From my early childhood in South Africa, I remember attending a Baptist church and going to a school where the Bible was taught. My parents had a strong belief in God; their faith was evident as they gave to others and strove to place God as the head of our family. At one church function, we watched a movie about the end times. It described how some people would be left behind (later to spend eternity in Hell) while others would be “raptured” to Heaven where they would spend eternity with God. To avoid Hell, I prayed a prayer, and thought all was well.
The years rolled by and I continued attending church and tried to do my best. “But I was ashamed of being a Christian and didn’t like telling my friends about Jesus.” But I was ashamed of being a Christian and didn’t like telling my friends about Jesus. I thought that going to church was probably good enough in God’s eyes. Soon my family and I moved to the USA and started attending a Baptist church. I was baptized there and became a church member.
After college I moved away from home and found another church to attend. The straightforward preaching on sin and hell was different than I had heard before. I knew something was wrong with me. I thought, “How is this possible? The pastor talks about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Do I have one? But I’ve got to be a ‘Christian.’ I’ve spent endless hours in church and Sunday School. I have memorized Bible verses and have even prayed the sinner’s prayer.”
I soon learned that my “good works” were not bringing me any closer to God. I was headed for Hell. God says in Romans chapter 4 verse 5, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.“
“The person we need to believe on is Jesus Christ.” The person we need to believe on is Jesus Christ. What does this mean? You see, the Bible is God’s Word to mankind. In the Bible we find the Ten Commandments (Exodus chapter 20 verse 1-17) which God has given for us to obey. But the Bible tells us that we cannot obey them because we are all sinners or law-breakers. In Romans chapter 3 verse 10 we read, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:” and in James chapter 2 verse 10, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.“
If God looks at us and sees sin, He cannot have a relationship with us. Since we are sinners, we can’t spend eternity with a sinless God. I knew I was a sinner–I had broken His commandments many times. For example, the first commandment found in Exodus chapter 20 verse 3 states, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” In my life, things like sports, TV, and academics were taking priority over God.
What is the penalty for our sin? Romans chapter 6 verse 23 states, “For the wages of sin is death.” God is talking about a spiritual death – one that leaves us apart from Him forever in a place called Hell. But the end of Romans chapter 6 verse 23 provides the good news: “but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” You see, Jesus Christ gives us this eternal life by removing our sin. Until Jesus removes our sin, we cannot be in fellowship with Him.
Evidence of a relationship with God is seen by a changed life – a life that strives to please God and keep His commandments. I was living to please myself and had no relationship with God. “For years I had not known for sure where I would spend eternity. Now I knew for sure that I was a sinner heading for Hell.” For years I had not known for sure where I would spend eternity. Now I knew for sure that I was a sinner heading for Hell.
I continued attending church but left quickly after the services because I did not want to talk to anyone about my lost condition. Jesus described my condition in John chapter 3 verse 20, “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.“
The pastor’s son spent many hours with me in Bible study and helped me realize my condition before God. I was finally at the end of myself. On January 10, 1999, in repentance (turning away from the sin), I trusted Jesus Christ to save me. Jesus says in John chapter 11 verse 25, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?“
God desires everyone to be saved and have a relationship with Him. God says in John chapter 3 verse 17, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” Where do you stand as you face eternity? Luke chapter 19 verse 10 says, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Jesus Christ is willing to save you. Will you let Him?