“It seemed like it always changed. It seemed like there was always some new book that came out or some new pastor with some big idea that we were supposed to follow to be a good Christian, but I didn’t really understand what the whole point was.”
Meet Garret, a young man who grew up in a regular Christian family, went to church every Sunday and attended a Christian school as a child, but couldn’t line up religion with what he read in the Bible.
“The basis of my faith was that Jesus was God, and that, if you believe in Him, that He died on the cross and rose again, then you have a free ticket to heaven. And the goal was to live the best life possible and to try and follow the Bible as closely as possible.
“I started to read my Bible when I was younger and I remember the first inconsistency I saw between what was written and the teachings of my church at the time was that it says in 1 John 3:8, ‘He who sins is of the devil,’ which really scared me because I was sinning. I would ask the pastors about it but they didn’t have an answer or an explanation because they weren’t living victorious lives themselves.
“To me it was pretty black and white that we were supposed to stop sinning. The preaching was that Jesus just forgives you of your sins past, present and future, and that’s all, but I read clearly in the Bible that if you continue in sin then you are of the devil.
“I was bound by my lusts and my pride and I was so bound by what others thought of me and what others did to me. I didn’t have peace and I didn’t have joy but I was always looking for it. I was going from church to church trying to find that peace and that joy that I had read about in the Bible, but I couldn’t find it.
The real purpose of Jesus’ life
“I don’t think the majority of Christians actually know how Jesus lived, to be honest. They think He just came down and floated through life because He was God. Jesus says ‘Come, follow Me’ but how could I do that if Jesus was God? I’m just a human; I can’t do what God can do.
“It seemed like such a cop-out that Jesus would come down and say ‘Oh, I’m going to come down here and do a bunch of miracles as God, but not have to deal with the human tendencies of being tempted by sin.’ And then He tells us ‘go and sin no more.’ Why would He ask us to do something that was impossible?
“But where’s the compassion in that? It’s written that He can sympathize with our weakness but the Jesus I grew up believing in – He couldn’t sympathize with my weakness. He couldn’t sympathize with the fact that I couldn’t get victory over youthful lusts. He couldn’t sympathize with the fact that it was hard to go to school because this person thought this of me or this person was gossiping about me. That Jesus there – I couldn’t find anything to really follow there.
Preaching a life, not just a word
“I wanted to believe that it was possible to live a victorious life. I saw that I really wanted to be a blessing but I was so bound by what others thought of me; by my own demands on the others to thank me, and I realized I couldn’t really help anyone else if I was bound by sin. It says the church had apostles, prophets, teachers, and evangelists, but growing up I never saw these people. I distinctly remember thinking, ‘Where are the apostles? Where are the Pauls and the Peters and the Johns of today?’
“Paul writes: ‘My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power’ (1 Corinthians 2:4. It seemed like everything was just persuasive words in the churches I attended. I would listen and think; ‘This is a good word,’ but the next day, after Sunday was over, when I came into temptations and trials, there was nothing to help me. I didn’t remember what the pastor had said.
“The first time I heard someone speak with power was when a man named Jether Vinson came to the church I was going to at the time. When he preached, I could sense it was his life; it was his testimony. He had lived and was living a victorious life over sin. This was his example and I could see by the way he lived his life and the way he acted that he was actually free from sin and that gave me such a hope that it could be the same for me, that I didn’t have to continue in sin.
“A short time after that I remember reading that ‘Jesus grew in wisdom and stature’ (Luke 2:52) and I thought, ‘Wow, Jesus grew? God doesn’t have to grow. God is God. What more could be added to God?’ But Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and for me that was huge. ‘I can grow in wisdom and stature!’ Jesus was the Son of God, but He didn’t come to earth as God. He came as a human being. He had to follow God, too. And that idea, that I can follow that Jesus of the Bible, that brought such a joy into my heart. Oh, I can follow that Jesus!
Following in Jesus’ footsteps
“Before I got converted, before I got this new mindset to actually follow Jesus, my only hope in this life was in earthly things like getting married, having a house and getting a good job. I would get very disappointed and upset when things didn’t go the right way. There was a constant ‘if this happened then it was a good life, but if it didn’t happen it was a bad life.’
“After I got converted my hope became to be like Christ; to be a blessing for the others. It says in Romans 8:28, ‘…we know that all things work together for good to those who love God,’ and therefore every circumstance that I was in was for my best. That was a huge change from before I was converted to after – I had a completely new goal for my life.
“That was exciting for me because it finally gave me a hope for this life rather than just the next life, rather than just a ticket to heaven.
“I came to faith in the Bible and when I started to live it out and take up a battle in my thought life – against my youthful lusts, against my pride, against my judgment of others, I saw that I actually got more and more peace and joy as I became free from sin. I could finally serve the others without thinking about my own feelings and demands!
“I truly believe there is one body, one Spirit, one baptism. That’s just how it is. I mean that’s what the Bible says. So therefore I think those who really have a longing to follow Jesus’ footsteps, they’ll find it; they’ll find the church.”