My Christian Beliefs
I am a "born-again" Christian, and we are much misunderstood group of people. As you read this can I ask you to put aside your prejudices, leaving words like "fundamentalist" and "bigot" aside at least for a few minutes.
I believe in one true, just, holy and loving God. I believe he created us, but that the world got messed up along the line, and so we are cut off from Him. Have you ever wondered why God seems so distant? I believe God wants to be in a loving, real, relationship with each of us, but he is cut off from us by our sinful nature. Have you ever wished you could stop doing the things you do which hurt those around you, or wondered why it seems impossible to stop?
This sinful nature offends God absolutely because He is holy, and because he is just, he cannot just sweep the bad things I have done under the carpet and pretend it doesn't matter. I might want him to, but I don't think I'd want Him to turn a blind eye when people wrong me. Have you ever felt deep in the core of your being that justice has to be done, for some way that you, or people you care about, have been wronged? Still God loves me, (and you) absolutely and wants rid of this iron curtain of sin that separates us. Have you ever felt weighed down by a dark cloud of guilt and wished you could get rid of it?
So he sent a substitute: Jesus. Jesus was (and is) God's actual son, and he lived life in a human body, living the only truly guiltless life. And then God took the punishment I deserved and poured it onto Jesus as he hung suspended from a criminal's cross, and let him deal with it. This is an amazing gift he has offered, the way back to Him. It just needs to be sincerely accepted. And with this new relationship with God, comes another gift: an indwelling spiritual guide to give use the power to overcome the sinful nature which chains us.
I haven't just made this up and decided to believe it, this is not an arbitrary, blind faith. I have evidence. Firstly, while reading the bible I am utterly struck by the power and simplicity of this message, this is what the bible says. Secondly, I can see the power of this in the changed lives of people around me, the grace and power by which they live their lives, and the phenomenal changes that God brings in them over time. Finally I believe it because I have this relationship with the living God, and through his Holy Spirit he does talk to me, directing me, correcting me, encouraging me and blessing me.
I know some people at this point will think I am a nut job - "God talks to me". I find it interesting how the only people who say this in films and on television (in fiction) turn out to be twisted individuals. Yes, there are (a few) people who make this claim who are dangerous, but I can take you to meet over 500 people at my church every Sunday who claim the same, and point to many other church buildings in Newcastle filled by similar groups of people. They are unrelentingly good people, caring for each other, dedicated, sincere, honest, intelligent even. Crime amongst born-again Christians is incredibly low. Something else that might surprise you: tolerance amongst us is also amazingly high.
Not that you have to be a good person to be a Christian, far from it. I am very aware of how much I fail, and how many people I still hurt in so many stupid ways. However, a by-product of the indwelling Holy Spirit is a tendancy to become less sinful: less angry, less arrogant, less selfish, less malicious, less controlled by unhealthy desires. All you need to do is accept the gift of a relationship with God.
You don't have to, nobody is going to force you.
Some people comment that the sinful life is surely more fun. Don't fool yourself, look around at sin and the consequences: jealousy, broken relationships, hatred, greed, selfishness, tears, mental scarring (and sometimes physical scarring), loss of dignity and respect, destroyed lives. God shows us a better way to live, much in the same way that parents teach children that fire, knives and electricity are dangerous.
In the words of Paul Simon: "The fact that life could be better is indelibly printed into our hearts and our brains".