Who is my God? I asked. I was 14 years old. Who is He? No one answered, but I asked myself again, thinking, there’s my church’s God, then there’s the God that they tell us about in school. But who is my God?
No answers came from the frozen winter sky as I walked home. And it didn’t seem as though anyone knew the answer. The Sunday before I had gotten the courage to ask the teacher at the church. He smiled a big toothy smile, and told me I had already been taught all I could know about God by the church. I had learned theology and religion, but I wanted to know God.
My dad would rather I didn’t think about it. He’d look down at me with his crystal blue eyes and tell me that I was wasting both his time and mine. Maybe I was, I thought. It didn’t seem likely that there was any God to know except the fierce one my church talked about. It frightened me just to think about Him. This icy wind cutting my face is His wind, I thought to myself.
So why was I born? I thought. I’m weak, nearsighted, clumsy and awkward. I can’t even play football. When the ball is passed to me, it hits me and everyone laughs at me. My stomach got a cold heaviness, like when I eat ice cream too fast.
The more I thought about it, God’s judgment and punishment seemed easy to imagine: the earth opening and people being dragged into a pit of eternal fire, and Jesus coming with his army of bright, fierce angels armed with swords to destroy all creation for its sinfulness.
It frightened me to think of God. Sometimes when I would lose my temper, I would realize I was doing something wrong and think, Oh God, I’m going to be condemned.
I started to read the Bible in the gospel of John, and things seemed different then. Jesus wasn’t at all the way He had been described to me, it turned out. Or had I just been confusing Jesus with the God I feared? In John, everywhere Jesus went, people were being loved and changed by Him, and always for the better. He was loving people, even though they didn’t deserve it. And though their sins made them deserve hell, if they trusted in Him, He forgave their sins and promised them eternal life.
I thought of my friends that I went to church with. I’d gone there with them all our lives. I knew them. I knew they never changed. None of us ever changed. Even though there was lots of talk about change. We’d listen to teachings saying, “You’ve got to change because God is going to damn the earth and its sinners.” I knew I wasn’t perfect enough for God, but I wanted to know Him—and didn’t know He wanted to know me and love me and forgive me. So I just felt lost. And then I read in the Bible about Jesus, who “has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” That verse shocked me and sent a chilly sensation through my body. I knew God’s justice, that He would judge me based on my impurities—but here was a verse saying that Jesus had come to save the lost.
But how was He going to save me? A verse I had read in Romans began to make sense to me. It said that I would be saved by believing—by trusting in Jesus.
That’s all? I thought. Just believe? Shouldn’t I have to do some great thing? Shouldn’t I have to live a perfect life? That was the idea I had gotten from my church.
Then I felt drawn to speak to Christ. Of course I had prayed before, only formally in the church with the words they taught me to say. But this time was different. I lay down on my bed, and started to talk to Jesus. It was a simple talk, but it was the first time I had ever really communicated with Him.
“Lord Jesus, I’ve read about how everyone around You was changed. I want to be changed. I want peace and fulfillment and to be delivered from my fears. I am afraid of You. You know I don’t even like myself. Everything is messed up around me. And it’s messed up in me, too. But please God… I don’t know how You can do anything in me. But please Jesus, let me know You. Make me new.”
And then I knew I was being saved.
Bruce was able to experience these things with God and to have an eternal relationship with Him, because of what Jesus did for him, and for you and me. Because of our sin, we are separated from God and we deserve to be punished for all eternity. Maybe, like Bruce, you have come to realize that you are a sinner, just as the Bible says, and that when you stand before God at the end of this life, you will be judged and condemned. The Bible is clear that we all deserve just that. But it also teaches us that God loves us so much that He made a way for us to have our sins forgiven, so that we would not have to be punished in hell, but could go to heaven and be with Him, and experience joy forever.
Jesus never sinned, so He earned the reward of eternal life in heaven in our place. Then on the cross Christ died for our sins and rose again from the grave.
When the Bible says He died for your sins, that means that Jesus took your sin upon Himself, as if He had committed those sins; then, in your place, He let God the Father punish Him for every bad thing you’ve ever done or said. He took that punishment so that you wouldn’t have to.
Now, by believing that message and trusting in Jesus Christ alone, you can be saved from your sins, forgiven, and given eternal life in heaven. But you must not trust in good things you have done or in what the church or religious leaders have done to you, such as baptism. You must trust in Jesus Christ alone as your only way to heaven. He is the only one who can forgive your sins, because He is the one who lived a perfect life and then absorbed all the punishment you deserve on the cross.
And you must make a decision now in this life. Either you will trust Jesus Christ for salvation and eternal life, or you will trust in yourself and your good works, or your church, and then die in your sins. If you die in your sins, you will not be forgiven, but punished forever. But because God loves you, He doesn’t want to punish you, but to forgive.
Won’t you, like Bruce, let Him do that today? Talk to Jesus in your own words. Tell Him you believe you have sinned against Him and deserve punishment. Tell Him you believe He loves you and died for you and rose again. Tell Him you are trusting Him to save you, forgive you, change you, and give you eternal life with Him. Then thank Him for all He has done for you.