Listen for the truth in the familiar
By By J.W. Greenhill, Community Editor
Jesus died for you. God loves you.
Are you saved? Are you born again?
These are phrases I have heard all my life and frankly, during the first 20 years they didn't make much impact on me.
They have become clichs, with no real meaning to a significant part of the population of the Bible belt, both for church members and the unchurched alike.
The first two are statements of truth. The second pair are questions asked by people who want to know if you have recognized the truths in the first two.
There are a variety of reasons they ask. Sometimes it is out of compassion and concern. Other times it is to search out a fresh target to hang on their evangelistic totem pole.
The problem is these and other phrases from the Christian jargon have become too familiar to us. We hear the sound, but we don't pay attention to the meaning.
So many of us attend church because that is what you do on Sunday (and maybe Wednesday or Thursday.) It's something we've always done, but we wonder about it because sometimes it seems we don't get anything out of it. We sing a few songs, maybe throw some money in the plate, listen to a nice talk and go home for dinner.
Many of us consider ourselves Christian because "America is a Christian nation," or "Mom and Dad are Christians, so I must be one too."
Too many times, wearing the label "Christian" and attending the church of our choice makes no real impact on our lives.
Many of our young people find this hypocritical and abandon the church as having no real worth in their lives.
Twenty-three years ago, I was one of those disillusioned youth. Jesus was a good man, but the Son of God? As John Stossel says, "Give me a break."
But things changed for me just before I graduated from college. One Sunday morning as I awoke somewhat hung over from the previous night, I realized I didn't want my weekends to belong to Michelob and my work weeks to belong to the clock at the plant.
Just enough seed had been planted in my heart at the little church my parents attended for me to realize that my only hope was Jesus. I don't remember if I knelt to pray, but I do remember that my life changed then and there.
Sailors are famous for their "cussin," and at that point, I could have been a strong understudy in a cussin' contest. But after that Sunday morning, the stream of vulgarity that had become my native tongue dried up. I just quit cussin'.
Now the point of this is not to tell Hartselle how I quit using habitual vulgar language. The point of this is to let the people who can't see the truth Christianity is preaching – because it is so familiar – know that if you listen for the meaning and find the truth, that your life, like mine, will change. It may be a small thing like not cussin' anymore, but if you let Him, He will bring bigger and bigger change to your life and it will show so others can see it. Many complain about the hypocrisy in the church. But we need to remember not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Hypocrisy doesn't change the truth. It just condemns the hypocrite.
Since that Sunday morning so long ago, my life has not been a smooth trip. If anyone tells you that becoming a Christian will solve all your problems, they are woefully ignorant or lying.
But since then I have learned some things. Jesus did die for everyone. In his sacrifice we are all redeemed from the forces of darkness: spirit, soul and body.
But just because He's won the war, doesn't mean we don't have to fight the battles.
God really does love us, but you've got to have the ears to hear His truth and let it change you. If nothing seems to be happening, listen harder. He is there and He is not silent.