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
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
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
- God the Father
is so called because He is both our creator and the one who loves
each one of us better than any human father could. God the Father has never
taken any physical or visible form.
- Jesus is the only-begotten or unique Son of God.
God has many sons (us) but there is only one Son begotten of God the Father
before the creation of the world. This is Jesus, through whom God created
heaven and earth. He created all things at his Father's will, and He is the one who appeared on earth
from time to time in ancient history and finally became a man and actually died in order
to bring about our salvation.
Jesus is the one to whom God has given all power and authority in earth and in
heaven, and to whom all people will submit, either willingly or otherwise,
before He finally gives it all back to God the Father.
- The Holy Spirit is the most mysterious person of the Trinity. He is something
like the agent through which God works in the world. He lives inside everyone
who is a Christian; indeed, it is only through His power that anyone is able
to become a Christian at all.
The Spirit's role is to direct attention to Jesus, not to Himself; but He is
equally part of the Godhead and equally a person.
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
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.
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 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, even our own will. If we sin,
it breaks our fellowship with God, and we must restore it by acknowledging (confessing)
our sin, but once we have been given eternal life, God will never take it away.
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.
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 16th June 2021 by Oliver Elphick