I was recently asked by a grandchild how I became a Christian. I answered that it was because of the fear of hell.
My parents had become Christian, through a Billy Graham Crusade, when I was about six years old. So our family began going to church and I regularly heard about heaven and hell.
I knew the smart thing to do was to be a Christian so I would go to heaven, not hell. But when I looked around the church all the people looked so serious and almost grumpy, to my young eyes. That made me think being a Christian was a pretty unhappy way to live. I also heard all the things you are not supposed to do if you are a Christian and I thought, “No wonder these people don’t look happy!”
I decided I’d live a normal life and then become a Christian just before I died. That way I’d get the best deal. I would enjoy life and also enjoy heaven.
One Sunday the preacher said, “There may be people here who are putting off becoming a Christian until a later time. But what if you are hit by a bus on the way home?”
That really bothered me. I hadn’t thought of the danger of dying before I could become a Christian. So that day I prayed the sinner’s prayer and made it official that I was a Christian. I was about eleven years old.
Through my teenage years I did my best to be a good Christian. I tried to read the Bible and pray and I made sure I was at all the church meetings. I wanted the angels to assure God I was a good Christian. My concept of God was of someone to be afraid of, so I needed to go out of my way to keep Him happy.
In my late teens my family came across Christians who had a very different experience of God. They knew God as a loving heavenly Father who was keen to bless His children. They knew God as a God who answers prayer and who has wonderful plans for our lives. They experienced God’s blessing on their lives.
My mum received prayer for a serious back problem and was instantly healed. That turned our idea of God upside down. As a family we began going to various churches and hearing wonderful preachers and seeing God touch people in ways we never expected.
That caused a great turnaround in me and my understanding of God. In time I came to understand and to believe God really did love me. I found God setting me free on the inside from things I didn’t realise were messing up my life. I felt challenged by God about my fears and my pride.
I realised the Bible was a living input of God’s truth into my life, not just a relic from centuries ago. I received the infilling of the Holy Spirit and found that spiritual things came alive to me. And I began a journey that continues to this day of growing in faith and in experience of God’s goodness in my life.
My grandchild had another question for me. “Why do you think people should become Christian?”
I answered that being a Christian is the only way to truly live. We were designed to be in loving fellowship with God. If we don’t do that we are not truly living, just existing. All the things that seem important and seem to be fulfilling are empty compared with being a child of God.
I didn’t mention anything about hell. Being a Christian is not about having ‘fire insurance’ from the flames of hell, though I believe hell is real, since Jesus said so. I didn’t mention anything about needing to please or impress God, even though I had spent years trying to do that. I didn’t mention anything about all the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” I had heard preached about for many years.
Being a Christian is not meant to be driven by fear, or by religious duty. It’s a relationship with the Living God as our Heavenly Father. It’s about knowing Him and enjoying our life in His family. It’s about receiving all the blessings He has created for you and fulfilling the plans He has for you. There can be no greater joy than that.
There are people travelling the world today, and others piling up assets or filling their bank account, and yet others serving whatever impulse they feel like pleasing, expecting that by doing that they truly ‘live’. Yet that leaves people empty and unfulfilled. It’s not what we were created for.
Your telephone might make a nice lamp-stand, but that’s not what it was made for. Your car might make a nice garden feature, but that’s not what it was designed for.
If you are not a Christian, not in close loving relationship with your Creator, then you are like an aeroplane trying to swim. It’s not what you were designed for. You are created to be loved by God and to live a most fulfilling life with moment by moment experience of that love in your life.
It comes from receiving Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord.
“As many as received him (Jesus), to them he gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” John 1:12
I call each of you to receive Jesus Christ into your heart and life right now, and to receive divine power to become a son of God. That’s what it means to be a Christian.