The Things We Leave Behind
By Pete Garcia
One of the biggest obstacles people have about becoming a Christian is that they think once you do, all the fun has to end. Like entering the priesthood where the only thing they have to look forward too is celibacy and endless sermons. They see only the negatives of ‘thou shall not’s’, and none of the liberty and freedom that is found in Christ.
Churches across the fruited plain are filled with row after row of ‘pious’ people, who you would think their face would crack in two if they ever tried to smile. This is in large part due to the preachers and pastors, who so convince their congregations that their moral traditions are the sole way to Jesus, that they feverishly build a fence around their dogma to keep their flocks in, it also effectively keeps many out. We should be known for our love, not our ability to be religious. Religion in and of itself, has never saved ANYONE.
However, being loving does not relieve us of our responsibility to be discerning. Jesus told His disciples to be wise as serpents, but gentle as doves when going out amongst the wolves (Matt. 10:16). We can only have discernment when we are filled with the Spirit and spend time in His word. These two derive from having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A relationship is not the same thing as a religion. Religions are ideologies filled with rituals, doctrines, and works which brings a person (in their mind) closer to their god in an attempt to make themselves worthy to said god. A personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe, highlights our inability to save ourselves, because when we understand who God is, then we know we can never measure up to His standard of righteousness. Only Jesus can make us acceptable to God, by accepting His free offer of salvation (John 3:16).
“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” – Proverbs 18:24
Our past experiences help shape our worldviews and act as a rudder if you will for the decisions we will make in the future. They can be beneficial if used properly, but no one ever moved very far forward in life, when stuck living in the past. Some may have had a bad experience at a church, or with ‘Christians’ and have sworn them and their Jesus off forever. Often times, when bad things happen, people shake an angry, clenched fist at God and harden their hearts.
This can be an extremely difficult barrier to overcome, because no one can persuade you otherwise, from what you know you experienced. Maybe a clergy abused you, or some person at church swindled you out of some hard-earned money. What I can offer is that all people are flawed, and unfortunately, Christians are human too.
However, consider this, that Jesus was more than just a human…He was also fully God. He did not have to come to earth to die for yours and my sins, but chose to because of His infinite love for us. Do not add insult to injury by rejecting the one perfect, holy, blameless man…because of some injury to you by someone claiming to be His representative. Put your faith and trust in God, and let Him sort out the bad seeds from the genuine believers.
Do not judge Christianity or Christ by someone who did you wrong, way back when. Christ can be a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Not only will He never betray you, and He will never forsake you. Even when you are at the lowest point in your life, He will love you when no one else would.
“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” – 1 Corinthians 2:14
In today’s modern world, becoming a Christian has also been likened to a kind of mental disease. Like entering an old mental asylum, in which the sign over the door forebodingly states “Abandon all hope all ye that enter!” Becoming a born-again believer is attuned to abandoning all reason, because we believe in a God that no one can see, that much is true, but the evidence for the God of the Bible is overwhelming.
To the unbeliever, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is foolishness because it denies mankind the ability to claim any kind of credit for our own salvation. That is what makes Christianity unique. EVERY other religion states that you must DO something to make amends with either some god or fellow man in order to reach Paradise, Heaven, Nirvana, Kolob, etc. Christian salvation is solely founded on one thing that distinguishes us from any other life form on this planet, and that is our ability to think and reason. We have to willingly make that decision to come to Christ. When we abandon our own attempts at saving ourselves, and cling instead to Jesus Christ, then and only then, can we have peace with God through His Son.
“Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.’” – Mark 10:21
Of note in this account, is that Jesus had not yet gone to the cross. At that point in time, the cross was not only a cruel instrument of torture, but to the Jew was a symbol of damnation. Jesus was looking into this young man’s heart and could see that his wealth was his security blanket. He had been faithful to the commandments (religion), but was more reliant upon his earthly possessions than he was of God. Therefore, by Jesus telling him to sell all his possessions, he was to deny this world. By picking up his cross, he has to deny himself, even to his health. This way of thinking runs counter too many within the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel movement that has become popular in American churchianity these days.
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” – Philippians 3:20-21
To the Christian who has one foot in each world, remember Lot’s wife. We are not to get too attached to this world, nor the things there in. Why so many Christians have become fixated on this world, is in part again, denominational religions fault. When the Church refuses to teach all of God’s word, they have to fill that large prophetic void with something, and that something usually only focuses on the here and now, rather than on things to come.
When you turn your life over to Jesus Christ, you are made a new creation. No longer are you just an inhabitant of this world, but have a new citizenship in heaven with God. The moment you become a Christian, you begin to live in eternity. At best, a person can hope to live to be about a hundred years here in this life. Those last few decades can be tough on the body, and you usually end up having to have someone care for you. Such a short period of time when considering that the moment you die, you will be staring into the face of eternity.
There is a freedom in Jesus Christ that the world cannot fathom. What is that freedom? It is in no longer being under the curse of sin, condemnation, death, and judgment. It is liberating, because we no longer have a death sentence hanging over our head.
Seeing as we still inhabit these sin-prone bodies (tents of flesh) and we still live in a fallen world that is temporarily controlled by Satan, we still in our flesh have to ‘work out’ (think exercise) our salvation with fear and trembling. We as Christians still have to stand before Jesus Christ in judgment, but not for our salvation. We will stand before Jesus Christ at the Bema Judgment for the things done for Christ in this life, whether good or bad. Is what we did for Jesus done for our own purposes, or did we do it for the glory of God? We rest assured that our eternal destinies are secured in the victory that Christ wrought for us at the cross, 2,000 years ago, where all of our sins-past, present, and future were wiped away.
In Christ we enter our Sabbath rest, unable to work our own attempts at keeping our salvation, but find peace through His perfect, atoning death, burial, and resurrection. A peace so satisfying that all of the money in the world could not purchase. When you choose to allow God to use you, He will work the miraculous through you, affecting everyone around you. A life filled with purpose and meaningfulness, worthy of your calling, and hopeful of the life that is still to come. Our best life isn’t here on this fallen planet; it is in our glorified eternal bodies, reigning with Christ. So let us cast aside all these meaningless distractions that would either keep you from coming to Christ, or keep the Christian from living the life Christ has called you to live.
“Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.” – CS Lewis