Australian-based singer/songwriter JO VOGELS recounts how he became a Christian.
I was brought up as a Catholic in a Dutch family that had emigrated to New Zealand in 1950. My parents believed everything that the church told them and followed all the orders coming from Rome. For me it was a tragedy as I was born into a religious system that had little idea who God actually was or what he wanted us to do. They ignored so much of what Jesus actually taught and seemed to have successfully turned a movement into a very unhealthy institution. Jesus basically said,"Watch me; I am the change I and My Father want to see in the world. The only way to do it is through me and you must obey the four steps to becoming a follower. After this there are no more changes. Tell God all the things you have done wrong and mean it. Then believe that I died on the cross and rose from the dead. Three, get baptised and finally get filled with the Holy Spirit.
Simple really, but that is not what I got fed. I was taught that if you follow all the rules and ceremonial practices and special days we have invented and be a good person then you are in God's good books but you will still always feel guilty. Horrible, constant, ignorance-based condemnation. I was a good boy out of fear and indoctrination that ran hypocrisy right beside it. After a Catholic primary school I was sent to a Catholic boarding school for five years. We were animals. There was virtually no love in the place at all. It was a typical aggressive, destructive, negative, critical and dehumanising institution where fear of ridicule and dog-eat-dog rules applied. I don't believe there were any real Christians amongst the 750 boys or the teachers.
By the time I left I should have been awarded a certificate for cynicism, sarcasm and hate, First Class. I went to Auckland University in 1973 and got tired of falling asleep at the back of the campus church every Sunday night. Nothing happened; no one actually loved anybody or cared except for a modicum of "niceness". I didn't bother going anymore after four or five months. I was so disillusioned with the university and my religion.
For the first time in my life I began to seriously wonder what on earth was the point of existing and I got very depressed, often. I then heard for the first time the phrase, "a born again Christian" and laughed about it. It took me years of rolling around aimlessly at university to finally lose my arguments against becoming a Christian and sat on the end of a bath one night and told God to take over my life and also to prove to me he was actually there. Of course I didn't realise that I had only taken one of the four steps, ie, believing, and was not taught anything else and I didn't last very long. However, I did the usual human thing of making a deal with God. My girlfriend was fairly feminist and our relationship was a waste of time but I couldn't get away from her arguing. I told God I would come back to him if he got rid of her. He did it in seven seconds with an amazingly short conversation but of course I didn't keep my side of the deal.
Within three months I started my first high school English teaching
position and was having an incredible time, loving it. However I heard
this voice in my head many times early in the morning as I walked to
my classroom, saying, "It doesn't matter how good it is, if it isn't
for me it isn't worth anything." I knew who it was but ignored the
voice until January of 1980 when a friend came around to my house one
Sunday morning and asked me if I wanted to go to his Baptist church up
the road. I said yes and when I walked into that church I decided that
was it and I finally heard the other three parts of the Gospel that
Jesus had talked about. This is a story of a very slow saving. When I
look back it makes me angry that it took so long to get past all the
religious garbage and hear all the bits of truth necessary to finally
get completely saved. Hope it doesn't take you so long.