Do you feel like something is missing in your Christian life? Have you found that your need has not been satisfied by the preaching in Christian assemblies?
Meet Kristen from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She experienced the same, until she heard a gospel that transformed her life. On an afternoon visit to her home, I get a chance to chat with Kristen. She seems like a typical American girl, easygoing, kind and friendly with a good sense of humor, but as she begins to tell me more about her life, it is clear she is far from ‘typical.’
A longing for more
Kristin was an only child and had a good upbringing by her Christian parents. But as a teenager, she began to be aware of a deeper spiritual need that wasn’t being satisfied in the churches she was attending. The messages and services felt largely insincere and superficial, and she resisted being a part of them. “I felt I needed to attend church, but it always turned into a social event,” she explains. “It was never serious and I wanted there to be more, but I didn’t know anything different.”
Kristen also found church services confusing. At one church, the congregation was often asked to raise their hand if they thought they were going to heaven. “I could never raise mine,” Kristin recalls, “because I was never sure.” The rest of the congregation seemed to be satisfied with the reasoning that if they accepted Jesus in their hearts and believed in Him, they would go to heaven. But Kristen felt that this wasn’t enough.
A turning point
During high school, Kristen’s personal life became a bit rough and she went to stay with some extended family in Texas. One weekend she and another girl went to a big Christian gathering, which ended up being quite different from what she expected. “I felt like an outsider and I began doubting that I was a Christian because I couldn’t go along with how the others acted. There was a lot of focus on showing outward emotions that, to me, seemed to be mostly insincere and shallow.” Kristen is earnest and serious as she recalls the discomfort she felt while participating in such events and the confusion when she wasn’t able to get clear answers to her questions.
Is it possible to overcome sin?
This experience led Kristen, who had a longing to live a life pleasing to God, to search in the Bible for the answers to her questions. What she read started to make a deep impression on her. “For me, it was what I personally read in God’s Word that made things clear, not going to church,” Kristen says. A verse she read resonated in her heart: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…” (Hebrews 10:260 “I recognized that I couldn’t sin anymore, because now I knew God’s grace could be taken away.” Her voice is serious and sure as she explains, “It created zeal in me because it was a convicting verse, but I still didn’t know it was possible to completely overcome sin.”
Shortly after, Kristen was introduced to a family who attended Brunstad Christian Church and she started going to their meetings. “It was a new experience for me; there was no focus on creating a big show, there was depth and sincerity and I felt pulled to be there. At the first meeting, I heard that every thought we have is important. The message about putting the sin that lives in our human nature to death was something completely new.”
She started attending these meetings regularly and became good friends with the local members. But she admits that it she didn’t come to the life she was longing for right away: “During the first two years, I didn’t take the gospel I heard seriously enough. I received a knowledge of how I should live, but instead of working on my life, I procrastinated and thought that understanding was enough.”
A new outlook on life
After Kristen got married and had a baby, she came into greater need for the gospel that she had heard as she really struggled to give up her time and freedom for her little boy. “A good friend from Brunstad Christian Church told me she experienced the same thing when she first had children and her words of encouragement greatly helped me,” Kristin says with thankfulness. “This conversation awoke something in me because I realized it was my own sin that made it so difficult for me and I began to see how selfish I was.”
Kristen realized that without acknowledging sins such as selfishness, and praying to God for help to overcome them, she could never grow as a disciple. Her everyday situations at work or at home with her son had new importance and she reflects on these for a moment. “That was the difference between understanding and living the gospel,” she concludes. “I looked back and could remember many times where I was in similar situations, but rather than fighting against thoughts of discontentment, I would just feel sorry for myself. Understanding that I could overcome them gave me hope that in the future it could be different—I could change!”
It was this battle against her own sinful nature that led Kristen to true freedom: “Once I realized that, my whole outlook on life changed,” she explains enthusiastically. “The gospel became a blessing and helped me see how much joy there can be when I fight faithfully.”
Kristen’s son runs by, screaming and laughing as he plays, and she smiles. I can clearly sense the peace and happiness that she has received as a result of her decision to live faithfully according to the gospel she heard. As we say good-bye, she finishes her story:
“It is on my mind each and every day how thankful I am for what God has done with my life. The chance to deny myself and give my entire life to God and at the same time share such a calling with others who are running towards the same goal is the single greatest blessing that I have ever received.”