Growing up in South Florida, I believed there was a God. I thought that all religions would eventually lead a person to God, provided they tried their best to be good and to follow that religion. I led a fairly normal life and never engaged in what most people would consider horrible sin. Like many people, I had my own set of beliefs and reasons why I didn’t need religion or God in my life. I thought that I was a nice, moral person (by my definition of “moral” of course).
After graduating from college, I moved to New Jersey to attend graduate school. My sister, who lived in Macungie, PA, invited me to visit the Lehigh Valley Baptist Church where she and her husband attended regularly. I did not want to go, but they kept asking and asking. I felt obligated, so I agreed to go just to get them off my back.
The message I heard there came as a real shock to me. They showed me from the Bible that just trying my best was not enough to earn a place in heaven, but rather that I had a sin problem that needed to be dealt with. (Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.“)
“I thought that all religions would eventually lead a person to God, provided they tried their best to be good and to follow that religion.”In fact, they showed me from the Bible that the only way for me to be right with God and ensure an eternal home in heaven was to repent of my sin, (repentance is a change of mind toward sin that results in a change of action; it is a turning from sin to God, not just a temporary feeling of guilt) and fully trust Christ to be my Lord and Savior. My trust needed to be in Christ alone and not any religion, church membership, infant or adult baptism, sacrament, communion, or any other work of the flesh.
I was also confronted with the unpleasant truth that those who reject God’s provision for sin, which is the precious blood of Christ shed for you and me on the Cross, are destined to spend an eternity separated from God in a literal place of fiery torment called hell. Although the message of my need of a relationship with God was not one that I wanted to hear, it was a message that I needed to hear. I was afraid of dying and going to hell, so I asked God to help me. I prayed to God, to ease my conscience, but deep down, I was unrepentant and unwilling to forsake my sin.
Months went by and during that time, I began to look at sin and its consequences from God’s perspective. I tried to change my behavior to somehow bring peace with God. I quit some bad habits, and started attending church. I even deceived myself into thinking that since I had made these outward changes, that somehow these changes were evidence that I was right with God. The changes were really due to a guilty conscience, the influence of the preaching of the Word of God, and the influence of Christian friends in the church, not to a genuine working of God in my life.
I did truly enjoy listening to preaching, singing in the choir, and fellowshipping with Christians. These were all good things, but the wrong thing was that I was trusting in these things – not Jesus Christ – for my salvation. Even though I had an intellectual knowledge that nothing I did could save me, I was so deceived “Although the message of my need of a relationship with God was not one that I wanted to hear, it was a message that I needed to hear.” that I didn’t realize that my faith was not in Christ but rather in myself and my self-reformation. I started to have doubts from time to time of whether or not I was really saved. I fooled a lot of people, even myself for awhile, but I didn’t fool God. After a week of special revival meetings, I was in church when I heard some shocking news. Our pastor’s wife, who had been married to our pastor for years and outwardly lived a holy, blameless life, gave testimony of how she had just gotten saved two nights before. She had lived right on the outside, but prior to her salvation she had not been made right by God.
I determined in my heart that night to find out for sure my condition before God. It is possible to go to church, do all the right outward things and even call Jesus “Lord” as I had done, and still be lost and on the road to hell. (Matthew 7:21, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.“)
I earnestly prayed to God to show me whether I was saved or lost. As I thought back to my supposed conversion experience, God clearly revealed to me that I had never truly repented and trusted Christ. I was lost. God made it perfectly clear to me that I had never truly surrendered control of my life to Christ, nor had I been willing to admit that I was not right with God. “All that I had was religion, and not a relationship with God.” All that I had was religion, and not a relationship with God.
I said aloud to myself, “I’m lost,” knowing that the wrath of God was presently abiding on me. (John 3:18, “But he that believeth not is condemned already.“) I threw myself to my knees, admitting my lost condition and surrendered to Jesus, trusting Him and Him alone while repenting of my sin. I knew from that moment on that I had passed from death unto life. (John 5:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.“) I had been born-again! I had stopped trusting in my self-righteous works, and put my full trust in Jesus Christ. I had received an incorruptible, eternal home in heaven!
Since then I have had a new life in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.“) I can now pray to God with an assurance that He wants to answer my prayers and I have seen God work mightily in my life in answering prayer. There is also tenderness toward the things of God that just was not there prior to salvation. The hymns and spiritual songs that used to bore me now stir my soul and speak to my heart. I have even had victory over specific sins in my life as I order the steps of each day as Christ directs me in His Word. There are still real trials and temptations, and being saved doesn’t mean I am sinless, but there is a dramatic difference in the direction of my life, not to mention an eternity with Jesus in heaven!
There is more good news! Christ loves you and died for your sins also (John 3:16,” For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.“) That whosoever includes you! You don’t have to only hope or guess that you will be in heaven when you die. You can know for sure!
Perhaps you are reading this and you know that you are not saved, or are unsure. I personally recommend that you will seriously consider God’s invitation and warning. Your eternity IS a reality and it is too important to ignore. As I mentioned before, this message may not be one that you like to hear, but it is a message that you need to hear. Who you are is not important. What is important is Who you know, namely Jesus Christ. (John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.“) God desires a personal relationship with you also. Will you respond to His invitation?