2006-05-18

How I became a Christian

I can't believe that I have blogged since July 2005 and have yet to explain how it was that I became a Christian. Forgive me for this please!

I became a Christian on August 28th, 1982 - yes, I am one of those people who has a time and a date. It happened in a bus - I walked on the bus an unbeliever and I walked off saved. But let me fill out the details for you.

I grew up in a household that wasn't really concerned about God. My dad was a Presbyterian and my Mum was an Anglican. I was baptised as a baby in 1969 at St. Alban's Anglican church in Epping (Sydney, Australia).

Mum and Dad didn't go to church much - we were "Christmas and Easter" churchgoers. As a boy, I was sent to Sunday School ("Sunday School" in Australia almost exclusively refers to children being educated about the Christian faith while the main church service was being held). Although I found it okay, my parents would drop me off and then go home - they didn't go to church themselves. Probably as a result of this, I ended up convincing my parents that I didn't need to go any more.

But, when I look back on it, it was too easy to simply blame my parents. The real reason was that God didn't appeal to me. I believed in him, but I didn't want to get to know him. Even as a child, I had decided that God didn't need to be part of my life. And so while my Catholic next door neighbours would faithfully go to mass every sunday morning, Protestant me would be happily playing in the back yard, ignorant of what God wants and happy to reject him.

But God had a grip on me. My mum knew enough about the bible to teach me some basic things like praying and not blaspheming. As I got older, my parents sent me off to week-long camps run by Scripture Union and, later, the Crusader Union. I think they did this to get rid of me during school holidays!

It was at the first camp - Camp Bevington on Lake Munmorah (a Scripture Union camp) - that God began to make himself known to me. It was 1980 and I was between 10-11 years old at the time. Mum had given me some money to buy things like chocolates and whatnot, but the camp had a bookstall and I wondered if I should buy a book.

Of course they gave us bible talks and had us discussing the bible in groups - but I have no memory of these. Obviously this was the first time I had ever heard the bible being taught, and I was exposed to events in the life of Jesus that I was unfamiliar with.

The upshot was that I decided to use the money to buy a paperback Good News Bible. I was fairly literate even then, and, when I came home from camp, I made the decision that I would read it - all of it. So every night before I went to bed I would pull my GNB out and begin reading. Probably because I had been taught that the bible was a series of books and didn't have to be read in order, I started with the book of 1 Samuel. Then, after a few weeks, I decided that I would also have to read the gospels as well, so in addition to plowing my way through Samuel, I started on Matthew. A few weeks later I felt that it was also important for me to start reading from the beginning of the bible, so while I was getting through Samuel and Matthew, I also started on Genesis.

You'd probably not be surprised if I told you that my daily readings fizzled out after a while - but this didn't happen. I kept on reading. Even when I was tired I sped through my bible readings and increased my load - at one point I think I had about 6 or 7 different bookmarks.

It took me about a year - but I did it. I read the entire bible through when I was eleven.

And what did I understand? Not much to tell you the truth. For a while I gave up eating pork and bacon because the bible said that it was wrong. I also remembered the story about some guy getting cut in half and people walking through the corpse... but apart from that, I cannot remember anything that I learnt in that period about God.

In hindsight, I think that one year spent reading the Bible was a wonderful work from God. I had no reason to do it. My parents weren't pressuring me to do it and the Camp leaders didn't force me to do it. And, despite the fact that I can't remember now what I had learnt, there is no doubt that God was working in me through his Spirit-inspired word.

A few camps later and I had just turned 13. I was in year 8 at school and it was the August school holidays (these were the days when NSW public schools had a three-term year). I went to a Crusader Camp in Tumut - I think it was called the "inter-boys activity camp" or something like that. Basically each day went like this - after breakfast, a morning bible talk followed by outdoor games, then lunch, then a "wide game" played in the paddocks around the farm we were staying in, then dinner, then another bible talk, then an indoor game (it was below freezing outside by that point) then bed.

It was so much fun - boys love running around playing games like "Privates and Generals" and "capture the flag". We were dirty, sweaty, bloodied and bruised. We ate huge meals and burnt off the energy as the day progressed.

But it was the bible talks that got me. I only remember one - the most important one, The Bridge to Life.

The camp director got up and had a blackboard (or maybe butcher's paper) where he drew a stick figure standing on the edge of a canyon. That stick figure was us, he explained. On the other side of the canyon was God. In the canyon itself - that which separates us from God - was called "sin". The director told us that it was our sin that was cutting us off from God.

He then said that we all need a bridge in order to cross over to God's side. He then told us that there were many bridges that man builds in order to get there. He then put up these bridges, which were named "going to church", "obeying the law", "being nice to people", and so on. But each of these bridges fell short - nothing we could do could ever reach God.

He then spoke to us about hell - that sin eventually leads to destruction. Without having our sins forgiven - without having the canyon bridged - we would suffer in hell.

Then he placed a cross over the canyon with "Jesus" on it. God, he said, had provided us with the means to get to God and have our sins forgiven. It is through Jesus dying on the cross and taking our sins that we can now walk across the canyon and onto God's side.

All we needed to do, he said, was as easy as "A-B-C". A - Admit your sins to God, that you have led a sinful and rebellious life. B - Believe that Jesus died for our sins so that they may be forgiven. C - Commit your life to serve God forever.

Of course, the Bridge to Life tract (which the director presented with a bit of his own added to it) is quite intellectually complex for a bunch of 13-14 year olds. It required us to use our brains as we strove to understand the symbolism of what he was saying. But it worked. As a result of this presentation, a few kids became Christians.

But not me. I could "feel" some sort of pulling to do it but was unsure of what it was - was it God or was it something inside me? I felt that I needed to resist, just in case it was all manipulation or something... or maybe I just felt that I had some control over things.

On the Bus home, one of the leaders gave me a tract written by John Chapman entitled "How to become a Christian" or something. I read through it and everything gelled. I prayed the prayer at the end. I walked off the bus a Christian.

Of course, I would be lying if I said that becoming a Christian solved all my problems and made me rich and prosperous - it didn't. God did certainly change my life when his Spirit regenerated me on that Bus in 1982.

But being a Christian is hard. The Christian musician Steve Taylor (one of the few Christian musicians I actually respect) wrote a song called "Harder to believe than not to...". It is easy to sin, it is easy to give in to the world, it is harder to live in obedience to God.

Here I sit at my computer, 36 years old, reflecting upon how my life changed when I was 13. I don't read the bible with the same dedication as I used to back then - sometimes weeks go by between those times I consult God's word. Oftentimes I find it difficult to pray. I get angry with the world and am bitter at some of the events of my life that have hurt me. I have children of my own now, and while I sometimes reflect bitterly at how my parents sometimes treated me as a child I also sit there listening to the wails of my son after I have gotten angry with him and realise that, hey, I'm not doing such a great job either. All my teenage life I desired a girlfriend to have for my own, and now am faced with the guilt of ignoring my wife too often.

This is not to say that God hasn't changed me. I'm certain that my life would be a quite immoral and meaningless had the Spirit not regenerated me. While I have a discontent about my present I am contented about my future.

And the reason is simple - I know for sure that I am going to heaven. I know for sure that one day I will face Jesus and he will welcome me into his kingdom. I know that one day this world we live in will be changed and God will bring about a new heaven and a new earth, and that I will inhabit this paradise with all of God's children forever. I know that one day my tears and my anger will be forgotten and I will be joyful always.

And this is not because I am a good boy. It's not because I write provocative blogs or am respected by fellow Christians or have delivered lots of biblical sermons or have told the gospel to others who have subsequently become Christians.

I know that I am going to heaven despite my faults and sins, and apart from the good things that God works in me. For I know that Christ has taken my sins away on the cross and, through his resurrection, brought me to new life. The greatest gift of all has been given to me, a most undeserving sinner - life eternal and friendship with God.

From the Theosalient Department

© 2006 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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4 comments:

Paul W said...

Thank you for sharing that Neil.

Addison said...

I have been lurking most of this year and have read lots of differet topics.
I think this was your best yet

thanks

Ali said...

Yeah, thanks for giving us the low down on your conversion. It's heart-warming to see the gospel working in people's lives. You tell it well, too.

Zaiarey said...

Loved reading your blog as we had so much in common.I was baptised in the local Methodist church at Epping and I became a Christian in 1980 at camp Bevington . I was 20 and my life totally changed. My boyfriend who was a catholic also became a Christian and now we Pastor a church. Thanks for sharing your
story and thanks God for camp Bevington.
Roz