‘What God did for me’
I spent my early childhood surrounded by teaching about God and Christianity. My parents took me to church every Sunday, and I was quite comfortable believing what I was being taught. I had no reason or desire to doubt it, and as far as I was concerned I had everything necessary in place to be a ‘good Christian’.
But at the age of ten, God showed me that my whole way of thinking until then had been flawed. That summer I went on my first Christian camp. I don’t remember much from that week (I’m sure it was fun; I made friends and enjoyed it enough to go back the following year), but one thing was particularly significant. In one of the evening meetings, the preacher was talking about hell.
I already knew facts about hell. I knew that it was God’s punishment for sin. I knew that it was eternal and terrible, but I had always seen it as something unconnected with me, something for all those people who didn’t go to church or believe the Bible.
Suddenly, at that camp meeting, the preacher was telling me that it didn’t matter what kind of upbringing I’d had, or how much of the Bible I knew, or how many times I’d tried to be good or said a prayer – I was a sinner.
That meant that just as much as any of the worst criminals in the world I deserved hell. I hadn’t lived my life for God, but completely for myself, and if I died that night I too would be heading straight for hell.
Suddenly, it didn’t really matter that I could recite the books of the Bible off by heart or that I knew the answers to all the Sunday school questions; I needed God to have mercy on me. I needed to be saved.
Thankfully, the preacher also pointed out the way of escape – the Saviour who could rescue me from what I justly deserved. Of course, I’d known about Jesus Christ all along, and how he’d died on the cross to save us from our sins by taking the punishment instead of us.
I’d probably said those words a thousand times, but they had never been as precious or important to me as at that moment. I remember running upstairs to my room as soon as the meeting was over, kneeling by my bed, and asking God to forgive me, to save me from hell and make me a real Christian.
There was no flash of lightning or sudden magical feeling, but I knew in my heart that God had heard me and had forgiven me because of what Jesus had done.
With a sense of relief and peace, I got up and carried on with camp, now no longer just knowing about salvation, but actually experiencing it for myself.
The change may not have seemed dramatic on the outside – I still went to church, did the same ‘Christian’ things, and was a ‘good girl’ at school. But on the inside, things were very different.
The Bible was no longer just a book of facts, but a real, living book full of the things God had done for me. Church was no longer a place to go out of duty or tradition, but a place where I could worship and learn about the God who saved me.
Life isn’t just a set of rules any more, but a living, personal relationship with God, and instead of believing him and his word because my parents brought me up that way, I now believe because he has shown his love to me and has made these things a reality in my life.