As a child and young adult, I acquired a measure of “book knowledge” about Jesus. I read my bible occasionally, and listened to preaching about Him. I knew that He allowed Himself to suffer so that we all had a chance to be with Him in Heaven one day. I knew the difference between right and wrong, partially because I had good teachers in my parents, and partially because, when I chose Jesus at age 9, the Holy Spirit began to reveal to me the difference. It didn’t make me perfect. I still chose many things that were wrong, and I suffered the consequences. I also avoided many things that were wrong, evading some consequences. My point is that my “book knowledge” of Jesus saved me from eternal damnation in a lake of fire, but did little to affect my everyday life choices.
Wow! That’s not how it’s supposed to happen, is it? I mean, once we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, life is supposed to be a cake walk, right? Butterflies dance around us, wherever we go. Our faces are adorned with serene smiles, and our sugar-glazed eyes see only happiness and love, love, love… That’s what I thought.
When I continued to have unpleasant (to say it nicely) feelings, and unsavory (to say it nicely) thoughts, I decided that I was flawed…SO flawed that the biblical plan of salvation couldn’t possibly work for me. I knew right from wrong, and I still made wrong choices. My pleas for forgiveness, although genuine, were tainted with hopelessness. How could God forgive me, when I knew that He knew I would be making the same stupid decisions the next day, if not sooner?
Here is the first thing I desperately want others to know: Real life change comes thru relationship with Jesus and acceptance of the Holy Spirit.
You can believe that Jesus died on the cross, was buried in a tomb, and rose again. You can genuinely repent of every sin that you knowingly fall into. And, still, you can live a life that reflects no joy, no hope, and not one remnant of the pure love that saved you from eternal destruction. You can feel the guiding hand of God, as His Holy Spirit speaks truth to your own spirit, yet continue to go in the opposite direction, creating consequence after consequence after consequence.
You can be a miserable Christian.
Real change ONLY occurs when we actively seek to know Jesus as the person that He was on earth, and the Advocate and Lord that He is.
Real change ONLY occurs when we acknowledge and accept that, when Jesus left the earth, He left us with the very Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, Who lives IN US! When we actively choose to get to know that guiding voice in our hearts…When we decide to learn all that we can about Him, and about who WE are, now that He lives in us…Well, our life choices just naturally begin to change. Our outlook on life changes. Our purpose changes. Joy, REAL joy, streams thru our veins, bringing REAL life to every area of our existence. It’s something better than dancing butterflies and never-ending sunny days…It’s an adventure!
This brings me to the second thing I desperately want others to know: You CAN take authority over every thought that crosses your mind and every feeling felt.
THIS is the adventure! God has given me a recurring dream to demonstrate this point. Each time I have the dream, the house is different, but the theme is always the same. I will be walking thru a house that I have just acquired for my home. Walking from room to room, I am looking at the living space with excitement, as I plan where I will put this or that. Then, I spy something curious…sometimes a secret door, or maybe a hidden crawl space. Entering thru the mysterious door, I find myself in a hidden room, full of treasures! Grand things fill the space, covered in dust and just waiting to be polished back to life…antique furniture, gems, and bejeweled chandeliers and lamps. And the room itself is flowing with promise, as my mind dances over its possibilities for use. The adventure is discovering the mysteries of wonderful things that have been lost, but are now found; old dreams that are waiting to receive new life. One of those buried treasures is authority.
As you seek to know Jesus, you will learn about His authority over everything evil, and you will learn that, as a Christian, YOU HAVE THAT SAME AUTHORITY. That authority is your shiny new weapon to use against those evil thoughts that cross your mind…those thoughts that you know don’t coincide with Christ. That authority is your defense against feelings that will lead you away from God’s love, and into pits of hopelessness, anxiety, and depression. You will learn that having evil thoughts and faulty feelings does not make you less Christ-like… He, too, was tempted when he walked with us on earth. When the thoughts come, you tell them to leave, and you replace them with all the glorious bejeweled truths from the word of God…the bible that you can now read as a love letter from your Creator, not just another self-help guidebook.
It is not easy. Our flesh wants to own every thought that we have and every feeling that we feel. It is a battle sometimes. Oftentimes. But what real adventure IS easy? Our steps can get steep, our breathing labored, but there is joy in being aware of the beauty along the way, finding the strength to stay on the path, and making PROGRESS toward these words at the end of the trail:
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!'”
` Matthew 25:23