16 years ago today, I wrote this in my journal:
That kid Chris, who I wrote about on 1-31-99 and passed the chance to witness to… well, last night I didn’t pass the chance. He claims to be a Christian, yet he doesn’t even know if God will let him into Heaven. Then he said maybe God would forgive him for his sins because he’s lived a noble life. Ha! I explained to him that we’re all unworthy without Jesus.
Then he tried to tell me parts of the Bible are inaccurate! And he calls himself a Christian? I don’t get it. It seems like most people around here claim to be Christians, but they aren’t really. I’ve been trying to get people to realize that we need to be more dedicated to the Lord, but these people are clueless! Either the church didn’t teach them anything, or they never listened. Probably both. It’s frustrating.
Of course only God can reach and convict them. I need to learn how to let the Spirit use me. I just have to pray fervently, stop worrying, and confront people when I feel I should. In order to really have an impact on others I need to constantly walk in the Spirit. I need to focus on God more. I start out right in the morning, then I forget about Him all day and find myself being tempted. I must stay near the Shepherd. I must do whatever is right no matter what the cost. I don’t care if I’m the filth of the world (1st Corinthians 4:13). I must be nothing. God must be all.
— February 5th, 1999
Dear Former Self,
I find it amusing that you are outraged by the idea of inaccuracies in the Bible. Someday you will discover that the scientific evidence disproves the book of Genesis and that the archaeological evidence disproves the book of Exodus. And that’s just the first two books. You’ll also learn that there are hundreds of blatant contradictions. Calling the Bible “inaccurate” is an understatement.
By saying the people around you aren’t really Christians, you are now one among millions who all claim only they (and people with the exact same beliefs) are True Christians™. Though you dedicated your life to Christ less than a year ago, you already think you understand what it means to be a Christian better than almost everyone else. Where’s all that humility you’ve been trying to foster?
I suppose it depends on your definition of “Christian.” If you think it means “follower of Christ” then there are over 2 billion Christians worldwide. But if you think it means “someone who interprets the Bible exactly as I do” then I guess you’re right. According to that definition, only you and a few others are true Christians. But how can you be so arrogant as to believe that your interpretation of the Bible is the correct one?
And how are you going to convince other people that your interpretation is correct? If you tell someone what you think a Bible verse means and they disagree, what objective methodology will you use to determine which of you is correct? Is the person more in touch with the Holy Spirit correct? How is that measured? Or are you just starting with the assumption that you’re always right?
Sorry for the barrage of questions, but it seems as though you haven’t asked yourself any of them. If you never question your assumptions, then you’ll never know if you’re wrong. Here’s another question:
Don’t you ever find it suspicious that God agrees with you on everything? Apparently you and God have the same beliefs, the same opinions, and the same interpretation of the Bible. And whenever you change your mind, it always turns out that’s what God thought all along. Maybe the reason you and God agree on everything is because God exists entirely within your mind.
This is also why you are so confused about spirituality. Because God is a part of your imagination and doesn’t communicate with you in any detectable way, you’ve convinced yourself that he communicates with you through your feelings. You say your plan is to “pray fervently…and confront people when I feel I should.” But as I’ve asked before, how will you know if the feeling is coming from yourself or from God?
Frankly, I feel sorry for you. You’re setting yourself up for even more confusion and frustration. You will never be able to “walk in the Spirit” every waking hour, and you will never “be nothing” because you are something. If you don’t let yourself be a little selfish every now and then, you will be miserable.
— Matt, February 5th, 2015
This is part of an ongoing series called Letters to My Former Self.