If someone had asked me 3 questions 6 years ago, my answers then would be very different from my answers today.
Question #1: How long have you been a Christian? Back then my answer would have been “My whole life. I have gone to Church since I was a baby”. I have always been a Christian.
Question #2: On a scale of 1-10 how sure are you that you are going to Heaven? Previously I would have said: “I’m pretty sure I’m going to Heaven, I have to be a strong 8. I know that God exists, I pray every night before bed and I’m really active in a Church”. Those would have been my answers until recently.
There has never been a time in my life that I didn’t believe God exists. And I have prayed to Him pretty much every night asking for things I need. Begging for things. In fact, for a long time I had a precanned prayer I would use every night. It was the exact same script each night before bed. “God, Bless these people...thank you for this and for all my blessings….” Then I would go down a wish list of all the things in my life I needed from God. If anything tough came up during the week, I’d ask for help with it. That was as far as my relationship went with God. What about Jesus? Yep, I believed he existed and died on a cross for me because I had always been told that my whole life. I’ve always heard people saying that. So sure, I’ll believe it.
But here is the problem. I didn’t know what that meant exactly. What does it really mean? That Jesus saves? “Jesus saves” is on billboards, bumper stickers and signs all over the place. Yep, I believed it because that is what I was told and what I’d heard. But, again, the problem. Did I really understand that? Did I really know what that means? Was I going to Heaven? “Certainly I was because I believe God exists and Heaven exists. I go to church and I do pretty good deeds occasionally”. So I’m good, Right??
Question #3, I was asked this question about 10 years ago: When did you come to know Jesus? What’s your story? “Uh..…..we may have a problem here, because I don’t have a story.” Hmmm…what do I tell this person….. “My story…oh, I’ve been a Christian forever, since birth”. (That’s a good answer, right?)
In early 2012 I was part of a church. In fact, not only did I go to church every Sunday, but I was even “active” in the church. I was on many committees and knew the majority of people in the church. I was at church several days a week doing various things. In my own eyes, I was a “good Christian.” This is when God stepped in and changed everything in my life.
In March of 2012 I went to see the Casting Crowns in concert. During the intermission, they asked for all church leaders to come backstage for a quick message of encouragement. I thought, yeah, I definitely wanna go backstage and meet the band, I’m in. I got up and followed the crowd backstage. That’s when it happened.
During that message, God’s Holy Spirit brought down some serious conviction on my heart. He made me realize that I was just playing the part of a Christian. I just resembled a Christian on the outside. I didn’t know God. I didn’t know Jesus. I had no idea what was in the Bible. Sure, I could tell you all the famous Bible Storys that a lot of people have heard, but I didn’t know the message of the Bible. Sure, I had one. I had several actually. But I didn’t know the message of the Bible. The reality is, without the Bible, you are just making up your own image of God. I sure was. I had created my own view of what I thought God was like based on what my culture told me. I didn’t know the real truth about God or who He is. I was just a “Cultural Christian”. The Bible is the only way to know the real truth about God and who He is.
God’s Holy Spirit got my attention and a seed was planted in my heart that night. After that moment I had a desire to seek God. I wanted to know Him. I wanted to know what his Word says. I wanted to actually live my life for Him. I wanted to stop looking like a Christian on the outside. I wanted to quit being a social church goer and become a true follower of Jesus.
My journey started by dusting off that Bible I had. I began with the Gospels because those were the books that told about Jesus’s time here on earth. That sounded like a good place to start. Next, I dedicated time everyday to reading something in the Bible and reading any reputable book I could find on Christianity. I replaced my morning gym slot with Bible time. Since the seed was planted at the Casting Crown’s concert the most logical Christian books to start with were Mark Hall’s. So each day, it was something in the Bible, a Christian book by an author that know’s God, and then praying to the Lord to please help me understand all of this stuff. Because in the beginning I didn’t. None of this stuff made any sense to me. But, that was about to change. Finally, I came across the Gospel Message of Jesus and I understood it. THE message of the Bible….. and I gave my life to Christ. After that, my life was changed. Forever.
So if you dosed off earlier, the rest of this story is the part to pay attention to. If you need more coffee, grab it now. This is the part you don’t want to miss. The important stuff. The life changing stuff.
Let’s start with the things you have always heard. Sometimes we hear these things and we glaze right over them because these words are everywhere. But, even though we’ve heard these things so many times, do we actually get it? Do we really understand this? Or have we become apathetic or indifferent because these words are so common in our society today? So here we go.
God loves us more than we can even imagine. Think about the person you love the most in this world. God loves you more than that. He loved you before you even knew what love was. In our society today we are taught that love is a feeling. Your love is how you feel towards someone. God is the inventor of love. And His definition of love isn’t based on how you are feeling today. Biblical love is not a feeling. Which is good, because the way I feel changes about 15 times throughout the day. I can go from happy, to sad, to frustrated, to mad, to joyful, to selfish and then back to happy again. All before noon. Biblical love is defined as a choice followed by an action. God loves all of us regardless of how we behave, what we do, who we are, etc. He made us. And he proved His love for us with an action. To recap, love is a choice followed by an action. What action did God take to prove He loves us?
The first thing we need to all understand is the Bible says we are all broken sinners. Everyone of us. There are no exceptions to this. The best person you know, still a sinner. No one in this world is perfect. This all stems back to the fall of Adam and Eve when sin entered our world. Sin has existed since then and it spreads like a virus. Now most people get this part. “Yep, we are not perfect, so what is the big deal?” Here is the big deal. Sin separates us from God. Our Holy God cannot be in the presence of sin. Therefore, sin cannot exist in Heaven in the presence of God. That means we can’t go there as sinners. In addition to that, there is a punishment for sin, a penalty, a price for it. The penalty for sin is death. An eternal death separated from God, forever. God is Love, but he is also just and fair. He cannot let sin go unpunished. This is grim horrible news for all of us sinners. However, there is good news. Some really good news.
Since God does Love us more than we can comprehend, He created a rescue plan for us. A plan to save us from this eternal death and separation from Him. He dealt with our sin problem for us. This rescue plan is through His Son, Jesus Christ. He sent Jesus down to earth to take our punishment for us. The punishment we deserve for our sin, Jesus took in our place. Jesus was fully human and fully God at the same time while He was here on earth. He lived a sinless, perfect life and was fully obedient to God the Father. Jesus took the past, present and future sins of everyone in the whole world and he took the punishment for all of them. The wrath of God that all sinners deserve, Jesus took in our place when he died on the cross. He paid our debt in full with his death. Three days later he rose from the grave proving our debt was canceled, and proving he was indeed God in the flesh. Jesus has conquered death, Hell, and the grave. The result of this action is we can now have eternal life with Him in Heaven. Forever. And that is the Gospel message. That is the good news.
You can sum up the Gospel just like this.
1) We are sinners.
2) Sin has a punishment, and it’s an eternal death, separated from God
3) God sent his Son Jesus to take our punishment for sin and He paid the debt for us
4) The result of Jesus’s sacrifice is we can now have eternal life in Heaven with God.
Sin broke our relationship with God. Jesus restored it with his death on the cross.
That is the Gospel message. (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, John 3:16) However, there is 1 critically important piece to all of this. Don’t miss this part. This is key to the whole Gospel message. We have to make the choice to accept this free gift of salvation from God. What does that mean?
Jesus paying our debt for sin was a free gift to us from God because of his great Love for us. However, we have to accept that gift from Jesus to receive eternal life.
Let’s say someone has a present for you and they are reaching out and handing you that gift. If you never take the present from their hands and you just walk away then you aren’t going to get that gift. They are giving it to you, but you have to accept it and take it. I’m sure you see where I’m going here. The same is with Jesus. God’s offering you His free gift of eternal life through Jesus. He is reaching out His hand to you right now, giving you this free gift. But you have to accept it. You don’t just automatically get it. You have to take the gift. So how do you do that? To receive the gift of eternal life you have to: Repent and Believe.
(Repent: Admit you are a sinner and that you are willing to completely turn from your sin)
(Believe: Trust by faith that Jesus, the Son of God, has already taken the punishment for your sin as the only means of salvation)
How do you repent and believe? Before I tell you, I want you to know that I am not judging anyone here. I am a sinner who is thankful for the grace provided by Jesus. My only goal is for you to know the love of God and the salvation He has provided for you through his Son.
To repent and believe, the first step is to recognize that you are indeed a sinner just like the rest of us. We ALL are. You have to realize there is nothing you can do to make up for your sin. You cannot make your sin right with God. There is nothing we as human’s can do to heal our own brokeness. Admit this to God through prayer. Own up to your sinfulness, we all have it. Through prayer, let God know that you want to completely turn from your old sinful ways and live a new life for Him. (Repentence). Tell God you trust that Jesus has already taken the punishment for sins with his sacrifice on the cross. You are putting all of your Faith in what Jesus did and believing that He will give you eternal life because of it. (Believe) Repentence and faith is a total surrender of your life to Jesus. This is what Romans 10:9 is all about and confirms for us.
Now have confidence in your salvation and live a new life devoted to Jesus. Jesus will enable your heart to do this when you repent and believe. He will make the change in you. When you truly repent and believe your future is secure. There is no other requirement to get into Heaven. That’s it. Repent and Believe. And once you have done this, you are saved forever. You can never lose your salvation when Jesus saves you.
Thankfully, getting into Heaven isn’t about how good we are or what deeds we do here on earth. God doesn’t love us because we are good. He loves us because HE is good. Your deeds won’t get you into Heaven. (Eph 2:9) The only way you get in is by repenting and believing in what Jesus did.
The Bible tells us that when we ask, Jesus saves us 100% of the time. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. Rom 10:13 confirms this: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” It doesn’t say a few people, it doesn’t say the good people, it doesn’t say these or those people, it says EVERYONE. That means you, everyone. It also doesn’t say you might be saved. It doesn’t say, there’s a good chance you could be saved. It says WILL BE SAVED. The message is very clear. So what is the most important thing here on earth? To call on the name of the Lord in repentence and faith.
So back to those 3 questions from the beginning of this letter. Knowing what God has revealed to me my answers are quite different now. Here they are:
Question #1: How long have you been a Christian? Answer: About 5 years now. You cannot know God if you don’t know Jesus. You cannot know Jesus if you haven’t repented and believed. I didn’t become a Christian until I recognized that I was dead in my sin and Christ redeemed me by paying my debt on the cross. Because of that loving action, my response is to surrender my life to Him and to live my life His way. I want to know Him and to make Him known. So how do you get to know Him? Through His Word, the Bible. You cannot know Him if you don’t know His Word. Without His Word, you are making it all up yourself. You are doing what sounds right in your mind, what society says is right, what the world accepts as good. But that isn’t truth. The only truth is found in God’s Word, the Bible. “I have been a Christian my whole life”. That is impossible and untrue. You cannot become a Christian until you repent and believe, and accept Jesus as your savior.
Question #2: On a scale of 1-10 how sure are you that you are going to Heaven? After you receive Christ and are saved, the answer to this question is with absolute confidence a 10. That is the great thing about giving your life to Christ. Your future is 100% secured. You don’t have to wonder anymore. There is no greater confidence and assurance. God has never gone back on any promises in His Word. And His promise is that He will save you if you repent and believe, putting all of your faith and trust in Jesus that He will give you eternal life. You don’t have to doubt your future anymore. God’s Word tell us it’s secure. The Bible tells us there is no scale of 1-10. It’s either a 1 or a 10. The good news is that everyone can be a 10. You just have to accept Jesus and surrender your life to Him.
Question #3: When did you come to know Jesus? This one I believe has been answered. This letter is my story on when and how I came to know Jesus. And the part I want you to know is that everyone can have their own story when they give their life to Christ. When you surrender to Jesus he changes your heart and your life. He is the only way to have a changed heart. Despite what the world may tell you, your heart cannot be changed and you can’t become a new person until you let Christ make that change in you. You can’t decide to just change yourself. It may work for a little while, but it will never stick. You can attempt to change your appearance, your behavior or how you represent yourself to the world. But that is all a façade. True external change is just a byproduct of what is in your heart. Jesus changes hearts. I would challenge you to ask yourself this question. “Do I have a story? Has my life been completely transformed by Christ?”
Since we are talking about change, I find it important to mention that becoming a Christian doesn’t mean you are now perfect. It’s quite the opposite. The Bible tells us that we will always fall short of perfect until we meet Christ face to face. No matter how hard you try, you will fall short. I am reminded daily just how far I am from perfection. I’m still going to make poor choices, and my behavior is not always going to be Christ like. However, as we draw closer to God he changes us a little more each day. He changes us so that we make those poor choices less often. He makes us see things differently. So as he changes our hearts on the inside, we automatically behave and think differently as a result of that change. It’s a gradual process of growth. When we fail, he uses that failure to grow us. Ultimately, this is why we need a savior, because we can’t be perfect. But knowing Christ is knowing that through repentence and faith our sins are forgiven and we are loved deeply, regardless of how bad we mess up.
Now, you may be reading this and saying, yep, I get all this because I already know Christ. I have already repented and believed. If that is the case then I want to thank you for listening to my story and encourage you to share your story with others. For me, nothing is more amazing than seeing Jesus in action as He changes lives. There is nothing we can do to change anyone or save them ourselves. That role belongs only to Christ. However, our job as Christians is to make Jesus known to those who don’t know about Him. We tell our story of how Christ has changed us, share his Gospel, and then through the Holy Spirit, Jesus saves. We have no power to save anyone. Only Jesus can do that. But how will they believe if they haven’t heard? How will people hear if we don’t tell them?
One possibility is you may be wondering if you really do know Jesus. Maybe you thought you knew Him but perhaps you aren’t sure. “I think I’m good because I prayed a prayer as a child which someone told me would get me into heaven.” Or, “I took this confirmation class as a child which I was told will get me into Heaven”. Of course only Christ knows the true condition of your heart and where you stand with Him. But I encourage you to truly ask yourself, “do I really know Christ?” Do I know His Word? Do I strive to live by it? Am I the king of my life or is He?
The other possibility is you are thinking, “No, I definitely don’t know Him.”
Hear me when I say, you CAN know Him right now. Let me say it one more time, YOU CAN know Jesus right now. Right now, you can have full confidence in saying you are a 10. You can know 100% that you are going to Heaven and you have been saved. You don’t have to doubt or wonder about your salvation anymore. Just repent and believe. Put all of your trust and faith in Christ, that He has washed away your sin and He will get you into Heaven. There isn’t a more important choice you will ever make in your life!
Lastly, I call this “My Story”, but it is really just another story of God’s amazing work. His amazing works are countless. Anyone who knows me is aware that I naturally don’t like to write. I am not a writer nor have I ever been someone who writes. It is only through the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone has the power to save, that I am able to write any of this. My ability to write and share is a testimony to the living God, who is seated on his Heavenly throne today. He is the only one that can change hearts and transform lives. I am a witness to His power. Previously, witnessing would have been an unthinkable task for me. I give Him all of the praise and glory. I am thankful for His love and the path of salvation that He offers to ALL people.