I remember very vividly the moment I began my relationship with Jesus. Years of questioning and months of deliberate seeking all led up to one pinnacle moment. It was not at an alter or in a church or in a huge arena; it was all by myself in my apartment. At 25 years of age I simply uttered the words barely above a whisper, "I believe in you Jesus." I didn't hear the voice of God, nor did I fall on the floor overwhelmed. I simply went about my day, no one there to tell me what to do next or what to expect. But something remarkable had happened in that moment. The reason I'm so certain is that the trajectory of my life drastically changed. As soon as those words left my lips my heart towards people changed. I don't know how else to explain it other than I thought less about myself and more about others. The distance between my episodes of jealousy, anger, worry, drunkeness, and self pity became farther and farther apart. Simply put, I felt I had a friend (in Jesus) who would never leave me and was always encouraging me to stretch my capacity to love.
I'm now in a position 15 years later where I love nothing more than to see the incredible change that God can do in a person's life. Hope returning along with a spark for life. It never gets old. This however is something that no man should ever take credit for, and as a spiritual leader, I constantly have to keep myself in check in this area. I was reading a portion of Scripture the other day and a few verses struck me so deep that reminded me of this truth...the truth that God alone does the work in a person's heart. In Matthew 23 Jesus was in the process of putting some religious leaders in their place. He was calling them out for their overzealous methods of trying to win converts, plus faulting them for burying those converts under mountains of rules and regulations. Jesus tells them that they don't understand the things of heaven and their tactics actually push those away who are trying to find God. I can almost hear him crying out, "Just love them and tell them about my goodness. I'll do the rest!"
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” (verses 13 & 15)
There is a sobering reality being addressed here that we all need to be on the lookout for. People can, no matter how well meaning they are, push those trying to find God away altogether. Have you ever seen someone who doesn't swim well get pushed into the deep end of the pool? Their reaction is to flail to the side and get out quickly no matter how soothing the water temperature is. All the while the person on the side is taking credit for teaching them to swim! Think for a minute how you've seen people enter a pool. Some dive right in, others dip a toe in and circle around a bit, still others will slowly wade in. I was that guy who circled around for a while and waited until everyone was gone and slipped in quietly. To this day I've never gotten out because the decision to get in was my own. I'm glad there wasn't a pool "pusher" there, but just people who loved me and were patient with me as I walked my journey to Christ. The same people who knew that my decision wasn't their doing...and I'm thankful for that.