Like you (probably), I grew up in church. I learned the stories in the Bible; I could sing Amazing Grace and some of the better-known hymns. I went to the front of the church when I was 8 years old, and said I believed the basic facts of Christianity. Soon I was baptized. For me, however, Christianity was a Sunday morning event. Real life was lived Sunday afternoon through Saturday, but we went to church on Sunday morning.
Even through my early teenage years, I can not remember too many non-senior citizens that actually lived out a truly Christian life besides on Sunday. As a devout Sunday morning Christian I sincerely believed when I became an older man, I too would live for Jesus Christ.
Did you grow up thinking like me? I suggested that you probably were brought up in church, because many people raised in the South were. If your church was like mine, you may have developed the same thought patterns I had. Are you still in those patterns? Are you still a Sunday morning Christian, or did even that fade away? Perhaps, you only make it to church on the biggies, Christmas and Easter.
Several events happened during my teenage years that jolted me out of my Sunday morning Christianity. First, I met some real Christians! When you are a mere Sunday morning Christian and you are surrounded by the same sorts of folks, it’s a shock to meet the real thing.
My friends in high school put me on to some tapes by a man that spoke with a freshness and humor as he related truths about Christianity. I listened to those tapes again and again. I was shocked that a man as young as this could act so committed to Christ. He talked as if Jesus was not just for Sunday mornings, but for everyday.
As he spoke of the historic events in the life of Christ, I remembered the Bible stories I grew up with. But as I listened, Jesus’ suffering, his unjust torture, his mockery of a trial, his horrible death on the cross for sinners, and his rising again from the dead became real and personal.
It wasn’t that I had ever mentally denied the facts of Christianity that I had grown up believing in my mind. I was just denying them with my life. I claimed to be a Christian, but I did not let my religion affect my lifestyle (outside of attending church). Now I saw that Jesus did not just die for sinners generically, his death paid for my sins. His resurrection was literally true, and changed everything.
Being a Christian is not merely attending church. It is not being baptized. Christianity is not even giving mental assent to the basic facts about Jesus, or praying a prayer asking to be saved.
Pick your Bible up and read one of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John). Do you see anything like the Sunday morning Christianity we grew up with? Do you think Jesus would have been encouraged to know there were folks who showed up to check him out for a couple of hours once a week and believed a few facts about him, but then lived the rest of their lives without much thought of him?
Jesus actually did encounter that kind of people in John 2:23-24. “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people.” The words “believed” and “entrust” are translations of the exact same word in the original language.
You might say the crowd believed in Jesus, but Jesus did not believe in them. Why? Because he knew what was inside them. He knew they only believed a few facts about him and his miracles. When the pressures came along to get rid of Jesus, they would cry out for his crucifixion. They did not have a faith of commitment. They were Sunday morning Christians, not true believers in Jesus.
Later in Jesus’ ministry, Jesus would address the crowds with shocking words about the cost of true Christianity. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Growing up, I certainly was not concerned with denying myself. I was not committed to Christ to the level of dying for him. And I was not an ongoing follower of his. I was not a Christian.
Are you a Christian? Read the accounts of Jesus in the gospels. How do you respond to the works and words of Jesus Christ? Are they facts that don’t affect your lifestyle, or are they the stuff of real life? Don’t wait until you get old to follow Jesus. First of all, you may not get old. But secondly, if you are not following Jesus right now, you are rebelling against God.
Count the cost, and then come to Jesus on his terms. Truly trusting in Jesus is the only way to be in a right relationship with God. All of your sins will be forgiven, and you will enjoy seeing God in heaven when you die.