Friday, April 07, 2006

Why I am a Christian

I probably became a Christian in 1990 or 1991. One of the first Bibles I owned had ‘March 1990’ scribbled on the inside page. I lost it on a train journey last year, which was a real shame. It contained some of my first exegetical notes on various passages. I can still remember cross-referencing Mark 8:38 with 2 Timothy 1:8. For me, at the time, that was an astounding feature of the New Testament in particular. You could read one part of it, and then find allusions or similar sentiments in other parts that were clearly independent. My best explorations of the Bible have probably been those times when I had the time and enthusiasm to read, re-read, and freely compare different sections. That’s how I retain my faith in its message – simply by reading favourite bits to remind myself of the influence they have had in my life.

You see one of the two reasons I am a Christian is that I was introduced to the Bible. In the winter of 1989/1990 I started attending a church where the Bible was taught seriously. I started going to a Bible class for teenagers on Sunday mornings, and then I would attend the church service after that. Over three or four years I was treated to about 2 hours of Bible teaching a week. That sounds like child abuse. Here’s the twist. I loved it. I found something compelling about everything I learned. I wanted to learn more. From the age of about 14 I began to read and think about most of the things I came across through this Bible instruction. My heart and my head were changed forever.

Christianity doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The gospel message is not an abstract power that turns random unsuspecting people into Christians. The Bible rarely changes people for good in isolation. The second reason I am a Christian is the influence of other Christian people in my life. It was other Christians who taught me the Bible. It was other Christians who invited me to spend time with them. Christians gathering together to worship God through singing, praying and studying the Bible persuaded me that Christianity was a good thing. They showed me that the gospel could change people for good. I came to see that Christianity provided a way of life that was satisfying. The gospel of Jesus Christ provided a framework for understanding the world I lived in. This church introduced me to Jesus, and slowly Jesus became everything to me.
Jesus became everything to me. I sometimes think that sounds like mindless mumbo jumbo. But there is a difference between knowing a lot about stuff, and knowing the surpassing greatness of Jesus Christ. No blog or book in the world can give you that knowledge. But Jesus promises that all who trust in him receive it. That trust comes through hearing and obeying God’s word. And most of the time God’s word comes to us through others who know what it is to trust. If you want to know Jesus you need to know the Bible. But you also need to know his friends. The two cannot be separated.

1 comment:

Dorothy said...

I really identify with your story, it is mine as well and I'm sure it mirrors that of many other Christians. I became a Christian when I was 15 and it was the influence of a Christian friend which first drew me to church - a wonderful church where the Bible was taught faithfully Sunday by Sunday and I too loved to read it and to hear God speak through it (and I still do). But the influence of my first church and those people who spent time with me and who revealed Christ to me stays with me too and continues to influence the direction of my life over 25 years later. If you are a Christian never ever under estimate the impact your life may have on anothers. You may not see the results of the things you do or say to another person at the time, but someone (like me) may carry the words you spoke or cherish the actions of your life down through the years. It is always worth planting the seeds of God's word in someone else's life - because God's word is living and active and it changes people, even many years after they first heard it.