"What It Means to Believe in Christ" (April 1986, Dallas, Texas)

I have come to wonder whether I am truly Christian.

The Bible says that we are saved first, not by good works, but by our Faith in God and his Son, Jesus Christ.

What do we mean when we say that we have The Faith? First, we believe in God as a loving entity responsible for all of Creation. Next, we believe that Jesus Christ was his Son, that he dies so that our sins may be forgiven, and that he rose from the dead.

I can convince myself that God exists through intellectual processes. I do not think that our enormously complex world, especially the biological world, could exist without some Divine purpose. (I do accept step-by-step evolution as described by conventional science.) I can accept the historical evidence that Jesus lived. Again, just an intellectual exercise.

But Faith belief in the Resurrection demands more. It means that Jesus must become real to us, make a difference in our lives. There is no way to experience this just through study, thought, or "works." Christianity is the one religion which demands us to put self-improvement aside, and stop demanding careful, "scientific" pursuit of Truth with either science or "lab work." We must experience something that we cannot control, or explain completely intellectually. (And yet I arrive at my conclusions "intellectually.") We must become committed to putting Christ first. This became very apparent to me "by observation" when I moved to Dallas in 1979. (I had grown up in a more "liberal" church on the East Coast and I had never picked this up.)

What does it mean to accept Christ? Jesus himself said, that we must be reborn, like a little child. So it is not just a matter of not committing this or that specific sin. It is an opening up of the Heart, and the shedding of the old veneer and the old sense of self. It is a coming alive through the Lord, a discovery of a new kind of freedom, of an abundant life, after putting what the Lord wants first. Of this has not happened, it is questionable whether salvation is achieved, or whether one will be a Priest of God during the 1000 years.

This can't be catalogued as a specific list of works, although it must be clear that becoming Christian is more a matter of new things we learn to do that of what we give up. Jesus does say, though, that if something keeps you attached and away from God, you might have to give it up (eg., the "Parable" of the Rich Young Ruler).

So, being "Born Again" will mean individually tailored experiences for different people. For me, would it mean giving up reticence, being willing to show feeling for Christ in public and pray openly? Will it mean caring about others I would previously insisted upon shunning because they aren't what I want to "be like?" Will it mean priotizing my life on meeting the real needs of others around me rather than on just exploring controversial ideas and issues, which are so intellectually tantalizing and which seem to impart the investigator so much secret ammunition to control his own life and that of others? So, does it mean relinquishing some of the privacy I have so jealously and effectively guarded?