“Billy, some people say you have to have a born-again experience to go to heaven. Mother [my Grandmother] here is the most religious, kind person I know, yet she has had no born-again experience. Will she go to heaven?” – George H.W. Bush
“Self-Improvement” is Not The Point of the Bible
Regardless of what you think of one mans politics over another I -looking at a man or woman of faith- am always intrigued by ones personal testimony of faith and reflections of Christ. The former United States President, George W. Bush has just released a most telling and inspiring biographical book called Decision Points, and I would like to share with you a passage from it:
“In the summer of 1985, we took our annual trip to Maine. Mother and Dad had invited the great evangelical preacher Billy Graham. Dad had asked him to answer some questions from the family after dinner. That was typical of Dad, always willing to share. It would have sent a signal of importance to have had Billy to himself, but that was not George H.W. Bush. He is a generous man, devoid of a big ego. So there we sat, about thirty of us-Laura, my grandmother, brothers and sister, first and second cousins- in the large room at the end of the house on Walker’s Point.
The first question was from Dad. He said, “Billy, some people say you have to have a born-again experience to go to heaven. Mother [my Grandmother] here is the most religious, kind person I know, yet she has had no born-again experience. Will she go to heaven?” Wow, pretty profound question from the old man. We all looked at Billy. In his quiet, strong voice, he replied, “George, some of us require a born-again experience to understand God, and some of us are born Christians. It sounds as if your mom was just born Christian.”
I was captivated by Billy. He had a powerful presence, full of kindness and grace, and a keen mind. The next day, he asked me to go for a walk around the property. He asked about my life in Texas. I talked to him about the girls and shared my thought that reading the Bible could make me a better person. In his gentle, loving way, Billy began to deepen my shallow understanding of faith. There’s nothing wrong with using the Bible as a guide to self-improvement, he said. Jesus’ life provides a powerful example for our own. But self-improvement is not really the point of the Bible. The center of Christianity is not the self. It is Christ.
Billy explained that we are all sinners, and that we cannot earn God’s love through good deeds. He made clear that the path to salvation is through the grace of God. And the way to find that grace is to embrace Christ as the risen Lord-the son of a God so powerful and loving that he gave His only son to conquer death and defeat sin. These were profound concepts, and I did not fully grasp them that day. But Billy planted a seed. His thoughtful explanation had made the soil less firm and the brambles less thick.
Shortly after we got back to Texas, a package from Billy arrived. It was a copy of The Living Bible. He had inscribed: “To my friend George W. Bush, May God bless you and Laura always.” He included a reference to Philippians 1:6: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
At first I was troubled by my doubts. The notion of a living God was a big leap, especially for someone with a logical mind like mine. Surrendering yourself to an Almighty is a challenge to the ego. But I came to realize that struggles and doubts are natural parts of faith. If you haven’t doubted, you probably haven’t thought very hard about what you believe.
Ultimately faith is a walk-a journey toward greater understanding. It is not possible to prove God’s existance, but that cannot be the standard for belief. After all, it is euqally impossible to prove that He doesn’t exist. In the end, whether you believe or don’t believe, your position is based on faith.
That realization freed me to recognize signs of God’s presence. I saw the beauty of nature, the wonder of my little girls, the abiding love of Laura and my parents, and the freedom that comes with forgiveness-all what the preacher Timothy Keller calls “clues of God.” I moved ahead more confidently on my walk. Prayer was the nourishment that sustained me. As I deepened my understanding of Christ, I came closer to my original goal of being a better person-not because I was racking up points on the positive side of the heavenly ledger, but because I was moved by God’s love.” [Decision Points, pages 31-33]
“I saw the beauty of nature, the wonder of my little girls, the abiding love of Laura and my parents, and the freedom that comes with forgiveness”
Buy this book! 🙂 You’ll LOVE it! (And will be supporting a brother-in-Christ)
May God bless you friends and His love shine on you always,
Jessica Heilman is an author, and periodically posts excerpts from books that she is currently reading. She blogs daily on life, family, and her walk with Christ in a modern day Biblically-applicable way. She believes that the Bible is timeless and that it is THE foundational reading in the 21rst Century for life, living, and relationships. Her mission daily: to do everything she possibly can to hasten the return of the coming Christ.
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