By Todd Lockwood: The Christian experience is different for each person. Someone may never marry. They may grow up in a Christian home, or not. Someone could come to know Christ at a young age or old. There are many variances and we all have our own experiences.
In the last five years, my world has been turned upside down on several occasions. The first time occurred during my journey towards the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I did not grow up learning of the saving works of Christ and had little knowledge of him. My life and the people I surrounded myself with were centered on worldly pleasures. For me to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior was a life changing moment. Weekends used to mean parties and girls but now it means a special time to worship my God!
After accepting Christ, I naively thought that that was the last of any big change in my life. I was wrong! God has been constantly conforming me to the image of Christ since day one of my new birth. At first, someone might think that it sounds pleasant to conform to his image but it comes with a price on many levels. Christ is an example of humility and sacrifice, something the human flesh is very much resistant to. Becoming Christ like may not always be pleasant but there is nothing more wonderful than to follow in his footsteps! Jesus is my all in all!
Marriage was one of the many changes that entered my life after my salvation. The marriage of a man and woman is an example of the love Jesus Christ has for his church. Just as Eve was taken from the side of Adam, the church was taken from the pierced side of Jesus Christ on the cross. Christ sacrificially served the church and a husband is to follow that example for his bride. Marriage is anything but a paradise of constant tranquility, though there are times where that feeling does arise. More times than not, the reason why a marriage suffers is due to self-centered motives.
Speaking of the church, people of the church also become an integral part of your life as a believer. Another big change in my life accord when I had to start evaluating each relationship with the word of God. Churches form around doctrinal statements, their understanding of the word of God. The relationships that you build within the church end if you hold to something outside the "essential perimeters" of the doctrine of the church. Churches have their own views on what is essential and what is not. I recommend the following article by Al Mohler for further discussion about essentials in the church.
Now, I would like to share the climax of my thoughts. It was not until I was married and had strong relationships with church members that God turned my world upside down again by sharing with me truths that were contrary to the norm of my circle of believers. I eventually realized that my circle of believers were hindered by tradition, which prevented them from sound reason and some very important truths found in the word of God. This is very common among believers and, to this day, God continues to strip from me lies that I hold unto. Praise the Lord!
Before reaching a change in my beliefs, I had no idea that I would eventually become at odds with my circle of believers. They saw me come to Christ, some being a part of that journey. Not only that, but they saw me grow. I was the fruit of their labors. If you have ever witnessed or experienced such a transition in someones life, you understand the strong bond that grows from it. But with that said, there should be no bond stronger than the bond that you have with God, not even your closest ones.
In Matthew 10, Jesus Christ did warn that families would divide over the truth of the gospel. This was definitely the case during his time when the world was mostly polytheistic. Of course, I did not come to accept a new religion but I did hold to beliefs that were contrary to the essentials of my former circle of believers. For the sake of time, I will not go into detail about my beliefs but they are not outside the realm of orthodoxy. The circle I was saved under is a very traditional and unique fundamentalism. If you want to learn more, read my article.
So you changed doctrine, big deal, right? I became the antithesis of my former circle. The people that they constantly degrade from the pulpit eventually became a portrait of me. To make matters worse, I had strong bonds with many of them, including one of their daughters, my wife. The realization that you approved of the marriage of your daughter to a man that eventually became the antithesis of your beliefs is not an easy pill to swallow. The changes didn't change the love that my wife and I had toward each other but it did make things more difficult between us, family, and friends.
The future that my wife and I thought we had with the circle of believers we both enjoyed was now over. I had a calling to the ministry and there was no hope of reconciliation; fulfilling the will of God in our life had to come from somewhere else. The journey to find another place to call home had begun. My wife and I have and are still struggling through the transition but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Over time, my wife and I have worked together to try to base our lives on the word of God.
Knowing how much was at stake, was I afraid to change? Yes. It is easier to change and keep it to yourself but it is harder to make that change public.
But, in the end, I owe it to God to conform to the image of Jesus Christ. Christ did not suffer and die for me to take the easy road of conformity! God forbid that I would ever love or care about anything more than what he has done for me. It is a shock to the world's ears, and sometimes even the ears of some believers, but I love God more than my wife, children, family, or anybody else. This does not mean that love cannot be given to others but that it should never be more than the love you have for God. Though I say this, my life doesn't always represent this and we all need the grace of God to strengthen our love for him.
When your love for God is superior, the care for what others think or can do to you falls into the background. No matter how humbled you are, speaking the truth will bring trials. Depending where you are at, speaking the truth could end your life. Just take a trip to Iraq or North Korea and you will find out. Believers in America are not at risk of losing their life and many times when trials come our way we are shocked and afraid to walk in the truth. Have we not read the gospels?
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
My reason for writing this was to encourage believers to never put down their cross even when faced with division among your closest ones. Your world may be shaken up a bit but remember there is no other foundation than Jesus Christ, all other foundations are artificial. Don't be afraid to think or change in a direction that is contrary to your circle of believers, family, friends, coworkers, classmates, or anybody else. Seek the truths of the Bible and don't be afraid where it takes you. Keep your eyes and affection on God! There is nothing worth more than God, not even conformity.