Several years ago a Sunday School teacher said: “The only reason I’m a Christian is because Jesus offered me a better deal. If someone had offered something better I would’ve taken it.” That statement bothered me greatly, to the point that I stopped attending that class. But it also led me to examine my own heart and ask myself why I am a Christian. In the process, I’ve learned some things about myself and about my relationship with God.
I grew up in a Christian home, my mom took us to Sunday School, church, Sunbeams, Vacation Bible School, and so on. I don’t recall a time when I didn’t know about the God who created the whole world and the sun, moon and stars. I always knew that Jesus loved me. I knew about the cross and the empty tomb. I knew that I wanted to go to heaven, so I asked Jesus into my heart when I was nine years old and was baptized. All through my growing up years, I was in church. I attended the Teen Bible Study group and told my friends that they had to accept Jesus if they wanted to go to heaven. Like the rich young man who asked the Lord, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17), my young faith was all about what was necessary on my part to end up in heaven. Not exactly the type of fertile soil that allows deep roots to grow.
But church and faith took a backseat to work and fun and relationships. I became less concerned with heaven and more focused on the things of earth. I married, and then my world came crashing down when my marriage failed. I went back home to my parents and returned to the church of my childhood. Only this time, it was different. Rather than learning Bible stories, I began to learn Bible truth, and I started to see things in Scripture I had never seen before.
As I read the Old Testament story of the Israelites, I saw my own life. The Israelites were less concerned with knowing the Lord and just wanted to get to the Promised Land. Like them, I didn’t seek God, I only sought heaven—the final destination of this long journey of life. And just as they cycled through centuries of falling away from God into bondage and then crying out for rescue, I “did my own thing” until my thing proved unstable and I ran back to church.
What I had was a shaky connection to church, not a relationship with God. What I had wasn’t faith that withstands the struggles of life and the temptations of the world. It was “faith” built on sweet Bible stories, but it was not saving faith.
The Israelites wanted to be freed from the power of their enemies, the Philistines, Edomites, Midianites, Amorites, etc. Even in the New Testament, the Jewish people only wanted to be free of Roman rule. But they failed to recognize that their enemy wasn’t another nation. Their enemy, my enemy and your enemy is our own sinful nature.
Like the Israelites, my greatest need was not for God to sweep in and fix the problem of the day. My greatest need was to recognize that I was a wretch, bound as a slave to sin and helpless to free myself. In truth, I didn’t even realize that I was in bondage. I didn’t yearn to be free from slavery to sin because it was just a normal, natural part of my life and the life of most everyone around me. But God saw me as the slave I was, bound and shackled by the sinful nature of all mankind, and He determined to set me free.
There was only one way—a perfect sacrifice had to take on all my sin and shame and die in my place. That is when God sent His own Son in the person of Jesus, to die on the cross in my place. My freedom was bought at the highest possible price – the life of the Son of God.
Still I would not have chosen to receive Jesus’ sacrifice had God not revealed the truth of my bondage—and the truth of His redeeming love. He moved my heart to believe and receive His gift of salvation. My faith is no longer in the church—my faith is in Jesus, who is my Lord and my Savior. And now I am certain that heaven is my forever home.
Biblical scholar Dr. Irwin Lutzer says that true faith is three-fold. “First it involves knowledge, the fact of Jesus’ death for sinners. Second it means we assent to the truths of salvation; finally, it involves trust, the transferring of all of our confidence to Christ alone.” We recognize our own need for a Savior, confess that Jesus’ death secured our salvation, and believe that through God’s grace we are forever redeemed and set free.
I am a Christian because God saved me through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. I have eternal life in heaven because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. I am not bound as a slave to my sins any longer, I am now bound up in the freedom of Christ. Every day I remember both who I was as a slave to sin, and who I am now, a freed daughter of God.
Can you say the same? Do you know the freedom that only comes through Jesus Christ? Do not remain in the chains of sin for one more minute—right now tell God you want to be set free. The chains will fall and you can walk away as a freed child of God.
Holy Father, thank You for opening my eyes to the truth of my slavery to sin. Thank You for revealing the redemptive power of Your love through the cross of Jesus Christ. Thank You for setting me free. I am forever Your child.
 Erwin Lutzer, The Doctrines That Divide: A Fresh Look at the Historic Doctrines That Separate Christians, (Grand Rapids, Kregel, 1998), 99.