The benefit of knowing God
I grew up believing that there is a God. I also thought that ‘good’ people went to heaven and ‘bad’ people didn’t. So I didn’t really understand what Christianity is all about.
I went to a Christian summer camp when I was 14 and a counsellor asked me if I was a Christian. I said I was – after all, I went to church. She replied, ‘Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger’. She went on to explain that a Christian was someone who has a personal relationship with the living God.
I prayed a lot that week and asked God to reveal himself to me. He answered my prayers and dealt with problems and fears that I told no one about but him. I knew at the end of the week that I needed to respond and I asked Jesus to be the ruler of my life.
A burden lifted
From that moment a change took place within me which made me want to know God more, to read the Bible, to meet with other Christians, and to live for him. Yet, I didn’t fully understand what Jesus came to earth to do or how it applied to me.
Five years later, I visited my brother in British Columbia and went to his church. During the sermon I was struck by the overwhelming sense of the guilt and burden of my sin – the wrong things I had done in my life, things I had covered up as a kid or even done proudly and openly.
Despite asking Jesus to be the Lord of my life, I had never asked his forgiveness nor apologised for offending him. In the evening, when I was alone, I asked God to forgive me for all the wrong I had done in the past. As soon as I prayed, it was as if the burden was lifted and I knew at once I was forgiven.
I finally understood
I finally understood what Christianity was about. I understood that good people don’t go to heaven, only perfect people do! And I knew I wasn’t perfect, nor was anyone else. That meant the gates of heaven should have been closed to me and people like me.
But Jesus Christ lived a perfect life on earth – a life of ‘righteousness’ that amazingly can be put to our account. But for us to receive his righteousness, he first had to be punished for our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).
By dying a horrible death on a cross, he opened the gates of heaven to imperfect people like ourselves. If we believe in Christ and ask him to forgive us the wrong in our lives, we will not be punished for our sin but will live with him in heaven when we die.
The benefits of being a Christian, however, are not limited to the hope of going to heaven. I also have the benefit of knowing that God hears and answers my prayers – sometimes not in the way I expect.
I have someone to turn to when I’m faced with a difficult situation – a Friend with whom I can be real, sharing my joys, tears, frustrations, fears and weaknesses. And I have peace, knowing that even when I mess up, God is always ready to forgive.
How about you?