I miss the simplicity of the beginning of my journey as a follower of Christ. The innocence and joy of knowing that I was loved and forgiven. It was not complicated. I did not rely on anything more than the cross to define my salvation and the Bible to guide my course. Those days are gone, my simple faith replaced by a pursuit of more knowledge and a desire to defend what once required no defence and explain what once was unexplainable.
It turns out I am not following Christ.
My simplistic description of my life as a Christian lacks the reality of my predestined life that does not allow me to do anything but what has been laid out for me. I do not follow but rather I exist in an elected state. I did not choose to join and cannot choose to leave, or so I am told.
Then someone else told me my salvation was subject to my holiness and that the simplest of unrepented sin could exclude me from eternal life. It was pointed out that the glass of wine I have from time to time is compromising my invitation to the streets of gold.
Why didn’t someone tell me it was so complicated and even so contradictory?
I wandered around in a daze trying to figure out how I could have got it so wrong. It started raining so I ducked into the first place I could find. There was only one chair. A group of bearded guys drinking beer motioned at me to sit down and offered me a beer.
I politely declined explaining that I couldn’t drink anymore. They asked me if I was an alcoholic; I told them I wasn’t. They then asked if it was because I was driving; I shook my head no. I thought I would save them the trouble of any further guessing and told them I couldn’t drink because I was a Christian. Turns out they were Christians too. Christians that drink? But I was told… now I was very confused.
The conversation took an interesting twist when a few of them went out for a smoke.
Now I was even more confused. To add to my confusion, not only did they smoke and drink, their language seemed rather colourful. I asked them about being Christians and smokers, drinkers and using colourful language. They laughed at me! Then they told me it wasn’t a sin and then something about our works can’t save us, we are doomed no matter what we do unless we are one of the elect.
I got up to leave and was asked if I was sure I didn’t want a beer. I told them it was getting late and I had to work tomorrow. I don’t know what I said that was so wrong but amidst all the cussing I think I heard something to the effect that real Christians don’t work on a Sunday.
I left so quickly that I tripped on my way out the door.
Good thing that guy was there. He caught me and after he made sure I was steady on my feet he began to lecture me on my drinking. When he finally stopped I told him that I had not had a drink, I just tripped. He was a little nicer after that, he even invited me to a revival meeting at his church.
I thanked him and told him I would love to go. I explained I had to work tomorrow so I would have to miss church and besides that the church I go to never has these revival meetings. He mumbled something about people who call themselves Christians and frequent establishments like that need to be revived.
The sounds that were coming out of that church were awesome.
I entered to the voices of people singing and speaking in all types of languages, it was like nothing I had ever heard on this planet. I asked about it and they looked at me kind of funny. You mean you’re a Christian and you don’t know about speaking in tongues was the gist of what they said. I told them that I was new to this faith in Jesus thing and I was still in Genesis trying to imagine how God could speak so many things into existence in six days.
I was laughed right out of that church, something about it not being a literal six days.
The next few days I asked around about this tongues thing and got scolded by some, they talked about the end of the apostolic age. I was pitied by others, they put their hands on my head and said if I believed I too could speak in this heavenly language.
I was so confused, some talked like my faith was part of the outcome not just when it came to tongues but healing and prosperity and much more. Others said my faith wasn’t even my faith and my prayers had no influence but instead were merely me acting out the predetermined path of one of the elect.
In all this confusion, the one thing I knew for sure was…
…if there are this many ideas on how God works and what we need to do if anything to follow Him, maybe God works in ways that we were not made to fully understand. Maybe we need to enjoy the simplicity of our salvation. Maybe we need to just believe.
I miss the simplicity of the beginning of my journey as a follower Christ. The innocence and joy of knowing that I was loved and forgiven. It was not complicated. I did not rely on anything more than the cross to define my salvation and the Bible to guide my course.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 (NIV)
* While there is truth to be learned from this story, this story is not true!