I’m not a Justin Bieber fan but I can’t deny his enormous influence. I realised this when I read the recent article in Christian Today which stated he had more than 140 million followers on Instagram. Now that’s what I call a ‘Virtual Congregation’!
They will have to come to their own conclusions about following Jesus, of course. We can’t force anyone to believe, even though the Church has often failed to acknowledge that. It’s as if we think we can show God how to do His job properly, little realising that we undermine the very foundations of the Gospel in the process.
But that aside, it was great to see Bieber waxing lyrical about forgiveness.
“I no longer have to carry shame but can walk with my chest up and head held high knowing I am loved, chosen, and forgiven!” he wrote.
Forgiveness is a truly thrilling aspect of the message Christians are privileged to share, but let’s not forget that there is so much more to the Christian life than forgiveness.
When I talk to ‘new converts’ I like to use the word ‘adventure’ because there is no better word to sum up the Christian life. One famous preacher spoke of the ‘glorious predictability of the unpredictably of the Spirit’ and rightly so. When you become a Christian you never know what God is going to do or might ask you to do next. My faith journey began with a determined attempt to disprove His existence. In fact, I gave the girl (who later became my wife) a choice: it was me or her ‘imaginary God’. Little did I realise that within a few years we would be married, and I would be training to become a Baptist pastor!
And it’s been like that ever since. I have met so many amazing people, ministered in the most incredible places, including the frontline of a battlefield, and witnessed astonishing things take place. I’ve seen people healed, even of cancer, countless lives completely transformed, and friendships forged that have enriched my life in ways that go beyond anything I could ever have imagined possible.
Life hasn’t always been easy, of course. There have been the low times and the difficult days when I have wondered what God was up to, and even thought of giving up. But I have discovered that I can tell Him how I am feeling, even when I’m ‘in the pits’ ,and that to date it’s become obvious that He has always been at work for my good.
So, what has kept me going? My study of the Bible has helped massively, and prayer has turned out to be the lifeline I was promised it would be. It would be amiss of me too, if I didn’t confess that I have been hugely encouraged by other Christians. It is so easy to become discouraged in the Christian life, but thankfully God has introduced me to an amazing number of believers who have radiated love and hope, not least because they were suffering too.
Honori Boci will always stand out for me. He had the most radiant smile I have ever encountered in spite of the fact he lived in such abject poverty that there were times when he and his family had to sing songs instead of eating food for their supper! But in the most amazing way, he said they always left the table feeling they had enjoyed a good meal. I still can’t explain it, but I can assure you his smile was proof of it.
Best of all, of course, unlike so much of what we see in modern literature, this adventure has a happy ending. For the day is fast approaching when Jesus will restore this world to its pristine glory and harmony. No more pandemics, no more injustice and, ‘wonder of wonders,’ even Christians will live together in harmony! What more could anyone ask for!
I just hope Justin Bieber’s Instagram followers get to hear the whole story because in spite of its many challenges, or perhaps because of them, following Jesus really does offer us a chance to live life to the full. That certainly seems to be something this pop star, who has everything this world could offer, seems to have realised.