“I Was Tired of Living an Empty Life!”
My name is Jeremiah Cefola, and this is my story. I was born into a Christian family and was raised in Lehigh Valley Baptist Church. I have attended there for as long as I can remember. Because I was in a Christian family, I always thought I was a good kid. I knew I wasn’t perfect, but I thought I was better than a lot of my friends at church and certainly better than my non-Christian friends. As I got older, I began absorbing Biblical knowledge like a sponge. I quickly became the guy with all the Bible answers, but I never owned any of those truths for myself; I knew Scripture in my head, but I didn’t know God in my heart, and I felt no urgency to change that.
I remained in this mindset until 2012 when I was able to attend my first Youth Group Summer Camp. During a particular message from the camp speaker, God brought me under conviction of sin in my life. I went forward during the invitation and asked God to save me from having to experience the consequences of my sinful choices. I promised to love Him and to try to follow his commands for me. I felt pretty good after that. I thought: “Now that that’s done, I can go on with my life and do what I want.”
“My heart was lacking in genuine commitment that day, but the experience did encourage me to start looking for God in my daily life.”
During the next few years, I began to pay more attention to the preaching in church. I kept going to teen summer and winter camps, and I tried to hear from God in the sermons that were given.
One Sunday night, a friend of mine came up to me in the foyer and told me that he’d gotten saved. (Note: “saved,” “salvation,” and “born again” are Biblical concepts 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.) In the weeks that followed, I began to notice a dramatic change in his actions and behavior. He did many of the same good, Christian things he’d done before, but now I could see he had a desire to truly please God and serve Him from a heart of love. That really convicted me as I had not experienced any significant change in my life.
“I was just going through the motions of Christianity so everyone would think I was a good kid.”
I told myself I was saved. I knew I had prayed to God back in 2012, and I’d promised to serve Him better. But still, my life had not been transformed the way my friend’s had been. I didn’t talk or even think about God as much as I knew a child of God should. I rushed through my devotions or sometimes skipped them altogether. I rarely prayed, and when I did, it was always at church where I knew I was supposed to be praying. I knew all the facts of salvation in my head, but I still didn’t believe in my heart that Jesus Christ was the only way I could ever be saved and have eternal life.
I was an empty shell – living a good, Christian life on the outside, but in reality, it was all a sham. There was no way that this was the abundant life the Bible promises to those who believe on Him! I was missing a vital part of salvation – and therefore was not saved at all!
When I prayed in 2012, I had overlooked the fact that salvation was by grace through faith. I had thought that because I said I was sorry for my sin, God had no choice but to save me. I knew that God’s Word said that God would save me from my sins and that He desired to do so. All I had to do was surrender completely to Him, but I didn’t have the faith to put my life in God’s hands and trust Him completely. I just wanted God to save me from the consequences of my sin, but then, I wanted Him out of my life.
It wasn’t until 2015 when I finally woke up to the reality of the emptiness of my life. I was privileged to go on a teen missions trip to Scotland. Upon our return, several of us were asked to sum up a few things about the trip that we felt were important and how the trip had been a spiritual benefit to us. I agreed to share my experiences, and I gave a quick testimony in the evening service that Sunday. After seeing several other teens share their experiences, I realized that the emphasis of my report had been on myself and what I had done. Those teens, who had a testimony of salvation, focused more on others and the work that God was doing in Scotland. I was struck by the obvious difference between my motives and desires and those of people who were God’s true children.
I knew why they were different than I was. Although I claimed to be saved, my profession of salvation hadn’t resulted in much of a change in my thinking.
“I still was living for myself, and my Christian facade was just for show.”
I had little to no desire to please God with my life, and I didn’t want to surrender to Him. But the more I tried to run my own life, the more discontented I became with the direction my life was headed. The preaching that night encouraged me to dig a little deeper in my thinking, but I don’t remember what the topic of the message was. I guess I was too busy wrestling with God.
When we got home after church, I was still fighting conviction. My dad asked if we could talk, and I shared my doubts about my salvation with him. My dad asked some questions about my profession from 2012, and I was forced to admit that something was seriously wrong with my relationship with God, and I was ready to deal with it.
I finally understood that my motives for wanting to be saved had been wrong, and I realized that God still saw my sin was in need of cleansing. I decided to deal with my sin once and for all, not just for my own peace, but also because I truly desired to have a real relationship with God.
When we finished talking, I went up to my room and surrendered everything to the Lord. I asked Him to forgive me of my sins and to change me on the inside. God heard my prayer that night! The Bible says in John 6:37 “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” I believe God and His promise of salvation, and so I know that on October 4th, 2015, I was saved by God’s grace!
Now, I have a true desire to love God and serve Him. I now have the Holy Spirit of God living inside of me. God’s Spirit directly applies the words of Scripture to my life, and I have experienced a real transformation in my motives and my desires. I’m in no way perfect, but God is continually growing me to become more like Him. Colossians 1:13-14, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”