Before I became a Christian, I had no idea what it meant. I did not understand that it would lead to a whole new way of life; something that would impact just about everything I do, and even the way I think. My earlier ignorance assumed that Christianity, or any other religion, was simply a matter of attending a house of worship on a weekly basis and following a few basic rules of living.
Becoming a true Christian means that you have come to believe that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior. This is a process that, for me, took several years of reading Christian books, going to bible studies, and finding and attending the right church. I remember feeling a little envious of those who appear to be “saved” instantly when attending a Billy Graham meeting or going forward for an altar call. Could it, or should it, really be that easy? Why did it take me about four years of investigation before I even began to feel comfortable as a Christian? I now realize that it is a lifelong journey. Fifteen years and an MA in Christian Apologetics later, I am still learning, and the more I learn, the more I discover I still need to learn, and want to learn.
“Salvation” is the term used by Christians for the process whereby a person is accepted by God to become a citizen of His future kingdom, a citizenship that lasts for eternity following our brief time on Earth. It appears that there are three parts to this process. First comes Justification, which happens at the instant in time that we are accepted by God and is enabled by our faith in Christ’s sacrifice. Second is Sanctification, a process that begins after justification and continues, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, for the rest of our lives in that we are willingly being conformed into God’s image. Finally, Glorification occurs when we leave our aging, imperfect, earthly bodies and begin eternity in Heaven with a new, “glorified” body.
God is in control of all aspects of salvation, so where does the much-debated “free will” come in? After much thought and investigation, I believe that, before salvation, each of us has to take the decision to accept Jesus Christ into our lives and, openly and honestly, reach out to Him. Hebrews 11:6 states, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” After that, God takes over, draws us towards Him (John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day”),and the Holy Spirit begins working within us to prepare us for God’s kingdom (1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned”).
God’s saving grace is available to all of mankind, but each person, individually, has to choose to accept it by welcoming Jesus into his or her life. Then begins the journey, firmly based on the truth of how we came to be in this world in the first place, towards the life that God has always planned for us. This life is clearly described in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” So, if your hectic, technology-driven, comfortable-yet-not-fulfilling life is not bringing the inner satisfaction you thought it would, an honest, heartfelt acceptance of the truth in Christianity, in my experience, will never fail.