From Rebelling to Rejoicing!
-Matthew Spangenberg

From Rebelling to Rejoicing!

My name is Matthew Spangenberg, and this is my story.

I was born and raised in a Christian home and was in church from before I can remember. I learned about God, good and evil, sin, and all that stuff from a very young age. I remember at the age of 13, at a Christian teen camp, I prayed to God and asked Him to take me to Heaven – not because I was willing to give my life to Christ or please Him with my life, but because I didn’t want to go to Hell.

As I grew up I tried to be a good kid. I went to church with my family, was an usher, memorized Bible verses, and went to teen activities at church. I never got into drinking, cursing, or drugs. I was your “average good kid.” Whenever I had doubts about whether I really was OK with God, I would remember back to when I had prayed a prayer at 13; then I would feel better.

As I got older, I became rebellious. On the outside I looked OK – I still went to church, had my hair clean cut, talked right and tried to act like I was following God. But I had bitterness and rebellion inside towards authority in my life. Over the years my rebellion came out more and more. I had a bad attitude, disrespected my parents, got into some wrong music, and even had some trouble with the law. When I had doubts about my real relationship with God, I would just push them off and blame other people or things for why I sinned. I would justify why it was ok to be mad and not to listen to authority. After all – I knew best.
I was home schooled my whole life, which only fueled my rebellion more. I started going to a local community college for my senior year of high school. After I graduated high school, I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t stand going to college and living at home. More schooling wasn’t for me. My relationship with my parents had gotten worse over the years, and I was ready to get out on my own and away from it all. I started working construction part time and enjoyed that. So, at 18 I found a room to rent, quit college, and worked a lot.
"I would justify why it was ok to be mad and not to listen to authority. After all – I knew best.”
I had some goals in my life, and I worked hard to reach them. At 19 years old, I got engaged to my future wife, Jennifer. When I wasn’t spending time with her, I was working extra jobs to save up money to buy a house.

During that time living on my own, I matured a lot and started to question my personal relationship with God. I felt like I didn’t have a relationship with Him. Sure, I still went to church every Sunday and even on Wednesday. I still told others I was a Christian. I was still a clean cut and decent guy. From the outside no one would know I was having doubts. I needed to get some clarity about the whole situation, so I met with an older friend of mine who I could tell was a genuine Christian. I really wanted him to just rubber stamp that I was OK and all my inward struggles were just normal. He told me that it didn’t matter what he thought, but only what God thought that mattered. He suggested we start a Bible study to see what God had to say about life and salvation. Even though I was raised in a Christian church and “knew” everything about the Bible and God, I thought it couldn’t hurt to just review.

We went through the study about the Law of God, the Ten Commandments. God says if you break one commandment in just one of the areas that you are guilty of breaking all of them. Wow, that is a pretty high standard to make – sinless perfection for your whole life in order to have God’s favor! Who can do that? No one can. We all have sinned. None of us is perfect. I wasn’t perfect before God. Looking at God’s law with an open mind and being honest with myself, I had to admit that I was not right with God. I was actually an enemy of God. I learned that the Bible says there is no middle ground. There is no “Being OK” with God. You are either His child or His enemy. You are either a child of God or a child of the Devil. The Bible says that we are all born as a child of the Devil and that we must be born again in order to be a child of God.
"I had to admit that I did not have the Spirit of God in my life.”
I had to admit that I did not have the Spirit of God in my life. The fruit of the Spirit, like love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, and kindness, were lacking in my life. As much as I would try to be a good person and do right, those Godly attitudes were not inside of me. I realized I was lost and did not belong to God. I was scared. But I had so much pride. I would lie to myself and refuse to admit to myself my true condition. I knew that if I ever admitted that, then I would have to do something about it.
Once I realized I was in trouble with God, what could I do about it? From growing up in church, I knew I had to pray to God and ask Him to forgive me, but could it be that simple? I was crushed by the fact that all my life I had rejected the God of Heaven, the One who loved me so much, in order to live for my selfish desires. I knew I needed to repent and was pretty shook up. I didn’t want my emotions to get the best of me and just have some emotional experience. I wanted true clarity and full understanding of what I was doing. My friend recommended a book to me called Advice for Seekers, by Charles Spurgeon. That book really spoke to me and showed me that Jesus had died on the cross for MY sins, a fact I knew but hadn’t personally understood. If I was the only person alive, or the only person who ever sinned, Jesus still would have come and died for me. I had tried to live a “good” life while growing up (and failed miserably). I tried to stay away from “bad” things and do what was “right.” But the problem was that it was me TRYING to earn God’s favor. I realized there was nothing I could do to be good enough or to have forgiveness for the sins I had already committed.

So, what could I do now? The answer was simple. Nothing. There was nothing for me to do BECAUSE Jesus had already done it all. I was a rotten and wicked sinner in God’s holy eyes. The only way I could have my sins forgiven and become right in God’s eyes was through the blood of Jesus.

Romans 5:8 says, “But God commendeth (showed) His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
I had to surrender my life and my will to Him and accept His will for my life. That was the hardest part for me. I had a lot of pride and big plans for my life. Whenever someone said something couldn’t be done, or I was too young for something, I would think, “Oh yeah? I will show you.” And I usually did. I never liked to ask for help. I liked to do things on my own and by myself. I had to realize that salvation did not hinge on what I could do for myself, but just on the fact of me accepting a free gift.

“The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
"I had to surrender my life and my will to Him and accept His will for my life.”
The free gift of God – salvation through Jesus – was right there the whole time. I just needed to reach out and take it. I remember kneeling down next to by bed and crying out to the Lord to forgive me for all my sins – my rebellion, my stubbornness, my pride. I admitted that I deserved to die for my own sins and burn in Hell forever. I asked the Lord to be in charge of my life and show me His will. All my life, I had heard the Bible preached and had learned all about Jesus and the cross, but I had never made it personal until that night. When I prayed to the Lord to save me that night, at that very moment, He did.

Ever since that night, the Lord has changed my life. I am still the same person on the outside, but Christ made me a new man on the inside. He took away the bitterness I had in my heart and changed my attitude towards authority. The Lord changed my desires – after that night I wanted to please the Lord.

I am so thankful for God’s gift of salvation. It’s so simple and free. Anyone can enjoy the peace and purpose in life that only He can give. If you are looking for true peace in life no matter what comes, you need Christ. We all do. We are all born with an emptiness deep inside that we try to fill. The Answer is Jesus Christ. If you have never experienced the transforming power of the forgiveness and love of God, I would urge you to strongly consider it today. Jesus died for you and loves you. He is waiting for you to call out to Him and accept His free offer of salvation. It is the best decision you could ever make. The Lord has blessed me so much more than I could ever imagine. He has given me my best friend as my wife, three precious daughters, a home in heaven, peace, joy, purpose in life, etc. I couldn’t imagine going through this life without Christ. It would be so empty and pointless. There is more to life than just the here and now, riches and success. There is eternity ahead of us. This life is just a small blip on the radar of eternity. If you ever want to know more about the God who I serve and who has changed my life, I would be more than happy to talk to you about it and answer any questions you may have. God is real and wants to know you. Please don’t ignore Him.

What will you do with the Jesus?