A personal experience
I have always considered myself to be a very private person, even more so in this digital age. You will not find much information about me online and when you do come across the name, it is mostly likely to be someone else who goes by the same name. I am a technology-oriented person and I always have my nose buried in things related to computers and the internet. But I have no affinity for social media. I cannot understand why people would publicly shout out the wrong things they do, as we see on many social media accounts. Why would I then write this piece and publish it on this website?
First, my name is already written in the Book of Life, and so I have no problem sharing this publicly. Second, I do so because I believe that others can benefit from it when it comes to making the most important choice in their lives – following God and fulfilling His purpose for us in life. Many things that have happened to me I will not share here, simply because they are not relevant. To date, over half of my life has been spent as a believer in Jesus Christ. The first part was one spent mostly away from God. While I thought at the time my life was good, there was this yearning for more. Yet, two times when the opportunity came by to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour, I declined. The two persons who wanted to share the gospel with me may not have realised it at the time, but they were sowing the seed that would later result in the change in my life. May they be blessed because they were faithful in spreading the message even though I did not respond at the time.
It was in late-1989 that I was at a point where I had a choice which road I was going to take. I love poetry. There is a poem about making a choice and it starts like this:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth
The problem with this is that it shows how most of us are – we want both sides of our toast buttered. Would it not be nice to be a believer in Jesus, but still do what I want when it suits me? The writer of the poem may have had something similar in mind here. He looks down the road to see where it forks and is disappointed that he cannot choose both roads at the same time. But life does not work that way.
My choice came when a colleague shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with me. He asked me if I had already received Jesus, and I simply said no. He asked a straight question and I gave a straight answer. You cannot lie when God knows every intention of your heart and hears every word you speak. I guess my colleague realised that I was the type of person who critically analyses things and so in this case the message would come not by mouth, but simply by giving me a tract. I still have it in my Bible today, a little blue Campus Crusade for Christ tract called The Four Spiritual Laws. Reading that tract put everything into perspective.
To this day, I still remember the exact time, date, and place on which I gave my life to Jesus Christ – Tuesday, 5 December 1989, 4pm in the afternoon, alone in my apartment. It was my rebirth. Everything else before that moment became irrelevant. The old person passed away and everything was made new (2 Corinthians 5:17). When my colleague spoke to me about it the next day, I asked him why he chose to just give me a tract and not speak to me personally, he said he felt that I needed that moment alone with God and let Him deal with me, away from the public eye. I appreciated that. In years to follow, I often used The Four Spiritual Laws to share the Gospel with others. In a way the person who is responsible for leading you to Jesus becomes your spiritual mentor – a father or a mother, and this has kept me going all these years.
The beginning of my spiritual journey was tough. I met resistance wherever I went! That was a sure sign that I was truly saved. You see, following Jesus comes at a tremendous cost, and you simply cannot be a believer and not have persecution of any sorts. Faith and persecution go hand in hand - that is the choice you made when you looked down the road, remember? Being scorned by people you thought were your friends, just because you changed the direction of your life, shows that maybe they were not really such good friends after all. One example of such resistance was that my current employer and I parted ways. God allowed a situation where I had to close one door, but a massive double door opened for me a few months later. Even in these difficult times, God the Father looked after me. After all, I was now a son too.
Your life's journey is full of things you must do: building a career, marriage, having children, buying property, paying the bills. In all of this, it is easy to be side-tracked and lose focus. Add to this the commitment your spiritual life requires, and it is easy to fall off the rails. I nearly did. Despite a qualification in theology and spending some time in church ministry, I just never really found any satisfaction. Maybe there was a stubbornness in me, a part of my life that I had not yet fully surrendered to God. Then this verse grabbed me:
20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20
To be crucified with Christ means to totally surrender to Him, so that His will and His way become evident in your life. This does not mean that you cease to exist as a human being. Instead, the life you now live, should reflect Jesus inside you. Why? Because He loves you and gave Himself so that you can live. Is it not strange that it would take me so long to get to this point? We all like to keep a bit of the old self. God cannot work with us when that is the case and so if He needs you, He will get you to surrender that old self.
This is still not easy, and every day there are situations when I forget that it is not about me, but Jesus in me. It is not about the life I lead, but the faith He requires from me. Like all of us, I make mistakes, but the incredible part of God's love is His forgiveness, along with the guidance He offers through the Holy Spirit.
I have learnt that a Christian believer cannot live in a comfort zone. We often build walls around us to shield ourselves from the problems of life. These can be rejection by family and friends or facing persecution simply for being a Christian believer. Then of course, there is the matter of yielding to the will of God even when we want to do it our way. The cost of being a follower of Christ is written plainly and clearly, so that we can count the cost before we make the decision:
35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. 37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. – Matthew 10:35-37
This does not mean that it will always happen that family and friends reject you as a believer. You should work hard to ensure your entire family follows Jesus. But should they not wish to change, then you will have to make a difficult choice, for your own good. In addition, because these are the persons closest to us, it makes it hard to understand that we must put Jesus first.
24Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." – Matthew 16:24-25
It is not about me anymore.
12In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. – 2 Timothy 3:12
He also writes this to the congregation in Philippi:
21For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. – Philippians 1:21
Those of us who come from "Christian" backgrounds, especially from countries where traditionally there has been no persecution against Christians, have it far too easy. This is exactly what the devil wants - to lead you into a false sense of security. If you want to live the Christian way, you will be persecuted (and probably killed). Look online for the testimonies of countless Christian believers who come from oppressive regimes and see what happened to them after they accepted Jesus!
We must count the cost of what it means to follow Jesus:
28For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? – Luke 14:28
Have you counted what it costs to follow Jesus? Carefully view the video below.
– Andries Oberholzer