On a Thursday morning, twenty-one years ago last week, I woke up thinking I was a Christian but dealing with the growing realization that there was little fruit of conversion in my life. Later that afternoon, sitting under the preaching of God’s word, I came to the realization that I didn’t know Jesus and called out for him to save me. Then, the light came on. I can’t think of any other way to describe it. A flood of joy entered my soul and I went to bed knowing that I belonged to Christ and he lived in me.
I often wish I could go back and have some stern conversations with the younger version of me. It would be nice to tell him what pitfalls he needs to avoid and to realize how desperately he needs God’s grace. However, the process of learning these things on my own, though painful, has been necessary.
These are some random thoughts that have crossed my mind this week as I reflected on my walk with Jesus for these last twenty-one years.
You will become like the people who are around you.
Someone recently quipped that Jesus greatest miracle was having twelve close friends in his 30’s. This is true. We spend less and less time with friends as we get older, making two things imperative. First, we’ve got to make more time for friends. Then, the time we spend with friends must point us towards the most important things in the world. My Christian life has been shaped by my friends. I look at every aspect of my Christian life and owe any progress I have made to the people the Lord put around me.
Show me how you treat other people and I will tell you your level of spiritual maturity.
John said that you cannot love God whom you haven’t seen if you don’t love your brother that you do see. In the same way, I cannot see your love for God, but I see the way you treat people. If the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love our neighbor, then it follows that the two are so intricately connected that they cannot be separated.
I don’t know if the Internet has helped my walk with the Lord or not, but I can tell you how it has harmed it.
I signed up for Facebook in 2007, so I have now been on this and similar services for over half of my Christian life. These tools have helped me stay in touch with some people and discover some good writers. At the same time, they have caused me to waste countless hours, get angry with opinions I would not have been exposed to otherwise, and mauled my attention span. If I’m performing an honest cost/benefit analysis on the effects of social media on my Christian life, they are found wanting.
When I was 21, I wondered how Paul could call himself “the chief of sinners,” but now I understand.
Theoretically, I understood that Paul said this about himself because he was humble and growing in humility. I could look around and see people who seemed like they were worse sinners than me and surely Paul could search around his debauched culture and find someone more deserving of the title than him. After watching 21 years of my clumsy efforts at following Jesus, I get it.
Live in the Psalms and Proverbs.
On a similar theme, when I was younger I often avoided the Psalms because the Psalmists sounded whiny. What could be so bad that they keep talking about being in the pit? Again, 21 years later, I get it. Life is hard. God often allows the people who belong to him to walk through all sorts of difficulty. Sometimes the pain will seem overwhelming. Other times, God will feel distant.
The Psalms speak into our pain and difficulty. They give us a vocabulary to for expressing the sorrow we feel and help us cry out to God in our despair. Living in the Psalms will drench us in a God-centered perspective on pain, sorrow, difficulty, suffering, and worship. In a culture where we don’t know what to do when times are hard, we need this desperately.
Also, when I was younger I tended to live in the Pauline letters because I wanted to understand basic doctrine. As important as this was for my formation as a Christian, there were areas of immense immaturity that I needed to address. Therefore, I needed to plunge deeply into the Proverbs. They offer a crash course in godly maturity that we never outgrow.
Prayer is more important than you could ever imagine.
Everyone nods their heads in agreement on the importance of prayer and hangs their head in shame at the pitiful amount of time they commit to it. I knew I needed to pray, but I often made it a last resort when times were tough. A Christian needs prayer like a body needs oxygen. We need God and we need his power. We are weak and he is strong, so we must spend time with him every day.
You have enough time to do the things you need to do.
Many of us whine about “not having enough time” to do all thing things we think we need to do. The truth is, we have enough time for the most important things in life. Our challenge is to arrange our lives so that they get priority. This means the important things get tended to before things that are of little or no importance. If we spent our best time on the things that matter most, we’d find that we God has given us the time we need.
I suppose our older selves will always think our younger selves were wayward and foolish. It is easy to look back and laugh at my youthful foolishness and zeal. Yet, I think there is plenty I could learn from the intensity of my desire to follow Jesus when I was younger. My younger self would rebuke my older self for how easily preoccupied I can be with this present world. The one thing that every age will have in common is our desperate need for the grace of God. It was more than sufficient then, is now, and will be in the future.
“Why You Should Live in the Psalms”
For Further Reading:
The Imperfect Disciple by Jared Wilson
Reset by David Murray