Indu Shanmugam is a 20-something, college student from Oregon, USA. She is majoring in English literature and language. She also studied Theology for a short period. She wants to be a teacher. As a literature enthusiast, she enjoys literature of all types and from writers of various backgrounds from the classics, French realists, Christian writings like C.S Lewis and South Asian literature. As for her own writings, "I am still trying to find and develop my own voice." She sees the art of the written word as a way to speak about Christ and explore truth. Before she met Jesus Christ, she has been searching for the meaning of life through experimentation of other religions, philosophies and ideas. At the age of 17, she accepted Christ after a powerful encounter with God through a miracle. God's presence and deep truths in the Bible fuel her creativity. She is involved in church activities and has a love for the church and would like to see every believer grow, become closer to God and live fruitfully. She loves traveling, sipping bubble teas, theatre, music, films and hanging out with friends and has a weakness for cheesecake.View all articles by Indu Shanmugam
The marriage illustration from Romans 7: 1-6 is something I can completely relate to. Through Christ, the past struggles are dead and I am given to Christ. I remember my past life of depression and several struggles. Coming to Christ is leaving the things of the past behind and coming into His household and His kingdom way of living. According to 2 Co 5:17 "Therefore, if anybody is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come"
When believers struggle with past issues, they forget this important truth. The enemy (Satan) loves to bring the past up in order to discourage believers. I remember going to Portland Bible college as a 3-year-old Christian and often thought, “I'll never measure to these people there." I remember crying alone in my dorm room when my roommate was away. I thought, "I want to do great things for God but I had such a bad past." Or, "Look at yourself, you're hopeless and will never overcome this sin..."
Nothing could be further away from the truth. Don’t let the Word of God become a cliche like "If Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future."
This is not to dismiss the reality of human struggle. We all have struggled with sin whether from negative thoughts to drug addiction. Replacing negative thoughts of shame and sadness from past struggles with the promises of the Bible and living for God isn't easy. But this is the way I look at it. I'll illustrate it with a parable.
Take a young girl in her twenties living with her boyfriend. As a little girl, played with dolls and like most girls dreamed about getting married and living happily ever after. As a teenager, she faced family problems and her parents divorce. She starts believing that maybe the idea of being happily married and living a satisfying life is overrated.
At first year of college, she meets a guy. He convinces her that marriage is not necessary and offers a cheaper substitute of cohabitation, (which is when a guy and girl live together as if married without the commitment). First, she resists. He tells her about his job situation and can't afford a wedding at this time and other excuses. It sounds like a good idea. She's been living with him for years. She hasn't finished school, dropped out halfway. And the guy who she thought loved her is controlling, abusive and extremely possessive. She realizes that he's been using her.
With a broken heart and negative distortion of love, she has no hope and feels doomed in this relationship that's going no where. One day, she runs into another man. She doesn't know him. He is another guy but he's known her longer and loved her. He is gentle and caring. He sees a scar on her right arm caused by her abusive boyfriend. He is concerned and sad about it. Later, she realizes the depths of this man's love for her. He loves her so much to the point that he wants to rescue her from this bad relationship. A year later, she breaks up with the abusive boyfriend and marries her new lover. He is not there to use her. He loves her to the point of willing to die for her and restore her.
The main point of the story is the literary symbolism behind it. To me, in a modern parable, that's how I would describe my salvation experience. The abusive boyfriend in the above parable represents my old life of struggles put together. My struggles controlled me and did not allow me to live a full, complete life. There was a point in my life, I lost hope and thought life was meaningless. Then, when I met the truth, I first gazed at Jesus’s teachings with suspicion and doubt. It did not make sense how can Jesus’ teachings set me free from a miserable past. But, when I accepted Jesus and took his hand, I found a new life ahead of me. As I started applying biblical truths and principles in my daily life, I started to change. My bitterness, anger and hurts started to heal.
If a person’s beliefs does not affect his or her daily life, it is not a religion but a hobby. Many people in the world, think religion (or belief system) is like grocery shopping; you just pick and choose what you want and what is convenient for you. Christianity is a relationship with the living God. Let us compare Christianity with using examples of a human relationship. Relationships are not always easy. A true relationship with a person requires commitment, sacrifice, and giving up for the other person. That is not convenient but is more fulfilling. Today, people want to use another person as a commodity to please themselves. Using another person to primarily satisfy own carnal desires such as lust is not love but selfishness. This ultimately leads to feeling less fulfilled which is temporary. I used to be heavily into New Age. Once I thought that it is better to pick and choose and customize your own belief system. The reason for being drawn to that was because I don’t have to give my life for something higher. I am basically doing what pleases myself. If I find one idea incovenient, I can simply pick another. If I do that, I am just using spirituality to satisfy myself.
When I became a Christian, I fell in love with Jesus and willingly decided to give my life to him. I had such a amazing revelation of Jesus Christ saving my life. I wanted to give back to Jesus. I wanted to be a faithful believer to say “Thank you” to God. As I continued to grow in God, I came across the scriptures about reflecting Jesus’s sacrificial love to others. So, I decided to get into ministry. And when you are in love (with Christ) you do crazy things. I willingly chose a career of teaching that doesn’t pay well but I saw it was an avenue to serve God. I like serving others and seeing others succeed. There is immense joy in seeing others become better, stronger and getting healed through Christ. I am going to say that Christ has influenced every aspect of my life. Being a Christian is giving and sacrificing your life to Jesus. Life may not always be easy and I am not at all close to being perfect. Even through struggles and mishaps of life, with Jesus, I know that life has purpose.
To reiterate, the thought that there are two ways to live, a believer can choose the way of Christ or be seduced by the wordly ways. For example, take a person who once struggled with alcoholism and found freedom in Christ. Say one day, he has a bad day and decides to start drinking again. It starts with a few drinks. He neglects prayer and Bible. Instead of serving the church he starts going to parties and then it consumes his life. I have known people who had marriage problems and lost jobs because of alcoholism.
Or take a 15-year old-boy, who loves God and wants to save himself for marriage and commits to purity. Later, the enemy tempts him. He chooses to let hormones and peer pressure get in the way. He starts flirting with girls not because he is really interested but just wants attention and approval from his upto-no-good friends. Think of those two situations.
That is like the woman of my parable who is flirting with her ex-boyfriend after she's married. How do you think her husband would feel if he found out? If we are living according to the flesh, it is like flirting with the old boyfriend. In the context of Christ and the Church, how will Jesus feel if you pursue the sinful desires of your flesh?
Every believer will be tempted at some point. Taking the parable again, let's say, maybe the old boyfriend for some unknown reason tries to be friends with the girl, leaving notes, flowers and he calls the girl and says with deceptive flattery and lines "I miss you so much. Your husband is at work. Come escape with me. No one will ever find out."
Ever been there? I mean, not literally. Have you ever been in a compromising situation? Tempted in anyway to do something that you know is not right? Temptation alone is not wrong because the devil tried to tempt Jesus. It is what you do that matters.
Now, the girl of the parable could do two things 1, either run off with her old lover and be quiet and let an affair get into the way of her marriage. Sin does get into the way of relationship with Christ.
2, Tell her ex-boyfriend to get lost. There's a verse: Resist the devil and he will flee from you. And call on the name of Jesus. Another thing to remember is God is a jealous God. What does this mean? If a husband sees another man after his wife, he isn't simply going to sit there. He would probably grab the other mans collar and with a clenched fist and say "This is my wife. Leave her alone." Christ is passionately in love with us. He is like a protective husband who'll fight for us. He died on the cross and resurrected to rescue us from the dark prison tower of sin. Remember the fairy tales of the valiant prince going through rough terrains, climbing up the tower and rescuing the princess. Those fairy tales are actually based on this.
From my personal experience, when I became a Christian I found freedom through Christ. As we all know, life is not always easy. I have been tempted to think negatively about myself. I feel sad when bad things happen but no longer depressed as I used to be. The reason is because of the realization of what it means to have Christ in life. The love of Christ is amazing. Knowing the depths of His love and walking with that knowledge is what made me a better person and how I was healed from my past life.