I came to faith after fifty years of being an anti-Christian, so my perspective is perhaps different than yours. I didn’t grow up in a church, therefore I didn’t have a childhood filled with Christian traditions and stories being taught to me as a young man.
Sure, we did Christmas and Easter, but I don’t recall hearing things like—do good and go to heaven, do bad and go to hell, do good because He’s watching, attend church and take communion because you must, believe and you go to heaven, don’t believe and you go to hell, etc.
I came to faith by reading the Bible at fifty years old. My faith grew by reading the Bible. By reading the Old Testament first, I fell in love with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And then I fell head over heels in love with Jesus by reading the New Testament.
During my first read through the Bible I started going to church. I would hear some of the church traditions, and think to myself, “I haven’t read that yet, that must be coming in later books.” By the time I finished my first read through the Bible, I still couldn’t reconcile some phrases with what I had read. I just assumed I was missing something, and it would become clear over time.
I am a voracious Bible reader still, and now thirteen years later, I have concluded that a fair amount of stuff we throw around as truth is not in the Bible.
It isn’t all bad, and much of it is well meaning. But in some ways, I wonder if we have become Pharisees. Jesus said that the Pharisees had become so concerned with rule following they kept people from God. “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.” (Matt 23:13)
Christianity isn’t about being a good rule follower. It’s deeper. Far deeper. Following Christ is a love affair. It’s not in your pores, not in the subdermal, not in the tissue, joints or muscle, not even in your bones or marrow. It’s deeper even than that. The Bible says God placed eternity in our inner man (Ecc. 3:11).
When you allow God to spark eternity in you, you gain something impossible to describe, but overwhelmingly lovely, joyous and peaceful. When you allow God to help you stay, abide, in that peace, you finally understand “Blessed are…”
Jesus’ two greatest commandments clue us in: love God, love people. Fall in love with Him, really truly, head over heels in love, and then you can finally love others as yourself.
It’s your move first though. He honors His free will design so He won’t force Himself on you. You have to seek Him. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you,” (James 4:8). It’s your move first. “Blessed are…” is waiting for you.
Open your Bible and let yourself fall in love.