I thought I was destined for heaven. I believed in God and Jesus, said my prayers every night and led a ‘good clean life’. I was christened as a baby, brought up as a churchgoer, and confirmed in the Church of England. What had I to worry about?
But one day my brother, Michael, announced that he had been ‘saved’. I hadn’t a clue what he meant, so I asked him. ‘I have come to know the Lord Jesus as my Saviour’, he replied. ‘Oh good’, I thought, ‘now he is like us’. What a shock was in store for me!
In the course of time, Michael came to Thornhill as pastor of the Baptist church. My mother and father started attending the services and told me, ‘You ought to come and hear him – he’s good you know’.
‘Oh yes’, I thought, ‘I don’t doubt it. But I’m too busy with my life – I’ll go when I’ve time’. Eventually I did go to an evening service. I felt quite at home with my younger brother in the pulpit and friendly people all around me.
But what Michael was preaching annoyed me a great deal. He talked about a holy God who could see all things and was angry with our wickedness. He said we all deserved to go to hell.
How could I be going to hell? I had never done anything wrong! Arriving home, I would throw my bag down and tell my husband, Bill, ‘He’s saying we’re all sinners deserving hell. I’m not listening to him any more’.
But I did, because what I was hearing really ‘bugged’ me and I had to get things straight in my mind. The thought of going to hell scared me and I knew in my heart that heaven and hell were real.
I had to prove to myself that what Michael was saying was wrong. As soon as Bill set off to work at six in the morning I would get up and read my Bible. I realised that this book truly was unique – it didn’t pull any punches about what people are like. This had to be God’s Word because man would not have been so critical of himself.
But there was good news too. Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). The apostle Paul declared, ‘By grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God’ (Ephesians 2:8).
It was all about what happened on the cross when Jesus died. He died to save us: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16).
Had Christ died for me? So much was going on in my mind, things I had never grasped before. I continued reading – Jesus said, ‘I and my Father are one’. So Jesus is God. Incredible!
Two years went by – seeking, searching, arguing in my own mind. But eventually I accepted that I needed to be saved – to be ‘reborn’ by God working in my heart.
One Sunday evening Michael read the ‘family tree’ of Jesus at the beginning of the New Testament that traces his earthly lineage all the way back to Abraham.
The penny dropped! Yes, all this was true. Jesus is the long-promised Messiah, the Son of God. He came to this earth, lived a sinless life, and died to take away our sin. He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven – where he is now.
Jesus is eternal, and if we believe in him as our Saviour there is an eternal place for us in heaven too. I could do nothing to earn my way to heaven; it is only by the love of God that I shall be found there.
That night I went home singing the hymn, ‘O love that will not let me go’. Jesus had worked in my heart and saved me. I could now talk with him and enjoy a personal relationship with my Lord and Saviour.
Twenty years have now gone by. Although I am still a sinner, I know Christ’s righteousness covers my guilt before a holy God. I rejoice and praise him for what he has done for me.
If he can do this for me, he can do the same for you.