At the conclusion of my June 13 sermon, I encouraged you to be consciously aware of the reasons behind your Christian faith and practice. To that end, I suggested writing out your own answers to questions such as Why am I a Christian? What difference does Jesus make in my life? Why do I ‘go to church’ (worship)? In light of 1 Peter 3:15 – “If someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it” (New Living Translation) – answering these and other, similar, questions, is good preparation for when someone might ask us about our faith. Here’s a start to my answer to that question.
To a certain degree, I’m a Christian because I grew up in a home where the Christian faith was practiced. We participated in corporate worship nearly every week. We prayed. We went to Sunday school and Bible studies. We gave of ourselves financially and through acts of service. Participation in the overall life of our faith community was an integral part of my upbringing and, no doubt, had a significant impact on me. On the other hand, I know that being connected to a community of faith during one’s early years doesn’t guarantee a future life of Christian faith and practice. So, for me, while it was certainly influential, and in a positive way, eventually I had to choose my Christian faith for myself.
I’ve heard others say, “I’m a Christian because it’s what makes the most sense for me.” I suppose there’s some truth to this assertion. I’d agree that being Christian makes the most sense for me, personally. But it’s also true that I’ve never been anything but Christian. I can’t say that after trying on the different religious hats on the market I’ve concluded that the Christian hat is somehow the best fit for my head. The problem is, the “personal preference” or “it makes the most sense for me” reason makes following Jesus just one of many equal religious choices. And I’ve come to believe that Jesus Christ isn’t simply the best option but the only option when it comes to having and experiencing a full, meaningful, and hope-filled [capital “L”] Life. So, while being a Christian—being a follower of Jesus Christ—does make sense to me, I also believe that apart from Jesus Christ, life is ultimately empty of hope and purpose.
Many scholars think the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes is the memoirs of King Solomon’s lifelong search for meaning. As he neared the close of his life, a life to which every pleasure and thing under heaven was available, he came to this final conclusion: “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” (1:2). As much as Solomon rightly exalts wisdom over foolishness (especially in the book of Proverbs), he eventually concludes that even being wise is meaningless. Why? Because both the wise and the fool come to the same end: death.
Reading Solomon’s conclusions about life leave me feeling extremely sad. I read his memoir and wonder what difference it might have made if he’d known Jesus? You see, Solomon was very religious. He was a devout Jew and, like his son David, King of the Hebrew people. And yet, in the end, his life of religion resulted in an empty, meaningless existence. On the other hand, my experience of life is altogether different. I find that it’s full of purpose, and meaning, and joy. Yes, it often difficult and challenging, but through it all I’ve still managed to see light. And for me, this is all because of Jesus.
I recognize the fact that God has wired me a certain way. Not everyone is wired like me, nor has everyone had my life experiences which, I know, have shaped my perspective and experience of life. I know there are faithful Christians who suffer from depression, and even struggle to find meaning in life. But all I can speak to is my own experience, and it’s been my experience that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Second Person on the Trinity, living within my “heart” through the Holy Spirit, is the source of the deep joy and meaning which I experience.
I am a Christian—a follower of Jesus Christ—because as flawed as Christianity the religion may be, Jesus Christ the Person is the (not a, but the) true source of Life.