We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. I John 1:3 NIV”
When I ask people if they consider themselves Christians, the most common response I receive is, “I believe in God,” adding with a note of remorse, “but I haven’t gone to church in a long time.”
As I consider this response, I’m pleasantly surprised. There is a confession of faith, “I believe in God,” and an understanding the confession should result in an outward expression – going to church or standing with others who identify as Christian.
I appreciate the honest answer and can identify with the accompanying admission. It’s like me saying I’m a writer and then confessing I haven’t consistently written in two weeks. My behavior casts doubt in my mind, and perhaps in the minds of others, whether I should call myself a writer.
Surely our life should reflect our commitments, but being a Christian is more than a relationship with other Christians.
At seventeen, I said I believed in God, but Christians I knew had a confidence and joy which escaped me. I began in earnest to seek God – which meant getting acquainted with Jesus Christ. The Bible says God speaks to us in the person of Jesus Christ, who is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of God’s being (Hebrews 1:1-3 NIV).
As I read about Jesus, I witnessed his love and compassion expressed in healing, forgiveness, freeing from demons. Jesus proved himself more than a man by his ability to still storms, walk on water, satisfy the hunger of thousands, and raise people from the dead. He said he did what he saw his Father (God) doing.
Then, most astonishingly, Jesus sacrificed his life and his righteousness on the cross for our sake. This God/man – who never broke a law of God or man – took the burden of sin and its resulting punishment – the wrath of God. Even the Father could not look upon his stained Son.
Jesus’ willingness to submit himself to such a horrible death, so I could be restored, broke my heart. So, I acknowledged my defiant behavior to God (my sin), my need for love, for acceptance, for hope, for purpose, for freedom from fear, and his rightful authority over my life. I knew I couldn’t help myself and needed a Savior.
Just as Jesus’ story didn’t end there – neither does mine. Once the debt was paid, God raised Jesus from death and restored the glory he had before his incarnation. God also brought me to life. He opened my ears, “I love you, I forgive you, I accept you,” were the words he spoke to my heart. Happiness flooded my senses. I was immediately free from the heaviness of the despair I carried. Anger dissipated. I was changed.
I became ravenous for more of Jesus, more of His words, more of his love. The church was where I found help. They taught me, embraced me, guided me. We are not perfect, but we share a perfect Savior. We are Christians.
Yes, believing in God is the beginning of the journey. But a relationship with his Son is what it means to be a Christian. Today, I pray Jesus will open your ears to the welcoming words of Jesus Christ – “Come to Me” (Matthew 11:28 NIV).