As I write this I am in the car on the way back to Melbourne from the Oxygen Conference in Sydney. It was a wonderful time away with a couple of old mates of mine and I have been greatly challenged about living for God, growing in true joy and seeing that all of God’s plans for the Universe are for his glory. These are weighty and challenging issues that raise a lot of questions (I can write a blog on these if you like) but what I wanted to share is what my motivation for coming to the conference was actually about and how that made me reflect on why I originally became a Christian.
Although God used my time up in Sydney to achieve a great many things, the simple reason I wanted to come up was because of the fact that one of the two guest speakers was Pastor John Piper. It’s not a very noble reason and is smells of a bit of celebrity worship, but I have been blessed and challenged by Pipers teaching for many years and the prospect of seeing him in the flesh and meeting him face to face was very appealing.
In the end, when I did finally get to see him and meet him and thank him for the impact of his ministry in my life, I realized that although his preaching is bold and impressive, he is just a guy like me, frail and flawed and seeking to love and know Christ more and more.
After the conference was over, I was chatting with a friend over lunch and they asked me about why I became a Christian. It struck me that my reason for coming to Christ was pretty much the same reason why I came to the conference – put simply, it was an opportunity to meet someone.
All my life I had learnt about God. God was big and impressive and full of love. God was part of my thinking about the world and to be honest, I have never ever thought of the possibility that God might not exist. His existence to me was a given.
Now this may grieve those that believe that think that people should contemplate and conclude that God does not exist, but I see no problem with the fact that I had come to the conclusion that God exists simply because I was told as much. I know lots of problems can arise when you just blindly believe what you’ve been told as a child, but the reason why I don’t have a problem in this case is because I have come to discover that God’s existence is actually true and can be known and experienced. It’s like how parents tell children not to touch the flame otherwise they will be burnt. If they believe them without experiencing the truth of a burnt hand, it doesn’t make the fire any less hot.
For the first 16 years of my life I believed in God in the same way I believed in John Piper. I had no reason to doubt God’s existence and I had no reason to doubt Piper’s existence. I enjoyed what God had given me (life, the world, family, health etc.) and I enjoyed what Piper had given me (sermons, a clear theology of marriage, a passionate southern accent etc.). I admired and enjoyed both God and John Piper, but there was always a distance.
With Piper it was the fact that he was in America and although I wanted to travel to the States again, there was no expectation that I would ever meet him in person.
With God it was the fact that he was in heaven (not in any way comparing heaven to America!). God was far away and although I possibly hoped to go to heaven when I died, even then I guess I didn’t expect that I would be able to meet him in person. God was big and wonderful and good and loving, but he was distant and removed from my real life, day to day experience.
It wasn’t until I met some Christians when I was 16, that I came to discover the good news of Christianity. They shared with me, through their explanation of the gospel and through the way they lived and described their experience of God, that the whole point of Jesus’ coming and dying on the cross was to make it possible for me to have a real, living and personal relationship with God!
God who I had loved and admired from afar was now within reach. The distance was being covered and I could meet him in a way that was as real as face to face!
When I came to see this it blew me away! The moment I heard that Piper was coming to Australia was similar. Why did I go to the conference? Why did I decide to follow Jesus? The real question is, why not??
Like my motivation to go to the conference, maybe my reason for becoming a Christian was a bit of celebrity worship. Maybe it wasn’t very noble, but like after I had met Piper, once I met God, a lot changed. After meeting him, Piper for me was a bit less God-like, a bit more human. But after meeting God, he only grew in my opinion of him.
If you have never met God, if you have only heard about God and your relationship with him is distant and impersonal, my hope for you is that you will experience the same thing I have.
I hope that you come to Christ. He is the only one who has and can make it possible for you to know God in a way that is real and personal. That’s my experience. I believe the Christian good news is that it can be yours as well.
“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” – 1 Peter 3:18