‘To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”’ John 8:31-32 (NIV)
I have been a Christian for what is now going on 38 years. I’ve been thinking about the changes in my life over these years. I’ve been asking myself how does my life bear out this passage from John 8? My life has not followed a typical course like grow up, go to college, get married, raise a family, succeed in a career, except perhaps for the college part. In fact, I had to drop out of college for a while and get a lot of psychological counseling. My life was a wreck and my future was very uncertain. Even college was not really a “normal” path, because I started college in engineering, switched to physics, did not go to my college graduation, and spent a lot of time unemployed after finishing my bachelor’s degree in 1982. I was out of college and then went back to college twice after graduating with my bachelor’s degree. So I was in and out of college for a long period of years. I went back to college in 1984 to study education with the goal of getting certified to teach in a public school. But becoming a public school teacher didn’t work out because I failed as a student teacher twice. That was a very hard time in my life. I then worked as a church janitor for a while until a surprising thing happened. I was given the chance to be a teacher in a Christian school in Wichita, KS. The principal of the school was an amazing man who gave me a chance and stuck with me. So I became a teacher in spite of major failures that made it look like I would never be a teacher. God has a surprising way of working things out in spite of us sometimes. The God of the Bible often has a very non-intuitive way of working in our lives. I was a teacher at Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, KS for four years. Then I went back to college again, this time to get a Master’s degree in Physics. Those two years were a great experience and I finished my Master’s degree in 1994. I did some part-time teaching as an adjunct faculty for a few months. I intended to become a teacher after that but again it didn’t work out as I had envisioned. I tried to find a position teaching physics but ended up in Dallas teaching high school math. After a mission trip to Russia in the Summer of 1995 I moved to Dallas for a teaching job. The school in Dallas had some problems and I left late in 1995. After that I changed directions again and got into computer technical support. For a while I supported Compaq computers while Windows 95 was new. But I didn’t like the schedule so I found another technical support position in Fort Worth for a company called PPC. I worked for PPC for about 7 1/2 years. After that I was unemployed again for a while but eventually found a job in Dallas where I still work to this day.
It seems my life has been a long fight. It has been a fight to get my life straightened out. I’ve found that we really cannot straighten out our life on our own, we need God’s help. Without having become a Christian in 1979 I don’t think life would have worked out well for me. I was close to being suicidal for a while before I became a Christian. A pastor who knew me in those years once told me that I had been the most unhappy person he ever knew. God repaired my broken life, but it was not a quick or easy process.
There have been many changes in my life since I became a Christian. How many of these changes might have happened anyway, if I had not become a Christian? I suppose there is no way to be sure, but there are many things about me now that would not have been like the ‘old me’ from prior to 1979. I was a very troubled and insecure young man. I had a problem with anger, with relating to people, and with handling money. I had little concept of my own self-worth as a young man and I was afraid of responsibility. Now I am a software manager and I can safely say I have significant responsibility at my company. I’ve found the Lord has been with me and helped me through many challenges of various kinds in my life. Becoming a Christian led to me losing friends. But God provided me some wonderful friends in my life, friends better than most people ever know. I needed a stable foundation to build my life on as a young man. My faith in Christ gave me this. It might not appear that my life was more stable because of my faith. There were times I moved around a lot and I did not seem to have much stability. But the uncertainties of that motivated me to seek God’s answers. I found God’s answers are the right answers that we need, as given in the Bible. I had much emotional pain to work through in my early years as a Christian and it made me hungry for answers. My father (who was an atheist) also challenged my faith when I was a new Christian. But I found that there is evidence for the truth of the Bible that is apart from my feelings. It’s not that the Bible is true to me, it’s that it is objectively true. It is true to our life experience and true to the real world.
Here are some Scripture passages that have meant a lot to me. These are bits of truth that have pointed me in the right direction.
On Anger James 1:19-20
On fear of responsibility Exodus 3:1-4:17, and 2 Corinthians 3:4-6
On self-image Romans chapters 5 & 8, and Psalm 91:14-16
On Anxiety 1 Peter 5:7
On money Luke 16:9-11
On our need of a savior John 3:16-18, and John 10:10
We are all born lost and in need of a savior, and Jesus is that Savior. I would say there are four key things that you receive as a Christian that enable you to have an improved life. It is never a perfect life. But it is improved because it means you are not just being helped, you are being transformed by God into a different kind of human being.
- We can experience what it is to be forgiven of our sins
- We can know the truth that is true for all
- We can experience being loved perfectly by God
- We receive power to change
The best indication of change in your life is to observe how it lasts. What does it mean when it says the truth will set you free? I think it means that without a relationship with God in Christ, you are a prisoner and you don’t know it. You don’t know what you’re missing without God. It can appear as a nonchristian that the Christian life is too restrictive, but the kind of freedom you tend to be attracted to as a nonchristian is often not good for you anyway. In following Christ you find that the thing that may have seemed restrictive before is actually more free because it doesn’t enslave and spoil the good that God provides in life. So if we continue believing and obeying what Jesus taught, we find life more as it should be and this is a kind of freedom. We cannot do this on our own, but what is impossible for us in and of ourselves is possible with God.