THE FOURTEENTH century country church was dark and quiet, and the sonorous phrases of the prayer book echoed round the nearly empty building. To an eight-year-old it seemed a mysterious and awesome place. Every Sunday I went to church with my parents and the words of the prayer book became familiar and comforting. Going to church made me feel good. It also made me think I was good, well, better than other people anyway. Then, something happened to disturb my self-righteousness. Some of the young people at the local Pentecostal church had a liveliness and commitment lacking in the few young people in our church. Our vicar invited them to tell how God had met them and changed them. I had never heard anything like this before. They shared the message about how Jesus had come to die in the place of those who had 'sinned' and to give them a new life. All of a sudden God showed me that I was nowhere near as good as I thought - 'sin' is selfishness and I was a selfish.
I needed to know Jesus for myself
Religious activities couldn't make me good, they were killing me - I needed to know Jesus for myself. I asked God for forgiveness and received the new life he promised. Later, reading about Jesus' life, I saw how Jesus was so gentle with the sinful, weak or hurting. But when it came to religious people he had an extremely sharp tongue. He talked of those who 'honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me'. Trying to earn a place in heaven through special days, special ceremonies and special words is nothing short of rebellion against God.
Religion… is simply not what he wants!
He wants a relationship - Father and child - for us to receive life as a free gift. Our own efforts are death. All this happened a long time ago but God has kept his promise to be with me, guide me and look after me. Best of all he welcomed me into his family and gave me the assurance that I will be with him for ever, not because of anything I have done, but because of what Jesus did for me.