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Youth Supplement – When I was a child – John Chamberlain

July 2007 | by John Chamberlain
When I was a child
 
Churches are places that are dedicated to God and act as spiritual cash machines where one can check one’s balance and make withdrawals of forgiveness if necessary’ (How to be a Christian, by Guy Browning, Guardian Weekend Magazine, 28.04.07).

This sad quote reflects a society obsessed with consumption. People believe they can buy ‘faith’ like buying a new outfit (and maybe discard it when the next fashion season comes round). However, despite our human fickleness, we do have a persistent need for love and acceptance – and occasionally ask questions about God and our existence.

But when I was a child, I felt no need to ask such questions. I had Christian parents, went to church, and understood that God existed. It seemed fine to leave it at that.

Seeing a need

When I was thirteen, spiritual questions seemed even less relevant. Plenty of my friends agreed that we could continue through life with little or no regard for the God who created us. I could vaguely sense my parents’ concern but despite this, I became increasingly resentful about Christian things. Whenever we had family prayer or Bible reading I resisted inwardly.

I’d heard lots of sermons, and the whole salvation and forgiveness for sins thing seemed boring. I became increasingly proud and stubborn towards anything to do with the Bible. But at the same time, confusingly, I began to see my need for Christ and his salvation. This led to a kind of spiritual torment which, coupled with illness, made me feel quite low.

Battle for the soul

I remember attending a Christian camp reunion. One of the leaders, Justin, realised I was ill and said, ‘How are you, John? I heard you’re not well’. Although this comment seems commonplace, I was deeply affected by his concern.

His simple enquiry made me realise that Christians love and care for others – because Jesus has shown them groundbreaking love in their own lives. I wanted to change, be more loving, be something else.

There was a battle for my soul, and thankfully Christ won. ‘For God so loved the world [that’s you and me, whoever we are] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’.

Our sin – we’re all guilty of wrong-doing – is an offence to a perfect God who created us. Sin not only spoils our relationship with God but our relationships with others, through our selfishness.

We can’t get rid of sin because it pervades our whole lives. And because God cannot stand sin there is a great chasm between him and us. Yet while God is holy he is also love (is love!) So he sent his Son to earth to sort out the mess.

I deserve to be punished for my wrongdoing, but Jesus died on the cross as a perfect man, to take the punishment I deserved. And then, rising from the dead, he destroyed the power of death and sin.

Questions answered

God the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to understand that if we ask for forgiveness and turn back to him, committing our lives to his care, God will hear and forgive – and then be with us all the way.

For the first time I saw this clearly – the sacrifice of Christ, the offer of love, the promise of God never to leave me or forsake me. I forgot my pride, and prayed for forgiveness. Now I am content and at peace. My question of how to be a Christian has been answered.

I now know that the Christian faith is more than a fashion, that church is more than a self-righteous comfort zone. Quite the opposite, in fact, because being a Christian can sometimes be hard and lonely.

But God has proved in many lives that he protects and helps us persevere with joy. We know that eventually those who trust in Christ will have eternal peace and rest in heaven.