Do you know people who are confused about who God is? I do. It’s so discouraging to see people who used to be in church serving God, now out in the world doing their own thing. I think part of the reason is that so many have tried church, but they haven’t tried Jesus.
You see, if you have ever really known the Lord and His heart, you could never turn your back on Him and walk away. I’ve heard people say, “Well, when I was in church trying to be a Christian, I was miserable. Now that I’m out of church, I’m happy. The church thing didn’t really work for me.”
Well, I’m here today to tell you: It never will. And you are probably not as happy as you claim to be.
Religion will work for a little while because it will give you a set of values to define your life; it will give you a better environment and new friends; it will provide some order to the chaos you may have experienced before you turned to church; and religion will cause you to feel better about yourself and your choices.
But something happens after a while. You will find that you can’t keep that set of values anymore; those new friends will turn out to be no better than your old friends; if you get more involved in church, you will find there are imperfect people there, too; and you will start to feel guilty because you can’t keep all the rules.
So you give up and decide it just made you miserable, and you were a whole lot happier without all the hypocrisy of the church and the guilt of trying to live up to the “Christian” expectations.
Friend, if you have been through this, let me encourage you that you have not experienced true Christianity at all! You’ve merely tasted religion. Any religion can give you those things. That’s why so many people turn to gangs or Islam. They are looking for a set of values, acceptance, stability. But in Christ, there is so much more! Jesus wants you to know Him. He wants you to experience His presence, not through some religious hype, but through His Word and His Spirit.
God desires for everyone He created to know Him, and He invites whosoever will to come. We are all freely offered His gift of salvation and a personal relationship with Him. Once you truly know the Lord, His values in His Word become precious to you. When you hear a truth that convicts, you will respond with agreement as your heart cries, “Yes, Lord.” And you will surrender to His Lordship with humility and gratefulness for His mercy.
You will recognize that the church is made up of imperfect people at different stages of growth and maturity. You will feel a deep love for others in the body, even when they mess up. Your heart will desire to encourage and lift them up rather than accuse and condemn.
You will also find that you no longer feel guilty all the time because you are under grace. You won’t feel miserable in struggling to keep God’s commands, but instead you will have a desire to walk in His ways. As you stumble along the way, you will have God’s Word and His spirit to convict, but assured of His love and empowered by His Spirit, you will be able to turn from sin and keep growing.
No, God is not some mean higher power who condemns good people to hell just because they don’t bow to His wishes. He is a loving, holy, perfect God who created a perfect place for us to live with Him forever. But because we are all sinners (no matter how good we think we are), we don’t deserve to go. The gift of God is that He sent His Son through hell and then offered us heaven. If we choose not to accept His grace, we can’t blame Him for the result.
Friend, God is good. He offers us life instead of death, light instead of darkness, hope instead of despair, joy instead of sorrow. He gives mercy for judgment, love for hate, truth for lies, peace for confusion. He is a Father to the fatherless, strength to the weak, a refuge to those who fear, and a balm to those who hurt. My God is awesome!
If you think He is less than everything He claims in His Word to be, I am so sorry that Satan has blinded you from the truth, and I am praying for you even now. If you have been hurt or disappointed or even disgusted by the church, hypocrisy, or your own failure to live up to the Christian life, may I offer you Jesus?
You may think that you are happier serving yourself, but deep inside, you know it’s not true. There will always be something missing in your life apart from a relationship with Jesus, and you will never be fulfilled. Church can’t satisfy. The world won’t cut it. Friends will let you down. You will never measure up.
But in Christ, you will be complete. I know. I’ve lived on both sides of this fence. I spent a while in church, struggling to be a Christian, but never really surrendered to His Lordship. I was never satisfied, always pointing fingers, and always seeking fulfillment elsewhere. I tried to live with one foot in the church and one in the world. It doesn’t work, and it never will. Religion doesn’t work for long. But Jesus sure does.