Beginning the Adventure of Faith
That’s how a lot of people view Christianity, isn’t it? Maybe you can relate. The Bible seems out of date, the Church seems out of step, and Christians seem out of touch. Why would I get involved in that?
In fact, that perception couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The Adventure of Saying Yes to God
The greatest adventure of life is the adventure of saying yes to God, of following Him into the life He designed for us. You never know when or how God will make Himself known. But you can be sure that He will, and when He does, an adventure is sure to follow.
The dictionary defines adventure as “an unusual, exciting, and daring experience.” It comes from the Latin adventurus, which means “about to happen” or “arrive.”
It is a curious coincidence that the word adventure and the word advent are so similar. Advent, of course, is the season when we celebrate the arrival of God, the coming of God into human existence. When God steps in, an adventure necessarily ensues. Advent births adventure. Things unusual, daring, exciting begin to unfold.
With God present, something is always “about to happen.” How could it not be? God is always near and ever up to something: calling people to Himself, carrying out His plan, demonstrating His love, revealing His glory. And He is always looking for someone to share in His adventure.
Sometimes we react to God’s intrusion into our lives with resistance, preferring the safety and familiarity of the life we’ve known — even if that life is less than satisfactory — to the unfamiliar adventure of a life in which God is at the center and over which God holds sway.
Before we say yes to God, it feels scary and unsettling. What will come of the life I’ve known? What will come of me? It’s tempting to send God away, to tell Him we don’t want any part of it. But what happens if we agree to go along? While it isn’t always easy, it is always worth it. No one has ever regretted saying yes to God.
You never know how it will start . . .
The Meaning of It All
God has a way of using our life circumstances to suddenly toss thought-provoking questions at us. Something stops us in our tracks and sets us thinking . . . It might be holding a newborn child. Bumping up against a glass ceiling at work. Celebrating your fiftieth wedding anniversary. Experiencing something you can’t explain while you are sitting in church. Looking into a starry sky. Going through a divorce. Standing on the rim of a canyon. Turning twenty-one. Moving to a new town. Watching your retirement account disappear. Dropping out of school. Hiking in the mountains. Losing a loved one to cancer. Discovering that more than half of your life is behind you and you haven’t really started living it.
It could be anything, really. God uses our circumstances to begin to stir in us, to woo us, to draw us to Himself. Whatever the spark, whatever the hook, it triggers reflection at a deeper level:
Who am I?
Why am I here?
What lives my life meaning and significance?
Is there a God?
If there is, what does that mean for me?
Does God have a purpose for my life?
But this is one of the great things about God. He doesn’t just stir up questions. He offers compelling answers.
For centuries men and women have found in the Bible meaningful, life-changing answers for their deepest questions. We find there the answers to the very questions that God stirs our hearts to ask.
You may have tried reading the Bible. It isn’t always easy. The real point of the Bible can get lost behind stories about things like a snake in a garden, a man in a lion’s den, and a wild ride in a whale’s belly. What do those stories have to do with the sorts of questions I’m asking about life?
Some of us can come well into adulthood without ever having heard a clear explanation of what the Bible actually teaches about who God is, and what sort of life God intends for us.
But as you dig into it, you realize the Bible is not so much a collection of stories as it is one story, a true story with one important point, a story that God tells us about Himself . . . and about us. Here’s what the Bible teaches.
According to the Bible, all our questions — from whatever source they may seem to come — are ultimately spiritual questions. All questions of meaning and purpose, of identity and significance, of satisfaction and fulfillment, eventually lead to questions about God and matters of faith.
Now, the core faith issue isn’t one of going to church, or praying, or being religious. It is a deeper issue that has to do with this: the place that God has (or doesn’t have) in determining the shape and direction of our lives.
The Bible tells us that God made us, and He made us for a specific purpose: to live for Him. Our lives are not our own; God has a claim on our lives.
“Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us,
and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” Psalm 100.3 (NIV)
But it also teaches that we have chosen to live our lives for ourselves instead of for God. We may even go to church or say our prayers from time to time, but if we’re honest, God doesn’t figure much, if at all, in the way we actually choose to live. It may not even occur to us to consult Him about the purpose and direction of our lives, or to learn what He thinks about questions of right and wrong. To live independently of God is a spiritual reflex that is present in all of us.
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray.
Each of us has turned to his own way.” Isaiah 53.6 (NIV)
As long as we choose to live our lives for ourselves, we will experience — to varying degrees — a life of emptiness, frustration, confusion, or aimlessness. We may not even be consciously aware of the tension, but at some level we know that life just doesn’t seem to go right.
“No wonder we are walking in the gloom.
No wonder we grope along like blind people and stumble along . . . We have turned our backs on God.” Isaiah 59.10 and 13 (NLT)
Independence from God is what the Bible calls “sin.” And out of that one foundational sin of rebellion against God all other sins spill: all of the selfish and thoughtless things we do that cause harm to ourselves and others. But our relationships with others is not the only place that the consequence of our sin shows up. All these acts of wrongdoing damage our relationship with God, too. Our sin becomes like a wall between us and God, and we find ourselves far removed from Him, both in this life and the next.
“Your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear.” Isaiah 59.2 (NIV)
So when we leave God out of the picture, we find ourselves stuck in our sin, alienated from others, and separate from God. But we have another problem, too. Because we’ve blown it with God — because we’ve pushed our Creator out of His rightful place at the center of our lives and ignored His intentions for the way we should live — we also rightfully deserve to be punished. God is holy. That means He is morally perfect, and unable to overlook sin. Our wrongdoing rightly deserves to be punished.
“Don’t be misled. Remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow!
Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires
will harvest the consequences of decay and death.” Galatians 6.7-8 (NLT)
Trapped in independence and wrongdoing, and far from the One who made us and owns us, our plight as human beings is not a happy one. But though He could have, God didn’t leave us there. God is holy, but He is also incredibly loving. In love, He became a person and stepped into the midst of humanity to solve the problem that we cannot solve ourselves — the problem of how to repair our broken relationship with God. In Jesus, God Himself came to restore things to the way they were intended to be from the beginning. First, He laid down His life for us on the cross, taking upon Himself the punishment that is rightfully ours, and opening the door to forgiveness for the wrongs that we have piled up between us and God.
“But God showed his great love for us
by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5.8 (NLT)
“All the prophets testify about him
that everyone who believes in him
receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10.43 (NIV)
But Jesus not only died for us. He also rose from the dead. Having purchased forgiveness for our wrongs against the One who made us, Jesus now offers to raise us up as well, extending to us the promise of a fresh beginning in life, and a restored relationship with God.
“Those who become Christians become new persons.
They are not the same any more, for the old life has gone.
A new life has begun! All this newness of life is from God,
who brought us back to himself through what Christ did.” 2 Corinthians 5.17-18 (NLT)
Through Jesus, God invites us to live our lives the way He intended them to be lived from the start — for Him.
“He died for all, that those who live
should no longer live their lives for themselves,
but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5.15 (NIV)
When we put our confidence in Christ and His work of rescue, and choose to become His follower, and when we begin to live for God as He intended, then our lives are filled with new meaning and the pieces begin to come together. More and more that sense of emptiness or disappointment with life — that longing for more — will be satisfied in Christ. Life goes from being a chore to being an adventure.
“I have come in order that you might have life
— life in all its fullness.” John 10.10 (TEV)
Beyond that, once we have put our confidence in Jesus, we will never be separated from God again, but will enjoy for all time a new and restored relationship with Him.
“So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God —
all because of what our Lord Jesus had done for us in making us friends with God.” Romans 5.11 (NLT)
Is it scary, saying yes to God? You bet. It’s probably the toughest decision we will ever be called upon to make. But it is also the best decision we can ever make. Why? Because God made us for Himself. When we say yes to God, we are saying yes to the life that He designed for us before we took our first breath. A life lived for God is the life for which we were made. And there is no greater adventure than that.
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Embarking on the Adventure
So how do we get started on the adventure of the Christian life? In the same way we plunge into any adventure. We set aside whatever else it is we are doing, we accept the invitation, and we set out.
Setting Things Aside
First, we set aside the things that are keeping us from the life God has for us. Something has to come to an end before the Christian life can start. We need to come to a place where we resolve no longer to live our lives for ourselves, as we see fit. That is what the Bible calls repenting: turning away from a life lived for and defined by self, and turning towards all God has for us.
“Turn from your sins and turn to God,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” Matthew 4.17 (NLT)
Next, we accept God’s invitation. We begin the Christian life by coming to a moment when we say to God something like this: “Jesus, I don’t want to live my life for myself any more. I need you, and I want to live my life for you. I believe that you are God, and that you died for me to make me right with you. I put my trust in you, and turn my life over to you. Show me what it means to follow you.” That expression of belief and trust is an invitation for God to begin His transforming work in us.
“Say the welcoming word to God — ‘Jesus is my Master’ —
embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what He did in raising Jesus from the dead.
That’s it. You’re not ‘doing’ anything: you’re simply calling out to God, trusting Him to do it for you. That’s salvation.” Romans 10.9 (TM)
Finally, we determine to follow Him, Jesus didn’t come to make believers, although of course He wants us to believe in Him.
Jesus came to make followers.
When you think about it, the thing that makes the empty tomb so significant is that it means Jesus is alive and can be involved in your life right now. Christians don’t believe in a dead spiritual leader whose teachings we follow. We believe in a living spiritual leader, risen from the dead, and it is Him we follow.
What does it mean to be a follower? Turning over the control of my life to the living Jesus, seeking to involve Him in every part of my life, and asking Him each day how He wants me to love and serve Him.
I stop insisting that life go my own way. Instead, I follow His lead, patterning my life after Him, and imitating his way of life. I seek his wisdom and take his advice, and doing what He says.
The adventure of Christian faith begins when we turn from a life lived for self and entrust our lives into Christ’s hands. But then He calls us to set out after Him. It’s that last part - following Him - that makes the Christian life such an adventure.
Practically speaking, following Jesus will include: weekly worship and daily times for prayer and reading the Bible; studying the Bible; building friendships with other Christians; using your abilities and resources to serve others; and reaching out to people who are outside the faith.
If you decide to say yes to God and to enter into a relationship with God through Christ, make sure you tell a friend who is a follower of Christ so he or she can encourage you and pray for you along the way. Also, if you’re new to the church and not already involved, please let us know of your decision, as well. That way we can help you get plugged into opportunities that will help you grow in your new relationship with the Lord of Life.
Your decision to trust and follow Jesus is the most important decision you will ever make . . . and the start of an adventure beyond compare!
Give your life to Him. Follow Him into the life God has for you.* There is no greater adventure.
“And so, dear Christian friends, I plead with you to give your bodies to God.
Let them be a living and holy sacrifice - the kind he will accept.
When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of the world,
but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Romans 12.1-2 (NLT)
No one has every regretted saying yes to God. It is not always easy, but it is always good. May God give you His grace and encouragement as you step out in faith!