Sometimes God guides us by shutting doors. In those situations, it seems like our backs are up against the wall, like the Israelites' whose backs were to the Red Sea with Pharoah and his army in front of them. And then we have to wait, which often can be painful if we're anxious and untrusting. Waiting is a spiritual discipline. Don't berate yourself if you have some anxiety, especially if it feels like everything in your life is up in the air. We're human. Even Jesus asked the Father to take the cross-cup from him if it were possible. Jesus anticipated the forsakeness and abandonment he would feel on the cross--the crushing weight of sin that results in seperation from God. Seperation from God is truly hell.
The Old American Protestant hymn captures what it means to follow Jesus: trust and obey for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. Trust and obey what you know. Live according to the light that you have. As we grow in Christ, our understanding is illumined and more is required of us. As we grow in knowledge and in grace, we have to live according to that, with God's help.We need grace every moment. Another old American Protestant hymn entitled Stayed Upon Jehovah also says it beautifully, they who trust him wholly find him wholly true.
Although most churched people would never say this explicitly, we behave like we believe the following. "If I read my Bible regularly and pray, if I tithe and attend church, then I am following Jesus." Not necessarily. Jesus takes issue with that way of thinking. Here are his words to the Pharisees in Matthew 23, people who knew the Scriptures well, people who gave a portion of their money to the church and to the poor, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel."
God through his Son Jesus Christ (very God of very God), saves us from our sins and from ourselves. We cannot earn that. However, if we accept that and seek to follow him, we'll find ourselves seeking to obey him--loving, being merciful, practicing justice--faithfully in the little as well as the big things. Of course, we need the grace and power of the Holy Spirit to trust and obey. But it doesn't follow that because we read the Bible, attend church, and pray that we are following him. The question is are we trusting and obeying him through the power of his Spirit? Not perfectly of course, but are we obeying and moving in the direction of greater obedience?
I just think some people are deceived. They believe that prayer, Bible study, and church attendance automatically makes them a Christian. But God says that the evidence we follow him comes from an inner heart change that manifests itself in daily trust and obedience. You can do all those things that Christians do and not have a heart change. In Matthew 23, Jesus called the Pharisees, the people who were very good at religious practice "Sons of Hell" and he warned them not to make others twice the sons of hell that they were.
It is a warning to me, a warning to us.