Question:Lately, something's been really bothering me and it's been growing and growing and I'm afraid of where it might lead.
Basically, I've been wondering if I'm a "real or true" Christian or not. This thought has been driving me nuts, leaving me depressed, and confused. From reading online and other sources about what being a real Christian is, I've been having doubts about myself. I read about a real Christian loving God and having this relationship with God and not being just some religious rules follower. I've listened to sermons about being a genuine new creature or creation and there being a difference in lifestyle because the Spirit is leading you.
My problem is that I've been having these self doubts about it all. I've been asking myself questions like, "Do I really love God?" or "Am I just a rule follower?" I feel like all these experiences that people are talking about, I'm missing out on it or I haven't really experienced it. My fear in a way is that I might be a "Nicodemus." The heart warming experience that John Wesley talked about, I'm not sure I've experienced it.
I was born into a Christian family, but I wouldn't consider myself a Christian all those years. It wasn't until I became a teenager that my life nearly went downhill, and I decided to accept Christ. When I did, I changed. I stopped the things I was doing, and I turned my life around. But not too long after that, as an infant in the faith, I befriended an atheist and had my first girlfriend. After that my walk with Christ has been up and down up and down for all these years. So now I'm wondering if I'm a real Christian. Do I have that love for Christ, or I'm I just trying to obey and follow a set of rules? I do nice things for people, but I don't do it because the Bible says so. I do it because someone needs help and I'm helping. In fact, a problem I have is that I can't say no which sometimes leads me to get taken advantage of.
That aside, after my first year of college I did many things a Christian shouldn't be doing. Through it all I was going to church and praying. In the end I got myself into a serious academic mess, but I learned my lesson. I decided then that I would stop all that stuff and start making the necessary changes in my life. So I started trying to pray more, watch proper things on TV and surround myself with more godly and positive things. So many of my friends have been telling me how they've found Jesus in their lives, are turning over a new life, and about how they love God. That made me say, if all these people are finding God and changing, I also need to find God and change my life around. But the way they describe their experience, how they love God, and how they are completely new or different people, it doesn't seem to be that way with me. I feel like mine is false in some way or something. I tried abstaining from some of my biggest struggles: lust, masturbation, porn, girls. Even though I went for about a month, I craved it today. And what makes me sad is that I had just completed a fast the day before. So much for spiritual growth, eh?
Another thing was, I've read about trusting God, and I've been praying about a problem I had. And after my fast, I received this letter concerning the problem which really discouraged me after all that praying. And it made me feel like, I wasn't trusting God and the prayers were pointless since I'm not trusting and being discouraged by the letter just as I have just finished praying.
Many, and in fact a majority of the people who know me, see me as this nice guy, nice person, and always tell me about how nice I am and how I have a good heart, but I always say to myself how does God see me? It's only they who see me as a nice kid, but I'm really an awful Christian.
I even feel bad sending you this e-mail. I feel like if I have to send you an e-mail to tell me how to experience a "heart warming experience" and "love" with God, then it must not be genuine to begin with.
Basically, my life is horrible right now. I've been trying for years to get back with Christ after I had my first girlfriend but it's really just been on and off. I might go a week, a month, or sometimes I just give up completely but then it's right back to the same thing. When I say, I'm just going to live a life of foolishness, it makes me feel empty and I feel guilty. But when I turn back to Christ, I feel guilty because I feel like I'm not a true Christian or Christian enough. I feel like do I really hate the things of my past. Am I ashamed of it? Or do I just feel like it's wrong, and it's not good?
"Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (I John 2:3-6).
"By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (I John 5:2-3).
"If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15).
"He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him" (John 14:21).
"Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me"" (John 14:23-24).
"If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:10).
"You are My friends if you do whatever I command you" (John 15:14).
Isn't it amazing how people make up these silly rules which have no scriptural foundation? Where in the Bible does it say that following God's rules means you lack love? I find the complete opposite. It is those teachings of God, which if you follow them, completely alter your life. Since it is the Spirit of God who brought us those rules by inspiring the apostles and prophets, when we follow the Spirit's leading through the Spirit's teachings we become new people.
Consider it this way: What is it that motivates people to suppress their own desires and put the will of God first in their life? I've seen far too many claim to love Jesus but turn around do their own thing.
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. "Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:15-23).
When you got yourself into trouble, it was because you were only partly following God. You did the showy things: going to worship and praying, but you stop living the life that God wanted you to live. You saw the danger and turned back, but it is still a superficial commitment to God.
Consider the idea of helping someone out of a problem. You don't do it just because Jesus said you had to do it, and thus drag yourself into helping. Jesus taught us the value of helping out those in need, and I do it because I understand that Jesus knows the best way to live life. Therefore I take pleasure in helping others and know that behind it all, God is also pleased by my efforts. The help comes from a sincere desire to help -- it is from my heart and not because I am being made to do what I rather not do.
What you tell me is that you do various things that you think are religious, and then wonder why God doesn't respond to your efforts. It should be the other way around. You should be seeking out what God wants from His followers and doing them.
Even in your prayers you were expecting God to answer them the way you wanted them answered. Have you thought that perhaps what you are seeking isn't necessarily the best thing for you? Though God may be giving you the best answer, you blame yourself for not being persuasive enough to God to convince Him to give you what you want.
Still your complaint that others don't see you as you see yourself is a common one. You see what you do, even in private. You know what you are thinking and what are your motivations. Everyone else see only the surface, and even that isn't complete. Do you realize that is true for every Christian? We all have our flaws and our struggles. That is why we are told about some of Abraham, Moses, David, and Peter's sins. It let us know that none of us are perfect people, only forgiven people. It is often the struggle of a less mature Christian. He sees the older Christians handling problems with apparent ease, never considering that they too were once young and struggled just like he is.
When it comes to temptation, we forget where they come from. Satan wants to trap people in sin. So if he knows from the past that you have a weakness toward lust, where is he most likely to attack to keep you in his realm? To be tempted is not a sin. You don't have control over temptation. The point where you have control is what you do with the temptation. Do you reject it? Or do you dwell on it, give it credence, think about how you could get away with it until you reach the point that you actually do it? The true Christian fights against sin, the pretend Christian tries to justify his sins. So which would you rather be?