In our scientific, rational age, spiritual beliefs are often shrugged off as myth. Such as Christianity. When you say this word to people these days they often scrunch up their face or run the other direction. To be fair I turned into one of those people. So this blog is quite a personal journey of mine I’ve struggled with over the years. Where I ended up feeling ashamed of my faith, and worrying what other people thought about me.
It would be impossible to cover the whole Bible in this blog as it is over 1000 pages long which takes a lifetime to study. So I thought I would share key verses which mean a lot to me. What Christianity is all about, and key tips on how to have strong faith in today’s world.
What is Christianity?
To give you a bit of context the Bible is broken down into two sections, the Old and New Testament. In the Old Testament, the story of Christianity begins with God creating the earth in six days and rested on the seventh which is Sunday. He created, animals, and everything. He also created man and woman in his image. In the New Testament, it talks about Jesus, God’s only son, coming to earth where he was born of the Virgin Mary, and Joseph in Bethlehem, which is the meaning behind Christmas. A celebration of his birth. At the end, he gave his life on the cross, which is where Easter comes from.
Where he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:30).
The core part of the faith is Christian’s believe in eternal life after death thanks to this sacrifice. What greater thing is there than someone dying for you? Christians are now waiting for the second coming of Christ where all those who believe in him will be saved.
As I mentioned earlier, I forgot all about this and decided to believe other people and their doubts wondering how this could be real. Surely it was just a bunch of fairy tales and nonsense, so I thought.
Raised As a Christian
While I was raised in the church at a young age and had strong faith, the world and other people’s opinions got to me. I would say around the age of 15 I noticed people were making fun of those who believed in God. Slowly but surely I started to drift away from Church because I was afraid of being ridiculed. As sad as it sounds, I lost the most important part of my identity.
I had been baptized at a young age, which is an important part of a believer’s walk with Jesus. It’s a public confession of your faith. In the Bible, Jesus leads the way with water baptism.
And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name. Acts 22:16
I would ignore it at first but I wanted to fit in with the cool crowd. Especially in high school where there was a pressure to drink, and party. I would often make excuses for not going to church. I was tired or just didn’t feel like going or hungover. Instead of putting my trust in God, I tried to fill the gap with alcohol, broken relationships and mixing with the wrong crowd.
Little did I know the impact it would have on my life for the next few years.
A Missing Piece of the Puzzle
While the title sounds dramatic here, I always knew there was something missing. I am quite a stubborn person so admitting I was wrong and spiralling down a bad path wasn’t something I was ready to do. I had already done the things it said not to do in the Bible. For example, the Bible refers to such serious sins as sexual immorality, idolatry, spiritism, fits of anger, and drunkenness as “the works of the flesh.” It then states:
“Those who practice such things will not inherit God’s Kingdom.”—Galatians 5:19-21.
I knew it in my mind I had been taught these things. This great article explains it nicely;
Human beings are sexual beings. We are far more than that, of course, but we are not less. Our sexuality is a part of who and what we are, a good gift of God given to bind together a husband and wife and to expand the human race.
Like everything else we have, our sexuality is a gift given to us in trust. We are to steward it faithfully, to use it in the ways God commands and to refuse to use it in the ways he forbids. God stipulates that sex is to exist only in the marriage of one man to one woman and further stipulates that it must exist in that context (1 Corinthians 7:1-5).
Otherwise, you’re giving away parts of yourself to strangers, and people who end up leaving or using you. Like any teenager, I decided to break the rules. As someone who is an old romantic I had a nasty surprise. With the social pressure of wanting acceptance and the media fantasizing one night stands and romance, it’s easy to be influenced to make the wrong decisions.
Of course, I had already made bad choices in my life and so I thought well I may as well keep messing up. I guess the best way to explain it is I knew I was on the wrong path but the deeper I got in it. The less I thought I could be saved the more I thought oh well, I may as well keep doing what I want.
I had a rude awakening when the relationships left me feeling scarred and more alone than ever. I knew God didn’t want me to suffer or feel pain, but he was trying to teach me something. I just wasn’t listening. I wanted to do what everyone else was doing even if it meant throwing my values and beliefs in the trash can.
A Story about a Father and Daughter
I would say the best way to explain my situation was a story a Pastor spoke about here in New Plymouth. I think it was last Christmas where the Pastor read a story about a daughter who decided to rebel against her Father. She ended up in bad relationships and began to ignore her Father.
Over the years her Father kept trying to reach her with letters, and of course, she put them in a drawer and didn’t read them. Eventually, she began to read the letters and got back in touch with her Father. This is kind of what happened to me. I was seeking solace in males on earth, rather than the man upstairs in heaven who was patiently waiting for me to come back to him.
One thing I have learnt is you can’t rely on people, even if they are friends or a loved one, people will let you down. But God always has your back whether you’re heartbroken, have been hurt or abused, lost a loved one, or feeling hopeless. A lot of these things can lead to negative thinking…
Harmful Thoughts and the Enemy
Whenever you’re having self-loathing or harmful thoughts these tend to come from someone who wants to destroy you. Satan. Don’t just think of Satan as a cartoon character in a red suit with a pitchfork. He is a dictator, powerful, a liar, killer, and a stealer. Christians believe it’s important to guard yourself against the enemy. So who is the enemy?
Satan was originally called, Lucifer, which translates to a son of the morning star. He was once a chosen angel. He was designed to perfection, with beauty and wisdom. Yet because of his pride, and desire for more, God cast Satan out of heaven who then became a fallen angel;
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon; I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High’” (Isaiah 14:12-14).
Satan says you’re worthless, hideous, he causes depression, he hates humans, especially those who believe in God. He wants people to turn their back on God just like I did sadly. I strongly believe Satan destroys relationships, marriages, makes people doubt God, and themselves. Whether you’re a believer or not, Satan wants to ruin you. I myself have experienced it. It could be drugs, alcoholism, depression or something else, all of these things are ways the enemy tries to destroy people.
The enemy is believed to be the leader of fallen angels, referred to as demons. These demons aren’t visible to the human eye, but rather in the spiritual world. They wait around seeing who they can sway and devour. For example, Hitler, and many evil leaders throughout history.
Jesus Himself even knew of Satan’s existence, he personally came up against him during his time on earth, (Matthew 4:1-11), he cast out demons, and testified of Satan’s existence, and defeated the evil one at the cross. Or when Eve was tempted to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden by the enemy, who disguised himself as a snake, (Genesis 3:3).
I was weak because I no longer had faith and without this, the enemy had full access to my mind and choices. I was tested both mentally and physically when I experienced depression. Self-loathing, harmful thoughts and suicidal thoughts were the enemy’s way of saying, “Go on, take your own life, you’re worthless anyway. God doesn’t love you, you aren’t good enough for anyone.” The lies are very cunning and manipulative. I can promise you he doesn’t want whats best for you. Denying he exists is a common mistake people make.
The great news is believers don’t need to be afraid, while we live in a fallen world where sin thrives. Sometimes we don’t understand the way God works but he will always protect those who believe in him.
My depression was both a blessing and a curse. It brought me back to a church and tested me. I was in front of the stage on my knees my legs somehow got me over there. With just tears pouring down my face. All the hurt, and shame I had felt just washed away, and relationship worries. People were praying for me and speaking in tongues (the language of the Holy Spirit). For once I finally felt forgiven and completely free. I can’t even begin to explain it in words.
Christianity is All About Forgiveness
Often people get confused with religions, Buddism, Hinduism, that were taught at school at a young age. Unlike any other religion, Christianity isn’t focused on multiple Gods or having to get up at 5am to pray. It’s about a relationship with God. Just like you talk in your own mind to yourself, you simply chat with God. Whether it be a prayer or thanking him for something good that happened in life.
No one is perfect not even Christians. The thing that makes Christians stand out is the story of forgiveness. I also like the verse below which shows how we should treat others:
1 John 4:9-11 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
This isn’t to say Christians are better than any other human, as Pastor De Jong says at LIFE Church, they’re simply forgiven. I LOVE that message. So many people need to understand this. No one is perfect, not even Christians. The only difference between believers and non-believers, is Christians are forgiven and saved.
Now, of course, you may be wondering what how on earth can you believe all this? Faith. As cliche as it sounds, you can’t see where the wind is coming from or what direction but you can feel it. You can’t physically hold love yet you can see it displayed:
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Hope Life & Truth
A few ways which helped me get started was finding a Church I was comfortable going to in Auckland. I often drove past and never went in. I’m so glad I found LIFE church, they have next steps for new people, a free bible and a friendly welcome. There’s no judgment or anything like that. Most of all, surround yourself with a good network. A youth group, or getting involved in the community activities.
Reading encouraging books is also a plus. I’m reminded of a similar experience I had when I started reading Maree De Jong’s book, A Diamond in the Dirt. Check out her interview here at LIFE church on her struggles in her early life. Similarly, she mixed with the wrong crowd and had self-loathing thoughts. Her legs brought her to the altar without even thinking about it where her life changed forever. I highly recommend this to anyone who needs to know their past doesn’t determine their future.
Listening to good music is also a plus, a great example of this is Tori Kelly. She is a shining light in Hollywood, a young Christian female who was the 2016 Best New Artist Grammy Nominated Singer-Songwriter and producer Tori Kelly has been as an “Artist to Watch” by Rolling Stone, USA Today and Spin. Her album, Unbreakable Smile, was also No. 2 on the Billboard 200.
I also have the YouVersion Bible app downloaded on my phone so I can listen to messages on the way to work and highlight my favourite verses. Tori Kelly also had some beautiful songs in her series on the app. I definitely recommend this app to anyone who is curious to know more.
I wanted to end on a scripture about hope, which is the meaning of my name. The Bible mentions hope, truth & life many times. It is all about forgiving your neighbours and people who do wrong to you. While having faith won’t change you on the outside, I can honestly say it lights you up on the inside. So wherever you go people say why are they so happy, or full of hope and peace? I now feel confident and no longer ashamed of what I believe in. I have hope and trust in God’s plan for my life;