Wednesday, February 08, 2006


It was thirty-one years ago tonight that I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I had just turned sixteen (ok - do the math!). I was the "good kid" - the responsible, quiet one with the good grades, who played in the orchestra and was on the flag squad. Timid and law-abiding, I never got into any serious mischief, let alone actual trouble. But something was missing from my life.

A friend invited a group of girls, including myself, to a youth rally. Several times before we had gone with her to all-city scavenger hunts, movie nights and picnics and had always had fun. We knew the drill: while the events were generally free, at the end of every evening of fun we had to politely sit through a "religious" presentation. But this night was different for me.

The speaker explained that we were created by God to have a relationship with Him, but that sin - our disobedience - had broken that relationship. God is perfectly holy, and cannot stand sin. In fact, according to His Word, the wages - what we earn - for sin is eternal separation from God. Nothing we can do is enough to pay the penalty that we owe for our disobedience. No matter how hard we work, we cannot erase our sin, nor can we in our own power stop committing sin.

But in spite of our disobedience God still loves us, and wants to restore that relationship. Out of His abundant grace He provided the perfect sacrificial payment for the penalty of sin: His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus took on the form of man, lived a completely sinless life, and in His death on the cross, offered Himself as the sacrifice needed to pay the penalty for our sin. But He didn't stay dead - three days later He arose, conquering the power of death.

God offers this salvation freely to all who believe. But it is a personal salvation, a gift that must be accepted by us each individually, not a blanket absolution of all persons. You must admit your sinful state, believe that Jesus paid the penalty for sin on your behalf, and turn your life over to Him as your Savior and Lord. You are no longer on your own, but belong to God.

On this particular night it was as if the speaker was talking only to me. I could clearly see the sin in my life - the rebellious, disobedient spirit within me. At the same time, I felt a yearning for God, a sense of the void in my life that no one and nothing else but God could fill.

When the speaker asked for those who wanted to make this decision to place their faith in Christ to raise their hand, my hand went up almost of it's own accord. There in that gym I prayed this simple, but profound prayer:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and that my sin has separated me from God. Nothing I can do is good enough for me to work my way back to God. I believe that You died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin, and I invite you into my life as my Savior and Lord. In Your name, Amen.
Nothing has been the same since.
There have been no huge outward changes in my life. The changes God has wrought in me since that time have been changes in character, profound in some areas and slight in others. I am, as are all Christians still living on earth, a work in progress. There are times when I wonder if I've made any progress at all in the last thirty years, and there are times when I can see very clearly how God has changed me in a particular area to conform me more to the image of His Son. He has given me a love for His Word, the Bible, and a passion for studying it deeply. My brothers and sisters in Christ are my dearest friends and fellow sojourners.
Through all, no matter what happens, God will never leave me. From His hand I have learned to accept both blessing and chastening, as He is proving my character and preparing me for an eternity in heaven with Him. It isn't always easy; in fact, it is often much harder to stick to the Christian course. But the blessings are well worth it.
The Bible says -
... for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
Romans 3:23 (NIV)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23 (NIV)
...that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:8-9 (NIV)
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast
Eph 2:8-9 (NIV)
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
1 John 5:11-13 (NIV)
Do you know where you will spend eternity?

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