Being a Christian
From time to time, someone will ask me questions such as "How does one become a Christian?", or "What does it mean to be born again?"
These are questions of ultimate importance and show that you are getting serious with God - the Holy Spirit is working in your life to bring you closer to God.
When I was growing up, no-one really explained to me that human beings are never "good enough" to attain to God's standards on their own
I was always told that a Christian would "do" certain things, and "not do" certain other things, giving the impression that one became a Christian by "doing" - loving everyone, being a peacemaker, always being 100% honest, reading the Bible, going to Church, never wanting what someone else had, never sulking, and never losing one's temper.
When I reached the end of each day I would realize that I had blown it again - I couldn't even live by my standards, let alone the standards that Jesus teaches in the New Testament, not just for one day.
So I'd resolve to try harder the next day, and the next day I'd blow it again.
To make things more complicated, in elementary school we learned about world religions, but were taught mainly about the lives and teachings of religious leaders. It was a time when some religious authors would claim that there was no evidence that Jesus, Abraham, Moses, and others had ever lived or ever said what they were reported to have said.
I remember, as a ten-year-old, coming out of the Religion lesson one day when we had been learning about Buddhism, and the boy I sat next to said "I think I must be a Buddhist, because I think that man Buddha really lived." Even as a ten-year-old I knew there was some faulty logic going on, as I thought to myself, "I think they all lived, so does that make me a Buddhist, and a Christian, and a Moslem?"
Through my teens I continued to be rather confused. I'd decided that Christianity made the most sense - not in the understanding of things like the Trininty, but in the teaching about how one should live. (Not the way that many who claimed to be Christians behaved, but the teachings as I read them in the New Testament.) So I was duly confirmed and thought of myself as a Christian, and attended Church regularly and did all the "churchy" things such as fasting and Bible reading - outwardly a good clean life, though also blowing it with temper and bitchiness, egotism, anger, loving a nasty bit of gossip, and things that I knew were not what a "real" Christian would do. I did hold onto Jesus' saying in John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave his only-begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
I reasoned that I was part of the world, so therefore God loved me; and that I counted as a "whosoever" - but the implications of "believing" in Jesus were not clear to me. I thought it meant that I should believe that Jesus had lived (and I did believe that - but I also believed that the Buddha and Mohammed and all the other founders of various religions had lived) and that I should try to do what Jesus said.
No-one had explained to me one of the basic facts of human nature - that we just can't keep a perfect record of behavior. We all blow it frequently, and there's no way of going back and putting things right once we have messed up (or in theological terms, sinned.)
No-one had explained to me about the significance of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus. I thought that it was just because Jesus was good, and the Son of God, that He rose from the dead - I didn't realize that the Death and Resurrection of Christ was planned to take care of my failings, that it was part of God's plan "from before the foundation of the earth" (Matt. 25:34, Eph. 1:4-5, 1 Peter 1:18-20) - sufficient to take care of the sins of the whole world.
When I was active in the church in Heidelberg, a couple of families joined the church, saying they were "children of God". They did not mean that they were members of the group which was known by that name later, but they explained that they did not regard denominations as important - God was their Father, and Christians were all part of one family. They had a relationship with Jesus which was obvious - they talked to him, and about him, and they also talked about the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. I had read a very negative book about the Pentecostal/Charismatic renewal, and was very wary of them at first - I thought they were going to "take over MY church"
However, the joy and closeness to God which showed in their lives were things that was missing in mine, and which I wanted. I "knew about Jesus" - they "knew Jesus" - as a friend, but also as someone more than that. That started my search for a deeper relationship with God, which took some time, helped by a few Christian friends and the published memoirs of other Christians. A turning point came when John (who eventually became my husband) lent me a copy of "Nine o'clock in the Morning" - Dennis Bennet's account of how he came to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. One of the early chapters recounts how, when Dennis Bennet was a boy, a visiting speaker asked if there was anyone who would like to ask Jesus Christ to come into his heart. Dennis Bennet did so, and for the first time in his life he felt the Presence of God. To quote, "I had invited Jesus to come in and He had accepted the invitation!"
I realized that I had never done that, but had always tried to be "good enough" by myself. Then the words of an old hymn came to me, and I prayed "Come into my heart, Lord Jesus, come in today, come in to stay, come into my heart, Lord Jesus." And He did. And with that came a joy and a peace that I had never known before. I had read about Martin Luther's conversion, and about John Wesley's heart being "strangely warmed", and had thought to myself that they were having psychological doo-dahs, but suddenly I experienced one for myself, and knew why C.S. Lewis titled his autobiography "Surprised by Joy"
That was more than thirty years ago, and the relationship with Jesus has deepened over the years. No longer do I think of Him and refer to Him only as "Christ" - the title which denotes His divine mission, but which can also be used to put a distance between Him and us - but as Jesus, my Lord and Savior, whom I know as a divine Person.
Copyright © 2016
Shirley J. Rollinson, all Rights Reserved