For close to 20 years, I shunned Christianity and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I didn’t even know what the word ‘gospel’ really meant, all I knew was I didn’t want to know anything about it or have anything to do with people who were trying to talk to me about it, apart from smiling politely and stepping away carefully.
I didn’t want to know or hear anything about it because I thought I already knew all I needed to know. But, as it turns out, they were just myths that clouded my view of the truth. Here’s what I found out:
Myth #1: Christianity is just another religion.
Growing up in a multi-religious country, Christianity was simply just one of the checkboxes on a form. Some might refer to it as a faith or a relationship, but it made no difference to how I saw it. To me, it was just another group of people with a set of beliefs and a list of dos and don’ts to guide them to live a moral life just like any other religion.
Most preaching and teaching unfortunately seem to help this impression along rather than to correct it, and the various branches and denominations, as well as the traditions and folktales surrounding important dates like Christmas and Resurrection Sunday (or ‘Easter’) only serve to strengthen this misconception further.
Truth: Christianity is not religion – it’s reality.
Yes, it’s about a relationship with a loving Saviour and God, and yes, the central tenet of the faith is believing in Jesus Christ and righteousness by faith, but the whole point of Christianity is revealing the reality of who God is, who we are, and the state of the world as it is.
It tells us that God is the Creator who created everything including heaven, hell, the universe, and all life, and man was God’s crowning glory in creation until he sinned (by eating from the tree God told him not to), resulting in all mankind thereafter being born in sin and thus destined for hell, and the world becoming cursed and set on a course for ever increasing deterioration until the time of Jesus’s return to earth. The Bible tells of things written thousands of years ago but now are scientifically and archaeologically proven, and also foretells of events to come.
And what Christianity all boils down to is not a list of dos and don’ts. Neither is it the answer to improve the world. Christianity is nothing more than a message and an announcement of good news that the ticket out of certain doom and judgement has been provided for us by God Himself – the gospel of Jesus Christ. Out of pure love and grace God sent His own Son to bear our sins and take our punishments upon Himself at the cross, so that simply by believing in Jesus we receive His right standing before God and a guarantee of spending eternity enjoying heaven and not suffering in hell, in addition to all of God’s blessings while we’re here on earth.
That’s all it is, in a nutshell. All the traditions, varying denominations, 10-point guides and tales outside of the Bible are basically fluff and smokescreens that the devil (who is himself destined for hell) has caused to be added to detract from the main focus, and a result of man not fully understanding the gospel.
Myth #2: Christianity doesn’t seem to really work, based on what can be seen from some people’s lives.
We’ve all heard of so-and-so who used to be a Christian but then stopped being one and fell into a whole lot of sin or turned and believed in something else entirely. Then there’s that pastor who turned out to be a cult leader or a fraud. Or that other person who died as a Christian but came back in a dream to his family saying he ended up in hell. And those long-time Christians you know whose lives are far from perfect or problem-free, not to mention the millions of Christians facing peril and the threat of death in many countries. That doesn’t exactly match up with what Christianity claims to be.
Truth: The truth of the Bible is not established by people’s experiences, but solely by God’s word.
A solid conclusion can never be obtained by looking at experiences. There’ll be some bad reports, and there’ll be many more good reports that support the truth of what the Bible says. Ultimately, experiences will differ, but God’s word forever remains the same.
Yes, the Bible wasn’t faxed from heaven or dropped from the clouds, but it was written by men appointed as God’s secretaries with every word being inspired by God’s own Holy Spirit. Can God put words and thoughts into man’s mind? But of course. (He’s only responsible for good thoughts and words though, because He is completely good and holy). And the inspired word of God – which includes accounts of Israel’s rebellion and national shame faithfully recorded by the Jews themselves – is also carefully preserved by God for over 2,000 years, as has been proven by the Dead Sea scrolls.
It is believing in the truth of God’s word that produces the experience, not the other way round. Just because a pastor cheated and failed or someone’s experience doesn’t measure up to what God’s word says, doesn’t mean God’s word doesn’t work. We’ll never know what someone really believes; we can only be certain of and responsible for what we ourselves believe, and trust God’s word for the experience to follow.
And the persecution of Christians actually supports the Bible as truth, because nothing but the real truth will draw so much attack. Though persecution is promised in the Bible, there are many testimonies of protection of those persecuted, and those who do die in persecution do so in peace, because the promise of eternal life in heaven becomes their immediate reality.
Myth #3: I don’t really need God. And there must be some other way or an alternative consequence – who knows, right?
This was what kept me away from Christianity the most. I was so sure that Christianity might be for some people, but it didn’t mean it necessarily was for me. And even though I didn’t know much about it, I kept holding on to things that I did know a little bit about, like science and evolution, and I kept thinking that there could be some other way to get to the same place, even if I wasn’t entirely sure what it was. I figured that as long as my belief – whatever it might be – was strong enough, it would all pan out somehow.
Truth: Every one of us needs God. There is no other way except by Jesus, but God still leaves the choice to us.
It’s now absolutely clear to me, that there is no real life outside of God. We will go through the motions and have the trappings of life, but without the salvation of Jesus we are all headed for eventual and eternal death.
The beliefs we hold on to won’t change the reality of Christianity, and neither can we escape the reality by feigning ignorance, just as the earth remained round even when everyone still thought it was flat. Even top scientists like Galileo and Newton believed in Christ, because science will never contradict God, but only catch up to what God has said.
Christianity is simply God’s good news of forgiveness and favour offered freely to a dying world. All other ways rely on self; only through Jesus do we set aside the arrogance of our self-sufficiency and self-efforts that are doomed to fail, and take on the humility of accepting the nothingness of ourselves and receiving in full the benefits of the work of Another who loved us and gave Himself for us.
But God will never force us nor dictate our decision, because He honours our free choice. The choice is obvious, but it’s still ours to choose.
This is no gimmick, and there is no catch. There is nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
Because when you encounter Jesus, you encounter grace.