I’ve gone to church my entire life.
Practically grew up in a church pew.
Went on Sunday mornings, sometimes Saturday evenings, and never missed Wednesday nights.
If you asked me, “What is Christianity?” I’d have said, “It’s about serving God and being saved (aka ‘go to heaven when I die’).”
However, a few years ago, as I sat on my couch mulling over a simple, thin book by a man I’d never heard of before, I came to the realization that I had never truly understood Christianity. In just a few pages, the text of that book illuminated the true meaning of Christianity, and the true reason for why human beings exist in the first place.
I remember slapping the book down, clearing my throat, and saying out loud, “Why did no one tell me this earlier?!” I wanted to strangle every pastor I’d had. What was wrong with them that they wouldn’t communicate this to me? Was it because I was a dunce and was the only one who just didn’t get it?
All my life I had looked at other people who seemed to be so into worshipping God and spending time praying and reading the Bible. They seemed to have such a good time doing it, but I never got it.
I had prayed the prayer of “salvation” and was sure I was going to heaven when I died. All that was left (so it seemed) was to be a good boy and not sin.
The only problem was that I couldn’t stop screwing up and wanting to run away from God because he seemed so utterly BORING.
“How could God expect me to be good when he makes it so difficult to do so? How could he expect me to read my Bible every day when it’s so uninteresting and un-relatable?
And what the heck is so important about reading your Bible anyway? I’ve tried it and it doesn’t do anything. Doesn’t make me a better person. Just wastes my time. I’d way rather read a novel, or better yet, watch a movie.”
Have you ever thought this way? Please say yes. Because that was my life.
I knew it was wrong, I just didn’t know what was wrong with it or how to fix it. I was paralyzed, and all my prayers asking God to get me out of my rut didn’t seem to amount to anything.
I’d listen to people talk about how I needed to be, “Baptized in the holy spirit!” Then I’d do what they told me to do, pray what they told me to pray, and feel a whole lot of nothing. I kept coming back to these people who seemed so, “on fire for the Lord,” and would leave in a worse state than before—angry and discouraged.
“You’re doing it wrong,” they started saying.
“Bull,” I’d say. “I rubbed the magic lamp and no genie popped out.”
“God wants to make you happy, to give you joy, you just have to let him,” they would say.
“Really? Because I feel more joyless every time I try to let him. So, either I’m broken or what you’re saying is a lie.”
I’d been taught that Christianity was life-insurance + a magic wand. When you die, you go to a mystical happy-place called Heaven. While you’re still alive, you find the right way to query your fairy God-Father, and he grants your every wish–unless he doesn’t feel like it. In which case it’s your fault for not having enough faith (whatever that means).
I knew none of it was real because it didn’t line up with Scripture and it didn’t jive with real life. It was just a bunch of ghost stories old people told to manipulate me into attending Sunday service. Or to build a following so they could make a buck selling a self-help book that led me in circles.
The problem was I didn’t know what should replace the lies.
Then I was gifted with that simple little book that, in a few pages, made sense of the universe. The writer had died years before the book was ever even published. And the best part about what he said?
It changed everything.
Here’s what I learned in that book: Christianity is not about me. It’s not about going to Heaven. And it’s not about getting happy.
Christianity is about God.
What is our purpose for existing? To worship God. Period. That’s it. If you don’t think that’s true, you’re not a Christian.
What is the “Good News of the Gospel”? That Jesus died to give us the ability to worship him. Jesus died to empower us to worship him. Why? Because that fulfills our purpose.
“If this is in line with the Bible, then how did you not understand this from reading the Bible to begin with?”
I believe there were 2 big issues standing in the way of me understanding the Gospel:
#1. I wasn’t actually reading the Bible.
#2. The lies that other people in the church had propagated had made it very difficult to discern what was true and what wasn’t.
Though the purpose of my existence and the core message of the Gospel now seem utterly clear when I read the Bible, it was very difficult for me to parse through what I’d been told to simplify the message to something so basic.
Furthermore, after I realized what my purpose was, I still encountered the problem of, “How do I overcome my own darkness?” Knowledge is great, but you need something more to live the Christian life.
Here’s the answer we find in the Bible, and the answer that I’ve experienced in my own faith journey (meaning it’s real): First, we confess that we’ve screwed up (that part’s easy), and we ask him to forgive us. Then we commit to turning away from evil (here’s where our own power runs out, because we can’t not be terrible people). The next step is to ask God to give us the strength to choose his holiness over our own sinfulness.
“And then what?”
We spend the rest of our lives worshipping him, studying his word, and thanking him for who he is and for giving us freedom from loneliness and aimlessness to daily walk closer to him.
As we spend time in silent awe of him, he transforms our hearts, gives us the strength to walk as he does, and brings life to our dead souls. We need to be obedient to God—willful disobedience is absolutely intolerable. But we also need to realize we can’t be obedient without him.
So we must daily spend our time in awe of him, asking him to give us the strength to be holy like him. Then we daily practice imitating him (this is where the faith gets practical) by striving to grow and look more like him.
Starting to see a pattern here?
First, we’re hopeless without God. But Jesus died and rose again (victorious over sin and death) to empower us to live a practical, real life victorious over sin. We can know him, it’s just that we will never know all of him. And that is precisely what makes prayer and worship so unendingly rewarding.
Worshipping God, kneeling in awe of his presence, is the single most enjoyable action a human being can take. And the more we do it, the more enjoyable it becomes. It’s the opposite of indulging in pleasure.
We eat more twinkies, and they satisfy less and less.
But if we worship God more, he satisfies us more and more. Why?
Because worshipping God satisfies our purpose for existing!
We cannot exist as moral beings, as Christians, for long without experiencing the majesty of God. Worship/prayer is our spiritual food, and if we stop eating, we die.
Without Jesus paying for all our mistakes and taking our rightful punishment for us, and without Jesus rising again to conquer death once and for all, we would never be able to fulfill our purpose for existing by worshipping God, because our own sin stands in our way.
That is what makes the Good News so amazingly good!
If this has helped you, or if this in any way mirrors your own faith journey, comment and share! Please, let me know I’m not alone.