Today marks 16 years since I became a follower of Christ! Does this mean I can drive the church van now? In all seriousness, it is the best decision I ever made. I was doing well in business at the time, but ever since I met Lisa, I had felt that there was something missing in my life…there was definelty something she had that I didn’t. There was something about her life and church that was nothing like mine.
About 7pm that night there was a knock at my door and it was 2 guys I had met from Lisa’s church. While I knew Keith and Marvin were good guys, I didn’t invite them in, but instead offered to sit with them out on the front porch. After a bit of conversation, they asked me two questions that forever changed my life.
“Gilbert do you know for certain that if you were to die today that you would go to heaven?” I quickly responded, “Of course I would”. Then they asked, “If you were to die today and stand before God and He were to say to you, ‘Gilbert, why should I let you into my heaven’, what would you say?” Again I was quick with an answer, “Well I go to church and I try to do the best that I can. I know I haven’t been perfect, but I definelty try to do more good than bad”.
What they shared next with me, shocked me in some ways, but at the same time revealed that missing piece I was searching for. Over the next 20-30 minutes they shared with me the Gospel. For the first time it made sense! Why had I never heard this growing up in church?
Marvin and Keith shared that…God wants to give us heaven as an absolutely free gift and there is nothing we can do to earn that gift, nor do we even deserve it. The problem for us though is our sin. Even just 3 sins a day adds up to tens of thousands over the course of a lifetime. Are we really going to be able to stand before God and say how “good” we were? I had to agree that “no, I sin a lot more than 3 times in a day”. I was starting to getting a sinking feeling…maybe I was too quick to assume that I was going to heaven when I died.
They continued on by sharing that while God loves us and doesn’t want to punish us, He is also just and fair and must punish our sin. In my mind I swore…I dropped a couple of “F” bombs as I thought about how messed up I was…not even realizing at the time that I was compounding my problem. “How in the world am I ever going to me good enough to repay God for all this,” I thought.
What they shared next answered that for me…I wasn’t ever going to be good enough. “Well then we’re all just going to hell then,” I asked. “No,” they said. “Well then what’s the solution?’ They asked me who I thought Jesus was. “Well he was the Son of God, he was a good teacher, he did some miracles, he taught us how to live”. “Yes, that’s true” they replied, but “Who is Jesus?” “My goodness taking the SAT’s was easier than the questions these guys are throwing at me,” I thought. “I don’t know…please tell me”.
What they shared next literally has changed my life forever. “Jesus was actually God Himself, who took on human flesh and blood and lived the perfect and sinless life that you and I can never live and then died on the cross so that all of our sins can be forgiven”. In other words, someone needs to pay the penalty for your sins…either it will be you standing before God claiming that you were perfect, or you’ll allow Jesus to pay it for you.
I remember starting to well up with tears as I realized that God loved me so much that He had come to die for my sins. Marvin and Keith shared some other things with me, but I just couldn’t escape the realization that if I continued down the path I was on, I deserved eternal punishment in hell and I recognized that I actually deserved it. But then also realizing that Jesus made a way possible for my sins to be forgiven…even remembered no more…gave me a sense of peace and hope.
When they were done talking they asked if everything had made sense and if i was ready to ask Jesus for His forgiveness and leadership in my life? Years later Marvin told me, “We didn’t really have to ask you that question…you could see it on your face that you had just had an encounter with Jesus and that you were ready to put Him first in your life”.
So right there on my front porch, on July 27, 1993, I prayed and asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and help me down a new path in life. From day 1 then I realized that you don’t do good things in order to be saved, but as proof that you are saved. Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them”. My fear is that too many people claim they love Jesus with their mouths, but yet their hearts are far from him. In other words, Jesus said, “If you love me, then you will obey my commands”. Again not because you’re trying to earn God’s favor, but rather out of gratitude for what He did for you. Here’s another way to think of it…Jesus gave up His life for you and now He wants you to give your whole life (time, money, actions, words, thoughts) back to Him.
So here we are 16 years later. Have I been perfect…no far from it…but I am perfectly forgiven and to the best of my abilities as the Spirit of God which lives inside of me directs me, I try to follow His every prompting. I often say that, “God wants and has a better plan for your life than you even have for your life”. I can say that with confidence because for 16 years now I’ve seen it played out in my own life.
I’ll wrap up with this…”If you were to die today and stand before God and He were to say, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven’, what would you say?” If the answer has anything to do with anything other than Jesus, then review what I wrote above and pray and ask for His forgiveness and leadership, then commit to following Him for the rest of your life. What’s cool is if you do that today…you and I will share a spiritual birthday…so happy birthday to me and happy birthday to you!