A lot of people, when religion comes up in discussion, say, 'I'm not really religious
I know what you mean. The fact is, however, everybody is religious deep down. Like
the man who said, 'I'm an atheist, thank God!'
You may not be a Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu or whatever, but as a human being
you can't live without:
Something to worship
Some set of principles to live by
Both of these reflect the religious aspect of your nature. You may, for instance,
worship money, or fame, or sport, or pleasure, or some celebrity like a footballer
or popstar. Worship is essentially what you focus your devotion upon, and if it's
not the true God it will be some substitute for him - and in the end unsatisfying.
And where do you take your moral standards from? Maybe you've adopted the ones practised
by your parents without giving it too much thought. Or you may aim to 'do to others
as you would have them do to you' - which is a teaching of the Christian Bible. Or
you may take as your baseline the principle of the survival of the fittest, which
means that you don't fuss too much about hurting other people as you find your own
way up the ladder.
There may be other indications of your religious nature. Are you superstitious, for
instance, like always putting your left shoe on before your right one? Do you read
your horoscope or use healing crystals? Have you ever played with a ouija board?
Been to a séance? Or had a reading from tarot cards, tea-leaves or the lines on your
palm? These are all poor God-substitutes. At worst, they can become channels by which
demonic spirits afflict your mind and emotions.
Looking at Christianity
Christianity is a revealed religion. By that we mean that God is so big, so 'other',
that mere humans like us can't even start to relate to him. If we are to know him
at all it must be because he has chosen to reach down to us and make himself known
- to reveal himself. And that's exactly what he has done.
God has shown himself to be a person, not just a force à la Star Wars. He is separate
from the universe, which he created, rather than being somehow 'in' it. He is a social
God, existing eternally as Father, Son and Holy Spirit and thus enjoying company
within his own being. Yet he is one God, not three.
And in love he reaches out to people, in whom he has placed a spiritual dimension
that puts them in a class above mere animals and causes them to seek someone or something
to worship. He made the first humans, Adam and Eve, with free will, which they used
to turn against him. Ever since, people have been alienated from God and society
has been marred by evil, pain, hatred and tragedy. But that didn't quench God's love
or diminish his desire for a relationship with his creatures. So he began a process
to reconcile them to himself.
He first got a toe-hold into society, so to speak, through individuals like Enoch,
Noah and Abraham, then through the Israelite nation and their prophets, revealing
himself little by little, with a view to reaching the whole world. The account of
how he did it is recorded in the Old Testament - the first of the Bible's two main
The Jesus factor
But the plan moved into top gear when God himself came right down to earth 2000 years
ago and lived among us in the person of Jesus Christ. The New Testament gives the
details of that.
Jesus Christ, the God-man, was perfect, yet he died by crucifixion - a cruel form
of death reserved for the worst criminals. The Bible assures us that Jesus submitted
willingly to that death out of love for lost and wayward people like you and me;
on the cross he suffered the punishment due to us for our selfishness and sin.
But on the third day he rose from death - not in some 'spiritual' way, but literally
and physically. He spent six weeks with his disciples talking about the kingdom of
God before returning to heaven. Shortly after that, the Holy Spirit came down to
empower those disciples, who became the first Christians. They began spreading the
gospel ('good news') of reconciliation with God through faith in Jesus Christ, and
Christianity now touches the lives of tens of millions throughout the world.
A changed life for you
Your current perceptions of Christianity may be unhelpful. Being a Christian is not
essentially church-going, joining some denomination, trying to be good and giving
to charity. It's a radical change that takes place from the inside out as you submit
your whole life to God and enjoy his power enabling you to live life to the full.
Becoming a Christian involves four steps:
Repentance. That means acknowledging that, no matter how good a person you are, you
fall far short of God's requirements. This the Bible calls 'sin', and repentance
includes being determined to turn away from it, with God's help. It also means admitting
that you can contribute absolutely nothing to earn you God's favour. God doesn't
sell anything - he only gives.
Faith. This means believing that what you can never earn can still be yours as a
sheer gift, given freely by God on the basis of what Jesus did through his death
Baptism. Submitting to baptism by immersion in water is your way of embracing God's
gift of reconciliation and salvation. It's an act of faith, the 'handle' by which
you take hold of Christ in a personal way.
Receiving the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Holy Spirit and his power for living is
God's response to your repentance, faith and baptism. It is a powerful and tangible
experience of God, meant to equip you to live a dynamic Christian life.
Where to go from here?
If you are genuinely open to becoming a Christian, I suggest you begin to do two
First, start to pray to God and ask him to reveal himself ever more clearly to you
as you reach out to get to know him. And second, start reading the Bible. Try an
up-to-date translation like the New Living Translation. You will notice that it is
divided into 'books'. Begin by dipping into the New Testament. Read Mark for starters,
then John, then Acts. As you read, ask God to make his truth come alive to you.
Meanwhile, I suggest you sign up for an Alpha course. These courses are specifically
for introducing people like you to the Christian faith, and they are held regularly
all over the UK and in many other countries. You can ask all the questions you like,
and no-one will try to push you into something you don't want.
If you want to read more on my site here, have a look at the Beginning with God notes,
which provide a basic introduction to the Christian faith. This short self-study
course consists of 12 lessons and, if you want to go beyond that, another 12 follow
them under the title Growing in God.
I pray that you will get to know God in a deep, personal way and so embark on a life
of new meaning and purpose, with the happy prospect of even greater fulfilment after
you die or when Jesus returns. Yes, he's coming back to wind up this sad old world
and put things right once and for all!
What I've laid out so far just scratches the surface of Christianity. There are unimaginable
treasures to discover. Begin searching now! And may God himself bless you as you