"Come to Jesus ...
"All your problems will go!
"All your puzzles will be solved!
"All your pains will disappear!
"You will prosper in everything!"
This is what we normally hear from Christian preachers. But respondents to such calls get disappointed when things donít go as they heard from pulpits. They begin to question their faith and doubt their experience with Christ. Having left their old friends and lifestyle, older people though disillusioned accept the status quo. They encourage themselves by listening to the stories of fellow believers. "After all, everybody is sailing in the same boat," they conclude.
The situation is not the same with young people who turn to Christ. They hate hypocrisy. They are radical. They want to know why they donít experience the flowery things the preachers promise. This article is to help you, dear young person, if you are surprised when saved by Christ.
The Gospel we hear from many pulpits these days is not the same as the one proclaimed by the early followers of Christ. Self-denial and cross-bearing are inseparable from the message of Christ. I came to Christ when I was sixteen. From what I observed in my life and learnt from the Scriptures, I have written here some of the surprises you will have when you are initially saved by Christ.
Before going back to Heaven, in one of His farewell addresses, Jesus alerted His disciples, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world. That is why the world hates you" (Jn 15:18,19). He mentioned the same thing when He later prayed to His Father: "I have given them Your Word, and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world any more than I am of the world" (Jn 17:14).
If Christ was unpopular, a Christian cannot expect to be popular. The world which rejected Christ has not got any better now. In fact it has become worse. "Cain" cannot love "Abel" because evil cannot love good (1 Jn 3:10-13). The devilís majority will oppose Godís minority with perfect hatred. God and Satan cannot come to terms with each other.
The world is sold to sin. Its very order is corruption. But now as a child of God, you cannot love sin. "He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devilís work. No one who is born of God will continue in sin, because Godís seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God" (1 Jn 3:8,9).
When you refuse to live on the worldís terms, you cannot escape the frown of the devil and the fury of his agents. Mass copying in exams is commonplace in India. When you decide to hold on to your integrity, you may become the victim of verbal and even physical assault. You may even have to lose some of your best friends. But remember, God loves you. You cannot find a better friend than Jesus. He will never leave you nor forsake you.
The world will hate you but it will not ignore you. It will do all thatís possible to get you back into its fold. Beware!
Satan tried his level best to prevent Jesus from going to the Cross. He brought so many obstacles to distract Jesus from fulfilling His mission. But Jesus was firm and He kept rebuking the devil with a resounding no. Even while hanging on the Cross, the passersby challenged Him, "Come down from the Cross!"
The world will have no problem with you as long as you confess that Christ is one of many ways to God. Indians have no difficulty to add a sweet Jesus to their list of 330 million gods! Only when you say that Christ alone can save, and "salvation is found in no one else," arrows of anger will be aimed at you (Acts 4:12).
All religions are the same, but Christianity is not a religion. Christianity is a Person. Christianity is Christ. Itís a relationship. In all history, no one ever claimed like Jesus that He was the only way to God (Jn 14:6).
Three Jewish young men namely Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were taken as captives to Babylon. The King was very impressed with their intelligence and he promoted them to high positions in his kingdom. But when he ordered that everyone should worship the huge golden image he had set up, these three young men politely but firmly refused. The King got furious and commanded his soldiers to throw them into a fiery furnace. But Jesus joined this trio in the fire as the fourth Young Man and saved them! Read this thrilling story from Daniel chapter 3.
Ignore the threats of anyone, be it your peers or professors. Proclaim your faith without fear. Jesus encourages you, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul... Whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge before My Father in Heaven" (Mt 10:27-33). Donít be surprised if your own family people turn against you (vv 34-36). Respect all men. But Christ alone died for you. Therefore love and worship Him with all your mind and strength.
This is a world of lawlessness, injustice and ungodliness. The weak and the godly are accused falsely whereas the wicked go scot-free. But Godís Word speaks to us aloud in such a condition: "Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong... Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes" (Psa 37:1,7).
Unless you have the mind and spirit of Christ, it is just impossible to be patient and quiet when you are falsely accused. "If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that Name" (1 Pet 4:16). "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth. When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly" (1 Pet 2:21-23).
When the young man Joseph refused to have sex with his superiorís wife when she enticed him, he was falsely charged by her and thrown into prison. He waited patiently in the jail thinking about the promises of God. The Lord marvellously worked on Josephís behalf and led him majestically from prison to palace. Have him as a model for trying and inexplainable situations (Gen 39-41; Psa 107:16-22).
Donít be discouraged or disheartened as long as your conscience is clear before God. Whatever be the false accusation against you, leave the matter into Godís hand. He is the Righteous Judge. He will fight for you. He will bring about justice in His time. "But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness" (2 Pet 3:13).
Battles in life will only intensify when you come to Christ. But the good news is that now you are not alone to fight your battles and face your problems. The Father keeps pouring out His love abundantly on you. The Son keeps giving you His grace sufficiently. The Holy Spirit keeps comforting you with His fellowship constantly. However "we must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).
Study the following Scripture passages carefully. You will be better prepared to face the realities of life.
Ecclesiastes 7:14, "When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider. God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future." These are the words of the wisest man who ever lived. It is God who orders the good times as well as the bad times in your life.
Psalm 74:16, "O God, the day is Yours, and Yours also the night; You established the sun and moon." This confession is the outcome of a perfect confidence in the Creator. Would you like a world where the sun never rises or sets? Praise God for His balance system in the world and in our life. Truly it is "good" (Gen 1:1-5,14-18).
Lamentations 3:38-40, "Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that calamities as well as good things come? Why should any living man complain when punished for his sins? Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord." Disappointments, defeats and distresses are attention-getters to God so we may examine ourselves before Him and walk in obedience.
Donít be like prophet Jonah who was extremely happy over the fast-grown plant, but became vehemently angry when the worm chewed it away (Jon 4:5-9). But be like patriarch Job who praised the Name of God who "gave and took away" (Job 1:21,22).
Lucifer fell because of his pride of beauty and wisdom (Ezek 28: 11-19). No human being will be spared of this temptation, but young people are the most vulnerable. Thatís why Peter wrote specifically, "Young men, be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under Godís mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time" (1 Pet 5:5,6).
Prophet Jeremiah points out three primary things of which men normally boast: Wisdom, Strength, Wealth (Jer 9:23,24). Ź Praise God if you are able to study well, memorize fast and do things intelligently. But never think that wisdom is of your own. It is a gift of God. Donít despise anyone who is less intelligent or poor in studies. The Lord will be displeased. Ź Similarly thank God for your good physique but donít boast of it or despise the weak or those not so good-looking. Ź So also God does not give wealth to people equally. If you have more or earn more, it is for you to give more. The pride of face, race, place, lace and grace is all demonic. Stay clear of it.
The elderly apostle Paul warned young Timothy, "Mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be... boastful, proud... headstrong, haughty... Have nothing to do with them" (2 Tim 3:1-5).
The Old Testament has stories of kings and leaders who became proud when God blessed and exalted them. That was their downfall. When God blesses you, donít be overoccupied with that blessing. Keep worshipping the Blesser.
Basically I am proud. I still remember that one of my class teachers in order to illustrate pride wrote on the blackboard, "Stanley is a proud boy!" Over the years I have become better and I am aware how the Lord is dealing with me in this area. Without a conscious and consistent effort and cooperation with God, one cannot subdue his ego.
Christian life is one of faith. It cannot be successfully lived by sense knowledge (2 Cor 5:7).
As a student in school or college you are trained to think analytically. You look for experimental proof before you accept anything. But in the spiritual realm it is totally different. "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him, but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit" (1 Cor 2:9,10). Life with Christ is A to Z of faith. Thatís why the commonest name for the followers of Christ is "believers." We believe and pray. We believe and speak. We believe and proceed. Jesus declared, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (Jn 20:29).
A walk of faith is characterized by uncertainties. You will come across many crossroads in life. There will be too many alternatives to choose from. But you will not be without help. God generally offers four helps to make you understand His will: The basic teaching of the Scriptures, the inner voice of Godís Spirit, the godly counsel of the saints, and the circumstantial evidence of the situation. You can unhesitantly proceed in the direction where these four guideposts are aligned. If you deviate to the left or to the right of the perfect course, God has promised that He would guide you with His voice of correction (Isa 30:31).
The saints of old sang, "O Lord, Your path led through the sea, Your way through the mighty waters, though Your footprints were not seen" (Psa 77: 19). Donít expect to have all the answers to your questions before you proceed. Step out in faith. God will take over. When God called Abraham, he went out in obedience "not knowing where he was going."
Whether it is the choice of a study course, a career, the life partner or ministry, decide on the basis of whatever light you have from the four sources mentioned above. Trust in God, commit your way to Him, and proceed. Christ is the forerunner as well as the finisher, the pioneer as well as the perfector of your faith (Heb 12:1,2).
There was a godly young man from a religious family. He was a law graduate. Impressed with the teachings of Jesus, he asked Him what good thing he must do to get eternal life. Jesus answered, "Obey the Commandments." "Which ones?" the young man inquired. Jesus replied, "Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, etc." The young man said, "All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?" Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come, follow Me." That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldnít bear to let go (Mt 19:16-22).
This story repeats simply too often. May be you are next for the test. God knows where each personís heart is. We will be called to sacrifice our rights, or sometimes very dear relationships. It varies from person to person. But there can be no progress without sacrifice. We must follow the example of Christ. He sacrificed everything and finally Himself. We dare not choose any other way than that of the Cross. Jesus laid down the condition of discipleship in no uncertain terms: "If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it" (Lk 9:23,24).
The slogans of the world are, "Grab it ! Keep it!" But those of Godís Kingdom are, "Give it away! Leave it!" This world is our temporary abode. Because you are saved, you are a citizen of Heaven. The world will pass away. The Lord Jesus is coming soon to take you and all His followers to His eternal mansions. All surprises in Christian life today will become pleasant up there in Heaven!