Nestled close to Kings Canyon National Park in California’s Sierra Nevada is the Youth Camp that I was able to attend in 1963, 1965 and 1967. I was 12, 14, and 16 during these wilderness adventures.
I was raised in a family who attended church regularly and often, very religious. The church I was raised in gave me the impression that because I was Russian and a member of their church that I had an exclusive connection with God. What I learned at Bible Camp was that the only exclusive connection I could have to God was through Jesus Christ and what He did for me on the cross. Being Russian and being a part of my father’s religion did not give me a direct link to God. I needed to be born again. In 1963 at Hume Lake while listening to a speaker talk about Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross to save sinners, I was moved to step out and ‘confess with my mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead,’ and I was saved. I started my life as follower of Jesus, born again spiritually. God’s plan of salvation was exclusively through his perfect son Jesus, who is fully God and came to earth to live a perfect life among us and be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. I knew I was one of those sinners and I needed a Savior. This decision began a journey of ups and downs, highs and lows, but a journey forward with my God and Savior. When I began my new life following Jesus I was clothed with His righteousness and reconciled to God. I continue on this walk, never perfectly but with God’s grace I carry on. He will be teaching me by His Holy Spirit all the days of my life. My God and Savior is and will be faithful to see me through all of my life on this earth and I look forward with the Hope of seeing Him face to face in heaven. During this same year, 1963, my father was born again and began his journey of following Jesus after hearing Billy Graham at the Los Angeles Coliseum share the truth of Jesus Christ and why He came to earth over 2000 years ago. 1963 was an epic year for me and my family. For my father and me we became part of God’s movement of love and grace through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My mother was a follower of Jesus when she married my father. My two older sisters had started following Jesus before my father and me.
I’ll share this verse that Billy Graham proclaims in every interview I’ve ever heard him give. John 14:6 (ESV) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
What It Means to Be a Christian (Gracechurch.org)
Being a Christian is more than identifying yourself with a particular religion or affirming a certain value system. Being a Christian means you have embraced what the Bible says about God, mankind, and salvation. Consider the following truths found in the Bible.
God is Sovereign Creator. Contemporary thinking says man is the product of evolution. But the Bible says we were created by a personal God to love, serve, and enjoy endless fellowship with Him. The New Testament reveals it was Jesus Himself who created everything (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). Therefore, He also owns and rules everything (Psalm 103:19) That means He has authority over our lives and we ow Him absolute allegiance, obedience, and worship.
God is Holy. God is absolutely and perfectly holy (Isaiah 6:3); therefore He cannot commit or approve of evil (James 1:3). God requires holiness of us as well. First Peter 1:16 says, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Mankind is Sinful. According to Scripture, everyone is guilty of sin: “There is no man who does not sin” (1 Kings 8:46). That doesn’t mean we’re incapable of performing acts of human kindness. But we’re utterly incapable of understanding, loving, or pleasing God on our own (Romans 3:10-12).
Sin Demands a Penalty. God’s holiness and justice demand that all sin be punished by death (Ezekial 18:4). That’s why simply changing our patterns of behavior can’t solve our sin problem or eliminate its consequences.
Jesus is Lord and Savior. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” Even though God’s justice demands death for sin, His love provided a Savior who paid the penalty and died for sinners (1 Peter 3:18). Christ’s death satisfied the demands of God’s justice, and Christ’s perfect life satisfied the demands of God’s holiness (2 Corinthians 5:21), thereby enabling Him to forgive and save those who place their faith in Him (Romans 3:26).
The Character of Saving Faith. True faith is always accompanied by repentance from sin. Repentance is agreeing with God that you are sinful, confessing your sins to Him, and making a conscious choice to turn from sin (Luke 13:3, 5; 1 Thessalonians 1:9) and pursue Christ (Matthew 11: 28-30; John 17:3) and obedience to Him (1 John 2:3). It isn’t enough to believe certain facts about Christ. Even Satan and his demons believe in the true God (James 2:19), but they don’t love and obey Him. True saving faith always responds in obedience (Ephesians 2:10).
Hope you found this explanation from gracechurch.org helpful in understanding what it means to be a Christian and my prayer is that you will ‘confess with your mouth, Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead,’ and be saved to eternal life.