Why (at 24 years old) did I make such a decision and continue to follow Him today (no matter what the world does or how difficult it might be at times)?
(3 reasons): 1) what I knew about myself, 2) what I knew about the world, 3) what I knew about the future.
What I knew (and continue to know) about myself = It didn’t take me long to realize that I was (and would continue to be without Christ) a slave to my feelings/emotions with very little (if any) power or ability to free myself from them.
1.1.I hated being controlled by them because I saw how depraved, deceitful, and destructive they were.
1.2. I saw how they affected my ability to determine truth, make wise decisions, or have right relationships with others. I was a deaf, dumb, and blind crazy person that operated no differently (if not worse) than an animal.
1.3. I observed that this was true of others as well. Even the best pagan people were selfish animals being driven to do what they did by how they felt. And most of what they felt (or what drove them) was shameful and disgusting (e.g., 98% of men and 73% of women watch pornography – a habit that not only promotes the worst of crimes – the sexual abuse and exploitation of others [including rape and child molestation] but also destroys the most important relationship on the planet- marriage).
1.4. In short, what I realized about myself (and still know to be true to this day) is that self (myself as well as every other human) is out of control if left to themselves.
1.5. Contrary to popular belief, human beings are not naturally good. They are naturally selfish and self-serving (and that to a fault). And by “self-serving” I mean serving the desires of their flesh (no matter how shameful or destructive that may be to others).
1.6. I realized THAT. And (once more) that I possessed very little power to fight it. And that scared me b/c it meant I was capable of the worst of things.
1.7. BTW: it didn’t take being in the world or experiencing sin or the sinful world to REALIZE THAT. All it took was being honest about myself –what I knew was inside me and what I knew was inside others (e.g., psychological research now suggests that everyone either has some form of a mental disorder or will develop one later in life).
1.8. God’s Word confirms this to be true (of me as well as every other human being) (Deu 28:28; Ecc 9:3; Jer 17:9; Rom 7:18-19; Joh 8:34; Eph 2:3, 4:17-19; 1Pe 3:3, 4:3; 2Pe 2:12; Jud 1:10)
1.9. SO THAT is the FIRST REASON I chose (and continue) to follow Jesus. B/C of what I knew about myself.
1.10. This means that WHAT Jesus saved me (first and foremost from) was myself – from being controlled by my flesh- my feelings/emotions. As I gave (and continue to give full control of my life) to Him, He continues to give me power over my flesh so that I am no longer its SLAVE.
1.11. As a result, He saved me also from the shameful, foolish decisions I would make without Him and from the damage I would do to myself, others (and most importantly, God) if I were still in control.
1.12. Hence the reason it has NEVER been a problem to let Him be the BOSS and run my life.
1.13. I am afraid of myself. I don’t trust myself with my life. I know the narcissist I WAS —AND would be if I were running things. I also know how stupid I am. I can’t think straight.
1.14. Left to myself (or my feelings/emotions) I will deceive myself into thinking something is right when it is wrong, that something is safe when it is dangerous. I am (therefore-AGAIN) deathly afraid of myself (my thinking, my desires, my heart).
1.15. And so, I let GO of ME twenty-seven years ago and GAVE full authority (and all decisions) to Jesus because HE is the only One who truly knows what’s true, what’s best, and what path will keep me from destroying me (both now and for eternity).
1.16. I have put my hand to His plow and will never look back (especially seeing how great it has been since I did that. It is the best decision I ever made).
1.17. God’s Word also confirms this to be true for me as well as every other human being who follows Jesus – who gives Him full control of their lives (Joh 8:36; Col 2:3; Rom 8:1-4; God’s Word also teaches me how to properly view my emotions/feelings: not as my guide in this life [feelings don’t think and are often sinfully wrong – Jer 17:9] but as my “check your brain” light –or better yet, “what would OT JESUS do?” light).
What I knew (and continue to know) about the world = The world I grew up in seemed to have a better sense of reality and morality than the one we are living in now. But even back (then) I could see that putting my hopes in this world would be a losing decision. Not simply because it was filled with crazy narcissistic, perverted people, but b/c of what a world filled with those kinds of people creates.
2.1. It creates a world where lying, manipulation, greed, and selfishness are commonplace. A world where the idea of two people getting married and staying faithful to each other for the rest of their lives was already becoming unpopular.
2.2. Today, such thinking (or faithfulness to anything for the sake of faithfulness) is now viewed as weakness or (even) “sin” since the one thing now considered most important is that a person be “always happy.” Nothing can be pursued (or sacrificed) unless there is an immediate reward (or happiness).
2.3. And if lying, manipulation, greed, and (an utter selfish attitude) is what is required to achieve such happiness, then so be it (“the ends justify the means”).
2.4. Self-fulfillment or self-happiness are the chief goal of every human being (according to the world), and nothing should ever trump.
2.5. The irony in all this is THAT this SAME WORLD (where this is the chief goal) is ALSO a world filled w/very unhappy, unfulfilled people—PEOPLE who are disturbed, depressed, and stressed.
2.5. AND if you don’t see that, then you either haven’t been looking –or very honest about what you are looking at.
2.4. Allow me to provide some data that might help: 1) the divorce rate for new couples is almost 70% (IOW: the most sacred of all human relationships, is more likely to fail than succeed. Every 13 seconds there is one divorce in America), 2) more than 40% of those in marriages will have a physical sexual relationship w/a person who is not their spouse (so beyond just watching porn –which includes 98% of the men in the world and 73% of the women, one or both spouses will also have an adulterous affair), 3) therapists now counsel people to consider divorcing their spouses for reasons other than infidelity, the biggest reason: you believe your spouse is keeping you from achieving all of your happiness or self-fulfillment goals, 4) ethics/morality (right and wrong) are now considered a sociological construct –meaning what determines those things is what the majority of people (or culture) thinks at any given time. Hence the reason homosexuality that was at one time viewed as a mental illness is now considered acceptable (because this is now what the majority of people think), 5) Every day 132 Americans commit suicide (most of those doing it are from the middle to upper class) IOW: these are not poor people killing themselves because they are poor. It is people who live comfortable lives in this world but are so unhappy w/their lives in this world, they would rather die, 6) 37 million Americans are on anti-depressants and 40 million see psychotherapists (because this world is so great), 7) 37% of all managers in American companies tell at least one lie a week to bosses or their employees for the purpose of getting ahead or getting someone to do something they otherwise would not do if told the truth.
2.5. So that’s the world (and Evangelicalism. Believe or not, but the numbers among their group are not much different than those of the world). And as I said, I saw that early on and knew there had to be something better.
2.6. God’s Word confirms this to be true (2Ti 3:1-5; here’s what else the Bible says about the world – 1Jo 5:19 w/Joh 8:44 – Satan is the “father of lies”).
2.7. Following Jesus meant I could leave all the world (and its evil untrustworthiness behind) for a better community or world – a heavenly one, b/c through Him I would gain citizenship in His Body and heavenly outpost on earth –the church:
2.7.1. A place where things operate according to the objective truth. Not something that changes based on how people feel or what they want to be truth, BUT something I could build my life on, something that would withstand the trials and temptations to come.
2.7.2. A place where there will be justice/equity—which means wrongs are made right, the guilty are punished and the innocent protected (versus the world, where people are constantly taken advantage of, and people get away with it).
2.7.3. A place where I would have the best kind of family: people loyal not only to Christ and one another but also WHO can speak real truth and wisdom into my life (because its coming again from God’s Word and not their feelings or personal biases).
2.7.4. A place where there is faithfulness and fidelity (no matter the cost)
2.7.5. A place (lastly) where I could expect to find something better than happiness. A place possessing joy — a much deeper and persevering feeling than happiness –one that doesn’t leave when things get tough because it is not dependent on circumstances. It is instead rooted in the relationship we have with God and knowing that He loves us and is bringing only what is good for us into our lives.
2.8. Following Jesus gave me what the world never can (or could) – a righteous community of people I could trust my life w/.
2.9. Which is the second reason (then) I chose to follow (and continue to choose to) Jesus. In His BODY (the church) I found my forever home (a home safe from the wiles of the devil and the wickedness of the world).
2.10. As before God’s Word confirms what I just said (Eph 2:6; Phi 3:20; Rom 8:28, 14:17).
What I knew (and continue to know) about the future = I knew life had to be ABOUT MORE than just looking for fun and wasting time.
3.1. I knew we (as humans) had a purpose and that whatever the future held (both in this life and the one to come) it would be directly tied to (or determined) by what I did in the present.
3.2. The world (especially today) does not have a plan past this life (and in many cases doesn’t even recommend a plan for anything past the present).
3.3. It’s all about living in the now (and having as many experiences as possible).
3.4. Which really begs the question, WHY do anything more than just party all the time and make sure I am getting this biggest bang out of this body bag I am tied to? (A depressing picture of life if YOU ask me)
3.5. NO REAL purpose to live other than TO LIVE (again no different than the animals). NOTHING special, NOTHING bigger than just this pathetic existence.
3.6. God confirms this to be HOW humans in this world think (1Co 15:32b – no concern for the future, life IS the present and this present world ONLY—which MEANS the only purpose for living is “eat, drink and be merry”)
3.7. Following Jesus gave me REAL purpose AND a future worth working toward (one that extended beyond this life).
3.8. I learned that THIS LIFE was a test (for THAT next life).
3.9. Which meant that part of my PURPOSE was making sure that I was holy –or removing from my life those things that would corrupt my soul (and keep me from getting to heaven – or the next life).
3.10. That’s why people go to hell—b/c they have allowed their flesh and the world to corrupt their souls and cannot (as a result) reside in heaven.
3.11. My other purpose (I learned) was being His image-bearer (or an image-reflector of God) –which is what Jesus showed us HOW to do (and what it looks like). Hence the reason He came to earth and took on human flesh (Joh 1:18 – “No one has ever seen God, H who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known [literally, Jesus has shown us what it looks like to be image-bearers of God as humans]”).
3.12. And being image-bearers/reflectors is an incredibly awesome thing to live for (a wonderful privilege) b/c it is thru being IMAGE-bearers THAT God’s glory and kingdom are advanced on earth.
3.13. It IS how we become what else we were created for (to be conquerors). We conquer thru taking every area of OUR life and living it the way Jesus (or God) would (which is why that question WWJD? Is so important). My purpose is to be like HIM.
3.14. That awesome purpose is ALSO what gives me great hope for the future—since THIS (too) is HOW we enter heaven.
3.15. We do it by BEING faithful image-bearers—by being like JESUS, in the present world.
3.16. And God’s WORD confirms to those who live this way THAT THEY HAVE a great hope and a great future (Jer 29:11 – “I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you a future and a hope; 1Jo 4:17 – “we have confidence on the day of judgment – because as He is, so we are also in the world”)
So (then) those are my reasons (and they are still my reasons).
AND following Christ all these years has only made my commitment and love for Him stronger –B/C I see all the more His FAITHFULNESS and GOODNESS and HOW what He says in His WORD is TRUE.