I grew up near Rochester, New York, and considered myself a good kid. Okay, I wasn’t anything special, but I had Christian parents that passed along Godly values. They taught me to be responsible for my actions, to choose good friends, and to put my best effort into every task. “I attended church and became comfortable living in a religious environment.” I attended church and became comfortable living in a religious environment. I was a quiet kid and didn’t cause a lot of trouble. At the age of 5, my Sunday school teacher led me in a prayer to God, asking Him to take me to Heaven when I die.
For the next few years, I thought very little about spiritual things. I was busy growing up and living for my own childhood pleasures. However, God used a series of events to change the course of my life. First of all, my Dad was transferred to a job location in New Jersey for two years, and our entire family moved to be with him. Besides having to re-learn their driving skills, my parents were forced to find a new church. Having always attended Baptist churches in the past, my parents found a small Baptist church, out in the middle of nowhere. I don’t remember much about the church, except for my Sunday school teacher and his creativity and humor in telling Bible stories.
It was at that church that my parents started to think more seriously about raising children to love God. Part of that desire came from our experience with the public schools of New Jersey and, sadly, a Christian school that was no different. At the end of two years, we moved back to New York and my parents decided to join some pioneers in a new field called home schooling.
Returning to our church and friends in New York was a strange experience. Two years had made a big difference in our family, and we had grown used to direct teaching from the Bible. The Bible was not the authority in the church we had attended before, and so after another physical move (to a larger house in the country), our family changed churches again. “Now I was in a position for God to speak directly to my heart.” Now I was in a position for God to speak directly to my heart.
As I sat under the preaching of God’s Word, I heard some disturbing facts from the Bible. I listened as the pastor read from Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” He explained that God had created a perfect world, and how sin, the breaking of God’s law, had ruined God’s creation. I knew that I was a sinner, because God’s law says that lying, evil desires, and disobedience to parents are all sins against Him.
I had a feeling of guilt and insecurity that I could not get rid of. Over and over again, I heard the penalty for sin—death and eternal separation from God forever. It is one thing to offend or harm another person, but to sin against an all-powerful, eternal, Holy God, demands an eternal payment. Would God send me to Hell? I had asked Him to reserve a place for me in Heaven, but what hope did I have of ever making it there?
I was troubled. As I looked back on my prayer as a 5-year old, I realized that at that time I had not considered my sin or the penalty of my sin. I knew that one day I would stand before God and be judged according to the perfection of Jesus Christ. I knew that I would not pass the test. I asked God again and again to rescue me from an eternity of suffering, but I felt no change. In my heart I knew that simply praying words was not enough. Who would pay for my sin?
One evening, while I was attending a Christian Seminar in Rochester, New York, I found the answer to my struggle with guilt. The speaker was dealing with a passage from the Bible that says, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Romans 5:8-9)
God demonstrated His love by sending His son, Jesus Christ, to die and pay the penalty for my sin. I had heard the message many times before, but that evening it suddenly made sense. The answer to my problem was not the right prayer, the right feeling, or some special sacrifice to God. What I needed was to be justified (forgiven) by His payment. “The best that I could do was not enough.” The best that I could do was not enough. Only God could pay for my sin, and He promised to do it! All I needed to do was accept His free gift of salvation. (Salvation, saved and born again are Biblical terms referring to the forgiveness of sins by God and the rescue of a person from the power and penalty of that sin. This is God’s requirement for everlasting life.)
That night, at the age of 13, I finally realized how foolish it was to continue in fear and doubt about the destiny of my soul. I humbled myself, repented of my sin, and prayed to accept the promise of God, by faith. As I prayed, I told God that I was turning away from my sin, and trusting in Jesus Christ as my only payment. I gave my rottenness to God and asked Him for His goodness. I believed that God wanted to save me, that He would save me, and that if He did not save me, I was destined to an eternity in Hell.
It was on that evening, in August of 1991, that God came into my heart and cleansed me of my sins. He gave me a hunger to read the Bible, a love for people and a purpose worth living for. I wish that I could say that I lived happily ever after, but the truth is that I went through the same problems and struggles that every young person faces. My outward circumstances remained the same, but the change to my life was on the inside. Instead of a heart pained by fear and doubt, God has given me joy and peace through a relationship with Him. I’ve anchored my life on the truth of the Bible, and God is at work changing my outward actions.
Friend, God says that you will stand before Him someday, to give account for your life here on earth. The question is: Who will pay for your sins? Christ already died so that you can be forgiven. However, without accepting that payment, you stand guilty before God, and are destined to pay forever for your violation of His law. The choice is yours.
Let me encourage you to study the Bible for yourself and learn what God says about your sin and your need for a Savior.