I have been teaching a class this year called Introduction to Christianity. In the last month we have looked at Christianity from the Middle Ages to present. That included the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the terrible persecution of Reformers against Anabaptists in the 1500s. That got me thinking. If there has been so much ugliness -and there has been - why am I a Christian? But I am, in spite of the ugliness.
Of course, there has also been incredible good done by Christians. Go to the World Vision or the World Relief or the Union Gospel Mission websites or any number of others and see for yourself. I am proud of the many believers who are giving themselves to serve others. That is what Jesus called us to do. But that is not why I am a Christian.
This is what I will tell my class this week: I am a Christian because I choose to live in reality. If God is, if the Bible is true, and particularly if Jesus did, in fact, rise from the dead, there is no other option. These facts preempt all other paradigms.
That does not resolve all of the problems. I have experienced my share of doubt. Realistically, believing in a God whom we can not see and in the factuality of events centuries ago, particularly when such belief will change the course of life, is not easy. I appreciate the struggle some atheists have with this. But I have come to the conviction that believing in anything else is insanity.
I have spent much of my life challenging my own faith. I've read the arguments of many who do not believe. (At times I have had serious doubt.) I've read the counter-arguments. I've looked as honestly as I can at the evidence. And I am totally convinced by the evidence that the existence of God; the incredible life, death and resurrection of Jesus; and the claim of the Bible that it is God's word is true.
But that is not the only reality that convinced me to become a follower of Jesus. Perhaps it is not the most important reality. What convinced me was a personal encounter with God. To skeptics that sounds like something out of Twilight Zone, but every believer knows what I am talking about. We are convinced of God because he revealed himself to us personally.
That encounter came at age fourteen. For me, it was a moment of settled conviction that, though I knew next to nothing about the Bible, had not been raised in a Christian home, and had rarely been in a church, God was real, and if I wanted to live in reality, I must live in connection with the God who is. That conviction came with little emotion, but it did come with a settled peace.
I had a lot to learn, and I had a lot more to know of God. But in fifty years that conviction and that relationship with God has grown. Today I can not imagine life lived in the fantasy world of unbelief. I can not imagine living life without the relationship with God that has developed over the years. Much is still a mystery. There are still questions unanswered. But the simple reality and presence of God trumps all. I believe because God in the Holy Spirit drew me to him, keeps me, and cries through me "Abba Father."
I know, if you are reading this skeptically, that sounds strange. Nevertheless it is real and true. And that is why I am and will be forever a follower of Jesus.