This is an excerpt from the book Life’s Ultimate Questions: Exploring the Stories that Shape our Everyday
We have walked one pathway through the complex world of religion. The whole world is struggling to find true life, a life worth living. Possibly our journey has brought us to the place where we have realized that the life we long for may be found in Jesus. We might be at the place where we are willing to explore how it is that one might find this abundant life, this eternal life, this life that fills the void in our broken, empty, longing hearts.
How do I become a Christian? How do I become a participant in the story that God is writing on the pages of history? A simple ABC approach may be helpful (Admit, Believe, Commit). The following truths need to be embraced by our hearts and then paraphrased as a short prayer towards God “in whom we live, and move, and have our being.” Acts 17:28
ADMIT— We need to come to the place where we are able to admit that our lives are dysfunctional — broken, or simply empty, missing something. Many metaphors could be used. The Bible would simply have us summarize, “I am a sinner, I am not what I was meant to be, I am missing life’s potential.” (To be a sinner, simply put, means to have missed the mark, not to have measured up to God’s standard.)
Second, we need to have come to the profound understanding that this brokenness is the result of our separation from the God who created us. We are at odds with the only source of life. Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments this way:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27
The first portion, the most important part of all the Ten Commandments, has to do with our relationship with God, loving him with literally all that we are. Everything else in our lives flows from this relational source. This is the relationship that is broken and this is at the root of all that is wrong in our lives. We need to have come to this heart understanding – not just a simple superficial nod of the head to this truth. Maybe more contemplation, more meditation, more self awareness, is needed to develop this heart understanding. (Possibly reflect on passages like Romans 1:18 - 32, Psalm 51, Isaiah 64:6-7, Isaiah 53:6)
BELIEVE – Having come to a correct understanding as to the root of the problem, we move next to the solution. We need to believe that no amount of education, no amount of enlightenment, no amount of suffering, no amount of effort, nothing on our part can possibly restore this relationship with a Holy God. The heart change that is needed is simply too radical, too supernatural, too impossible for us to implement. The Bible again uses many metaphors to describe it: being born again, receiving a new heart, breaking the curse, being dead and becoming alive, being blind and gaining sight, being transferred from darkness into light, being adopted into a new family. All the metaphors underline the truth that this is something that only God can do in our lives.
This new beginning requires a solution that has a “Made in Heaven” label. Jesus Christ, God’s only son needed to enter our humanity.
He needed to model for us how humanity was meant to live – in complete union with God, a relational dynamic at the core of our being (the first portion of the 10 commandments).
He needed to teach us how to live a life that truly pleases God: all of his words and all of his actions illustrated this (the last portion of the 10 commandments).
He needed to die for us. The penalty for our sin he needed to carry, the curse he needed to break. (As the God who took on human form, his death is effective for all who confess their sins, who confess Jesus as Saviour.)
He needed to be raised from the dead so that his new life could be implanted into our hearts. This spiritual life-implant needs to become the new centre of our lives.
This we need to believe. This we need to embrace. This “new life implant” we deeply need to long for.
COMMIT– Simply to believe the above points, simply to accept them intellectually is not sufficient. Jesus came to impart a life that needs to be lived in the here and now, not just in eternity. We need to commit to the Jesus way. We need to accept Jesus as Saviour, and we need to acknowledge him as Lord. Our goal needs to be to live a life that is modeled after his, from one degree of obedience to another. The life-implant he came to bring needs to find release in our lives. Anything short of that may mean that no new life has been implanted.
Christianity has lost a lot of its dynamic today because it has been watered down to such a great degree. Many accept Jesus as Saviour but do not acknowledge him as Lord. Many do the Jesus-stuff on Sunday and forget about him the rest of the week. For many, Christianity has become simply something that clergy live and the rest of us remain mere spectators. For many, Jesus is simply a fire-insurance policy. For many, Christianity has simply become a Christmas/Easter tradition, a box to tick on a questionnaire.
Clearly Jesus had more in mind.
Then he said to them all, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”Luke 9:23
Furthermore, many ‘Christians’ have substituted a dynamic life-giving relationship with Jesus with a tradition-filled relationship with their church. Instead of true Christianity they practice ‘churchianity’. Jesus insists we follow him, not an institution. (Gathering with others who follow as well provides mutual encouragement and accountability.)
A true commitment to Jesus will result in radical real-life changes that will become visible to an ever greater degree. We will notice new appetites; a hunger for God’s word, a need for prayer, a joy in worship, a longing to be with other growing Christians. We will notice new struggles; many of the habits that were of no consequence to us earlier will become more and more a source of anxiety until we commit to changing them. We will become aware of a tendency to be more thankful, to have more inner peace and more joy, all heart attitudes that do not so quickly disappear during life’s many ups and downs. Above all there will be a growing awareness of the need to work on our relationship with God; the awareness that we are so very dependent on the Spirit who lives within to live a life pleasing to God will grow. Developing this relationship will become the growing passion of our “reborn” lives.
Looking back over our lives, a true commitment will have made a before and after watershed-divide within our personal life’s story that will parallel, if not supersede, any of the other great decisions of our lives.
This ABC response, whether it is a process of a minute or one that takes a season, will be buoyed by a faith in God who initiates within us this life-implant that he came to bring, and the life for which we so desperately long. Jesus encourages confidence as we turn our hearts towards our Heavenly Father. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”Matthew 7:7-8
The verbs in this passage indicate a keep-on-seeking, keep-on-asking, keep-on-knocking perseverance, a faith that does not give up. A true faith will not dictate but will allow God to answer in his time and in his way. As we pray, as we wait, we begin to walk the pathway of faith. In so doing, we can be sure the seed, possibly completely invisible, has already germinated. The living sprout will be visible soon enough!
Postlude Many personal issues may stand in our way when making such an ABC commitment. All of these issues may culminate in the most basic of challenges. If we did encounter deity (possibly as that still small voice, as stirrings within our hearts) on this journey that we have been walking, then the only fitting response must be submission to, and trust in, his Lordship. The bending of our wills to an authority higher than ourselves, and ultimately to deity, has been and always will be the root struggle for all of our journeys. Our culture, as a whole, has developed a paranoia towards any kind of authority (from parents to police to institutional to government) and this has complicated our search for deity immensely.