said the following in Luke 14:28-29:
“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you.”
Jesus said that in the same way you would calculate what it costs to build a house before you build it, you should think and calculate whether or not you are truly committed to see your walk with Him through till the end. Now what does this have to do with a change of heart? Well actually everything. See no one builds a house before drawing up some plans and checking their balance to see if they have enough money for the project. Now Jesus only addressed this part, the planning and calculating part, but what good is it to have the plan, to have the finance, to have the equipment, but not have the house? My point is that even though Jesus said we must calculate, I believe He also wants us to think further, He wants us to go and actually build that house.
See having a change of heart is calculating and deciding that you are willing and committed to following Jesus as He says we should in His word, but proving the change of heart is in the life that follows after that calculation. You calculate and then you build the house until it is finished. That is how you know you actually have what it takes. Anyone can say that they have enough to build a house, but not all of them can actually prove it. In the same manner we calculate, declare and go out and prove it. We love, we forgive, we help, we inspire, we encourage and we share the Gospel. After we commit to Jesus we prove our commitment by pursuing Him, we read His word, we pray and we stay obedient to His voice. We feed the poor, we love our enemies and we love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We study His word and live it out even though we don’t want to, even though we don’t feel like it and even though it doesn’t seem to change anything.
Being a Christian takes great dedication and endurance. There is a ridiculous amount of distractions and attractive things in this world that greatly want to stop us from proving we have a change of heart. Building that house to prove you have enough isn’t easy, but only with God’s help and grace is it possible. And as we prove that we have what it takes, as we endure and persevere we claim our change of heart. We don’t have a change of heart and then go out and live according to it. We declare that we have a change of heart that desires Jesus above anything else and then we pursue it with whatever we have and we prove that we actually do have a change of heart.
My prayer is that as Christians we shouldn’t depend and hang on to moments of inspiration, but that we will claim our change of heart. My prayer is that we kneel before Jesus with a realization of how much He loves us and say to Him that our hearts are for Him; and then with faith in Him and dependence on Him we live our lives proving it and seeing it to be true.
Paul said it himself at the end of his life in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me–the crown of righteousness.” Paul declared that he had a change of heart on the road to Damascus and lived a life that proved it. He had enough to build his house and his house is pleasing to God.
So the question is… do you have a change of heart?