Kirk Cameron: From Atheist Teen Idol to Devout Christian
The 'Growing Pains' and 'Left Behind' actor talks about his ministry and being a Christian in Hollywood.
Looking back, would you have done anything differently in handling situations on the set of "Growing Pains"?
Well, in the book I talk in detail about what it was like going from an atheist to becoming a Christian, and how the decisions that I made really affected my relationships on the set.
As I look back at some of those decisions, I think I could have handled things maybe with a bit more grace, maybe not quite as bluntly as I did. But, again, that's also looking back in hindsight. I mean, at the time, you're 17 years old, you're a brand-new Christian, you're wanting to do what's right, and the pressure is on. And you've got to make a decision quickly sometimes when it comes down to a script.
So, I wouldn't have done a lot differently, but maybe just seasoned it with a bit more grace.
In the book you talk about the difference between believing in God and experiencing God. How does a Christian who believes in God work to have a full experience with God?
Well, by definition, a Christian is not someone who simply has a belief in God. A Christian is someone who knows God experientially, someone who has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. The devil has a belief about God. He knows exactly who Jesus is. That's very different from being a Christian.
People can take a head knowledge about God, [but] they need to have that knowledge move right down into their heart. And it needs to result in an act of their will, of embracing the gospel, of turning from their sin and putting their trust in Jesus Christ. When that happens, God regenerates the heart and makes the person a new person from the inside, gives them a new heart with new desires, and they know the Lord and they have eternal life. That's an experiential thing that is much different than mere intellectual knowledge about God.
Was it a difficult process for you as a teen idol to embrace God?
Some people have this idea that religion is just one more thing that they can sort of add to the mix of things that they've got in their backpack to help them get through the day, sort of a crutch to make life easier.
But Jesus said, "If you want to follow Me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me." And really, the difficult thing for any Christian is to learn to say to yourself, that "life is not about me." As a celebrity that's kind of what you grow up with—the idea that the universe revolves around you, that you're the most important person in your life. And the wonderful realization that you are not God, that you were made by a wonderful creator, and instead of giving you what you deserve, He offers you grace and pardon and forgiveness and eternal life. That is difficult to learn, to deny yourself and take yourself off the pedestal that everyone else has put you on as a celebrity. But it's the most wonderful thing in the world.
It's like when I got married to Chelsea, I had some friends who said, "Man, wasn't that hard giving up the bachelor life? You were playing the field. What are you doing?" And I said no, because I realized how shallow the celebrity bachelor life is. And in comparison to the treasure I found in Chelsea, it's a no-brainer.
And the same with God. Once I realized the emptiness of life apart from knowing God, when I embraced God and the truth of the gospel and the truth of the Bible, it was a no-brainer decision to see that that was a treasure that was infinitely more valuable than some sort of an atheistic Hollywood party life.
|...I think we're watching, perhaps, God remove His hand of blessing from a country that once had it in generous amounts.|
You also mentioned that Christians on the set of the "Left Behind" movies had to hide their faith for fear of being shunned by others on the set—something I never would have expected from a faith-based film series. Did you encourage the Christians on set to go public with their faith?
Interview by Dena Ross
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