16 years ago today, I wrote this in my journal:
The day after I wrote that last entry I was miserable. In short, I was guilty because I wasn’t witnessing to every person I met. After reading some Charles Finney, I realized that not witnessing to someone when there’s an opportunity is a sin. But because I wasn’t brave enough to witness to everyone I could, I knew I would sin again. Of course everyone knows they’re going to sin again, but basically planning on committing this sin again everyday made me feel extremely depressed and separated from God. I talked about it with Mom and Dad all evening and felt a little better, but still no peace.
I came to a conclusion this evening. I read God’s Plan To Keep His People In The Coming Depression by David Wilkerson and realized that before going out and witnessing to everyone, I must first build up my personal relationship with Him. I realized some other things, too. Before my heart is softened and I’m able to weep over the lost, before I can stop being lazy and rejoice no matter how awful I feel, before I can defeat every kind of fear and let God speak through me, I must first spend all the time I can with Him.
I always had trouble with the idea of spending hours in prayer. I thought, “What if I run out of things to pray for?” How foolish! From now on if the Spirit nudges me, I will immediately bow down and worship Him until He shows me what to pray for. If I think of nothing, I will sit quietly before Him for a while. If still nothing, I’ll read His Word. Then I’ll worship more. I love to worship Him and I desire to now Him better! “Let this zeal I have for you not pass, Lord. Let it grow!” Wilkerson’s book says that sort of thing. The ultimate focus of his book is about getting into a close, personal, deep relationship with Jesus. Then you don’t have to worry, no matter what the future holds!
In other news, I think God wants us to join Bartlesville Southern Baptist Church. I’ve realized that unless I’m a Charles Finney, I can’t change First Baptist of Nowata, and I want to join in where God’s Spirit is already moving. The service was awesome today! I can see that pastor has a real heart for the lost. Today his sermon was from Joshua 24. “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!”
Two people accepted Jesus today, two last Sunday night, and one last Monday! At one point when they ran out of invitation songs, a guy walked up, grabbed the microphone and quoted that verse from Joshua 24. Then men in the crowd started standing and exclaiming it! It was exciting! Very bold sermon which basically said, “Choose this day whom you will serve,” and if you don’t choose today, you’ve already chosen to reject God!
Bible study was weak, but maybe I can help liven it up. Until next time.
— April 4th 1999
Dear Former Self,
Let me explain what’s happening… Unlike most Christians, you are taking your faith to its logical conclusion.
Everyday you encounter people who aren’t saved.
Jesus said to “preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)
Therefore, you should share the gospel every chance you get.
It’s amazing that more Christians don’t get this. The average Christian comes across “unsaved” people all the time–people they believe could die and go to Hell at any moment–yet they don’t bother witnessing to them. But you’re a good person, and you want to do the right thing.
The problem is, you’re also a very shy person, and the thought of witnessing to people terrifies you. So while you’re willing to try avoiding other sins, you’re not willing to try avoiding this particular sin. And because of that, you feel guilty.
This makes a lot of sense. Consider the 4th commandment. Even though you know you’ll slip up and use the Lord’s name in vain again, it’s okay because you’re not actually planning on it. But if you planned on breaking the 4th commandment again everyday and were unwilling to change, you would feel very guilty.
According to your interpretation of Christianity, you have to repent of your sins to be saved. But to you, “repent of your sins” means a commitment to at least try not to sin. But when it comes to sharing the gospel every chance you get, you’re too afraid to make that commitment. So in a way, you haven’t actually repented of all your sins. That’s why you felt separated from God.
Many Christians come face to face with harsh truths like this. They realize that if they’re going to take their religion seriously, they need to change their behavior. And if they don’t, they’ll just be lukewarm Christians, the kind that God does not approve of (Revelation 3:16).
Instead of committing to change, you did like most Christians and invented a loophole to make yourself feel better. You convinced yourself that it’s okay not to witness to everyone you can because first you need build up your personal relationship with God. And how are you going to do that? Praying and worshiping, of course.
It’s so easy! Now you don’t have to feel guilty about not sharing the gospel all the time, and all you have to do is close your eyes and think about God. This is how many Christians deal with moral crises. They keep modifying their beliefs until they’re comfortable with them. No wonder there are so many denominations.
This is another one of those instances where some fundamentalist Christians might actually agree with me. If you really believe the Bible and you’re a man of integrity, then you should be going on mission trips and preaching on street corners, not sitting at home and praying.
But the fact is, there is no evidence that Christianity is true, anyway. This emotional roller coaster you’re on is a complete waste of time and energy. Your religion combined with your fear of being a hypocrite is confusing you and keeping you from living a normal life. What a shame.
Moving on… You say God wants you to join Bartlesville Southern Baptist Church. How do you know that? Did you hear his voice? Did he write you a letter? Did he speak to you in a dream? Or is it just a feeling? If I remember right, it was just a feeling. And apparently an inaccurate one because you’re going to end up at First Baptist of Nowata.
Don’t you think it’s a little lazy to join a church where you think God’s spirit is already moving? I don’t think Charles Finney would approve. It’s just another example of you doing whatever you feel like. You’re not actually following God because there’s no god there to follow.
It’s a shame you’re not an atheist. Life is already complicated enough as it is without adding religion on top of it. Until next time.
— Matt, April 4th, 2015
This is part of an ongoing series called Letters to My Former Self.