Today is Valentine’s day. You know what would be a good thing to write about today. Love and dating and marriage! I can also talk about how I tried to buy flowers at Ralphs last night at 9pm, because I couldn’t make it in time to get it at Trader Joe’s. Then I didn’t, because the flowers were super expensive. So I bought chocolate instead.. Yeah.. I’m not going to do that even though that’s the whole story. Maybe another time.. Anyways, I will share my personal love story of how I came to know Christ and how I continue to live as a Christian. Fair warning, it’s kind of lengthy.
When I was young, my parents took me to a Catholic church. I didn’t like it. It was hard for me to sit still and I caused a ruckus. My friends were there, so it was fine. Unfortunately, the Catholic church closed down, and my family tried to go to other Catholic churches. I had a feeling that my parents didn’t really like the other churches, because their friends weren’t there. Thankfully, some family friends in the Catholic church ended up going to a Christian church and invited us. We went, and I thought it was really cool. I was fascinated that they were playing drums and guitar in contrast to the organ or piano or something that they used at the Catholic church. I made friends, and my parents did too.
From this, my parents became Christians and decided to send me to Christian school when I was in the third grade. I was slowly exposed to more of the Bible, because I had Bible lessons along with my school lessons. I did well in school, and thankfully, I was able to pay attention during sermons, but I was still kind of rambunctious.
I was a “bully.” I had my own sense of righteousness and justice, so whenever I felt like someone was doing something that I thought was wrong, then I would hit them. I took matters into my own hands and made sure that they knew that they were doing something wrong. This happened a lot, and I made kids cry. As a result, I was a bully without really thinking I was, and I got scolded by my parents a lot.
I got easily angered and frustrated, because a lot of kids made me angry and frustrated. I thought I knew what was right and exacted my own justice, but I learned it was wrong since my parents would scold me for it and since kids cry. They were also church kids. I knew I was bad. I made kids cry.
Closer to the end of sixth grade, my school at the time had their annual “Spiritual Emphasis Week” where there was a series of sermons for the middle school and high school students. They also invited out the sixth graders on one of the sermons and that was explicitly a gospel message. We went there, and I remember that the pastor talked specifically about Hell. He talked about how scary Hell was and how there’d be snakes. You would burn forever in Hell, and it was not a good place. That freaked me out. I didn’t want to go to Hell. I knew that I was a bad kid because of all that bad things that I did. I made other kids cry, I was disobedient to my parents, and I got angry all the time. If God’s punishment for bad people was Hell, I didn’t want to go there, and I didn’t want to be bad. The pastor had everyone close their eyes and asked if anyone wanted to be saved, then they could raise their hands. I raised my hand. Then, they told me to go with a teacher, and they had me pray a prayer to accept Jesus into my life as my Savior.
Okay, so I thought to myself, “I’m a Christian now. That means I have to do what a Christian would do” I tried to be a better person and live according to what the Bible says. I tried not to hit kids, to be more obedient to my parents, and to not get angry as often.
I still messed up. I wasn’t perfect and could not completely stop what I was doing. I thought that this would take away my salvation. I felt so guilty about my mistakes that I didn’t know what to do other than keep trying to be better. I prayed for repentance and asked for forgiveness, but I did not think that I was actually forgiven since I kept continuing in my sins.
I doubted whether or not God forgave me of my sins and if I could go to Heaven. I was unsure if I was actually a Christian. Because of this, whenever I heard a sermon that talked more about sin, how much we need Christ, and asked people if they wanted salvation, then I most likely participated. This happened over and over again. It was so confusing, and I got really bothered by it.
I also thought that my actions did not line up with other Christians. I went to church camps in middle school and high school where the people were more charismatic. They were very on fire for God and showed it in very emotional ways like yelling and convulsing on the floor. It was a very foreign sight. They were very friendly, but I remember thinking, “I’m not doing that. Does that mean God is not in me?” I was very confused, and I wanted to be sure that I could go to heaven.
I asked other teachers about how to know if you are saved. I got various answers, but I only remember a handful of them. I think one said “you just know.” That didn’t help me, because I didn’t feel like it was true from my sins. Another said “Salvation is a fact. You just got to remember that. It won’t change.” That helped me a little bit, but it didn’t put my mind at complete rest. I continued to just try to live as a Christian and be obedient until senior year.
I had the same Bible teacher from tenth grade to twelfth grade, and I didn’t think that this year would be any different. My teacher made a new Bible Honors Class. He hand selected people to be part of this class, and I’m not sure why I got selected. Maybe my grades, and I paid attention. It didn’t matter. I liked that teacher and was fine with any type of honors class. It was actually less intensive than what our other peers had to go through, but what I learned impacted me for the rest of my life.
In this class, my Bible teacher wanted us to learn more about God by going through what the Bible says. In previous classes, we read books about the Bible and looked up some verses or chapters here and there, but in this class, we went more in depth into the Scriptures in addition to some books. We learned more about Systematic Theology and different doctrines while going through books in the Bible like Romans. It was great. I learned so much during that year about God, His Word, the Church, and Christian living in general.
One doctrine stuck with me the most despite being a difficult doctrine to accept: the doctrine of predestination. I first learned about this in history class in tenth grade when my AP US history book was talking about John Calvin and how he taught predestination. The doctrine is that God predestines a group of people called the elect to go to heaven. I thought that it was stupid as a tenth grader, because in my mind, I thought that no one would be saved and no one can know if they’re saved. Maybe John Calvin would be hand picking who are the elect if he came up with that. This may have been some of the things going on in my tenth grader mind and not actually looking through the Bible about it. I was thankfully proven wrong and sure enough predestination is actually mentioned in the Bible. This wasn’t a crazy cult idea.
Ephesians 1:3-5 says
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
Since it was in the Bible, I paid a lot closer to attention to what it was and how it worked. To this day, I don’t know exactly how it works, but I can at least tell you about the overwhelming love of God. Towards the end of verse 4, Paul wrote “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” God predestined us to adoption as sons. The Bible says He did this “in love” and “according to the kind intention of His will.” God planned to save us all along.
This blew my mind.
All those years thinking about how messed up and sinful I was. All those years living in doubt and thinking that I would go to Hell. All those years thinking that I could lose my salvation because of how wretched of a person I was.
God knew all of that.
He knew how messed up and sinful I was. He knew how much I would doubt Him and how uncertain I would be. He knew that I would continue to mess up even after coming to have such a basic knowledge of Him.
Despite all of that, God still chose to save me, and He gave up His Son in order to do that. How could the God of the universe who had the power, authority, and the right to throw me in Hell go through such great lengths in order to make me His child? Me? A bully who had absolutely no hope to do anything better on his own and could only be completely changed by God? God chose to save me. He did this in love, and this was His intention.
My doubt melted away, and I was overwhelmed by the love of God. I couldn’t help but talk about it. My girlfriend at the time was in the same class, and afterwards, I was telling her “wow isn’t this crazy? God loves us!” She looked at me and said, “Yeah of course He does.”
The truth was so simple, but it took years for me to better understand that. I started to live for Him not to reconcile myself, but knowing that He loved me and that He already paid the penalties for my sin. God gave His Son, so that I could have life in Him. God raised Him from the dead proving that His children could also have new life and conquer death. I trusted His Word, because I learned of the great love that He loved me with and that He was careful and thoughtful in His plan. I am glad to continue to do so, and I can’t wait to be more like Him and to see Him as He is in Heaven.
Thanks for reading. Sorry that it’s super long. I hope that you were encouraged and that you know God’s love. He loves you also, and He wants you to repent of your sins and believe in His saving work through Christ. He wants you to love Him and obey Him according to His Word.