In middle school I was a terrible flute player. It turns out that God can use a thing like that to bring you to Himself. Kristin was the chair right before me, so we had lots of time to talk. One day she asked me to come with her to a youth activity. “What is it?” I asked. She talked about it like everyone knew what a youth activity was. “We’re riding a bus up north to a farm with lots of games and preaching. It’s called Harvest Fest.” I had never been to a farm before.
It was a crisp fall day as we drove up north to a very large open field with an even larger tent set up. The blue and white striped tent reminded me of an old time circus and I wondered what I had gotten myself into. We did listen to preaching- lots of it. Dr. Tom Farrell was there and apparently he was famous for preaching about fire and brimstone. He was southern and his thick accent made hell sound even scarier.
His words came out so quickly that I leaned forward in my seat to hear exactly what he was saying about how Jesus had died for my sins. I had been to Methodist Sunday school as a child, but I did not remember hearing this information before. It seemed like there were a thousand teenagers in the tent. He invited us to come forward and accept Jesus into our hearts as our Savior. He said we could have a relationship with Jesus, and He would accept us into His family forever. As I got up, I moved quickly down the aisle thinking if all of these kids were just now hearing about Jesus, it was going to be pretty full at the front of the tent!
I sat in a circle with about ten other girls and an older girl with two long braids and glasses. She wore really long, wide shorts and folded them under her as we knelt on the hay. She led us in a prayer to accept Jesus, and then she happily smiled and clapped her hands together. Kristin and her youth pastor were also excited that I accepted Jesus. I felt uncomfortable with the extra attention, and didn't fully understand their enthusiasm. I was operating under some misconceptions about my new-found salvation that would continue on for many years to come.
Misconception #1: The reason to become a christian is to avoid an eternity in hell
A large reason I came forward that day was to avoid an eternal punishment in hell. I was fearful I would die and end up in the lake of fire that Dr. Farrell mentioned. I was looking for a pass. That assurance that hell would not be a part of my future. I didn't realize that an actual relationship with Christ is what I was saved to. An eternal and forever relationship meant to mold me, and make me, and change me into the very image of Christ. While I am rescued from the fate I deserve, God saved me for so much more than a place in Heaven. He saved me for relationship. (Romans 5:8-11- we are reconciled with Him)
Misconception #2: Christianity is A list of do's and don'ts
Following my salvation there was a large emphasis on how I should live. Attend three church services per week. Dress modestly. Read your Bible and pray every day. Don't do this. Do this. Don't say that. Say this. Don't think that. Think this. While these activities and ideas are important, I began to believe that my ability to DO these things and THINK this way and ACT this way determined how pleased God was with me. If I successfully followed all of the Christian "rules" then I was a good Christian. When I messed up, I felt guilty and God was displeased with me because I missed one church service, or didn't pray long enough, or didn't read my Bible enough.
Only in recent years have I been able to fully see that man looks on the outside, but God looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). The process of sanctification is a long one and progresses at a different pace for all of us. We cannot be the judge of what others do and why. Becoming more like Jesus is a personal walk- not a list of standards or requirements to follow. I am not less of a Christian because I don't attend church on a Wednesday or because I became divorced through no choice of my own. Christianity is about so much more than following a laundry list of do's and don'ts. Christianity is about the person of Christ and your relationship with a loving and holy God.
Misconception #3: christians only suffer as a result of past sins
Nothing bad had ever really happened to me until the day that it did. I was totally blindsided that I, a faithful Christian, would have to endure hardship. Had I committed some horrible sins that I wasn't aware of? Was my divorce a punishment? I think not. We cannot jump to this conclusion. Instead, we realize that God allows horrible things to happen to us even when we have lived faithfully for Him. God allows sinners to make choices and to inflict pain on others. Trials in our lives are not always God's judgement, and we have to be careful not to assume that this is the case when Christians struggle. Sometimes we do suffer as a result of chosen sin, but sometimes God allows suffering to fulfill his purposes in us.
the end of the matter
Misconceptions can keep us from what's really important- the person of Christ. The relationship He desires with each of us. Let us be slower to judge and quicker to support those in need. Let us be on the lookout for these and other misconceptions that Satan can use to divide us and keep others from accepting the blessing of Christ into their lives. Be kind. Preach truth. Love others. Invite them to the cross and allow them to walk their path with God.
Psalm 103:1-5- Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name! Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
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Revive Me Again
When circumstances bring us down, only God can revive our hearts.