What was your life like before you were a Christian? About the age of four, I made a ‘confession of faith’ in Jesus Christ and was baptised.
‘So that was that’, I used to think growing up. I said the right things and prayed every so often. But as I grew up, there were thoughts that nagged my mind. While it was true, I thought, I wasn’t going to hell, why had I ever been going there in the first place? Surely, even though I was a sinner like everyone else, I wasn’t a really bad one. Surely there were lots of people worse than me?
For a while, I desperately wanted to be sure that I was accepted by God. But, eventually, the Bible became to me a book of a few interesting stories and a whole lot of confusing, dry doctrine. There was far more fun to be had in other things. The world with all its pleasures gleamed brightly and I had no time for a distant God.
I had a great childhood. I was blessed with great parents and many happy memories. But, by the time I reached my 20s, I was miserable. Life was going to be a big disappointment. I’d tried a lot of things, none of which had ultimately satisfied me, and I’d a suspicion that whatever I did in the future would pan out in much the same manner.
Existence was black, loveless and boring. The world was full of nasty, self-absorbed people, who seemed bent on self-righteously living for themselves.
How did I become a real Christian? The first step to becoming a Christian was slowly realising I wasn’t one. I was surprised to find that this realisation worried me. I spent a long time grappling around in the dark, trying to find some kind of assurance to ease my troubled conscience. Then, just when I was close to giving up, I heard the real gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is the real gospel: God is holy, just and good. Because he is good, he must damn sinners if they stay as they are, unrepentant. That is what I deserve; I have been wretched and fallen. But despite all that I am, God sent his Son, the God-Man Jesus Christ, to save all those that call upon him and give them everlasting life.
Christ is the only person ever to have lived a perfect, sinless life. He died for me! He endured all the eternal, hellish torment that should have been laid upon me! Christ was treated at the cross as if he had been me, so I could be forgiven and treated as if I had lived his life! Why? Because, despite all that I am, God loves me.
For a while, all I could think of was my guilt. I spent several months trying to make myself a better person. But the harder I tried, the greater evil and selfishness I saw in my own heart. Slowly I was coming to the end of myself.
At the same time, the great love of God was beginning to sink in. Therefore, trembling at the thought of what I deserved and amazed at the infinite love of God, in late 2009 I turned away from trusting in myself and put all my hope in Jesus Christ.
Much has changed in my life since then. But, anyone who claims Christianity makes life easy is wrong. Many of those things which were so integral to my life before I was saved, I still have to kill every day. There have been many painful battles with the ghost of my old self and many dark nights in which I have been forced to look down into my own dark wretchedness.
Yet my Saviour has never abandoned me. Slowly but surely, I have seen God at work in my life, changing me from the inside out. I am not what I should be, but then I am not what I once was.
God has been so faithful to me. Jesus promised he’d always be with his people. He’s certainly been faithful to his promise. Many of my friends and family found it hard to accept what had happened to me.
Being a Christian seemed to harm many of the relationships I hold most dear. There is definitely a cost to being a Christian. But, in the loneliest nights and bitterest heartbreaks, there’s always been an incredible peace and joy — so long as I went on trusting the Lord.
He’s graciously given me many treasures in this life. Life is brighter than it ever has been. At the same time, it has and continues to be a challenging, sometimes hard life. But no matter the day, God has always given me the strength to go on, one step at a time.
What does Jesus mean to me now? There has never been and will never be anyone like Jesus Christ! The more I read of his life, the more convinced I am that Christ is who he claimed to be, the God who created the heavens and the earth.
He is so much more than a distant God now. Outside of Christ, I have nothing; no real hope of heaven, no real joy, no real comfort and no real reason for life. With him, I can smile in the face of the wildest storm. To put it simply, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).