This is everything. When I first entered into a relationship with Christ, I looked at Him as my Savior. I knew He was big and capable of tremendous things in fulfilling His purpose. But I was still just a baby. Sure I read the Psalms and Proverbs and the encouraging, “feel-good” passages of Scripture that float around on Facebook and Instagram. But I didn’t know what it truly was to follow God.
When I moved home after becoming a Christian, I began to get a glimpse into what an authentic relationship with God looked like through how my family lived. I saw honesty and compassion and was inspired by how my family prayed and lived by the Spirit and discernment from God. I didn’t understand why I didn’t have that deep connection. I didn’t understand how listening to certain music, watching certain movies, profanity, promiscuity, drinking, etc, were wrong…were prohibiting that deeper connection with God.
I was so used to the exposure of wide-spread cultural Christianity, where people claimed to be Christians, yet were completely like the world. I didn’t want to be that weird, crazy Christian girl so I continued on living my fun lifestyle.🙄. But as I had conversations with my family and became involved in small groups studying the Bible, my thinking began to change dramatically.
I learned about a man named Paul. He had originally been a prestigious man of authority who literally went around killing Christians. But one day, He had an encounter with God that changed His life (Acts 9). He found himself radically following Jesus, and ironically, He endured much of the same persecution He had inflicted on other believers. He had some sort of struggle that He prayed to God many times asking for it to be taken away. But the answer was always no because God’s grace was apparent through Paul’s weakness! “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
This story impacted me tremendously. I also had learned at this point that sin separated me from God. I began to connect the dots and see how the parts of my lifestyle that did not honor or reflect Christ were the roadblocks separating me from this amazing relationship I saw in others! A lot of difficult circumstances led to me fully surrendering to God out of my failures and entering a mentoring program at my church. Slowly but surely, Christ started transforming me from the inside out (Romans 12:1-2).
I prayed continually that my desires would be for things above, the things of God, instead of things of this world that would pass away. I prayed that I would have an increasing desire for the Lord and that He would draw me near. Well, He definitely answered those prayers. I pretty much stopped listening to music and watching movies that were not honoring to Him. I began feeling conviction in every area of my life. Once I learned my identity was in my relationship with Christ, I found confidence and worth I had never felt before (Ephesians 1 and 2). I began dressing differently, talking differently, dating differently. I couldn’t even tell you how it happened, God just cleansed my heart and made His home in me.
When I realized I was a living temple, a place of residence of the Holy Spirit, I just didn’t care about the world anymore. Not that I’m perfect in anyway, but the way I live has completely changed and I know that when I’m not close with God, I have let something come in between us. He never will leave or forsake me, but because of my human nature, I will always sin, which creates a barrier that must be continuously broken down. I’m so thankful for God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness, because nothing I do or don’t do will make Him love me any less or any more, I will always be His (Romans 8:31-39).
Living radically isn’t one day waking up and deciding to be different, well that’s possible, but it wasn’t my story. It was a stretching, painful, but amazing process. I slowly began seeking Christ and learning about Him. Once I knew Him, there was no turning back. To me, living radically means putting aside everything that is not of God, that will not point others to Him. This is why I don’t drink and try my best to not engage in worldly standards and behaviors. Once you know the power and saving grace of Jesus, it’s impossible to live out of selfish desires. I wouldn’t ever want to live in a way that would be a stumbling block to others chances of encountering God. While I live in this world, I do not want to be of this world, because the world to come is going to be so much better. All of this will pass away and I will live in the House of the Lord forever. Thinking eternally leads to living radically, because there is a greater purpose awaiting those who follow Christ… the urgency of the coming of Jesus spurs us (believers) on to live in a way that though the world will hate us, they will see our lives and have to admit the existence of our living and glorious God (1 Peter 2:11-12).