Navigate: Born Again: The Complete Works
I wasn't able to answer Sharon's initial e-mail instantly, and I told her so. I felt both blessed with a precious gift and entrusted with a tremendous responsibility. So it was with a certain amount of fear and trembling that I began to compose my reply:
I'm going to try to take your letter in little bites, because my time during the week is so limited. I'd like to start with the part of your letter that most touched my heart, where you said this:As I pushed "send", I felt the knot in my stomach. This did not feel like blogging. This was life and death and eternity. It had been almost 25 years since I'd fumbled through my first chance to share the gospel with Sharon, but had been hampered by my own immaturity and mixed motives. Now, incredibly, God had brought us both a precious second chance.
"I have gone through life wanting and needing more when it comes to my relationship with God. I get so choked up even as I write this because I know there is a need and I don't know how to fill it. I have always believed that it was enough just to be born and raised in a religious home, but then I meet people like you who remind me that I must be more proactive in my quest for inner peace. I will admit it, that I am one of those you call 'half-Christians'."First, thank you for your honesty. I feel privileged that you shared this with me, and I hope I am able to be helpful. Moreover, please don't think you're "bothering" me with this. Being able to share about this brings me joy, especially if it will encourage your heart.
A quarter century of life has made me a little more thoughtful, and (I hope) less judgmental. I am told that I could be fairly harsh in my judgments as a young man, and I don't doubt that to be true. I guess "half-Christians" was a term I once used, though I don't remember it. I don't think I would use that term today. In the end, the Bible is pretty clear that ultimately we are all either followers of Jesus (Christians) or we are not. I know that I am a follower, though in a weird way I actually get less impressed by the quality of my spiritual life the longer I follow Him. I suppose that's because the closer I get to Christ, the more I realize how poor a reflection of Him I really am. Still, with all my warts and faults, I do indeed desire to know Him more, and that assures me that I am His child.
So I suppose that's it ... a Christian is someone who grows in his or her love for (and therefore obedience to) Christ. Not perfectly, of course, or necessarily quickly ... but over time definitely. God clearly tells us that certain things are essential to a growing Christian:
1. The Spirit of God - ultimately having God's Spirit live inside you is what makes you a Christian.
2. The Word of God - knowing and regularly studying the Bible is the only way to really know Christ better, which is what all Christians truly want.
3. The Worship of God - prayer, song, meditation, praise are what He made us for.
4. The Works of Obedience - living out our faith is how we actually demonstrate how much we love Him.
5. The People of God - Christians are made to live in community with other Christians. He made us to need one another.
Sharon, I have come to understand over the years that what we all seek is assurance of our salvation and our relationship to God. That assurance comes as we follow Him. If we're not following Him closely, then we shouldn't feel assured, because our insecurity alerts us to the danger of not following Him.
One last thing I would suggest. You talked about your "quest for inner peace". It might help if you rethink that in terms of what Jesus said: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well." Seeking peace can often lead us in the wrong direction, because there are so many "false gods" that can bring us temporary, false peace. Seeking the true God Himself will eventually result in the right kind of peace.
OK that was going to be short. At least that was the plan. :)
Next: Born Again 3: I'm Just an Emotional Wreck!