I grew up in a great home with parents who deeply loved me, but I also lost faith in God and considered myself an atheist or agnostic until I met Jesus when I was nineteen. Since then my relationship with Jesus has become the most significant thing in my life, more than my beautiful wife and four children, more than the many opportunities I’ve had in life. If you are curious about Jesus or if you feel a longing for meaning, purpose or a closer connection with God, I wrote this page for you.
Father Scott Howard, Associate Pastor
Without a doubt every person who has ever lived knows he or she is imperfect. We know our shortcomings, our tendency to choose our own benefit over others, the ease with which we hurt those closest to us. We know we fall short of our own standards of good and right behavior. Modern biography and the Internet have destroyed idealized images we once held about even the most sacred or heroic people. If we are honest with ourselves, we feel the weight of a higher standard that we all should live up to, but which none do consistently. Anyone who stays up on world events or is familiar with history knows we have a lousy track record of good behavior toward others.
But we also know the beauty we are capable of producing: a child giving the larger piece of candy to a schoolmate, the Forbidden City of China, Michelangelo’s Pietà, groups traveling across the country to rebuild at no cost homes destroyed by tornadoes.
Great beauty and goodness. Great ugliness and evil. We are capable of both. We seem divided within ourselves between these two extremes. And they divide families, friendships, communities and countries.
The root of this divide is our separation from our God. He made us to live in constant relationship with Himself, and with that relationship intact, to live in harmony and love toward each other. The ancient prophet Isaiah wrote, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way.” (53:6)
There exists a wide gulf between us and God and its cause is our own fault. We chose to live our lives according to our own ideas, we grasp at what we want and consider our due. We judge others by our own standards but we fail to see how far we are from God’s standards. His standards are high and impossible for our frail flesh to attain. We cannot cross the gulf that separates us. He is a holy God, awesome in His power, love and perfection. The first century Apostle Paul of Tarsus wrote in a letter to the churches in Rome, “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (3:23)
Two issues are involved here: we are guilty of violating God’s Law so justice must be satisfied to set us right with Him, and we are too weak to bridge the gap between us and the Divine who is Spirit.
The good news is that God did not leave us in this predicament. Despite our snubbing our thumbs at Him, He loves us. The Apostle Paul wrote, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (5:8)
“Christ.” “The Anointed One.” God’s only son Jesus. Only the death of a perfect person could satisfy the debt we all owned for our sin. God’s full wrath and rejection was the only penalty worthy of our rebellion against Him. Jesus, fully God, took on frail human flesh to live as one of us so that He could offer Himself for our sin. Remember what Isaiah wrote about each of us choosing our own way? He followed that with, “and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (53:6b) Jesus, fully God became fully human so he could offer Himself for our sins and reconcile us to God.
All God asks is that you believe what He did for you in Jesus Christ and receive it as a gift. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Eternal life. Not just life in heaven forever, but an eternal kind of life here as well. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11-13) What the Apostle John means by “receive” here is to accept it and live it as if it is true. Another word for this is “faith.” Faith is not just intellectual ascent. It is trust in the thing believed. I may tell you that I believe a chair will hold me, but I do not really have faith in it unless I am willing to sit in it. The act of sitting is not faith, but proof that my faith is genuine. Faith always works itself out in action.
When you receive the gift He offers us, you are made new. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) As you move forward into this new life, you gradually see the eternal kind of life Jesus lived show itself through your life. It is not an easy life, but it is a satisfying life, a life of meaning because Jesus comes to live His life through you. You become a vessel to carry His life to your neighbor and to the world.
With the penalty of your sin paid for and the gulf between you and God removed, you now have access to Him. You can talk with God as you would a close friend. He listens to you and wants to speak with you. This interaction between you and God is what prayer is, conversation with God, pure and simple. Talk with Him often and give yourself time to listen to Him.
As you grow in your new life in Christ and make yourself available to His activity through you, you will discover many ways that He speaks to you, but the clearest way is through His Word, the Bible. What may have been a dusty book given to you at a religious ceremony when you were a kid will become a love letter from Him to you. Though some parts of the Bible are difficult to understand without understanding something of the culture and time in which they were written, so much is easily accessible by just reading. Start with the New Testament, and in them with the Gospels – written accounts of Jesus’ life on earth. The Gospel of Mark is short and fast-paced. The Gospel of John is deeply spiritual and intimate. The Gospel of Luke was carefully researched and written by a physician for his friend. And the Gospel of Matthew tells the story in a way that first century Jews can see how Jesus was the promised Maessiah, or Anointed One, to bring their ultimate salvation. The account of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection changed the world and it will change your life if you let it.
Another way to grow in your new life in Jesus is to find a gathering of other people who have given themselves to Him. Find a local church where the pastor believes that the Bible is God’s word, that Jesus is God become man to reconcile us to Him, where the people love Jesus and each other. Ideally, find a church where they also celebrate Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins by the weekly “re-enactment” of Jesus’ death through eating His body as bread and drinking His blood as wine: Communion or Eucharist.
The first thing you need is a Bible in a modern translation. The old King James is beautiful, but God does not have to speak in Shakespearean English to be understood. I like the New Living Translation or the English Standard Version. If you have an electronic reader like a Kindle or Nook, there are many Bibles available for free download. Any bookstore will have many Bibles to choose from. You can also read the Bible online.
A good web site with articles on growing in your relationship with Christ: Starting With God.