Christians can seem to be strange people. I remember when I met a real Christian for the first time. A neighbor of ours had invited me to church. I had been to church as a child a few times and I found it so boring I thought I’d die.
Here’s my story of having a spiritual awakening through Christianity:
I was probably in the 8th grade and my family agreed to visit our friend’s church. I remember walking into a foyer feeling a little guarded not knowing exactly what to expect. People from left and right greeted my family and I, asked our names and helped us find our way.
I remember thinking, “These people don’t know me, why are they being so friendly?” Friendliness isn’t the right word exactly as I sensed something deeper. I sensed they had something I didn’t and wasn’t quite sure what that was. I thought they were a bit strange to want to befriend someone like that. I was in Northern Virginia and people just stayed out of each other’s way there. Everyone was on a mission to get their tasks done and most of the time people didn’t even look at one another much, much less greet someone!
Whatever was in the air of that tin building we visited made us want to go back. I was curious to discover more about these people and what it was they had that I did not have. We started going pretty regularly.
They had a youth group that had a lot of cute guys in it so naturally I was interested in being a part of that group! They were mostly older than I but really liked them.
One night the youth pastor was teaching and I felt a light bulb go off in my head. It was clear to me now what these people had that I didn’t: they had committed themselves to follow Jesus. They first step in following Jesus is asking for forgiveness and repenting of sins. The next step is to thank God for sending Jesus to die and pay for the sins of all mankind. I just needed to accept this free gift and in turn hand my life over to God and follow Him and serve Him.
The night I heard and understood this message, I returned home and prayed to God in my room asking for forgiveness, asking for help to follow Him, asking Him to take my life and guide it. I cried and cried with joy and felt a heavy load was lifted from my soul. I felt very different. I know now this was the Holy Spirit coming into my life. I wasn’t alone any longer even when I was physically alone. God was with me.
One of the greatest differences people noticed in me was my insecurities were gone. I cared a whole lot as a teenager about brand names. After that experience brand names meant nothing to me. I wasn’t defined by a brand name. Making this decision to follow Jesus was a freeing one for me. I mattered, I belonged, I was a child of God.
I also had sinful desires to explore certain things in life that could have been very damaging to me as a young person. After that prayer, those desires were gone. I didn’t change myself, God changed me. He did that. I only prayed in faith for God to forgive me, save me and change me.
I see many people so afraid God will take away things they enjoy. The truth is when we go all in with God he changes our desires, we don’t have to do that! It’s not about living a perfect life, it’s about following God the best we can with His help.
So, What’s at the core of Christianity? What do Christians believe?
Here’s the message of the Bible in a nutshell for you in 11 sections; Christians call this The Gospel Message, or the Good News: (This excerpt comes from http://www.imbstudents.org)
- The Most High God is the Creator. He existed before there was anything else. He created everything on earth and in heaven and is all powerful over everything. When God began to create things, He just used His words. He spoke and everything came to being. He created angels to worship and serve Him. They were very beautiful. He also created everything we can see — the sky, land, water, mountains, oceans, sun, moon, stars, all plants and animals. Finally, He created man according to His image. God created man to enjoy all that He has created. God created everything and saw that it was good.
- God placed the man and woman in a beautiful garden to live. They had a very good relationship with Him and with each other. He told them to take care of the garden and enjoy everything. He gave them a special command: they could eat from every tree in the garden except one. If they ate from that one tree, they would be punished and die. At first, the man and woman listened to God and had a wonderful relationship with Him in the garden.
- One of the angels God had made was very smart and very beautiful. This angel became very proud. He wanted to be like God and to have the other angels worship him instead of God. Only God deserves all the worship and service. Therefore God cast this bad angel, now called Satan, and all the other angels who listened to him out of heaven. These other bad angels are known as demons. One day, Satan tempted the woman to eat the food from the tree that was forbidden. The woman listened to him and ate the fruit and then she gave it to her husband to eat. Both of them disobeyed God’s command. Disobeying God’s command is known as “sin.” God is righteous and holy. He must punish sin. God cast the man and the woman out of the garden and their relationship with God was broken. Human beings and God were now separated forever. Like the first man and the woman, all people since then have sinned by not listening to God’s commands and are separated from God. The result of sin is eternal punishment in hell. We cannot live forever with God as we were designed
- Over time, the number of people on earth multiplied. Yet God loved them very much and wanted them to have a relationship with Him. He gave them Ten Commandments to follow. Remember God is perfect and holy, so we must be perfect and holy to live with him. The Ten Commandments teach people how to relate to God and how to relate to other people. Some of the commands were: do not worship other gods or make idols; honor your parents; do not lie, steal, murder or commit adultery. However, no one was able to obey all of these commands.
- So, when they sinned, God allowed them to turn away from their sins and offer a blood sacrifice to take the place of their punishment. This sacrifice was shedding the blood of a perfect animal like a lamb. If they would repent and offer the blood sacrifice, God would forgive them and let the animal die in their place. Only by the shedding of blood can a person’s sin be forgiven. However, people kept sinning, and the sin sacrifice became a ritual rather than something from their heart. God became tired of their insincere acts. People were still separated from God. We cannot come back to God on our own no matter what we do.
- God loves people and wants a relationship of love and trust with them, so the time came when He sent man a perfect way to reconnect to Him. God sent Jesus to show us the way back to Himself. Who is Jesus? Jesus is God’s son, His one and only son. He became human like us: God in the flesh.
- Even though Jesus lived as a man, He resisted temptation. He never sinned, and He remained obedient to God. Jesus had great compassion for people, especially those who had no hope. He was a wise teacher. He performed many miracles proving He was God’s Son. Jesus had power over nature, over disease, over evil spirits, and even over death.
- Many people loved Jesus. They believed Jesus and followed Him. However, some leaders hated Jesus and they were jealous of Him. They made plans to kill Jesus. Jesus willingly allowed himself to be arrested, tried, and condemned to die. Soldiers placed him on a cross. A cross is made from 2 large pieces of wood formed together. They took His hands and His feet and nailed them to the cross. His blood flowed from His hands, feet and body. He suffered much pain and He died on the cross. Because Jesus never sinned, Jesus is the perfect blood sacrifice. He did not deserve to die, but God sent Him to die on the cross and take the punishment for the sins of man, all people. He died on the cross in our place. Only through the shedding of His blood is God willing to forgive our sin.
- Jesus’ death demonstrates God’s love for us. However, this story doesn’t end here. After Jesus died, he was placed in a secure tomb. On the third day Jesus rose from the dead and showed Himself to His followers! He proved that He has the power over death. Then He returned to His Father in heaven. Jesus took our punishment and now provides a way for us to come back to God!
- God wants you and your whole family to return to Him. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice, and He is the only way to restore our relationship with God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” You must go through Jesus to return to God. How can you go through Jesus? You must admit to God that you have sinned against Him. You must believe that Jesus died in your place. You put your trust in Jesus to bring you back and give you eternal life as God’s son or daughter. From that point on, you let Jesus be your Master and obey His word. Do you want to let Jesus bring you back to God?
- Jesus continues His work in the world through His Spirit and through His followers. God has set a day for Jesus to return to earth in all His glory and to judge all people. He will welcome His followers and turn away those who oppose Him. His kingdom will have no end. Until then, His followers are to pray and work together that the kingdom may come and God’s will be done on earth. We are to carry the good news of Jesus to others and serve Him in all that we do.
If you’d like to become a follower of Jesus too here’s how you can pray just as I did:
- Tell God you’re sorry and ask for forgiveness of your sin, and things you’ve done wrong.
- Thank God for sending Jesus, His son to pay for your wrongs through dying and defeating death through resurrection.
- Ask God to please take your life, guide your life, give it all to God. Commit to follow God’s ways and not your own.
If you’re not ready to pray these things it’s ok to pray something like, “God, I don’t know if these things are true, please show me.” Or something like this, “Lord, if you’re real, please reveal yourself to me. Help me find You.”
God wants to have a relationship with us no matter what. He wants to heal us, He wants to give us a purpose and He wants to help us to help others find this as well. Opening our souls to something that we are unsure of is scary. If we always let fear have its’ way we wouldn’t do much in life. Step out in faith and I know God will move in your life. You won’t regret it. Each day take one more step closer.