I Finally Admitted That My Own Efforts Would Not Gain Me a Personal Relationship with God
-Cheryl Clarke

I Finally Admitted That My Own Efforts, Good Works, and Church Affiliation Would Not Gain Me a Personal Relationship with God

My name is Cheryl Clarke, and this is my story.

A business degree, a good job with advancement opportunities, continuing education at the company’s expense, a new sports car, travel, good friends, parties, a loving family, high morals, and faithful church attendance. This described my life until a dear friend shattered it with some truths from God’s word.

Sure I was a Christian – I believed Jesus died for my sins. So I thought. I also thought salvation was obtained through belief, plus good works. Therefore, I struggled with Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” Revelation 21:8 states that unbelievers shall have their part in the “lake of fire.” This verse haunted me for a year and a half as I wondered if my “belief” was what God required. The Bible has much to say about this “lake of fire” as an eternal place of punishment for those who have not completely put their trust (100%) in Christ alone for the forgiveness of sin and access to Heaven. Was this “lake of fire” my destination? I also wondered what the true purpose and meaning to life was. Why am I here?
At this point, I began my search for the truth. Was it in religion? I questioned a Catholic priest, a friend’s mom whom I highly respected and who is very religious, my very intelligent and loving aunt who is an excellent artist and who believes in reincarnation, a Mormon, and many others. Each had sincere beliefs and opinions, but I wondered how they could all be right!
“At this point, I began my search for the truth.”
The answer came as I began to do a correspondence Bible study my friend sent me. Through the study I realized my religion (faithful church membership, baptism, good works, sincere belief, etc.) were my own effort to reach God and get to Heaven. I discovered that salvation was not in religion or man’s changing opinions, but through a person. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” God’s opinion, through His Word, the Bible, remains unchanging and dependable.

Christmas of 1977 was a revealing time for me. I saw a multitude of activity and materialism displayed all around me – but not once did I hear a mention of Christ. One evening, good friends from college got together, and I learned that we all had obtained good jobs – yet something seemed to be lacking. One friend was different – she seemed to have purpose and direction to her life. As I drove her home from the college reunion, I questioned her again about the way of salvation according to the Bible. It was about 3:50 a.m. when I left her house and started home.

On December 26, 1977, at 4 a.m., the struggle ceased! I finally admitted to God that my own efforts, good works, and church affiliation were of no value to obtain a relationship with Him and gain entrance to Heaven. I saw myself as a lost person, deserving of and on my way to that eternal “lake of fire.” At this point, I was extremely mad at the devil for trying to keep me deceived as I searched for the truth for a year and a half.
“My early morning experience of salvation changed my thinking and desires.”
At that point, I yielded my heart to the truth of the Bible – that Christ died for my sin. I asked God for His forgiveness of my sin, and put my trust in Christ alone for salvation. God answered that prayer and gave me a personal, family relationship with Him and a wonderful peace of mind and heart! The battle was over! Now my eternal destiny is settled, not because of anything I have done – but by His grace alone.
In fact, you very well may be a better person than I am – but, we all still need to come to God on His terms. God wants us to know in this life that we have an eternal home in Heaven with Him. First John 5:13 states, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God: that ye may know that ye have eternal life.”

The Bible says that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.” (Second Corinthians 5:17) And Jesus Christ said in John 10:10, “I am come that they might have life; and that they might have it more abundantly.” The “fad” has lasted for more than 30 years, and my desire to please God has not diminished.