God has been laying this topic on my heart for awhile now, and I feel as though it’s time to share what I’ve learned about it during my walk with Jesus.
I’ve been a Christian since as long as I remember…but when I was younger, I felt like I was only going through the motions, day after day. I would go to church every Sunday, pray before every meal, say the right things, and read the bible when my mother wanted me to. And if someone had asked me if I thought I was going to Heaven, I would have answered “yes” without a second thought. But honestly…I wasn’t sure that I was doing enough to be saved. I asked myself: “Am I kind enough? Am I going to church enough? Am I reading my Bible enough? Am I praying enough?” And I would try my best to be able to answer “yes” to all those questions, but it still felt empty.
Sure, going to church is very important to being a Christian. But it’s not exactly life-changing or influential if you space-out during worship or doodle during the sermon every week. When I was younger I would barely even listen to what the pastor was saying.
Go to church.
For a long time, I felt like my level of Christianity was judged by whether or not I read my bible every day. So in order to be “enough” for my family and society, I would go through the scriptures, read through the boring and violent parts of the Old Testament just to say that I read them. But once I was done, I could barely remember what I had just read, or even if it had any meaningful application to my life.
Read the bible.
If I felt as though I wasn’t connecting to God through church or the bible, I would try praying and listening to what I thought he was trying to tell me. I would prepare what I was going to say, carefully choosing my words to sound eloquent and sophisticated—to make sure that I was good enough for Jesus. But I would grow frustrated with not finding the “perfect” words to say, or I would feel as if I was asking too much for myself (and didn’t want to be seen as selfish by asking for too many things) so I would eventually just give up.
After I went through the usual checklist of what I should do to become closer to God, I didn’t know what else to do. Wasn’t the bible, church, and prayer how we were supposed to connect to Jesus??
It wasn’t until one day—when I finally tuned into the Sunday sermon the pastor was preaching—that I heard the pastor say something that changed my whole perspective:
“Christianity was never meant to be a religion; it was meant to be a relationship with Jesus.”
A relationship?? I thought God was just a big man in the sky who was too busy dealing with the whole world to worry about one teenager girl’s problems. I never thought that God wanted to know me personally; I never thought that he would want to treat me as close as a friend or family member. However, in scripture it confirms just that:
2 Corinthians 6:18 “And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty.
After I read that, I yearned for the fatherly love that Jesus could, and wanted, to give me. But I realized that the “math” I was doing to be a Christian just wasn’t adding up.
The world says: reading your bible every day + going to church + being a good person + praying often = God loves you and you are saved.
But Scripture says something very different:
Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
The Bible says that your salvation is a gift from God and not a result of works. The only thing you have to do to become saved is to accept the gift God wants to give you, by accepting Jesus Christ into your heart. Once you do that, you realize that all the things you thought you had to do to earn your salvation are unnecessary…because you have already been saved!!!
[Side note: I am not saying, however, that one’s actions do not contribute to one’s salvation. If one has genuine faith, it should be reflected in the works of their life. The significance of Ephesians 2:8-9 is that salvation is not given as a result of the amount of works you do, but as a gift to anyone who will receive it.]
Now that you know that you have been saved (through Him and not through you), you can start to get to know the amazing Father in Heaven who loves you and who has saved you; the Father in Heaven who wants you to live the life he has created you to live. And this is where the components I talked about before come into play:
Reading your bible, going to church and praying often are unnecessary to earn your salvation, but they are vital to knowing and becoming like Him. Now that I have realized this, I turn to the Bible hungry for more knowledge on who Jesus is; I listen to the sermons at church attentively; I pray and talk to God as if he is standing right next to me.
Once you also realize that these things are incredible opportunities and gateways to understand what a life following Jesus looks like, that is when your transformation will begin.
P.S. And believe me, it’s worth it!!