Being a teenager brings about new experiences, new friends, new boundaries…and new pushbacks. While my hope for our teen son and daughter is that they will avoid too many permanent scars, I know that there will be a bump here and a bruise there, as they experience opportunities to make decisions on their own. And as I reminisce about my teenage years, I am struck by an unexpected gift I was offered, one that provided a moral and spiritual consciousness.
Around my junior year of high school, my friend Lisa encouraged our friends to go to a youth group hangout. It was fun and silly, with goofy skits, great snacks, and lots of singing. My heart swelled while I was there. The leaders, Mel and Bryce, were young, newly married and pursued time with us. They introduced me to the Bible, because even though my family went to church each week, we didn’t have one in our house. They pointed out that I could study at home the scripture that was shared each Sunday at Mass. (Seriously, why didn’t we learn that during eight years of catechism?) I was intrigued and desired to learn. Already a good student and ardent reader, I dropped my Sweet Valley High series to pick up the free Bible they gave me. I was like those written about in Isaiah 65 “I (the Lord) revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me.” God was pursuing me, encouraging me to dive into scripture and teaching me more and more about Himself. Interestingly, all of my friends were offered the opportunity to spend time with Mel and Bryce and the gift to learn more about God, but not all of them accepted.
As I was writing this blog, I wondered: Why didn’t some of my friends accept the invitation to learn more about God at that time? Why do some people believe, while others question each nuance of faith? Why are some people not interested in God at all?
Knowing that faith is a gift to us not based on anything we’ve done (Ephesians 2:8), and that we are chosen by God when He created us, it struck me that those who are introduced to the Gospel have a choice on how they will respond.
Is their response dependent on how God reveals Himself? Are some people more swayed to faith-based on heart knowledge or head knowledge? My acceptance of Jesus at age 17 was a heart decision. For others, meeting God might be more of an intellectual approach, possibly similar to author Josh McDowell’s detailed research and speculation against Christianity until his conversion, presented in his intimate writing of “More than a Carpenter.”
Or do some people have unbelief because there are forces working against us in the spiritual realm? Even though it is difficult for many of us to want to admit, the antichrist is strategic. He blinds us with lies, overcomes us with darkness and evil. His main purpose is to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10, 1 Peter 5:8-9).
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age (aka devil) has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Further explained in Mathew Henry’s Concise Commentary: “But the design of the devil is, to keep men in ignorance; and when he cannot keep the light of the gospel of Christ out of the world, he spares no pains to keep men from the gospel, or to set them against it. The rejection of the gospel is here traced to the willful blindness and wickedness of the human heart.”
Friends, please stay alert. There is a spiritual enemy that is purposely preventing non-believers from a loving relationship with the Creator. Even though our God reveals Himself through truth, light and goodness, His attributes are being hidden. We need to break through this barrier of unbelief. When you feel farthest from God, or want a friend to meet Jesus, read the Bible. We know that God uses scripture that is alive and active to convict our hearts (Hebrews 4:12-13).
“But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3: 16-18
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God that lives inside anyone who chooses to accept Christ as their Savior. He is God’s power to transform us. He is our Advocate, our negotiator and reconciler:
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Romans 8:26
“These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” 1 Corinthians 2:10-13.
We have been chosen by God, and we need to choose to follow Him.
This has been a burden in my life. I want all my loved ones to know our Lord, and to spend eternity together. Yet, I’m not certain of everyone’s salvation. I can take a look at how they speak and serve others, but it’s not really cocktail party conversation to ask who has physically declared Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that the resurrection is real (Romans 10:9-11). Nor is it really my place to judge others. God’s timing is perfect. Yet, one thing I learned from Mel and Bryce is to be available. To share the numerous ways Jesus has changed my life. To tell them the Truth I learn in the Bible. And when they are questioning nuances of faith or quickly changing the subject, I remember what Denny, another spiritual guide has taught me to ask: What’s holding you back? Why aren’t you choosing Him?
As a teen, God introduced Himself to me, even though I didn’t know I was seeking or missing Him. How cool is that? Since then, I’ve often felt the responsibility to make sure others meet Jesus too. God has His perfect timing, and He has people like me to keep talking about Him, prodding their choices, and encouraging them into scripture.
Which leads to one more idea for you to consider. At two separate life changes, moving to a new city and becoming a mom, I sought out Bible Studies at my church. After reaching out to a handful of parishes, I couldn’t find any. This didn’t make sense to me until a friend explained some congregations don’t promote the reading of scripture. They prefer to be the authority on religious matters. This doesn’t make my heart swell. In fact, it makes me want to cry. If you are in a similar position, start your own! Grab a few friends, find a time that works, hire a babysitter to care for the little ones, and dive into the Word together. Get your husband to do the same. If you have kids who could use some unconditional love, goofy skits, and great snacks, find them a youth group hang out. When we are in fellowship with the Word and the Spirit, God makes Himself known. Jesus cannot wait to meet you!
As I was wrapping up this blog a situation arose that brought it full circle. Our son was asked to spend a few days at a Christian camp. The timing wasn’t perfect, as he would leave in 72 hours and I was leaving the country the day prior. I needed to pivot quickly: changing his prior plans, quickly packing for both of us, finding rides, and filling out forms, but he too has a spiritual guide, a college-aged, sporty and animated boy named Brady, who builds into our son as much as we do. More important than the group of friends our son would be hanging out with, our decision was based on knowing the Bible lessons would be lived out and remembered more in those few days than days of sports and work, thanks to Brady and all that he has learned from Jesus.
Please pray with me:
Lord, thank You for seeking me out when I didn’t know to look for You, and for the gift of the Holy Spirit to direct me each day since. Thank You for continuing to bring wonderful spiritual guides to my family and for amazing authors who share their love and learnings from You, writing studies we can use on our quest to learn more about You. Please continue to pursue me to be more like You each day, Amen.