Wandering Sheep of One

I didn’t grow up in church. My family never really went other than a short time when I was six. I first heard the Gospel when I was in my early forties. That’s a big gap!

I made a lot of bad choices, mostly through lack of knowledge, or maybe understanding. I heard the phrase once, “the wandering sheep of one.” I feel like I can easily relate to that.

Even before I heard the Gospel, I began experiencing the Holy Spirit tugging at me, pulling me near. I first heard the whispers of Jesus, then shouts, then He went out, found me, picked up me, threw me over His shoulder, and carried me into His fold, His family.

I’m a Christian because I have lived a life apart from Him and it’s not peaceful, pretty, or proud. I’ve experienced enough that I know what I know – life is meant to be about Him, not me. It’s that simple. It’s a God thing, not a me thing. Those are my defining words.

Frankly, Jesus alone has brought me through so much of daily life, and learning to live with and love myself. It’s simple, I need Jesus, to survive. He doesn’t need me. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and if He wants something, He can speak it into existence.

What He does want, is relationship with me. He can’t speak that into existence, as He gave us, you and me, free will.  

I am living proof that it doesn’t matter what you have or haven’t done. You cannot have a relationship with Jesus by being a good person, or even reading the Bible and going to church. The actions of reading Scripture and filling a seat won’t create salvation. Jesus created our salvation when He died on the cross for our sins. He took all our sins upon Him and died in our place: a sacrificial lamb slaughtered in our place – my place, your place. When He rose from the grave, He did that so that we would have new life in Him. When He ascended into heaven, He left behind the Holy Spirit, one-third of the Trinity, to guide and lead us…and to let us know in clear terms when we’re straying from Jesus’ path. The Holy Spirit is here to convict us, nudge us and, yes, give us a kick in the pants.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to share my testimony. I’ve always heard people who hope for that bright light power testimony that Paul had. We want sparklers and fireworks. Maybe a choir of angels singing would top it off nicely! But sometimes coming to Jesus, is quiet, peaceful and simple. Words spoken. A sentiment said. A life given over.

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV) says this: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Jesus entered my life with a peace that passed all understanding. It was at a time when I was near my lowest. I was on my knees. Jesus provided for me. He began changing me from the inside out.

As I’ve lived out my Christian faith, I’ve come to realize two very distinct truths for my life:

  1. Jesus was always with me, even before I knew Him. I can look back now and see all the times, God stepped in to protect me, direct my path and convict me. Always, always guiding me towards Him, even though it took nearly 38 years. (Somewhere here we could talk about free will and stubbornness to do it my own way.)
  2. The Lord started off my walk of faith with a clear, defining moment. He has been with me ever since and never left…even when I stopped praying, reading the Bible, or going to church. He has always been with me, nudging me back to Him, sometimes with a whisper, sometimes with a shout. This sheep will not stray.

I was in one Life Group for over 10 years. The leader encouraged us to find and know our “life verse.” A Scripture that spoke to us, that resonated with who we are in Christ. No other scripture speaks to me in this way than this passage from Colossians.

Col 1:10-14 (NIV)

10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[a] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Live a life worthy of the Lord

Please Him in every way

The Father who has qualified “me”

For He has rescued “me” from the dominion of darkness

My life in a nutshell. (that’s me talking. Not part of the scripture!)

Christians don’t follow Jesus for the perks. We learn that quickly. Christians follow Jesus because He is the risen Son of God. Period. The truth of His resurrection compels us to trust in Him as He is God and is worthy of our love, worship, and obedience. Yet still, the beauty of the Gospel is that in trusting Jesus, we find that He pours into us more than we could have expected or hoped for.

Yes, there are difficult times as a Christian. We live in a fallen world. But there are also blessings that come with being a Christian.

In Luke 14:28, Jesus actually invites us to count the cost of following Him.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? Luke 14:28

Jesus was talking about the importance of fully understanding what it will cost you to follow Him. You can measure the cost against what you stand to gain in following Jesus. Before closing, let’s quickly look at three specific reasons (among many) why Jesus is worth following.

  1. Jesus Has the Words of Life

In John 6, we find Jesus giving a hard teaching that caused many people to turn away from Him. He turns to the disciples and asks them if they’re going to turn away as well.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:68-69

Jesus is God. Peter saw in that powerful truth everything he needed to know in order to follow Him to the end. If Jesus is God, then His words are “Spirit and Truth” John 6:63. 

This powerful encouragement shows us that every word of Jesus pierces the depths of our souls and binds our lives in truth. This cannot be found anywhere else. Others can offer words of wisdom, but Jesus alone gives the words that can be trusted for an eternity.

  1. Jesus Gives us the Gift of Grace

There is a phenomenon called semantic satiation. This is when you say a word out loud so many times in repetition that it temporarily loses its meaning in your mind. The word grace has suffered from a sort of semantic satiation for Christians.

Grace is a very specific thing. By definition, it’s receiving what we do not deserve because God gave His love first (1 John 4:19). Theologically, it refers to the undeserved mercy that God gives to us.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 

Jesus came not simply as a man full of wisdom and knowledge, as most other religions would attribute Him. Jesus came with grace and truth. And the grace He came to give is freely given as a gift when we trust in Him.

  1. Jesus’ Path of Purpose

There is probably no more frequent question asked by humanity than “What is my purpose?” In the beginning, there was no need for this question because we enjoyed a clear vision of purpose. We had an unbroken relationship with God. Our purpose was to be in relationship with God and accomplish whatever task we had been given. We were to enjoy and honor our relationship with God and be good stewards of creation. Simple.

But we got in the way …

It’s apparent that the world today suffers from an absent relationship with God and a total lack of clear assignment for our lives. People thrive when they have valuable relationships and a sense of duty. Without those two, the result is confusion and hopelessness. Jesus came to set things straight.

If we are to return to our original purpose, we must have a way back to God. That is only found in Jesus, who is the only way. And it’s through Him alone that we are given a path to our purpose. We no longer have to wander or wonder since we can find our purpose restored in Jesus. In the beginning, we had relationship and duty. Now, in Jesus once again, we have relationship and duty. Our duty this time is found in the great commission.

Peter knew that Jesus’ identity is the foundation of everything … Jesus is God. But we see today even more than what Peter saw, we have the risen Jesus, who conquered death, vindicated His claims, and proved once and for all that it’s only in Him that we find everything we truly need.

It is in Jesus alone that we find counting the cost results in us receiving far more than we could ever repay or earn. That is the beauty of the Gospel. That is the reason Jesus is always worth following.

I recently read this little story:

Larry is a friend of mine who shares his faith with strangers. Whether out of honest curiosity or defensive insecurity, the person will almost always come back with the question: “What religion are you?” Larry, of course, knows the person is really asking him what church or denomination he’s part of. But Larry loves to string them along by telling them his religion is … bass fishing.

Then he just waits for the confused look to spread across the person’s face. At that moment Larry adds, “Oh, you may have been asking me about my relationship. My religion is bass fishing, but my relationship is with Jesus.” He believes the Christian faith is not a religion at all, but a personal relationship with the living God; not just some structured ceremonial hoops to jump through each Sunday morning, but a moment-by-moment dynamic intimacy with the Savior of our soul.

Love that!

We need to help all people — even true believers — understand that being a Christian is not just a title or label. It is something you are and something you do. You believe in Jesus, so you follow Jesus. Wherever  He leads.

For God and you,

Deb Bostwick