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Not knowing who you are, I have written this as to someone who may not share my faith in Jesus. Please, give this a try:
A worldview is the "lens" through which we view the world, experience it, and interpret it. What I am asking you to do is allow me to influence your worldview. I don't have the right to, and I certainly wouldn't force it on you even if it were possible. But I am asking you. If you know me, then hopefully you know that I am trustworthy. That's my goal. If you don't know me, then all I can say is, give it a shot. It is worth your time, because this "worldview" has become both precious and reliable to me. It can for you too.
It does to most people. I get freaked out by pushy religious people. I get freaked out when my life-assumptions end up wrong. If there's a god watching me; freaky.
So here's the type of freak out that I'm asking you to consider: When we have to change, as in a life-change, it's intimidating, plain and simple. But if my faith wouldn't change you, then it'd be a waste of your time. So what if the change is both intimidating and also totally worth it. Then it's worth it to get past the freak out.
And so with that, take a breath and enter the realm of "What if God..." (it's worth it)
If I had to guess, I would think you would answer this "no" because I assume you are like me. But then there are those times where I would do anything to blow up the rut of my life and start it over somehow. Maybe you want a change. Maybe you want it to stay the same.
Here's the challenging thought... "Am I the best judge of my own life change?"
The answer from a god-perspective is an obvious "no". If there is a god, surely he is better suited then I to decide if I need to change or not. I may feel complacent when there's a problem thats festering (...needs change). I may feel haunted with guilt when I'm really ok as I am (... no change needed). Whether we need change or not, if there is a god, he should decide it.
Does it bother you that you might not be 'master' of yourself? Is it offensive that a god would make decisions for you? I like my freedom as much as the next guy, but it didn't end there for me. I arrived at a place where I was happy to have a master. I arrived at "2nd" place. It's because I discovered that this master is both good and wise. Way more than me. So if he says "change" i know it's a good change, and a wise change.
BUT! the best judge of your life change is not a religious guy, or pastor, or website writer, or politician, or even family. I believe there is only one who should decide this, god or nobody.
Basically, we all (and you) do need to change. We are not OK. Although we spend great effort to assure ourselves that we are fine. We are not. And this is why:
How many kinds of evil are caused by something other than people? How much evil do people cause? If you are human, you are part of a group that is an enormous cause of evil. And if people cause evil, then I cause it. And if people like me cause it, so do you. Now wait a minute, this just got really judgmental all of a sudden. Am I trying to guilt-trip you into something? No. But I am asking you to change your worldview when it comes to human innocence.
Every person I know does some form of wrong thing, and I do too, every day. It's one part of who we are. We do wrong. And the truth is that you already know that it's true of yourself. You know you aren't innocent, or perfect. Before we explain how we are ok, lets stop to admit for a moment that we are not innocent. We have done wrong, and caused at least a small bit of evil. Maybe you are way better than me, and better than anyone else you know. I'm not arguing that. The point is, nobody is innocent.
This is why we need to change. Because there is a flaw buried within us. (and there's a beautiful solution as well)
If we do make mistakes, how much of a mistake is too much? We're all just human right?
I would ask you to consider the principle in life that if one part is broken, the whole is also broken. My car's alternator died recently. The rest of the car was fine, but it still sat for a month until I could afford a new alternator. One broken part meant a whole broken car. If my lungs break, my whole body is in trouble. If my computer code has one misspelling (even the wrong capitalization of a word) then the whole program fails, just like one bad circuit kills the whole gizmo.
Sure there are some standards that allow partial success. 70% is still passing in most schools. But in the case of human innocence, it's all or nothing. No judge ever said "Since you didn't murder those 5 billion other humans, I'll just say you are innocent of murdering the one guy with your knife in his back".
Therefore we have one very serious problem: We are not innocent. We are both good and guilty. We have at least one flaw (and we all know we have more than just one).
This serious problem is pretty darn serious. If we are imperfect, we certainly shouldn't expect to deserve a perfect life-after-death (heaven). We don't deserve paradise when we are a sometimes-cause-of-evil. And then, our connection to god himself is broken, because in one way or another we have violated him and his standards.
So now that we bear some form of guilt. How about we try and remove our guilt... it can't be done without going back in time. We are stuck with this problem. ...almost stuck, that is, until the beautiful solution enters the story.
I can no longer make myself innocent. But there is one who can.
I am sensitive to my own guilt. I don't blow it off like many of my friends. It weighs on me (or did). And so I was greatly relieved to discover this beautiful solution. And it didn't take the form that I anticipated. In fact, I would guess that this solution doesn't fit your first expectation.
Jesus is the focus, the fulcrum against which the entire situation is shifted. He is able to bring a life-change unique to itself; it is different then the other helpful methods of self improvement. Jesus is able to provide innocence, even perfection, back into our tainted life.
The premise and logical flow:
- Premise: Jesus was himself perfect
- As perfect, he did not deserve punishment of any kind
- Jesus received punishment, willingly, though undeserved. (He was killed)
- His goal was to switch our guilt/punishment for his innocence/perfection
- He took our punishment from us and replaced it by placing His perfection in us
- He will do this for literally anyone who is willing to receive it, by trusting Him.
Result #1: we have the perfection of Jesus covering us, covering up our natural guilt. Therefore, in the eyes of God we are perfect.
Result #2: we have a connection to Jesus that become a source of life within us, changing us so that we grow in real perfection.
Result #3: we have a promise made to us by Jesus that when our life on earth ends, we are given an eternal life-after-death in which our perfection is complete.
The unexpected part: 6. above says that He will do this for anyone who trusts, and it really doesn't matter how much you perform. (Keep reading)
...by the way, these ideas, presented in an outline, matter to me because of what they have done in my heart, not because of how well they fit in an outline. The 'heart' part is coming later...
What can you do to change your past guilt on your own? If you strain everything against it, or try very little, the effect is the same. How well you perfect yourself has no effect, because it simply can't be done. For a time I tried to perfect myself through religious devotion. In the end I was still just a nice guy, but not perfect. At other times I stopped caring, and did whatever the !@#$ I wanted to do. I was still just imperfect. But in trusting Jesus I was given a change in life; a seed that grows perfection in me, guaranteed to blossom in time. So what now, do I use religious devotion to get this change in life? No, I just trust Jesus (an entirely different strategy). I depend on the one who can change me, that is all. In a word: Faith.
I may never give another dime to a church, and I may never help an old lady across the street. I may get even worse and start using really strong cuss words instead of just typing !@#$. Or I may commit real evil, dark and disgusting, hurtful and hateful, because that's what humans do sometimes. In any case, I have one I can trust, Jesus, who has promised me life. My performance is nothing, faith is the whole thing.
And I tested this in the crucible of living...
So I have tried to explain the *concepts* of a new life with Jesus. But I don't believe that you want something academic. If you want a change, then you want a CHANGE in life. Soul and spirit, mind and emotions, body and behavior, plans and purposes, relationships and introspectiveness: One day, I decided to go all-in with Jesus. I remember the moment clearly, when I was desperate for life. I cried out for help. Not using the right words, but believing, just believing, I told Jesus: I trust You.
and a life was born in me.
And again, day after day, year after year (with some pretty lousy years mixed in) I sought to have my trust of Jesus himself be the guide for my life. I told myself, 'I'm not going to figure this out, even though I could, I'm going to let Jesus call the shots on this one. I'm in his hands." And that's how I made almost all of my major life decisions. (almost all... yes I have regrets). And then this life produced more life. And it continued, and it was full as long as I would trust. And when I wouldn't trust, it faded until I trusted again. Time and again, when I trusted Jesus, I was changed and life grew in me.
Forgive me for sounding like a fool, but let me give you a sample:
- Sometimes I would stay up all night reading the Bible, because I was so amazed at the teachings there
- Jobless and broke for 6 months with a home payment, Jesus delivered and the payments were made
- I once took a job I knew was a time bomb, and when it blew up, it blew up in my face. I took it because I directly believed that Jesus was in it. And at the end of that story was a charred face and an experience I wouldn't trade.
- I found my wife by trusting Jesus, and oh what life has come from that path.
- In pits of discouragement, I have held that rope, trusting it, lifting me out of emotional haze.
In many kinds and various ways I have trusted, and I have found life in Jesus.
I'm writing to you about this because I've met them too. But Jesus is not that way. And not everyone who says they trust him actually does. Sometimes his people do evil, since they are human after all. Please, don't follow the Christians. It's Jesus to follow. And for every jerk Christian that you or I have met, I could show you 5 or 10 others who are golden, full of life. My hope is that I could be one of those golden ones for you.
I have asked you to allow me to influence your worldview. I don't deserve to, and I wouldn't force you even if it were possible. And so the choice is before you to make for yourself.
Will it be Jesus that you trust?
If yes, tell him so.
If no, so be it.
if something else, then just search and the answer will come.
The fact that you have read this far is, frankly, flattering. And so I'm guessing you got this far because you want to know more, or at least what you may. Here are some basic steps:
Pray. Does that freak you out? Maybe in your heart it's not so strange to ask the 'something-out-there' if it's there at all. But don't freak when he answers 'yes'.
Read a Bible. It's a collection of many different writings, so you don't have to start at the beginning. I'd recommend starting with the book of 'John' about the life of Jesus.
Add comments to my message board. My hope is to have an anonymouse message board where you can ask any question and it be 'safe'.
If you are in the Portland/Vancouver area, I invite you to come to a class I teach on Sunday mornings (and there's a regular church service after). You'll be treated with dignity. I usually wear jeans. CrossPointe Baptist Church, 9:15 AM is my class.
Thank you. ~DavB