My eyes were opened
I started coming along to Camberwell Evangelical Church when I was just 14. My new friend from school had invited me along. She’d been brought up in the church and thought I might enjoy playing rounders in the park with the rest of her young friends during the summer.
I had a really good time. Everyone was friendly and kind, and at the end we all sat down on the grass and some guy stood up for about 10 minutes and talked about God. It was there that I first heard that I was a sinner and that one day God was going to judge my life.
I learned that if my life wasn’t perfect, if I couldn’t present to God a perfect life free from sin, I wouldn’t just be allowed to walk into heaven, but would be sent to hell to be punished for all eternity.
As you can imagine, this news shocked me quite a bit. I was only 14; I’d never done anything particularly bad, and I used to go to church when younger. I’d heard all about Jesus. I even believed in God and knew that Jesus was his Son.
I knew about the Christmas story and Easter, and how Jesus was crucified by his own people and had risen from the dead three days later. I would probably have called myself a Christian. I certainly wasn’t of any other religion, but I had never before considered how God and Jesus affected me and my life.
Back at school, I started speaking to my friend about what I had been told. We would have long discussions about the Bible during lunch time and after school.
My friend showed me that God is a perfect being. He created us all and the world in a perfect form thousands of years ago, but because people disobeyed the laws he had set down, sin came into the world. This meant all mankind and the world was cursed because of sin.
She showed me from the Bible that ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’ and ‘there is none righteous, no, not one’ (Romans 3:23, 10). I realised that every single one of us on earth are sinners, and, if we stay like that, we are destined to go to hell.
Because God is righteous and perfect, he is an almighty judge. He can’t just forget about sin and pretend it never happened. He has to stick to the laws he created and those say sin has a price, and that price is death. ‘For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 6:23).
But she also told me there is hope, because, although we don’t match up to God’s standards and there’s nothing we can do ourselves to please him (we can’t earn forgiveness through doing good deeds, or by giving money to churches or charities), God had provided a way for us to escape being punished.
God had provided a scapegoat — a way of remaining righteous by punishing the sin I had committed — and yet being merciful and sparing my life. That scapegoat was the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.
Jesus lived a perfect life on earth for 33 years. He didn’t sin once and, when he was crucified on the cross, took the sins of the world upon him and was punished.
He paid the price for sin. ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16).
Three days later, because he is God himself, Jesus broke the power of death and rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven to join his Father again.
Because of all this, I saw that God could forgive my sins by punishing Christ on the cross in my place and allowing me, now a soul cleaned of all sin, to go to heaven and have eternal life with him in paradise.
All this became clear to me after lots of chats with my friend, and after several months of going to the youth clubs and hearing more about the gospel and God, as well as going to Sunday evening services at the Camberwell Evangelical Church. God was speaking to me.
My eyes were being opened. I was seeing things I had missed before. I was understanding why the world is like it is. I was making sense of life and seeing a bigger picture.
And then my friend shared with me her favourite verse: ‘How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation,’ (Hebrews 2:3). I realised that I had been shown the way to be saved, the way of salvation.
I had been shown ‘the way, the truth and the life’ that came through Jesus Christ. I could no longer resist God. I saw that I was a sinner in desperate need of being saved and that, if I didn’t ask God for forgiveness, I had no one to blame but myself when I ended up in hell.
I didn’t want to go there, as the thought of an eternity spent in fear and torture made my spine tingle with fright. On a December night, at the age of 15, I asked God to forgive me my sins. I asked Jesus Christ to be my Saviour and committed my life and my soul to God.
I felt a tremendous peace, and that night couldn’t stop smiling, because I now knew Jesus as my own personal Saviour. I knew that, even though he was God and I was nothing, he loved me.
That was back in 1998. And, since then, I’ve been a committed member of Camberwell Evangelical Church, where I serve God and have fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Life hasn’t always been easy and I know I’ve let God down at times, because I’ve not lived the life I should have. But God has always been there for me and has kept his promises to never forsake me.
As a Christian, I am still a sinner. The only difference is, now I am a forgiven sinner. And I don’t want to sin, because I know how much it disgusts God and how much Christ had to pay for each and every sin I commit.
I look over my life and, even years before I was a Christian, I can see God putting me in certain scenarios or causing me to meet certain people. All this eventually led me to come along to church and hear the gospel.
Please don’t go away from reading this and forget all about it. I would like to challenge you to think things through for yourself. Read the Bible, speak to God, and seek Jesus Christ.