I Didn’t Know Why Christ Needed to Be Crucified for Me
As a baby, I was baptized in a Lutheran Church. I attended services at the Lutheran Church a few times every year for 18 years thereafter. From my pre-school years until 5th grade, I attended Catholic School. During these years, God seemed very distant and I secretly questioned if there really was a God. The Bible seemed like an inapplicable book filled with parables and history that I was unable to understand. Both the Lutheran services and Catholic masses seemed long and monotonous, with singing, a sermon that left me confused, and prayers with responses that always resembled each other. Looking back, my heart became hardened by the vain repetition. I began to consider myself “spiritual” and lived by my own theory: “As long as I am a good person, like Mother Theresa, I will be good enough for God and one day – hopefully – will experience His great love for me in heaven.” When it was convenient for me, I found myself praying and doing good deeds for others, which I felt compensated for my worldly habits and selfish motives and tendencies. I treasured my belongings and I always came first in my mind.
Halfway through high school, on Christmas night, my athletic career came to a pause when I fell down a flight of stairs. At the lower level, my body was in shock and I was covered in coffee. From that night on I suffered from debilitating lower back pain. It wasn’t until the last semester of college that I sought another option to feel better. One Saturday morning, when I was working at a local gym, I saw a human vertebral column hanging and I thought “maybe whoever owns that spine can help me.”
“Looking back now, I can see that God was working during this time of pain.”
The owner of the spine was Dr. Lino Zarrillo, a Christian who invited me to church and welcomed me into his family. He and his wife, Dr. Michelle Zarrillo, did a Bible study with me about one year later. The Bible Study validated the truth of the entire Bible and showed me its applicability to my life. The last week of the study, I learned about God’s high standard and discovered that I was considered lost. I immediately felt discontent with this brutal truth and strived to become “saved”. I tidied up my life by altering the entertainment I exposed my eyes, ears, and body to, cutting off the influences of which I surrounded myself, quitting the detrimental worldly habits that consumed me, and eliminating the bad words that I used on a daily basis, such as using the Lord’s name in vain. Although these sacrifices I made were better for my overall well-being, bringing me into a more positive mindset, they did not make me righteous in God’s eyes. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of the works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
“My actions showed that my mind and heart had not been changed, as I continued in my prideful and sinful ways.”
Each sermon that I exposed myself to seemed to bring me one step closer to God with convictions, truths, and new perspectives of life. I did not know how many steps remained and I did not understand that getting my heart right with Him was my only chance to becoming a true child of God. During this nine month pursuit, I shared my search with others who worshipped God and I could have accepted the assurances from at least three people insisting that I was already saved. Although it was tempting to trust their words of encouragement, I kept the truth of God’s Word in mind: “…for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
And I knew that in my heart that I was not yet right with God and continued to seek Him. In August I joined others attending Lehigh Valley Baptist for a Young Adults Retreat in Minnesota. There were 300 reasons why I did not want to go but there was one reason why I knew I needed to go – for God. Although I did not know anyone very well, as every minute on that long ride passed, I felt more at home in great loving company. During the very middle of the Retreat, Pastor Roland Hammett preached a sermon about knowing God. I recall him introducing the sermon by saying “But in order to know Him, you must be saved.” My heart sunk but I knew that if I kept seeking Him, I’d find Him because God cannot lie and promises in His Word: “Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matthew 7:7) At the end of His sermon, an invitational hymn was played to allow each of us to privately meet with God through silent prayer.
“During that time I sincerely acknowledged that I was a sinner and that there was nothing that I could to do to change that except to look to Jesus as my Lamb of God to take away all of my sins and awful iniquities.”
That night, on August 25th, 2016, I repented to God and fully placed all of my burdens and trust in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to cover my sins. This was the exact moment that I was delivered from evil and made a true child of God! If I would have trusted in anyone other than God, my life would have eventually ended in eternal damnation from living a lie. Instead, I get the opportunity to live for Christ rather than myself, longing to hear the words “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” from my heavenly Father whom I am now closer to than ever and I am fully confident that His Holy Spirit resides within me. I no longer fear dying and do not need to hope I am going to heaven, I am completely certain that I have eternal life.
The vain repetitions of religious facts and Bible verses from my childhood have been transformed into life-giving truths. I no longer wonder why Jesus had to be crucified – he gave His life on the cross for me and all my sins!