It’s been almost seventeen years since Jesus interrupted my selfish little existence and woke me up from sleeping death. Seventeen years since my eyes were opened to the meaning of life, to the beauty of Jesus, to the pleasure of knowing and being known by God.
As I look back on my earliest years walking with Jesus, I feel so much gratitude and joy. I also wish I could go back and talk to younger me and steer him away from so many misunderstandings about God, life, and himself. I’m sure that seventeen years from now I’ll have much to say about what I’m currently missing. But for now, here are five lessons I wish I would have known as a younger Christian that might help you in your walk with Christ.
1. The Lord loves baby steps.
For my first four years as a Christian, I waged a seemingly useless war against addiction to pornography. I danced the moral two-step toward God. With every step toward Jesus, it seemed, I took one step back toward lust and darkness. How frustrating it was as a new believer to finally be eager to do good for the Lord — to finally put away pornography — only to find with the apostle Paul that “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18). I was sure that God would only love the post-porn version of me. I was wrong.
I am now a father of three. I’ve never been angry at my one-year-old for not being able to run the hundred-meter dash. I clap and cheer as they fumble toward me with their macaroni-shaped legs. I celebrate each step they take, not because I need them to fill a step quota, but because that’s what fathers do — they rejoice in their children’s baby steps. Some of you need to hear this said to you today: God is pleased with every faith-filled step you make toward him, however small.
2. Old loves are conquered by bigger loves.
But how do we take those baby steps away from sin?
Many of us were taught as children that sin is a set of behaviors to avoid. If this were true, it follows that with a little bit of exertion and grit, any bad habit can be curbed. Perhaps you’ve been trying this yourself. Every computer is password protected, or you only spend time with your boyfriend in groups, but you still feel the monster inside of your chest wanting out.
Sin is a problem of what you love before it’s a problem of what you do (Matthew 15:18–20). I white-knuckled my obedience for so long, until I began to see the real solution staring me in the face each time I opened God’s word: Jesus. As I have fallen in love with Jesus over the years, a funny thing has started to happen: The sins that seemed so attractive to me have lost some of their luster.
Consequently, the once tight grip they had on my heart — the grip that seemed impossible to escape — slowly started to subside. By all means flee sin, but as you flee those lesser loves, flee to the greater love, Jesus (2 Timothy 2:22). Sin is conquered by bigger loves, not bigger muscles.
3. Life is not about getting heaven, but about getting God.
I did not understood the real reward of the gospel until years after I became a Christian. I saw it for the first time reading 1 Peter, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). The sweetest and fullest punch line of the gospel is simple: We get God!
To be sure, we get plenty of other glorious gifts as well (Matthew 19:29), but in the end, they are only garnishes around the feast that is simply having God forever. This changes how we enjoy the news of the gospel. It changes what “good” means in the good news. It changes the way we share the hope of the gospel with others. We have infinitely more to offer the lost world than a “get-out-of-hell-free” card. We are offering them a chance to know the infinite, all-satisfying Lord of all creation.
4. God’s will gives us room to roam.
Many Christians have asked me, most of them after one of my concerts, “How do I know if God is calling me to pursue music?” It echoes a question I asked myself a lot: “What is God’s will for my life?” Becoming a Christian brings a new awareness of the significance of our choices — who we should date, where we should move, what school we attend, what courses we take, is he or she “the one” — these are questions we constantly ask God, hoping for some divine writing on the wall.
I used to live in a state of constant angst, worried that if I chose poorly, I might be struck with divine lightning. As I’ve searched the Scriptures, I’ve come to understand more about what God’s will really means. Allow me to liberate you from some needless stress: If you’re walking by faith in Christ, trusting him to lead you, drawing Spirit-filled brothers and sisters into your thinking, any decision can be a right decision. Apart from willfully choosing to sin, there’s freedom to roam in the wide field of God’s will.
There is room within God’s will for you to choose a state school, or a private school, or no school. There’s room for you to pursue that godly girl, to say yes to that godly man, or to remain single. God’s will for your life is your sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3) — to enjoy him more fully, to live more holy lives, and to invite more people into your joy. Once the broader will of God for you is plain, the pressure lessens significantly in the specifics. Trust in Christ, take a step, then ask for wisdom as you move forward. He is with you “to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
5. Jesus really does love you.
It sounds so simple, but I am amazed looking back at how much of my distress as a young Christian started here: Could Jesus really love me? Have I fallen from his grace? Are those verses about God’s unfailing love for his people really for a sinner like me?
Take heart, Christian. God not only sees the sin you see in yourself and still loves you; he sees the sin you can’t yet see and still loves you. Really. In fact, it could be said that a Christian is no more mature than he is aware of God’s love for him. If you learn this early on, you’ll not only spare yourself an ocean of fear and doubt, but discover something wonderful in their place: joy.