Hi, my name is Stuart Byrne. I was brought up as a Roman Catholic and had very devout Catholic parents. I was baptized and did my Holy Communion and my Confirmation. I was even close to being an altar boy as my brother and cousin were. I attended church religiously on weekends and even attended weekdays early morning services before school.
The point that changed my life though was more my parent’s search for the truth than my own.
As a young boy, I had not yet begun questioning what I had been told in church. My parents, after around 5 years of searching the Bible and asking lots of questions of the clergy, finally took the traumatic step to leave the Catholic Church.
I remember my parents sitting me down and explaining that they were leaving the Catholic Church.
They talked of how there were many differences between what they read in the Bible and what was taught within the Catholic Church.
Looking back now I think they were very courageous as it affected many of their friendships and relationships with people.
I was in my early teens at this time, so obviously my parents left the decision up to me whether to stay or leave. I was free to continue as a Roman Catholic, but I had experienced something new and wanted more.
Their looking into the Bible for the truth, rather than what man said to them impacted me deeply. I too decided to take the Bible at face value and follow in my parent’s footsteps. I went to an evangelical church down the road.
My life after that and my relationship and understanding of God changed drastically.
I began to see that God was not an old man with a big beard ready to whip me whenever I stepped out of line. I realized that He loves me and sent His one and only Son Jesus to take the punishment that I deserved. I knew some of this before but it had never really made much sense to me.
I began not just to know about Him, but also actually know Him as a person. It was no longer a head thing but became a heart, body, soul and mind relationship with my God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
I think another difference which helped me come to a deeper understanding and relationship with God was the freedom I experienced. I had always felt before the pressure to do this or that to be in God’s favour. Striving always to be accepted but never seeming to get there. The striving to gain God’s love and acceptance stopped. I somehow learned and knew that God was my friend as well as Father and Creator. It was quite incredible. He was the one that had done everything to make me an accepted child. All I had to do was believe!
For the next few years, I immersed myself in the Church and learnt lots of things, but like many young adults, I began to experience life and started to live like I did not know the truth of the Bible. For a few years I went to church on Sundays and some mid-week meetings but when I was not in meetings I did not live in accordance with my beliefs.
I meandered through church and life until one day at a particular meeting in Mijas I felt God’s presence like never before and decided to stop leading this hypocritical life and live out what I knew to be true. By God’s grace, I am still living it.
I do not mean to tell you that each moment is perfect, that I never do wrong or get discouraged. Of course, I do. But I do know that Jesus took the punishment for the sins I commit. I know that I am forgiven. That is the basis of Christianity. That God has forgiven us, that there is hope. All we need to do is trust Him.