Justin Bieber says he spent years believing in Jesus but not living like a true follower

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Pop star Justin Bieber has opened up about the growth of his Christian faith after some "dark" times.

After years of negative headlines for bad behaviour, drug use and run-ins with the police, Bieber turned a new leaf in 2015 when he was baptised in a bath tub.

But it wasn't smooth sailing for the pop star, who cancelled his world tour in 2017 when he hit another low point, suffering mental and physical exhaustion.

The 25-year-old told Apple Music's Zane Lowe it was at this time that he decided to go "deep" into the Christian faith he had grown up with.

"I just didn't know what the heck was going on and so I really took a deep dive in my faith, to be honest, I just went deep," he said.

Going "deep" meant being honest about his faith up until that point. Bieber admits that while he "believed in Jesus" and that He had died on the cross for him, he wasn't living a life of obedience.

"I never really ... When it says, following Jesus, it's actually turning away from sin," he said.

"What it talks about in the Bible, there's no faith without obedience. I had had faith about like, 'I believe Jesus died on the cross for me, but I never really implemented it into my life.' I never like, 'I'm gonna be obedient.'"

Part of that, he thinks, is because although he knew Christians, they were not good examples of what it meant to live out the faith.

"I had really bad examples of Christians in my life who would say one thing and do another, so they were there my direct example of who Jesus was. I didn't take it as seriously because I didn't have good examples," he said.

Bieber went back to basics, exploring for himself "who Jesus really was".

"So now the way I look at my relationship with God and with Jesus is, I'm not trying to earn God's love by doing good things. God has already loved me for who I am, before I did anything to earn and deserve it," he said.

"It's a free gift by accepting Jesus and just giving your life to Him, and what He did is the gift. The forgiveness is the thing that we look at and say, 'I'm going to worship You, God, because you gave me something so good.'"

Now happily married to model and fellow Christian Hailey Bieber, the daughter of actor Stephen Baldwin, the "Love Yourself" singer says of his former life, "It was dark, really dark."

"So I'm very grateful to have influences in my life that have played a huge part in me seeing their relationship with Jesus, and their relationship with their wives and their relationship with their kids and saying, 'that's what I want, and I'm striving after that,'" he said.