Do you know how to become a Christian? People aren’t born into Christianity, nor are they all saved in the same way. Some become Christians when they are young, others when they are older; some when things are going well in life, others when things are not. But in another sense, everyone’s salvation experience is the same. Every person is born with the same spiritually-depraved condition before God and with the same spiritual needs. All must learn that they are shut out of heaven due to the curse of sin, and all must learn that Christ has opened the way to heaven as the only cure for sin.
For me, life began in a non-religious home in Scotland. My father was from Iran, raised in a nominal Eastern Orthodox home, and my mother was from Northern Ireland, raised in a devout Protestant home. Neither, however, had any deep interest in spiritual matters and I don’t remember anything particularly spiritual being taught in the home when I was young. Through my teenage years I had an interest in the theory of evolution, which eventually led me to confessing atheism. I remember discussions with friends and arguments with Christians in which I would mock belief in God. I was very self-confident, and the Bible describes such people: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). From my perspective, religion was to blame for the world being in such a mess, and only madmen were religious.
So what changed? When I was eighteen years old, my mother was converted to Christianity and her life was transformed. Immediately, her appetite for smoking and alcohol seemed to be replaced with Bible reading and prayer. Instead of frequenting bars on the weekend, she went to church several times a week. I found it very peculiar, as you can imagine. I couldn’t deny that God had done something in her life. The Bible says,” If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). My mother was a new woman, and I didn’t know what to make of it.
Soon after her conversion, she began to invite me to church. It took a couple of months before I eventually conceded and went one Sunday evening at the beginning of January 2002. I heard the sermon, but I remember walking away wondering: “What if there is an eternity? Where will I be?” The Bible says that the unbelieving “shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone” (Revelation 21:8) and I certainly knew I was an unbeliever.
For a number of months, I found myself discussing religious matters more and more, even with my unsaved girlfriend. On May 12, 2002, two young men who attended the same church as my mom and sister invited me to go. I went with them, and afterwards they took me to another meeting where the preacher shared the story of the moral young man who came to Jesus wondering how he could obtain eternal life. The young man was very sad, because Jesus asked him to give up what he really worshipped: his money. As the preacher spoke, I saw myself in that young man.
After the meeting, those who had taken me to church shared the gospel with me in the car on the way home. I had many doubts and questions, and still thought there was no way I would ever become a Christian. But as I discussed these matters in the car, I felt sinful for the first time in my life and sensed my guilt. Why did I feel guilty? Before whom was I guilty? I knew I was guilty in the eyes of God. I didn’t understand it then, but later I would learn that this “conviction” was the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said it is the work of the Holy Spirit to “reprove the world of sin” (John 16:8). A strange thing happened to me because I began to believe what I had resolutely denied. Why? The Lord was changing my thinking. I believe it was the effect of the Word of God being shared with me. The Bible says, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). My arguments crumbled and under a sense of guilt in the presence of my sister and the two young men, I wept. I didn’t know how to pray, so I simply asked God to save me.
That day my life changed forever. Immediately, I stopped going to nightclubs, which had been a major part of my life for four years. I started reading the Bible, praying, attending church, and for reasons I could never have foreseen, became more fulfilled and content, and this continues to this day. The psalmist said, “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him”(Psalm 34:8).
In retrospect, I think I always knew God existed, but I had tried to suppress it so that I could avoid accountability. The Bible talks about people who deny God and “hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). I used to tell myself that if there was a God, He would weigh my good works in the balance, and because I considered myself to be a good person, I believed I would be fine. Perhaps you think like that? The reality is that every person is a sinner. We’re all guilty, for the Bible clearly teaches that no one can reach God’s perfect standard which demands that men keep every detail of God’s law. The apostle James said, “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10).
There is only one answer for sinners — Jesus Christ. I am living proof that He is able to deliver people who are far away from Him. Jesus came into this world to save the guilty by suffering the punishment we deserve. His death on the cross secures everlasting life for those who believe in Him. You’ve only got one short life, friend. You need to think seriously about what comes next.
Rev. Armen Thomassian is minister of Calgary FPC, Alberta.