Why I'm a Christian



I was brought up with a traditional attachment to the Church of England: I was baptised as a baby, taught some traditional prayers and sent to schools with chapel services at least 4 times a week. Unfortunately, this wasn't enough to make me a Christian. When I was about 15, I decided that Christianity made no sense, since it seemed to me to conflict with science and be merely wishful thinking.

I continued in that frame of mind till my last year at university, when my then girlfriend (now wife) suddenly decided that she was going to start going to church again, which she had not done for a number of years. In the grip of youthful passion, I decided that I would go along as well! As a result, I was forced to think about the gospel, which I heard then as I had never done before. (I don't know if I had truly never heard it, but it had certainly never come to my understanding before.)

What is the gospel?

The word 'gospel' comes from Old English; it means 'good news'. In its briefest form, this good news is: Put your trust in Jesus, God's anointed, and you will be saved.

But that begs a lot of questions! Who is Jesus? What do you mean, 'trust'? What does 'being saved' mean?

Who is Jesus?

Before I can answer that, I need to talk about God. He has no beginning and no end. He is the one who made the whole universe and keeps it going by the deliberate application of His power at every moment. God is personal, not just an impersonal spirit that pervades the universe; he takes an active interest in the world he has created. Most particularly, He is interested in us. He loves us.

There is only one God; He both deserves and requires our worship and will tolerate no rival. This is not because He needs our worship, but because we need to worship Him. We are designed and made to depend on Him, and cannot function properly without Him.

God has revealed Himself

We couldn't know anything about God if He didn't tell us. He has talked and still does talk to people directly. Some of them He gave a special responsibility to write down what He told them; these writings make up the Bible. Christians believe that it contains God's revelation about Himself and about His dealings with people.

The Trinity

The Trinity is one of the most difficult Christian doctrines, but it is essential. It is not explicitly stated in the Bible, but is a logical necessity on the basis of what the Bible does say.

The Trinity is one God in three persons. The persons are God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit. Each person of the Godhead is equally God and one God only, yet they relate to one another as distinct persons. I don't find any pictures very helpful, but some people think of the three sides of a triangle. The traditional statement of the doctrine is in the Athanasian creed.

What do we need to be saved from?

Many people ask this sort of question about salvation. People feel happy and contented; as far as they are concerned, they don't have a problem. Why should they bother with religion at all?

The problem is that we are meant to live in complete dependence on God and in harmony with God and each other; but we don't. Each one of us has decided to go our own way and ignore what God wants. The first time we did this was when we were tiny children; by the time we are adults it has become a settled habit. This is what is called sin. Individual wrong acts are sins, but sin is the inbuilt tendency to want our own way rather than God's. It separates us from Him.

While we are on this earth we may feel that this is OK. However, when we die, we will face God's judgment on our lives. This judgment can be summed up as: "Does this person love me or not? Does he want to be with me?" If we have spent our life ignoring God, by the time we die we are unlikely to want Him, especially since God will only have us on His own terms - complete obedience and devotion. If we spend our lives seeking our own will, there comes a time when we are unable to do anything else. This is the judgment! In the absence of any salvation, God will confirm our own, fatal choice.

The Bible describes this as our being slaves to sin. This is one of the reasons why we need to be saved: a slave is stuck for good unless someone sets him free. The other reason is that God is just and justice demands that sin be punished; we need to be saved from the just punishment of God for the sins that we all have committed.

The Cross

In order to save us from the just punishment for sin, Jesus became a man like us and took the punishment for sin on himself. He was man and God at the same time, and still is, but while he was on earth he gave up his glory as the Son of God. He allowed men to put him to death on a cross, and when he died he took on himself all the sin of the whole world.

This wasn't a vindictive God punishing his son, as some have said. Don't forget that Jesus is God. But when he took sin on himself, he was separated from God, who will not tolerate any evil at all, and, bearing our sin, he died. Just think what pain this separation caused both Jesus and the Father, who have been united in love for eternity.

However, because Jesus was sinless, death could not keep hold of him, and he rose to life again on the third day! He offers the same kind of life to everyone who will trust him and follow him.

Trusting God

Trusting God means that you believe what God says and you act on it. God offers his forgiveness and his presence with us; we trust him by taking up his offer, asking for forgiveness and inviting him to live in us. As soon as we do this, God will fulfil his promise and will send the Holy Spirit to live in us. After that, nothing can separate us from God, except our own will.

Salvation

Salvation (being saved) is both the once for all fulfilment, when we first trust Him, of God's promise to save us, and also the continual process, that begins then, of making us more and more like Jesus. This is brought about by the Holy Spirit, who lives in us from the moment of our first salvation. He begins to change us by small urgings: to read the bible, to do right rather than wrong, perhaps to go and put right some old quarrel. We can always choose either to co-operate or not; He will never force us.

How salvation works

Once the Holy Spirit is living in us, we die to sin and are alive to Jesus. So God sees Jesus, not our old self. We are incorporated into Jesus, so the church is described as his body. This is how it is possible for God to forgive us our sins while still being perfectly just.

Baptism is a picture of this death; we die as we go under the water and are brought up to new life when we come out of it.

Why believe this?

Why did I change from disbelief to belief?

I think it was because I had to look at the evidence. As soon as I did that, I began to realise that Christianity was true and that I had to respond to God's offer of salvation. Since then, I have felt God working in my life and I couldn't ignore it even if I wanted to.

Evidence

In the end, there is no evidence that you cannot choose to ignore or discount. You cannot run experiments on God to prove that He exists! He won't co-operate.

However, I believe that Jesus' resurrection is the proof of who he is, and I believe that the resurrection is proved both by the four accounts of it that we have in the bible, and also because nothing else could account for the existence of the church. But no evidence would be any good if God did not keep His promise; it is that that is the ultimate proof.

Taste and see that the Lord is good!

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Last updated on 5th September 1996 by Oliver Elphick