I Thought I Was a Christian

Today, we are delighted to share with you the testimony from a young man who thought he was a Christian by trying to be a “good person.” Like many others with similar stories, he grew up in the church, believed on the surface that God existed but he did not have a true relationship with His Savior, Jesus Christ. But as he continued through college, it was becoming clear to him that he was far from living as a Christian…and the Lord was reaching out to him. Read his story below and please share if you’re led. We pray his testimony blesses you and others.

Kurt Yoder Bio Pic 0082718

Kurt Yoder, VATG Guest Blogger

If you would have asked me about five years ago how long I’d been a Christian, I would had said my whole life. You see I grew up going to church. I always had at least a surface belief that Jesus is God, and I used to think that as long as I try to be a good person, I’ll make it to heaven because I believe in Jesus. A lot of people fall into that trap, but Jesus said himself that,

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

Looking back, I had no desire to keep God’s commandments.

I remember reading Matthew 7:21 and it really hit me like a freight train. Jesus said, Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

And this, The demons also believe, and shudder. (James 2:19)

Even demons have an intellectual knowledge of God. In some ways they probably know more about God than us since they were once in his heavenly kingdom. But they do not have the type of belief that saves; saving faith that produces repentance and a longing to live godly.

I did not have saving faith growing up. To show you that, I will tell you a bit about my old self. I quit going to church in high school. To give you an idea of what kind of kid I was, at the age of 17, I started drinking every weekend. Nobody around me found that wrong – not my friends, family, or family’s friends. Everybody lived like that and once you were around that age, you start partying. People thought that was just a part of growing up. The false notion is that you’ve got to have rebellious times when you’re young, so you have something to laugh about when you’re old. By worldly standards, I was a fine kid. I got good grades, was pretty involved in extracurricular activities, and played sports. I even did some good things while I was an unbeliever. I remember specifically standing up for an outcast several times when he got made fun of. You see, I thought of myself as a pretty good person.

I thought I was a Christian

Lines from poem written by Michael P. Johnson

In college, I joined a fraternity. It was the type of stereotypical fraternity you hear about – lots of drinking and sexual immorality. Although, I was not the most immoral person in the fraternity, I was no doubt a part of that lifestyle. There were always people around me that seemed worse than me, and they made me think, “I’m a good person.” I had a friend from high school who went to college with me and did not join a fraternity. Instead, he lived in the dorms his whole time at college and tried to win people to Christ.

At the time, I thought that was a nice thing he was doing, but it wasn’t for me. We had coffee a few times. I remember he would always bring the conversation to Jesus. My thought while talking to him was always, “Why is he telling me this stuff? I believe in Jesus. I believe everything in the bible.” I don’t remember exactly what he said but looking back he knew I was lost. I made clear to him that I believed in Jesus and always had. I promised him one day I would read the bible. Just not now. I was too focused on college then.

Procrastination is what holds a lot of people in unbelief. They put off reading the bible, joining a bible study, going to church, and doing so they never come to face with the truth that they’re a sinner and need reconciliation. They fall more and more into sin and then lose the desire to know God. The governor Felix procrastinated. Paul presented him with the gospel, and Felix began to understand that God is a holy God and we are sinful people. Felix said, “I will hear you again on this matter.” He put off getting right with God. As far as we know, Felix never repented and came to faith. Procrastination damned him.

I procrastinated for a while, but God kept working on me. Shortly after college, I did start reading the bible. At the time, I thought of it as a checklist item. I have to do this once in my life. I thought of it as merely a pursuit of knowledge. I wanted to add bible knowledge to my belt. I did not know that through reading God’s word, God would reveal to me how sinful I was and would give me a new heart. Shortly after I started reading, I was seeking through the radio stations one night, and was compelled to leave the station on a station of a man giving a sermon. I never listened to talk radio at the time. If I was seeking through stations, I would listen for music. If I didn’t hear music, I would instantly keep seeking before I even heard what was being talked about. For some reason, this night I left the station where it landed and heard the man preach and continued to listen to him. I didn’t even know there were Christian radio stations. The next morning when I got in my truck, a new man was preaching. I kept listening and I’ve been listening to sermons on the radio ever since. It was through that radio preaching and my own reading that I began to receive Christ.

Since I thought I was a Christian all along, I can’t exactly tell you the moment I was converted. I can look back on a few moments and say it wasn’t then.

I remember the first time I read the book of Romans, it was like it went through one ear and out the other. I had no idea what I just read. Then, I read Romans about a year later and was in awe. I thought, holy smokes! That was incredible! So much doctrine in that one book. I remember looking back and thinking, I don’t think I had true faith the first time I read the book of Romans. You can only understand this book if you have a new heart. Unbelievers can understand things like historical and geographical things in the bible, but they can’t understand doctrine. The book of Romans is rich on doctrine. The only reason we can understand God’s word is because we have the Holy Spirit. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God… But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them. (1 Corinthians 2:12, 14)

Unbelievers cannot understand the word of God. I see that proven all the time and it breaks my heart. There are several people close to me that started reading the bible once and they said they had to quit because they just had no idea what it was saying. I couldn’t understand when I first started reading, but God convicted me of my whole sinful life and I came crawling to God to give me salvation and with that salvation he gave me understanding of his word.

Another moment that I can look back and confidently say that I wasn’t a Christian – the time I heard on a Christian radio program a man telling a woman that she can be forgiven for her sin of abortion. My thought was, “What? Abortion is murder. Murderers don’t make it to heaven.” I was confused what this man was talking about. Now I know that anybody can be forgiven. We are all sinful.

There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, there is not even one. (Romans 3:10-12)

I may be slightly better than a murderer, or an adulterer, or a drug addict. They’re here and I’m here. But the reality is that God is way up there at the sky. He is HOLY, HOLY, HOLY! He demands perfection in his holy kingdom.

We are not saved by our works. We are only saved by Christ’s works! He lived the perfect life, then died on the cross and bore our sins. He paid for an eternity’s worth of wrath for each one of us in those hours on the cross. It pains me to think how much pain Christ bore for me on that cross, not even including any others wrath that he paid for, but I’m sure glad he did.

No, we’re not saved by our works. Because once you put your works into the equation, you have to also put all your bad works into the equation, too. One sin cancels all your good works and is enough to condemn you forever. I now know that salvation not by being a basically good person. Salvation is by faith!

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6) The righteous man shall live by faith. (Habakkuk 2:4) “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:30-31)

My old self thought I had been a Christian my whole life, but there is no such thing. We all are born into sin and live a life rebellious to God. The only way we can live a life of glorifying God is if we have been born again. I thought the born again was only for really bad people – prostitutes, drug addicts. The truth is that I am just as guilty as they are. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)

Jesus told that to a leading Pharisee, Nicodemus. Even Nicodemus, who was surely much better than me, probably didn’t fall into that partying lifestyle, and probably went to synagogue several days a week, and prayed several hours a day, needed to be born again.

To reiterate the point,

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I have learned that the Christian life is much more difficult than an unbelieving life. It’s much easier to go with the ways of the world and be a man-pleaser. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)

Jesus received undeserved hate. He proclaimed the truth and way of salvation, and the world hated him for telling them they were deceived and living a life against God. The whole world is hostile toward the true Christian viewpoint. They’re not hostile to false Christian viewpoints, such as cheap grace – just believe in Jesus and go on living like a heathen; or the prosperity gospel – that God wants to make you healthy and wealthy and he’s going to really take care of you if you just have faith; or universalism – that God is a loving God and everybody’s going to heaven and there is no judgement for sin. God is a loving God, but he is also a just God. The world loves those false forms of Christianity, but they hate true Christianity. The Christianity that says, “All men have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God,” and all men need to repent and place their faith in Jesus Christ, for “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

I know this Christian life is tough. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

Although I know this Christian life has been and will be tough, I have great joy and peace. I do because I know the price has been paid for me by Jesus on the cross and whenever I die or Jesus comes to take me home, I will have eternal life in a kingdom where there is no sin and I have no sin and I can worship my savior face to face! I can’t wait for that day! I also have great joy and peace because of Christ’s last words on the cross, “It is finished.” My salvation has been worked out! Victory has won over death! And I know that because I didn’t earn this salvation, I cannot lose this salvation. God freely gave me salvation, and my salvation is in his hands. No one can take this salvation away from me.

For Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29) 

Kurt Yoder, 27, has been a Christian for about three years. He lives in rural western Missouri and is a member of a Southern Baptist Church. He and his wife have been married for two years, and have been blessed with a six-month old daughter.

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A Call for Authentic Faith

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“The descent is easy.”- Virgil

I read a lot. Thanks to my mom, I’ve loved reading since I was a kid. Mom enrolled me and my brother in a book club where we’d excitedly wait to receive the new reads we ordered each month. As an avid reader today, I am also selective in what I read and what I feed my spirit. Two years ago, a great book passed my litmus test and was added to my collection.

Sometimes you read a book and from the first page the author’s words grip you. Their words resonate with you so much that you are nodding your head all the way through. You might even highlight certain text that you want to remember. You might even say as I did in reading this book, “He (or she) is speaking my language!”

Real Christianity, written by English abolitionist and politician, William Wilberforce (1759-1833), is the book I am referencing. Wilberforce and his book’s message were instrumental in stopping the slave trade in England. In his book’s introduction, Wilberforce pens an “author’s apology” telling the reader that because he is not a theologian he may not be taken seriously but that his message is nonetheless important, truthful and worth strong consideration. After he apologizes, he writes this:

“Enough apologies and justifications; let me get on with the task at hand. Here is what I am going to attempt to accomplish in writing this book. I’m not going to attempt to either convince skeptics or answer the questions unbelievers seem to ask, but rather point out some of the problems with the beliefs and actions of those who already claim to be Christians. I’d like to attempt to contrast what we see in the lives of many, perhaps most, who make this claim with what I understand the Bible teaches about what it means to believe in Christ. I am disturbed when I see the majority of so-called Christians having such little understanding of the real nature of the faith they profess…

…Life as we know it, with all of its ups and downs, will soon be over. We will all give an account to God of how we have lived. Because of this fact, I’m not going to pull any punches in what I write. I hope you will seriously consider what is contained in these pages. If what I write seems too rigid or austere, I would only ask that you check what I have to say against what the Bible teaches. That is the only opinion that counts. If you accept the authority of the Bible, I assume you will agree.” – William Wilberforce, Real Christianity, 1797

Real Christianity book cover

Wilberforce’s words written more than 200 years ago are “speaking my language” today. Wilberforce anchors his message in the infallible, unchanging and often offensive Word of God. His straightforward writing from the book’s start to finish makes no apologies for upholding God’s Word as the standard by which we should live, particularly those of us who proclaim to follow Jesus. In his day, Wilberforce was disheartened by a climate that was gradually abandoning authentic faith and embracing something far easier to swallow; something that would allow people to live how they wanted to live and make themselves more likable to others: cultural Christianity.

Cultural Christianity is a watering down of God’s Word and relationship standards to make it more palpable to those who want to do what they want to do anyway. In watering down the truth, we strip the Word of its power to truly heal and restore people, communities, our nation, world and situations. This action is akin to using a placebo to treat an illness instead of the medication prescribed by your doctor. You allow the illness to fester and worsen. Either you want to be healed or you don’t. Wilberforce said it well:

“Nominal or superficial Christianity does not have the ability to create such outcomes (that overcome any social, economic or racial barriers). (Societal) and political decay can thrive under cultural Christianity but authentic faith will bring it to a sudden halt.”

As society was pursuing greater degrees of progress, Wilberforce saw more people wavering in their convictions. Trust and believe that today, we are reaping those decisions made then.

As the Roman poet Virgil wrote in his popular work the Aeneid, “The descent is easy.” In essence, the seemingly “little” and “insignificant” compromises we make become even easier to do so the next time, and harder to ascend back up to truth. If we decide to be “all in” then we’ll never be satisfied with living as a halfway Christian, making the descent into cultural Christianity and candy-coated messages less likely.

In leading Voices Against the Grain, to boldly advance God’s Kingdom in a ‘do your own thing’ society, I too, pull no punches. I desire to deliver God’s Word just as it is — not adding to or taking away from it. Like Wilberforce and many others who share/teach God’s Word, I am not seminary trained. However, I have gained much knowledge revealed through the Holy Spirit and spending significant time communing with the Lord. God has also placed great and studied spiritual teachers in my life who have aided in my further understanding, teaching and administering of His Word.

Introspection and Call for Authentic Faith

Many of you reading this are living out authentic faith in a time when unbelief, strange teachings and “live and let live” ideals are preferred. Thank you! You have no idea the amount of moral, political and social decay and injustices that have been stopped simply by your prayers and commitment to truly share the Gospel, unfiltered. Yet, God desires that the entire Body of Christ exercises authentic faith— not only some. When we gradually fall in with societal trends, we are accelerating society’s decay. In Matthew 5:13-16, we are described as “salt” and “light.” Salt preserves and light shines a path out of darkness. Neither occurs when we compromise the truth.

Where are you on the spectrum of truth? If you are a Christian, do you see truth from the view of our God who “changes not” (Malachi 3:6)? As a Christian, are there areas where you’re likely to compromise and if so, why? 

This is a call for authentic faith. We can’t walk the fence between pleasing God and pleasing the world. The compromise is never worth hindering someone’s true liberation found only in Christ Jesus. We should trust that God is big enough to overcome opposition. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up (exalted) from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32). The attraction of the cross of Christ and the matchless love of God will prove to be the mightiest revelation to draw those far away near to Christ, those with whom you may fear sharing truth.

John 12-32 I if I be lifted up

We share truth (Jesus) because we love God and we love people. We desire for those who will to become beneficiaries of truth, no longer slaves to deception but freely living as intimate co-workers with God. We desire that no one lives less than the abundant life Jesus promised. This can only be acquired through sharing and living authentic faith.

Can you be counted on to never compromise the truth (Jesus)? Will you live “all in” and not halfway? Pray for courage. Pray to grow in deeper love with the Lord that gives way to your unwavering obedience to Him.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”- John 8:32

-Nicole