Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace

Monday, January 5, 2015

Why am I a Christian?

   Last week's lesson in my Sunday School class was on "why are you a Christian?" My teacher referenced a former atheist who speaks at a lot of churches. Before the man starts speaking, he asks the people present why they are a Christian, and gets these top four answers:

1) I was born in America, my parents are Christians, I was raised in the church.

2) I've seen God work in my life. He answers prayers, He works miracles.

3) God has changed my life.

4) I have an ongoing experience with God, I have an interactive relationship with Him.

  We discussed those and had an interesting lesson, but it has stuck with me. I have been thinking about this idea of why I am a Christian. As my teacher pointed out, the above reasons could be used by other religions. "I am a Muslim because my family are Muslims," "I was raised in the Mormon church", "I have an ongoing experience with Satan and have seen miracles." (there are miracles done in the occult, but obviously not by God)

  My parents were backslidden for several years, and all I knew up til I was about 11 1/2 was a non-Christian home. My parents weren't living terrible lives. I can't remember them cursing, they didn't drink or smoke.... they just didn't serve God or live for Him. We went to Sunday School a few times a month, but no church. They did send us to a Christian school, so it isn't like we had no idea of Christianity and serving God, but since we weren't getting it at home, it didn't really stick.

 Then in January of 1981 God brought them back. It took losing our house and everything we owned in a fire and my grandpa dying nine days later, but they got back to God. And my sisters and I went along, went to the altar and said the right words. You could say we got the group rate for the whole family. We even all got baptized at the same time.

  I look back, and more than once have wondered if I would have gotten saved if my family had not. I doubt I would have. Maybe later, but only God knows. I do know many times I walked away in my heart, but have always come back...... but why? I don't mean to offend if you're reading this and believe once-saved, always saved. I cannot. The idea of future sins being forgiven seems un-biblical to me, and the idea that we keep sinning in light of several verses in the Bible just doesn't compute with me.

  But yet.... and I have talked about this on my blog before, I got the opposite thrown at me. If you could take most of the sermons I heard in my younger years and even into my adult years, stir them up and take a reason for being a Christian out those sermons, it would be this: To go to Heaven and escape hell, with the emphasis on escaping hell.

  So if I were honest, and I try to be, I have tried to be a Christian for most of my life to escape hell and go to Heaven, and because my family are Christians. It is just expected if your family is in the church, you are going to be a Christian. Which is kind of sad. We all need to come to God on our own, not on our family's coat tails, and not as a group rate. A friend of mine said he feels we have emphasized going to Heaven too much, and not emphasized it being about serving Jesus and having a relationship with  Him.

 Another friend of mine put this quote from John Piper on Facebook last week:
The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—
is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the
friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and
all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties
you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no
human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with
heaven, if Christ were not there? ” ~John Piper

  If I were to answer that question honestly most days, I'd say yes. But then it has been preached and preached about avoiding hell and going to Heaven. I have been in countless altar calls where the preacher told scary stories to try to scare people into going to the altar..... I can't remember many if any camp meetings or revival services where the speaker tried to draw people to the altar with God's love, and of the importance of having a relationship with the One who died for us. My pastor has done so, but I can't remember it happening with other preachers or pastors.

  Being a Christian has to be more than doing it to get to Heaven, or because our family is, or the other reasons listed at the beginning of the blog post. If we are doing it for those reasons, we will crumble when the going gets rough. When depression sets in so heavy that God seems a million miles away, and your prayers bounce off the ceiling. When you have a silent struggle you know is wrong to give into, but society and many churches say it is OK. When it seems you're all alone in the fight, and God seems to idly be watching from the sidelines as the devil pummels you until you want to lie down and give up. When everything you have been taught to believe is challenged by a world and government who is increasingly more hostile to the Bible and its values. What then will keep you holding to Christ? What will your reason for being a Christian be then?

  The world offers much. I could find more fellowship and belonging at a bar or with guys who are like me than I find at church. I could find more friends in the world than in the church where a guy in his 40's sticks out and you feel like a freak....... and is it enough to hold on so I can make Heaven? If the Calvinists are right, I could walk away and have my fun and still make Heaven. But if the fear of missing Heaven is my reason for being a Christian, then I am a pathetic and weak Christian at best. It has to be more.

  We Christians talk much about freedom in Christ, of Jesus breaking the chains of sin and bad habits that enslave us. And it is true. He does, and that is awesome when it happens. But I look at my life and see other chains. Chains of fear, chains of thinking God is just waiting for me to mess up so He can toss me out on my ear,  chains that religion, church, man's ideas, and well meaning preachers have helped to forge. I don't agree with my church on everything, but I wouldn't agree with any church on anything, so  I have no intentions of leaving. I believe I have the best pastor I have ever had and he is not one to cause me further confusion in these areas...... but I still am bound by chains. I have wrong ideas of what it means to be a Christian, wrong ideas of how to be a Christian. and wrong ideas of WHY I am a Christian.

  I made no resolutions for the new year. They are so easily broken, I figured there is no sense in putting time and energy into making what I will break, but I would like to do this one thing. Be a Christian for the right reasons. The day could come when I stand alone with no family or church, God forbid. But if that day came, could I still stand strong and serve God? If there was no hell to go to, would I still be a Christian?

  People from other religions could list some of the same reasons for being what they are that we can list for being a Christian. But they don't have what we have:  God who became man and died and rose again so we don't have to die for our sins. A God who we can have a relationship with and have Him living in our hearts.

You have walked me through the valley
Of the shadows dark and low
And that's reason enough to believe
You have shown me endless mercy
Oh why, I'll never know
And that's reason enough to believe

So I won't wait for signs and wonders
To teach me how to trust
Cause You've already proven Lord
The depths of Your great love
You took the cross so willingly
And spilled Your precious blood
And that's reason enough to believe
Yes, that's reason enough for me

When I took Your grace for granted
I was granted even more
And that's reason enough to believe
With compassion You convinced me
I'm not hopeless anymore
And that's reason enough to believe
(Repeat Chorus)

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