At the age of four I made a “confession of faith” in Jesus Christ and was baptised. “So that was that,” I used to think growing up, “I'm in right?”. I said the right things and prayed every so often.
Yet there were thoughts that still nagged my mind. The way in which all those hymns sing about deep love for Christ, or expressed broken-hearted amazement over Calvary was puzzling. While it was true I wasn't going to Hell, why was I ever going there in the first place? I was a sinner, but not a really bad one - there are a lot of people more sinful than me, right?
If there was one subject I wished to avoid it was God's judgement of sinners. The very few times I did think about Hell, I didn't feel a whole lot of confidence about not going there.
Also, the Bible became a book of interesting stories and confusing doctrine. There was far more fun to be had in other things. I didn’t have time for pondering the meaning and relevance of dusty, old books.
By the time I reached my twenties I was miserable. Life was going to be a big disappointment. I'd tried a lot of things, none of which had ultimately satisfied me – and I'd a suspicion that whatever I did in the future would pan out in much the same manner. Existence was black, loveless and boring. The world was full of nasty, self-absorbed people, who seemed bent on self-righteously making it worse for everyone else.
Sadly, I started to seek God only in order to see if He could make life less bitter. But I became fully convinced that the Bible had to be exactly what it claimed to be, the revealed word of God and my eternal destiny hung upon its pages. Understanding it rightly and obeying it were more important than anything else in the world. So, I began to study.
At this point though, something happened that really stopped me in my tracks. I heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The real Gospel.
I heard that God is holy, just and good. It really is just and good of God to damn me. That is what I deserve - I have been that wretched and fallen. But despite all that I am, God is so loving that He sent His Son - the god-man, Jesus Christ - to save all those that call upon Him, giving them everlasting life. Christ is the only person ever to have lived a perfect, sinless life. Yet He died for me! He endured all the eternal, hellish torment that should have been laid upon me! The good news of the Gospel is that Christ was treated as if He had been me, so that I could be forgiven and treated as if I had lived His life.
Therefore, trembling at the thought of what I deserved and amazed at the love of Christ, in late 2009 I repented of my sin and put my trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
Well, many of those things that were so integral to my life before I was saved I still have to kill every day. I am a still a very great sinner - but a forgiven sinner! The Gospel didn't make my personal circumstances easier. Just the opposite, in fact. But that's okay. After all, no matter how dark life may get, the fact that it isn't far worse will always be an act of profound mercy and grace on God's part. What's more, all my past, present and future sins are completely forgiven. I'm now declared righteous before Him and have been made His son. His grace is that amazing!
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)