This is the story of me. But that’s not why I’m sharing it with you today. I want you to know how God changed my life and saved me from myself. I want you to see just how incredible God is. May He receive all the praise for what He has done with me, and may I continue to follow Him all the days of my life.
The Old Creation
Once there lived an old creation. Yes, an old creation. His name was Luke, and he looked like every other guy on the street; except for the fact that he was a Christian. But he wasn’t one of those strange religious types. He was a cool Christian; or at least he thought so. He showed off his skills to all his friends. He quietly pursued girls like all those around him, and tried to make his act look as good as possible.
He didn’t praise God unless it was Sunday, and even then he never got serious about it. He wouldn’t be a gentleman to anyone unless he was being forced to by his parents. Oh, he was a “good kid” compared to most, but he never rose too high above his peers’ expectations, and he only worked at something if he absolutely had to (or if it satisfied his own desires).
He never really thought about God much in his everyday life. He mostly had hateful thoughts, girls, or himself on his mind. He was a counterfeit of everything God planned for him to be as a man. He stood up for his hobbies, but never his Savior. He read his science-fiction books all the time, but his Bible remained closed Monday-Saturday. He was, to put it bluntly, a jerk disguised as a Christian. This was me in 2009-2010. Then God decided it was time for a change, and as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, He made me into a new creation. My old self passed, and behold, my new self came!
I was, as modern terminology would say, a nominal Christian. One of the definitions of the word “nominal” is: “Existing in name only.” That’s exactly what I was doing as a Christian. I was a Christian in my name alone, not in my actions, words, or desires. The only reason anyone would call me a Christian was because I said I was a Christian. Nobody could see the life of Christ reflected in my pursuits and habits. I loved the world, and kept God in my back pocket as hell insurance. Little did I know that God was not giving up on me yet. He chased me down, got my attention, and saved me from a life of hypocrisy. I’ll never forget His incredible grace and love in doing so.
The Turning Point
“Oh great, another sermon on saving your virginity until marriage,” I thought as I looked over the sheet my mom had handed me. It was a schedule for all the talks I would be attending at that year’s annual INCH conference. INCH is a conference where speakers and authors come and give talks in a series of rooms. It’s based on homeschooling and Christian living, and one of the talks my mom had signed me up for was called, “When God Writes Your Love Story.” I wasn’t exactly thrilled. All the speakers do in those talks is tell you not to have sex before marriage and marry a Christian who goes to church, right? Nope. Not this time. I was in for quite a surprise when I stepped foot into the Lansing Center building on that life-changing day in May of 2011.
I entered the room and sat down. Before the day began, a man named Eric Ludy gave a speech for the teen guys who were volunteering at the INCH conference; that included me. The Holy Spirit went to work on me as soon as he spoke. Eric had a style unlike any other. I could tell from the ever-present smile on his face and the tone in his voice that he truly believed what he was saying. He really loved God. I could tell he really meant what he said. He felt it in his heart. I wanted whatever it was this man had that made him seemingly invincible in the face of the world. Later I realized that through that speech God was working on my heart and preparing me for a transformation beyond anything I thought was possible.
Later, I found the room where “When God Writes Your Love Story” was taking place, and I waited yet again for this strangely vigorous man with such a fire in his heart for God. He and his wife presented the talk together, and as they got into the message they described how to handle love Biblically. They made the bold statement that romantic love is to be saved for one; that God planned one person for us to spend our lives with, and that we are not to squander our passion on whomever we happen to “like” at that particular moment. We are to give our desires to the Lord and wait for His perfect timing. We are to step back, let God write our love story, and give Him our all. This is what their message was about. This is what God used to change my life.
After the talk was over, I went out into the main hall of the Lansing Center and found one of my friends. We talked a bit, but I wasn’t really paying much attention. I was in a daze. Thousands of thoughts about girls, dating, and purity raced across my mind. I had never thought about not dating before. I figured dating was what everyone did when they were old enough. The idea of not chasing after girls was new to me. It was as if someone told me right was wrong and wrong was right. It was astounding, and at the same time strangely drawing. For the first time in my life I felt a desire to serve my future wife and to love her. I really wanted to pursue this “saving my affections” thing, and if you know me, you know that when I truly set my mind to do something, I don’t give up. I’m quite stubborn with what I adhere to in life. If I was going to do this, I was going to put my all into it. There would be no turning back.
The New Life
After that incredible experience I did some serious thinking. I decided that I couldn’t figure this whole thing out just by remembering what Eric and Leslie said at the conference. I needed to look into it deeper. One of my friends had a copy of Eric and Leslie’s book, “When God Writes Your Love Story,” so I borrowed it. After reading it, I felt like I had found something sincerely worth committing to in life. Before this, I struggled with the purpose of my existence and what I was living for. As my actions made clear, I didn’t want to live for God, and if God wasn’t the purpose of my efforts then what was I doing here on this planet? All I ever pursued in my free time were my hobbies, and they didn’t outweigh all the damage that was in my relationships with my siblings, or the anger and resentment I felt regularly at my schoolwork or my parents. But after I read that book I discovered something valuable, something worth devoting my life to. I wanted in. I made the choice to go all out in favor of this crazy idea of waiting for love and genuinely living for God.
Little did I know how difficult this path I had chosen would be. As I moved into this new lifestyle, I found so many things in my life that didn’t match up with my passion to serve God in my romantic desires. After all, I couldn’t abstain from pursuing girls and still treat them like objects, so I found myself wanting to serve God in my view of girls. I couldn’t treat girls as precious jewels made in the image of God while still hating my brothers, so I tried to heal those relationships. And I couldn’t do all this heart-searching without realizing that I was so absent from my Bible and so dead in my prayer life, so I started looking for ways to establish those habits in my daily routine. One thing came after another, and with the help of some fantastic books, I suddenly became so aware of what I should have been doing and what I needed to stop doing. The Holy Spirit was convicting me and changing me.
A few months after these remarkable events, I went to the “Basic Life Principles” seminar with my dad. It was a speaker talking about the truth behind so many “harmless” things we see the world doing, and how to live Biblically in every little decision we face in life. It was a huge turning point for me, and during it I rededicated my life to Jesus Christ. I’d thought that I had given my life to God before this, but I know it wasn’t genuine. I was “saved” at four years old, but I remember now that my motives were to please my mom and dad and to fit in. I didn’t care about actually following God. Frankly, I was a bit young to fully understand it, and the fact that my actions didn’t improve at all afterwards affirms that nothing really happened. This event, however, was different. This wasn’t fake spiritual-sounding chatter. This was a real encounter with God and a real commitment. This was my true day of salvation. I knew that from that moment on I never had to worry about Satan telling me I wasn’t saved, because now I really was. Whenever he decided to whisper lies in my ear I could point him to the Basic Life Principles seminar, where God Almighty changed me from a pathetic nominal Christian to an authentic believer.
Do you think I’m being harsh? I know because I was there. I know what I did. I know what was going on among Christian youth. I know how to play the act of a “Christian kid,” and I know what to say to appear secure in Christ. This is happening everywhere. Most just ignore it or don’t realize it. This issue is not just something that a few old people are fretting over. It’s a serious problem, and it needs to be addressed if there is to be any hope for the next generation.
The instruction of the church’s youth cannot be dumbed down or held back.
We young people know that committing to something requires work, and we’re pretty smart too. We can figure out how to hide practically anything from our parents, can’t we? We can put hours and hours into our friends and our video games, right? Well, then we can understand that in order to call ourselves Christians we need to put that time and energy into God! We can handle theology! We can comprehend that it’s all in or it’s all out! Please tell us the Truth! Tell us that there’s no in between! Make it known that we’re either a friend to God and an enemy to the world, or an enemy to God and a friend to the world (James 4:4). We could see that, if only more people were telling us that. Don’t treat us like we’re not responsible to live passionately for God. We’re just as responsible as any Christian! We don’t need another feel-good speech from a guy who tells us, “It’s ok, because everyone sins.” We don’t need pampering. We need challenging messages that show us we are hypocrites and lost sinners! We need understanding of God’s complete forgiveness and His power to overcome our sin. We need encouragement not to “be a man” or “do our own thing,” but to follow God relentlessly.
How About You?
If your life fails to testify to God’s work in your heart and mind, you might want to reconsider your title of “Christian.” It’s true that all genuine Christians stumble and everyone does sin. But those who are saved do not keep on sinning (1 John 3:6) like I did a couple years ago. Ever since God saved me, I know I’ve been different. Yes, I still sin on a regular basis. Yes, I still have a LOT of work to do. But now I know that the Holy Spirit is with me and in me, changing my life day by day. I feel something that was not there before. Do you feel it? Ask God to reveal to you what your life looks like to Him. Ask God to open your heart and your eyes if you’ve been shutting Him out in favor of social media or romance. Be honest with yourself. Are you a Christian? Are you a follower of God? If not, “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). Ask God to save you from your sinful cravings and mold you into a committed believer for Him; not just on Sunday or in public, but all the time and everywhere. Are you a friend of God? Or are you a friend of the world? I was God’s enemy, and He chose to save me. I pray he does the same for you.
“No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” 1 John 3:6-10