One of the seven deadly sins: Religion without sacrifice. - Mahatma Ghandi
For most of my adult life, I have identified with Christianity. I would go to church when I could on Sunday's and prayed every now and then. Looking back at it, my life was really no different from any nonbeliever. I would do my dirt, and repent afterward and it was all good. I never really expected God to hold me accountable for my actions because it seemed to me that blessings would always come my way regardless of if I was doing right or wrong, because 'God knew my heart'.
Well, I got a huge wake up call. It started around the time I was graduating from college. I didn't have a job, nor did I have any acceptance letters from graduate schools and I didn't know what I was going to do. To make a long story laconic, I ended up living with my boyfriend after graduation. I knew it was wrong, no doubt about that, but I did it anyway. I assumed that God would forgive me because no one is perfect and we all make mistakes. I have come to realize that the phrase 'no one is perfect' is rightfully so, however, it is an excuse to avoid striving for perfection. [Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect. - Matthew 5:48]
During my time shacking up, I felt disconnected from God. I would pray, but I felt as if he wasn't listening. It seemed like everything I would attempt to achieve slipped right through my fingers. I felt alone and empty inside. During and before college, I managed to do whatever I wanted without feeling abandoned by God, but then I realized that I was getting older and God was holding me fully accountable for my actions now. [When I was a child, I spoke as a child; I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. - 1 Corinthians 3:11] Just as we grow older every year in age, we must also grow older in Christ. God was showing me that it wasn't about me professing Jesus, but about me possessing Jesus. To believe in God is not just to say it with your mouth but to show it with your actions.
Needless to say, after four months of unfavorable behavior, I decided to move out and it was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I started to go to church more often and I felt convicted. I went to my boyfriend and told him that I didn't want to have premarital sex anymore and he was not on the same page [SURPRISE! SURPIRSE!] nor was he interested in seeking a relationship with God at that time. A month or so after that, we broke up. It was a very devastating break up because it happened at a time where I didn't have much going for myself. I graduated college but I couldn't find a job, I was living with my father in the middle of nowhere (Kissimmee, FL) away from all my friends and now I was broken hearted on top of that! It was overwhelming, but it needed to happen for my spiritual growth. I started going to church more and I began to read my bible everyday at home. I started to read scriptures I never even heard the pastor talk about. It was like a whole new world. My understanding of God began to grow immensely.
The importance of reading the bible is imperative for your sanctity. It is similar to being a doctor or an engineer. In order to work in these professions, you must read, review lectures, write papers, and study it. You must take test and advance. The same thing goes for Christianity. Jesus' life and story is captured in the bible. If you do not read the bible, how can you truly be a Christian? You have to know who Christ is and what he came on this earth to tell us. [For wisdom is a defense, and money is a defense: but the excellence of knowledge is, that wisdom gives life to them that have it. - Ecclesiastes 7:12] Reading the bible gives you the whole picture as to what God wants from your life and what God promises us as his children.
I am not an erudite Christian, nor am I the 'Crazy Christian' protesting in front of abortion clinics. Honestly, I just want to be a better Christian, and through my journey I learned that God's mercy is like car insurance. You go out and you insure your car with Geico to protect yourself and your car if you happen to get into an accident. Geico won't cover you if you intentionally cause a car crash. Car insurance only covers accidents. And the same thing goes for God's mercy. [Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap. - Galatians 6:7] Many times we sin and think that God will just forgive us. He will, if you are sincerely sorry (meaning, you are ready to change). Every sin we commit, we will pay for. God's mercy only covers sincere MISTAKES. And if you are doing the same sins over and over, it is not a mistake. It's what you intend to do.
The more I read the bible, the more I see what I need to change in my life. I recently discovered how much God despises someone with pride. Before, I only considered the 10 Commandments as what I needed to concentrate on but there is so much more. When studying the behavior of Jesus, you see the humility he had to endure, which was all of part of him being humble. People spitted in his face, falsely accused him of things, and even denied that he was the son of God. However, Jesus never mumbled a word, he never became defensive, nor did he hate the people who nailed him to the cross. Instead Jesus prayed for them. ['Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do'. - Luke 23:34] In order to get to this point we need to sacrifice our own desires. A sacrifice could be as simple as holding your tongue when you want to say something rude or retaliate against someone attacking you. Your sacrifice could be making a pledge not to have premarital sex or vowing not to curse anymore.
Would you be able to say sorry even if you felt you did nothing wrong? Or not lash out at someone who has lashed out on you? [A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. Proverbs 15:1] These are sacrifices that we have to make. So pick up your cross.
As aforementioned, being a Christian isn't just about professing Jesus but possessing him in your heart and showing you love him. How do you show God that you love him? [If you love me, keep my commandments. - John 14:15] You show God you love him by denying yourself. So many things that we see going on in the world, goes against what the bible says. Getting drunk, swearing, disrespecting elders, revealing your body, getting tattoos, having a love for money, and the list goes on. In order to severe God you have to make sacrifices. If you don't make sacrifices, what is the difference between you and any nonbeliever?
God is a good God, and he is also a merciful God, but we must remember that God favor's no man, however he favors our actions. [For there is no partiality with God. For all who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous before God, but those who do the law will be declared righteous. - Romans 2:11-13] So next time you say you are blessed and highly favored, ask yourself 'Are my actions favorable?'. We should strive to be like Christ and we should know that God will hold us accountable for our actions. There is no religion without sacrifice.
I am not perfect by a long shot. My ultimate goal is to seek perfection and every day I am striving to get closer and closer to that. But we have to be real with ourselves now that we are getting older. God has expectations for us.
Recommended reading: Ecclesiastes 2