Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Real Deal

"But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Long-suffering and abundant in mercy and truth."-Psalm 86:15
"It is not religion, it is a relationship." If you have been around Christian circles at all, you have probably heard this. And you may have even used this phrase before. Whatever the case may be, whether you are a proponent of this catchy phrase or find it a little too cheesy, it is true.

This morning I did my usual get up, get ready for church, slip in, worship, listen to the message, and come home in time to get ready for work. I'd say it is routine by now but one thing has changed- I actually enjoy it. And I am uplifted. Encouraged. Inspired. It is quite a contrast to how I felt about Christianity most of my life. For many years I disliked any part of the whole church routine. Church was boring. Speakers were boring. Worship was just singing at best and grating on my nerves at worst. I often had to wear a dress, which was detestable to my little girl-self. The lights ended up giving me a headache. And I rarely felt anything grand afterwards. God was always distant and apathetic. And there was fear too. 

So what has changed?

For years, I hated anything to do with having to deal with my testimony. I had grown up in a Christian home my whole life. I went to AWANA, I memorized verses, and I was pretty decent at talking the talk. If you ask my brothers or sister, they can probably attest to the fact that I am fairly good at being a goody-goody. It's not that I am perfect or don't willfully sin- it's just I would like to appear that way. I'd rather not have people see the dirt. But whatever the case, it was frustrating I didn't feel I had a testimony. I couldn't remember accepting Jesus into my heart and neither could my parents. I certainly think I believed that Jesus was real and God, and that I quiet probably did belong to Him, but that was it. Most everything else about how I acted seemed to be in response to rules and ideas about what I was supposed to be like as a Christian. Jesus wasn't my loving, life giving, wonderful Savior. He was just a guy who made it so I could go to heaven- and I have to be honest, even that scared me. Eternity? With not change or variation? As I grew older and passed from middle school into high school, a lack of strong foundation caused me to wander even further away. I became the cup which was clean on the outside but dirty on the inside. I had no relationship with Christ, as far as I could tell, and all I ever did was use my brain to come up with answers to anything regarding being a Christian. My heart was not in it.

But Jesus would have me and over the next few years He began to move in me. He let me be introduced to kids my age who had a true love for their Savior because they knew Him personally. And slowly He drew me back to Him. He gave me tastes of what it is like to have a relationship with God and put people in my life pointing me to Him.

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." -Revelation 3:20

Over the years Jesus has banished dominating fear from my life. He has helped me to feel that I am clean in the sight of God. He is working in me, daily helping me to see just how beautiful and how loving He is. He is teaching me to love Him. Something which I cannot honestly say I have experienced before.

Here is what I can tell you. Following Jesus is not about a bunch of rules. It is about a change of heart. And that change of heart stems from allowing Jesus to work in your heart and to pull you close. You will never be able to change your heart to be perfect or do enough good works to feel righteous in God's eyes. See Jesus, if you accept Him as your Savior, has already made you righteous. What He desires is a relationship- one where we turn to Him. He wants us to lean into Him in trouble, come to Him with fears, and tell Him about our dreams. It isn't because He doesn't already know everything about us. He does. But He wants a relationship with us. We will never be able to truly follow Him if we don't have a relationship with Jesus. And we won't be able to fully enjoy the freedom, from sin and fear, which He has given us. It is not because I have become more zealous about following God's rules that I can  enjoy church. It's because I get to go worship and learn more about Jesus.

 Jesus really is better than anything else. The happiness and joy which you can experience in His presence is worth so much more than what you are pursuing instead. I feel I am really just a baby when it comes to my knowledge and experience of a personal relationship with Jesus, but it is real, it is beautiful, and it is freeing. So if you are walking the fence as a Christian, doing everything else and leaving out Jesus, know there is more out there. You really can have a relationship with the God of the universe. He wants you. And a relationship with Jesus is the real deal.