Religion

Don’t let insincere Christians turn you away from Christ

I am not what you’d call a Christian, and the reason is because I’m turned off by people who claim to be Christians but don’t act like it. If you’re a Christian it ought to make a difference in the way you live, shouldn’t it? — J.K.

Yes, of course it should — and it will, if a person has honestly committed his or her life to Jesus Christ. In fact, if there isn’t any change in a person’s life after they profess faith in Christ, their faith is not real. The Bible says, “Faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26).

Why is this true? The reason is because when we come to Christ, God Himself comes to live within us by His Holy Spirit. You can’t be the same once God lives within you — and you won’t be. You’ll begin to see sin for what it really is: rebellion against God. You’ll also want to please God, because you’ll realize that He put you here for a purpose — and that purpose is to live for Him.

This doesn’t mean, however, that Christians are perfect, or that they’ll never struggle with sin — not at all. Satan will do everything he can to pull us down — and although God now lives within us, so does our old sinful nature. The Bible says, “The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit. . . . They are in conflict with each other” (Galatians 5:17).

My prayer is that you won’t allow the inconsistency of a few people who claim to be Christians keep you from Christ. Look at Him, for He alone is perfect, and He alone can give you the forgiveness and new life you need. Open your heart and life to Him today.

Our mother always took us to church when we were young, but after our father left and our parents got a divorce, she became very bitter and stopped all that. She’s gone now, but I’m wondering if the time has come for me to start taking my family to church. What do you think? — Mrs. V.R.

I’m sorry your mother allowed bitterness to overwhelm her in this way. While she must have faced some very difficult days, it would’ve been far better for her to go through them with God’s help than without it. The Bible says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Yes, by all means do what your mother once did, and make church part of your family’s life. Not only will you gain new friends there (as will your children), but you will discover what it means to follow Christ and have Him as the foundation of your family. Ask God to guide you to a church which has Christ as its center, and where the Bible is preached and taught.

But more than that, ask Christ to come into your life. The Christian faith is more than a series of doctrines or a way of life (although it is that). It is a personal relationship — a relationship with God Himself. Only one thing cuts us off from God, and that is our sin. But when we give our lives to Jesus Christ, He forgives our sins and takes them away. Our lives will never be the same.

Life is filled with struggles and temptations — but we don’t face them alone when we know Christ. Ask Him to come into your life today — and He will.

I guess I’m like lots of people my age. When I was young, I really believed in Jesus, but then I hit my teens and all that went out the window. But now that I’m older I know I need God. Will He take me back, or is He fed up with me? — K.L.

Whenever someone asks me a question like this I often think of Peter in the Bible. He was one of Jesus’ closest disciples — and yet when Jesus was arrested, Peter turned his back on Jesus and loudly announced that he didn’t even know Him (see Luke 22:57).

But later Peter realized what he’d done, and he came back to Jesus. And what did Jesus do? Jesus forgave him and welcomed him back as one of His disciples. Later, Peter became one of the strongest spiritual leaders of the Early Church, and God used him to bring many people to Christ. He even was willing to risk death for the sake of Christ, and tradition says that later Peter actually was killed for his faith in Christ.

Yes, it would’ve been better if you had never turned away from Jesus. But listen: God still loves you, and Christ died for you. God’s promise of forgiveness is for all who know they need Him: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Don’t let another day go by without Christ, but confess your sins to Him and ask Him to be your Savior and Lord. Then ask Him to help you walk with Him every day — through prayer, the Bible, and fellowship with other believers.

Is it wrong for me to take my prayers from a book of prayers? I grew up in a church that does this, but a friend of mine says I ought to make up my own prayers. But how do I know I’ll say the right thing if I do that? — A.Y.

Have you ever asked yourself what prayer is? Prayer is simply talking with God — praising Him, confessing our sins, bringing our burdens and concerns to Him, and thanking Him for who He is and all He has done for us.

But prayer is also a privilege — and it is a privilege God has given us because He loves us! God wants us to pray! And He isn’t offended if our efforts at prayer fall short of perfection — not at all. If you have children, do you remember when they first started to speak to you? Their words weren’t eloquent or perfect — but that didn’t matter to you, because you loved them and you were thrilled they were trying to talk with you.

The same is true with God. He is our loving Heavenly Father — and He delights in our prayers, no matter how simple or humble they may seem.

The Bible says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Remember that the Lord’s Prayer begins with these words: “Our Father . . .” (Matthew 6:9).

Written prayers may have their place; I have found them useful myself from time to time. But don’t be afraid to speak to God in your own words also. God delights in the prayers of His people.

Send your queries to “My Answer,” c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201; call 1-(877) 2-GRAHAM, or visit the Web site for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association: www.billygraham.org.

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