BACK ROADS


The other day I was asked, “How do you know the Bible is true?”  Several years ago my answer to that question would have contained theories of proof or explanations of Biblical prophecies that have been fulfilled.  However, my answer this particular day came with no hesitation. My answer was because I know God. Because beyond a shadow of a doubt, I absolutely know God.  


I was raised in the church, and I had a process I went through whenever I was in a tight spot or wanted something really bad, I would make sure I was saved by asking forgiveness, ask Jesus into my heart for the one millionth time, and then petition God to get me out of whatever mess I was in.  I thought God was there for my convenience. I was treating God like some kind of witchcraft or voodoo, summoning Him just when I needed Him. I didn’t know Him. I didn’t know what real salvation was. I didn’t know how to find Him. What it came down to was that I didn’t need God bad enough to really look for Him.


Getting right with God always involved a crisis in my life that I did not know the answer to. When things would go wrong, I would get out the Bible and start reading and praying all the while scared to death that things would turn out the opposite of what I thought was best for me.  Fear was a good indicator that I did not know God. When you really know God, there will be a peace inside, no matter what is going on around you. The Bible says that His peace is beyond our understanding. His peace is real. When you trust God, situations can turn out completely hopeless in our eyes, but you know there is a reason.  Sometimes those reasons may be to make our faith stronger and sometimes we may never know the reasons. In the book of Mark, a man named Jairus asked Jesus to heal his daughter who was dying. Before they arrived at his house, a messenger arrived and told Jairus that his daughter had died. Jesus told him to continue to have faith. We are supposed to have faith. Most of the time I did not know what to have faith in. Am I supposed to have faith that everything is going to turn out the way I want it to or faith that God is who He says He is and will do what He said He will do? We are to have faith that God will do what is best because no matter what the outcome is, it will be for His purpose.  Jesus continued on to the house and walked into a crowd of people that were crying over the loss of the little girl. Jesus told them that she was not dead and only sleeping. They laughed at Him because she was dead and they had no idea what He was capable of. They laughed at the creator of that little girl’s life because they had no faith in who He was. As He took her by the hand, her life came back to her, and she got up. Jesus had compassion for that family and God worked through Him. What He did was to glorify God. A life lived for God is supposed to glorify God, not ourselves. If you have faith in Jesus, you will know who He is and that He is in control.
The bible says that if you seek Him you will find Him.  He was always seeking me, but I was ignoring Him. I believe down inside I knew what it would take to really find God, but I wasn’t willing to pay the price.  I wasn’t willing to give up the things in my life that I knew were wrong because they brought me enjoyment and pleasure.
Jesus said this in Matthew 7:13-14, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate.  The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”  And He said this in Luke 13:24, “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail.” Here is what I get from what Jesus said. Only a few will even find the truth.  Of those few who find the truth, only a few will choose to live the truth. Of the few who choose to live the truth, many of them will fail because they are not willing to ride the backroads and they always return to the highway. They will not be willing to pay the price.
A couple of times as a teenager I headed toward the narrow gate, but never stayed on the narrow path because it was far too difficult, and there was still too much I wanted to experience.  I was young and I knew I could get really right with God one day, but not everybody gets a chance if they wait. The bible says that if you believe in Jesus you will be saved. I believed, so I should have been saved, right?  We will think whatever we have to in order to ease our conscious and make us feel better. I was constantly stuck between knowing there was more and thinking I was where I needed to be. I was actually living only for myself. Life was all about doing the things I wanted to do.


That word “believe” is going to cost a lot of people eternity.  Not because of what the bible says about believing but because of what men say about believing. True belief is followed by action. If you tell me a dog is going to bite me and I walk up and get bit, That proves that I did not believe you. If you believe, you will do everything possible to find God and live for Him. If you choose that kind of life, you will be on the difficult path. Stay with me here and I will explain what this means. This true way of living is difficult because it’s not the way the rest of the world lives.  When I say the rest of the world, I mean all around you, even in your church. Look around at how everyone lives. Jesus said only a few would ever find the narrow gate that leads to salvation. He said that when He returns it will be like it was in Noah’s day. At that time, only eight people were saved from the flood out of the whole population of the world. That’s a few. If you don’t read your bible, everything around you should look just fine. If you know God, then you know what I am talking about. That difficult path leads to salvation. It’s not just about doing good things, it’s about doing everything that you do because you have finally found Jesus and because you know Jesus and you know there is no other way to live.  Every time I stood and faced the narrow gate, I would choose the way that worked best for me because I just knew that it didn’t have to be so difficult. I had it in my mind that if I “believed” that was what it took to be saved. I thought that if I “believed” that would be enough to get me to heaven one day. Choosing the difficult path will make you one of the few.


Jesus also said in the book of Matthew that in the last days, many would preach a twisted truth that would deceive many and cause many to fall away.  If you do not know the word, you will not know the truth from the lies that are out there for everyone to hear. Compare every word you hear or read against the Bible.  I don’t believe all untruths will be preached for malicious reasons on the part of the man preaching, it’s just that there is a way that seems right to a man. Sometimes a man will have to twist it to keep everyone happy because his life and livelihood depend on those people and not God.  Why do people receive untruth and live by it? I am sure there are many reasons. I accepted the twisted truth for many years because that way seemed right and was much easier to live by. Here is how Satan deceives, he will take some truth and mix it with a little lie. Take your favorite food, mix in one small cockroach, and now eat. Here is the formula I just explained, truth plus truth equals truth. Truth plus any part lie equals a lie. The way that seems right is almost always the easier way and that way does not lead to salvation.  If you believe and you are reading the Bible, you will see the signs and know the truth. He said you would recognize the last days the same way you can tell when the seasons are going to change. If you are living like the world and not reading the Bible, you won’t have a clue. In Noah’s day, the people didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. They were the many. One of the best lies that Satan has is to lead us to believe there is plenty of time.


During my enlistment in the Air Force I decided I was done with going to church, at that point, I very seldom even thought about God, let alone picked up His word.  If you ever meet anyone that knew me then, I am sure they will tell you that I acted as I had never even seen a Bible. When my enlistment was up, I moved to a small town.  I believe in most small towns, church is more the socially accepted thing to do, and less about living a real Christian life. How can going to church be worth anything if it involves pretending to be something I’m not?  I could have attended church every minute the doors were open and wouldn’t have been one bit better off than an atheist in the end. If I have to hide certain things in my life from the pastor or from other church members, I am hiding those things from the wrong person.  They need to be hidden from God. Good luck with that. If I have to hide anything in my life, anything at all, then that thing I am hiding is wrong, and because I know that it is wrong, I have made my choice. That choice is to live for those things instead of God. We can serve only one master.


I quickly adopted a pretend churchy lifestyle and even started reading my Bible.  I started reading my Bible for two reasons. The first reason was I didn’t want to look clueless if someone said something about the bible in front of me. Pride is doing whatever it takes so people will see you the way you want to be seen, instead of them seeing who you really are. I had a lot of pride, which is not a good thing.  I gained a lot of knowledge by reading the Bible and knew a lot of things about Jesus, but I didn’t know Him. The second reason I read the Bible was because I knew my life was wrong and deep down I was always searching for an answer. Here was the problem, as I read the bible and saw the words of Jesus, I saw them as stories. I would read and know His words as more knowledge.  You see that was the part that I didn’t understand about believing. When you believe something, you will act on it. You will act on it, of course, unless it makes your life uncomfortable. As I would read and feel convicted, I could once again ignore God by convincing myself that I was taking things too literally. There are some authors who will twist the truth just a little to make their biblical material more appealing to a wider audience.  I was that audience and a little twisted truth always made me feel better. The truth plus a lie equals a lie. A lie equals death.


When a person has sin in his/her life and the truth is revealed, it can be a very upsetting experience.  An example of this would be how the people reacted when Jesus spoke. He spoke the truth to people who didn’t want to hear it and were not going to hear it for very long.  They were content living the way they thought was right because it was more enjoyable. This life is a wisp of smoke compared to eternity. When we hear something that could make our lives less comfortable, the normal reaction is to lash out in an attempt to force whoever is speaking to change their ideas to better suit us.  If someone said something about how to live that would make being a Christian more difficult, I would try to convince them of an easier way that I had heard from someone, in hopes that they would see the situation the way I wanted to see it, which would make me feel better about what I believed and how I lived. The people that heard Jesus speak used their anger to control the situation and silence Him so that they could get back to their non-difficult, comfortable lifestyle. He only remained silent for three days. The truth equals life.
 
Then there came a point when I realized that this “life” I was living was nothing, and I knew it was worthless in God’s eyes.  At some point, I saw that I had to find life, real life, and that was no easy task. I remember that day some years ago as I stood in the middle of my living room and knew what I had to do. I knew what it would cost me. Everything in my life that led me to sin would no longer be a part of my life. This choice would cost me everything, but it didn’t take long to realize that everything was actually nothing. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He was saying His part was finished. The work He came here to do was complete. My part was about to begin.  Every morning when I wake up, I stand in front of two gates, and I have to make a choice. Every day when situations occur in my life, I have to make choices on what to do and how to react. When I make those choices and decide how to react, I am actually deciding which gate to walk through and which path to take. It was time to do my part.


Today the world has latched on to a word called “grace” and I thought this grace gave me the right to live any way I wanted and still have salvation.  I lived as I wanted, went to church, and hid certain things so everything looks clean on the outside. Grace is what Jesus did for us, grace is not a free pass to live any way we want.  I was talking to a man the other day about this. He has a thirty-two year prison sentence to serve. I explained grace to him like this. If I went to the judge and asked permission to take his place, and it was granted, how would he live his new life?  His choices cost him his family and everything he knew about this life. If I took his place, he would get it all back. He paused for a long moment and said I see what you are saying. He really got it because he understands the reality of the thirty-two years he has to serve and to get his life back would mean everything.  In this scenario, he did not ask me to do this act and he absolutely deserved the sentence he was serving. It would be grace on my part. We did not ask Jesus to die for the sentence we deserve. It was grace on his part. Do we really understand what we deserve? I asked him if he would change how he lived after he was free, and he said he absolutely would because he understands what no freedom is. His new freedom would not be freedom to do wrong because that is what cost him everything. It would be freedom to live right. It will be a new life Free from prison.  If I understand what Jesus really did, I will live my life of freedom differently. It will be a new life free from eternal death.


Here is a little analogy I came up with to help decide if I was abusing the grace of God or not.  What if an angel came to me and told me that I would die in thirty days. Would I change anything about how I live?  Really, would I change anything? Would I be done with the things in my life that lead to sin? Would I be done with sin? Would I live in such a way that the people I love could see the light of Jesus in me so they also could know the truth? The answer I came up with was yes I would. then I thought I better get to changing. Salvation depends on what I believe. What I believe determines how I live. How I live shows what I believe. The life I live in front of the ones I love will shine light or cast a shadow of darkness. My life shows others life or death. We can’t find the truth if we can’t see.  If we only had thirty days, I bet we would put a whole lot more effort into living for Jesus. Don’t abuse grace, be the light so others can see true grace.


Think about a person that you love and care about more than anything in the world.  Really, get that person in your mind. Now, what if that person wrote some letters to you and had them bound into a book.  When you sit down and read that book of letters, would you have a sense of connection and love? While reading that book would you sense the love that person has for you?  Would reading that book be different than reading any other book? When you truly decide to live for Jesus, that is what it’s like to read His letters to you. They are no longer just stories and more knowledge, but they are letters from someone who loves you.  They are letters and guidance from someone who loves you more than you can ever imagine.


Jesus said He is the way, the truth, and the life. So I had to come to Him and accept Him if I wanted to be saved. I saw only one problem with coming to Him. I could not find him. I had been looking for Him my whole life and nobody would tell me where to find Him. They just kept saying that I had to come to Him. They said come to the front of the church and say a prayer and receive Him. I would go, I prayed, and still, I didn’t know Him. I would go home and I didn’t feel any different, I didn’t know how to live for him or how I should act. I would go back out into the world and begin telling people I was saved. I had to tell them because they could not see a difference.  I had to find Him because He said He is the way. I had to find Him because He said He is the truth. I had to find Him because He said He is the Life. I can tell you how I found Him. And when I tell you how you can find him, you won’t have to act different or tell anyone you are saved because people will see Jesus in you. They will see the light. And when you go to him and live for Him, He will come to you. He will come and live in you. God, the Holy Spirit, will be with you and in you and help you to live a life that reflects Jesus. He will lead you to the one and only truth.


Before I point you to the truth I need to share this with you. When you really find Jesus, many people will try to take the truth from you. Not just the obvious evil people but even people you love and some who go to church with you will try to convince you that you are wrong. You may even try to convince yourself that you are wrong. The reason others will do this is because when you find Jesus, your life will change and people will see the change. The light that people will see in your life will make them feel bad about how they live, and they will begin to try to get you to live as they do. If they can get you to agree with their way of thinking, they will once again feel good about their lukewarm lives. You and you alone will stand in front of Jesus and be accountable for your choice, don’t let anyone steal the truth from you with lies. Jesus said, “All who live for the world will refuse to go near the light for fear that their sins will be exposed.”  He also said that few would find the truth.


God had a phrase that He placed many places in the Bible and that phrase is “repent and turn to God”. Repent is a very churchy word and it is a word that we don’t often use in today’s language. It is a word that I have heard in church many times without much explanation. When I finally decided to push all my chips in and surrender to God, I knew there were several things I could no longer do. I knew I had stuff in my life that God would not tolerate. I knew I had to stop doing what I knew was wrong. And that to me was the definition of repent. To repent was to stop doing what I knew was wrong. The word repent is used many times all throughout the Bible and many times it is followed by “and turn to God”.  This phrase seems to be the hidden secret for getting right with God. To me, this secret is putting these two things together which sparks a true relationship with God. Growing up in church, I was always hearing about the plan of salvation which included several verses from the Bible that I could never remember. The plan of salvation was always followed up with the prayer of salvation. I think people complicate things to make themselves seem more complex or intelligent. God kept it simple for me by letting me know that I had to stop doing what I knew was wrong. And when I stopped, I was actually obeying God. Repenting is one of the keys to this hidden secret because repentance is actually obedience to God and that is big.


We often hear that God accepts us as we are. That is true to a point. God lets us decide how we are going to live our lives. That is the whole free will thing. When I wouldn’t stop doing what I knew was wrong, God allowed me to make that choice. I was choosing not to live for him. If I would have died while I was not living for him, I would have had to stand in front of Him and be judged. He would not send me to hell because He chose to, He would have sent me to Hell because I chose that path. He would be giving me what I wanted. If I did not want to live for him here on earth, why would I want to live for him in heaven? Satan was an angel that apparently did not want to live for God in heaven. How did that work out?


He accepted me the way I was by the fact that He kept calling me even though I would not live for him. He gave me so many chances to make that decision to start following Him. Every time I knew I had to make a change, that was actually the Holy Spirit standing right in front of me, helping me understand who God is and who I was. That is grace. Grace is offering something to someone who absolutely does not deserve it. For the longest time, I believed that Jesus died in my place. I thought that if I had to, I could hang on a cross if it were to save my family. I realize it would be more pain than I could ever imagine. Then one day I realized I would never ever be offered that option. The sacrifice for sin had to be perfect. That means that
deal would never even be put on the table for me. In other words, I had no hope at all to become right with God. Knowing that I then knew that Jesus did not take my place, He did something for me that I could never do. If someone took my daughter and set a ransom at 900 trillion dollars, I would have no hope. If someone stepped up and paid that ransom, that is grace. So, when I knew that I had to change, that was the holy spirit convicting me. That conviction helped me to understand that I had a debt that I could never pay. He helped me to understand that I have an eternal prison sentence to serve by my own choice. He helped me to understand that He would accept me and overlook everything I had ever done If I would just surrender to Him. Jesus dying on the cross becomes the key to everything. Then to top it off, He laid dead in a grave carved into the side of a rock and He got up and walked out. He did that so I could have a choice. Before that, I had no choice to make. That is grace. I know that I understand the most amazing secret ever. I take that ability to choose or not choose God very seriously. I choose Him and every day as the enemy tries to destroy me, I keep choosing God.


One of the churchy phrases I heard a million times was that I had to accept Jesus. It did not matter if I accepted Him or not. He had to accept me. I came to him as I was, but once I was in front of him I had to make a decision which path to take. We stand in front of him in our mind when we are deciding to stop doing what we know is wrong or not. When we make the decision to stop, he accepts us because that decision is obedience and faith. Obedience and faith is what God requires from us. Repentance was the part I was missing. I had read the Bible through several times, but it was just stories.


Now, turning to him was the next thing I didn’t understand. I now know that turning to God is how you find Jesus. I am now going to tell you how to find Jesus and it will seem too simple, but this simple truth will be the most difficult path you will ever step on to.  You can find Him in the Bible. He is in the very words of the Bible. So, am I telling you that you will find Jesus if you read the Bible? Remember it takes both parts to be able to see the secret. Repent and turn to God. Just doing one or the other will leave you blind. Once I put both parts together, God began speaking to me through his words in the Bible. When I said He spoke, He did this by making everything clear. I had read and studied the Bible a lot before I put both parts together. Once I stopped doing what I knew was wrong and read the Bible, everything I read was different than before. They were no longer just stories, It was the Creator of the world making Himself known to me.  Now reading the Bible is a big task. How about this, Jesus is all through the Bible, but most of His words that will quickly get you through that narrow gate and onto the correct path are found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each one of those books are the words of Jesus told from four different perspectives. To get started let’s pick just one for now. Let’s go to the book of John. Go to the book of John and read His words. When you read His words, realize that He is speaking to you and that you have finally found him. Here is the thing though, you have to go to Him. You have to want the truth bad enough to go to Him. Don’t rely on what others say, go and find the truth for yourself. When you know the truth you will be able to judge between truth and lies.  Now, when you have found him, you will have a choice to make. Do you really believe He is God? Do you really believe that you are reading the words spoke by the Creator? If you really do believe, then it is time to listen. He is not just telling stories. He is telling us how to live so we can be with him. Go to Him, listen to Him, and obey His words. I mean, really live for Him, because there is no other way. When you take the words of Jesus and apply them to your life and live in obedience to Jesus, you have truly accepted Him into your heart and life. The world has twisted the truth and I am untwisting it for you. We have to stop doing what we know is wrong and live by His words. I am going to say it a different way. We have to “obey” the words of Jesus. When you come to Him in this way, you will have found the way, the truth, and the life. You will have found salvation. You will have found Jesus. Saying a prayer at the front of the church is a good thing if that prayer is the beginning of searching for Him and living for Him. If that prayer is just to ease your mind so you feel like you are saved, and there is no more, did you really find Jesus or just an excuse to stop searching? Did you find an excuse to live a lukewarm life and a life with no light? If you stop searching, you will never be with Him.  Don’t stop searching. Stay on the backroads. Go to Him every day. When you go to him in His word, you will find the one and only truth.

Matthew 3:2
Repent of your sins and turn to God.


Luke 3:8
Prove by the way that you live that you have
Repented of your sins and turned to God.


John 14:15

“If you love me, obey my commandments.
Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me.
When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.
John 14:23-24
John 15:10


To obey the commandments of Jesus is to obey the words that Jesus spoke.  Faith is believing His words no matter what. Faith is believing His words even if it goes against everything you understand about this life. The Bible is the word of God. God is in His words.  Now we know exactly what it means to accept Jesus. We read the words of Jesus and obey them, and because we obey, we know God, and God will know us and make His home with us.

Written by Christopher Shea
risenlight.com