There is no greater evidence of the effectiveness of the Gospel than a changed life. In the past we have known a New York gang member who became a New York evangelist. We have known a “Hell’s Angel” biker who became an ordained pastor. I know a man who was once a very successful whiskey salesman; today he is a pastor. Perhaps these may seem extreme illustrations but they do confirm the veracity, and the power of the Gospel. Such radical and long-lasting changes are difficult for skeptics to challenge. The Scripture plainly teaches that the Gospel is for all and has the power to change lives. Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). There is no level of society, either high or low, to which the Gospel cannot reach and change lives. For most of us, however, it has come to us in our ordinary lives by the faithful sharing and teaching of parents and Church leaders.

Books by Malcolm Gladwell such as The Tipping Point and The Outliers, tell us that scientific research has shown that we are what we are, because of our geography of birth, the nationality of our parents and the environment in which we have been raised. Although there is an element of truth in this, some people like to suggest that what we believe is also derived from the same phenomena. If this is true then we would expect more uniformity in geographical belief systems, but this is not so. There are people in the West who have converted to eastern religions while there are people in the East who have converted to Christianity. Then there are those whose parents have conscientiously taught their children the beliefs of Christianity, only to see their children walk away from those beliefs. There are also many people who have had no Christian background who have wholeheartedly embraced Christianity with enthusiasm. The evidence shows faith is a personal choice determined by the understanding of the truth.

Coming to faith in Christ we discover that we must appropriate the Gospel for ourselves. It must be a personal faith in Jesus Christ and not simply following the convictions of our parents. I know one lady who had been in the church for many years, had practiced the teaching of her parents because she thought that was the right thing to do, yet she made this statement to friends, “It was not until I took the Alpha course that I came to a personal faith in Jesus Christ.” It was when she came to be presented with the truth of the Gospel that she realized there was no reality to her Christian faith.

Our faith cannot be secondhand. It cannot be based upon another’s faith, be they parents, teachers or elders. We cannot work for it. We cannot earn it. It is not achieved by doing what the church or denomination expects of us. Salvation is ours totally by the grace of God. It is revealed through the Word of God and through the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit into our lives. This new relationship we have is confirmed by the Holy Spirit for “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16).