From an early age my parents brought me up as a member of the local ‘Church of England’ church near Stockport. It was there I developed a knowledge of God and the bible through Sunday School and then youth fellowship.
I can recall as a teenager praying the prayer to acknowledge my sins and ask Jesus into my life. Some people experience an immediate impact but for me, possibly due to my familiarity with church, I didn’t really feel much different. It is only as I have got older that I have increasingly recognised how God / Jesus has been there for me through life. I have experienced times of great calm and peace when I have felt the presence of God – usually when I acknowledge a situation that I can’t fathom out and am left with no other choice than to trust God. Whenever I read the bible I am astounded at how often the chosen reading is highly relevant to the issues I am facing. That, for me, is clear evidence of God at work.
One of the perceptions non-Christians have is that all church-goers / Christians are good. Or they perceive Church-goers to be hypocrites by giving the impression of being good when there is evidence to the contrary. Personally, I go to Church, pray and read the bible BECAUSE I am a sinner. I could well be a worse sinner than many people who don’t go to church. The point is we ALL fall short of God’s standard (which, unfortunately for us is high, i.e. perfection) and we are never going to make the grade through our own efforts. So, for me, it makes perfect sense that God sent his son Jesus to die for our sins (past, present and future) as the way to connect us to God. The challenge is that, having accepted the gift of forgiveness (and that’s all we need to do, accept the gift), we should then focus on living our lives as Christ wants.
Putting God first in all things is very difficult in today’s world where we face pressures to be successful in our jobs, to be there for our families and to enjoy all the benefits of living in the 21st century (holidays, nice homes, cars, hobbies etc). It is not that we have to deny ourselves these things (God, I believe, wants us to enjoy them) but putting God first and seeking guidance through prayer is an important aspect of Christian life. If I am honest, this is something I still struggle with but am determined to get better at it through regular prayer and study.