You'd think that after years of attending church, Sunday school, vacation Bible school, church camp or youth group, someone would be a 'Christian'. But that's not always so. At least, that's not the way it happened with me. I became a Christian when I was 18 and a month away from leaving for my first year of college.
A pastor from the new church my family was attending stopped by our house and went through a small tract called "Steps to Peace With God." My 11-year-old sister and I confessed our sinfulness and professed our faith in Jesus that day, asking Him to be our Savior. But prior to that moment, I would have said that I was a Christian if someone had asked. I mean, people who believe in God and believe in Jesus are Christians, right? Christians go to church. Christians serve in the church. I did all of these things. So why weren't they enough to make me a Christian?
Looking back, I can't believe I missed the truth. My mother taught me about the Lord, and I even memorized the first part of John 3 for an Easter sunrise service when I was in high school - a good presentation of the gospel if I've ever heard one. I knew Jesus was born to a virgin, lived a perfect life and was crucified and resurrected. I knew about Him, but I didn't know Him personally.
Heart Surgery While I had the truth in my mind, it didn't click in my heart until someone explained sin, how it had separated me from God and how my relationship with Him could be restored only through belief in Jesus and acceptance of Him as my Lord and Savior. You see, a Christian does believe in Jesus, attend church and serve others, but she does it because of a love for her Lord, not because of a self-imposed requirement to be a good person. My life has changed in the years since I became a Christian. Instead of simply going to church and being pleased with my contributions there, I have a real, growing relationship with Jesus. I have a desire to spend time with Him in prayer and Bible study. I like to serve because I hope to make Him known to others - people who may think they know what it means to be a Christian, but who haven't had a heart-encounter with the living God.
My 18 years of going to church and church-related events prior to accepting Jesus as my Savior weren't a waste. They were foundational for who I am today. They prepared me for the moment when I truly understood the gospel. The people who contributed to my first years of life demonstrated Christ to me so I'd be ready to do the same for others.
So I've gotta ask. Are you a Christian? Has the meaning of the gospel really clicked in your heart, mind and spirit? Are you growing in your relationship with Jesus? Are you going to church because you want to worship God, enjoy fellowship with other believers and serve as Christ served? I hope so!
But if you're not, if you're like I was, a church-participator who didn't have a personal relationship with Jesus, now's your time to make a change and relinquish yourself to your Creator. Now's your time to really start living! God's grace and forgiveness are available to cover all your sins. He has a desire to adopt you into His family. Won't you ask Jesus to forgive you and to become Lord of your life today?
By making Jesus the absolute Lord of your life, you won't be zapped into an angelic being. You'll still choose wrongly and make mistakes from time to time. But when you do, go to Christ with a repentant heart (being genuinely and humbly sorry for what you did with no plans to do it again), accept His forgiveness and keep growing in Him. Jesus loves you, and He is an accepting Savior who holds open arms to you.
"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:4).
One more time... I've gotta ask: Do you know a lot about Jesus? Or do you actually know Him personally? If you've assumed you're a Christian, and you're really not, you can be right now!