The word "Christian" can have many connotations to many people…some positive, some negative, some completely confused. Unfortunately in the midst of America's cultural wars and political divide, we tend to associate the word with a political agenda or social stand. Certainly the message of Jesus Christ has something to say to these issues but that is not the heart of Christianity. The heart of Christianity is the gospel, the good news, of Jesus Christ. It is the gospel that has changed my heart and given me hope.
Here are the truths that I have embraced…
"I don't measure up." No matter how I slice it, I don't measure up. I don't measure up to God's perfection. I don't measure up to the Ten Commandments. I don't measure up to my own conscience. The human propensity to make excuses for our behavior is a prime example of our own sense of falling short. Deep down we know there is a standard. And we know we don't meet it. We can dress it up all we want. Rationalize away the inner struggle. But something tells us that we ought to behave in a certain way, love people to a greater level, sense God's presence in a greater way…and we don't. The apostle Paul captured the struggle in Romans 7:19, "For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice." Something is wrong with the human heart. Of course, if we don't see it in ourselves, we easily see it in others…which in itself points to a problem with our heart.
"I will never measure up." All my human effort will not ultimately change my heart. If I conquer one problem, another pops up. If I think I've conquered them all, then I develop the worst problem of all…pride and self-righteousness. Religion is not the answer. Social activism isn't either. We need a new heart not a dressed up persona.
"Through Jesus Christ, God loves me anyway." Grace is an awesome word. It is at the core of the Christian message. God has chosen to love me despite myself. He satisfied His justice and exhibited His love on the cross of Jesus Christ. "For God demonstrated His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Christianity is not a religion. Religion tells us how to "reach God," how to earn His favor, how to barter my good behavior for His blessings. Christianity, on the other hand, is God reaching down to us in the person of Jesus Christ. It is God saving me when I could not save myself. It is God rescuing me before I destroyed myself.
It is this message that has drawn me to Christ. And it is this message that is working to transform my heart. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age…" (Titus 2:11-12).
I seek to live for God now…not because I am perfect…not because I am trying to prove myself to God…not to show how "good" I am…not to earn "brownie points" in heaven…but because the gospel teaches me of the love of God and the inherent danger and destruction of sin (that which is contrary to God's creation and Word).
That is the heart of Christianity. The arms of the Father are open. Jesus Christ spread them open on the cross. But each of us has to decide what we are going to do. Run into His arms and allow His love to change us. Or ignore Him, reject Him, and keep to our own path, headed for destruction.
I ran into His arms at the age of twelve and have never regretted that decision.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:16-18)
If you would like to embrace Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, then I would suggest the following prayer, expressing the desire of your heart:
God, I know I am a sinner. I know I fall short of Your standard. I also know that I cannot save myself. I cannot defeat sin and death on my own. So I thank You for loving me enough to send Your Son, Jesus, to die in my place, to take away my sin, and to rise again from the dead, to give me His life. Right now, I embrace Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I gratefully receive His forgiveness and I humbly offer Him my life. Thank You for Your love, God. In Jesus' name. Amen.
If you make that decision, please let me know so that I can rejoice with you. Also make sure to tell others and to find a good Bible-teaching church in which to grow.