I remember having conversations years ago in high school with classmates who just couldn’t comprehend how I could be having any fun at all in life–
I didn’t drink or do drugs or party.
I didn’t go to R-rated movies.
I got up on Sunday mornings to go to church.
I did not have sex until my wedding night.
As a teen, I did or didn’t do these things because I was a Christian and Christians, at least back in those days, had a pretty specific list of things that identified them as true believers. I was so blessed to be in a family where I was taught to follow God and to obey His Word. Sometimes the obedient behavior came from my heart and other times it was just done out of duty or routine (that is just the simple truth).
As the years passed, I continued to live my life based on the Christian principles found in the Bible. Only my motivation became more about my realization of my wicked sinfulness, my desperate need for a Savior, and the amazing way God had offered a way for me to be reconciled to Him through His son, Jesus. My outward behavior became a reflection of my love for God and was no longer about a set of rules. Upon getting married as a twenty-something, my husband became my partner in this walk with God and we continued in the typical Christian lifestyle. We both had grown up with such a rich, godly heritage of which we both feel so undeserving.
As the years went by and because of our deepening love for God and growing knowledge of His Word, we carefully made decisions about what TV shows we would watch and what music we would play on our car radio, basing our decisions on whether or not our choice would please the God who saved us. We tried to live our proper roles as husband and wife, as taught in scripture. And we trained our children to obey and respect us and tried to teach them to know God and to walk with Him. We didn’t commit adultery and tried to be very careful in our relationships with the opposite sex.
Oh, we weren’t even close to perfect and we made lots of mistakes and so many wrong choices. We’d argue and fight. Sometimes we’d watch something we knew we shouldn’t. But we’d confess and move on, always desiring to stay on the narrow road, despite our flesh that would sometimes demand otherwise.
As our children grew older, our dedication to our Lord and Savior was tested and tried, but we continued to do our best to make choices to honor and please Him. We made unpopular decisions about what our children could watch, listen to, and read. We made difficult decisions about what our daughters would be allowed to wear. And we made very tough decisions about who they could hang out with and where they would be allowed to go.
Now, please hear me carefully. We made choices, yes, all by God’s grace and we made a lot of mistakes, too. This isn’t about us. This is about the life of peace and joy we can have when we walk in obedience to God’s commands as written in scripture.
A lot of people view their decision to become a “Christian” as a life insurance policy for their eternal destiny. They have no interest in living a life dedicated to Christ here on earth. Their main goal is to avoid hell. But I want you to know that I am so thankful I have lived a Christian life, even if there is no heaven.
Don’t get me wrong–I believe there is heaven. I believe, according to what we read in God’s Word, that I am going there when I die. But I want you to know that the choices of obedience I have made throughout my life have not only led to a better life in eternity but they have led to a better life now.
Our family has been spared great despair and heartache because we have chosen to follow God and obey His Word.
This is not about how great we are because, quite frankly, we aren’t all that great. Our family is filled with sinners saved by grace. We still argue and struggle and do sinful things. Quite frequently. No, this isn’t about us. This is about God’s tremendous grace extended to sinners who have accepted His free gift of salvation and truly desire to live lives that please Him.
The standards and guidelines set forth in scripture for our lives are not put there to make us miserable. They are there for our protection. God sets them for US. He knows that we are protected from terrible consequences when we follow His Word.
We are spared messy relationships and heartache when we save sex for marriage. We are spared hardened hearts and many temptations when we do not put evil things before our eyes. We are spared agonizing addictions when we avoid alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. We are spared disunity and broken relationships when we follow God’s plan for marriage and parenthood.
And so there is a reason God gives us the guidelines that we read in His Word. If we choose to obey, we will avoid horrible consequences. Oh, we can’t avoid all the bad stuff of life. We will still get sick and lose our jobs and have really hard things happen to us. But when we are walking in obedience and right relationship with God, He will give us peace and meet our needs, strengthening and protecting us in even our darkest trials and moments of deep despair.
I used to be really disappointed that I didn’t have a more exciting testimony. My life has been pretty boring compared to most. But I have come to realize that I am blessed beyond measure. I do not take it for a granted anymore.
While I know that some of you were blessed to grow up in Christian homes and have stayed on the straight and narrow, having a similar testimony to mine, there are just as many– if not more–of you that are living a life that’s just full of the consequences of your sinful and unwise choices.
The really good news is that today is a new day! Today is the first day of the rest of our lives. We can begin to obey God and His Word right now. We can’t change our past but we can change our future! Start living for God today, choosing to obey Him even when it’s really, really hard.
And you, too, will learn that a life lived for Jesus not only gives us the promise of heaven but sweetens our life here on earth, as well. So much so, that even if heaven didn’t exist, I’d still choose to follow hard after God.