It was a Thursday afternoon and I was in the middle of a double period of high school German--but I wasn't learning much German that day. I was up the back of the class with Stuart, and Stuart was telling me about Jesus.
'Religious fanatics' were not my cup of tea, so it was odd that I should be genuinely interested in what one of them had to say. I was a 'normal' teenager, brought up in a good middle class Australian family. Like most people I knew, I 'believed in God,' although my 'faith' was vague, not very relevant to everyday life, and certainly not something you talked about. I went to Sunday School for a while--I suppose my parents thought it a good idea, although my teachers may have thought otherwise. When we were still young, Mum and Dad, though not regular church-goers themselves, gave each one of us a Bible—a black, leather-covered King James Version with our initials in gold on the front. I thought it was very 'holy' if somewhat incomprehensible. My knowledge of God and the Bible was pretty vague. I didn't think about such things much--basically I was happy and had no desire to become a 'religious weirdo.'
Looking back I can now see that some of the 'religious fanatics' I knew and avoided were fair dinkum Christians, and it seemed my class mate Stuart was one of them. But this time I was not ducking for cover—this time it was interesting, new and making sense. I am not sure that my German teacher would have been impressed with my sudden and inexplicable interest in 'religious stuff,' especially in the middle of her class.
After school, Stuart gave me a booklet to read. Late that night, I retreated to my room, closed the door, and read the booklet again and again. It was about 'good news'—'gospel' was the old English word for it—but there was also bad news.
I read that God made everything, including humankind, and it was all good. Yep, fine so far—I knew that already. It then went on to say that Adam and Eve, although they had it really good, decided to rebel or 'sin' against God who was the source of life and every good thing. This is where the bad news started in earnest. I vaguely recalled hearing this before in Sunday School and in 'Scripture' at school, but it was like I was hearing it for the first time.
It got worse. The whole human race, and indeed all of creation, was affected by this first act of rebellion. Everyone born after Adam was born 'bent.' Just as hens are naturally inclined to lay eggs, so humans are born 'sinners,' with a natural inclination to keep disobeying God, whether actively, or by way of cold indifference.
There are some major problems with this. Firstly, we are made in a certain way. Just as most cars are designed to run on petrol rather than, say, orange juice, so people have a very basic need to be in right relationship with God, and also with others. The second problem is that rejecting God (actively or passively) comes at a price. God is good, and the source of all good things, but he is also 'holy' and won't have a bar of sin. His standard is perfection, and he is going to judge everyone. Furthermore, this is his world, and he has the right to be the ruler of everything and everyone. But, 'bent' and rebellious, we have decided to go our own way.
Things were now getting a bit close to home. For the first time I was really understanding this stuff, and taking it to heart. Basically I was living in a fool's paradise. Whether 'nice' or 'bad,' everyone has rebelled against God, ignored him and not really loved him at all. And the price of 'sin' is hell—being cut off forever from God and every good thing. Suddenly it dawned on me that it was useless comparing myself with others, and taking comfort from being relatively 'OK.' I had to deal with God and him alone—and his standard was perfection.
I was getting a very heavy dose of 'conviction of sin.' The indifference, the excuses and the veneer of 'OK-ness' were stripped away. Even if I was the best person in the world, I wasn't going to measure up to God's standard of absolute perfection. Now I knew for the first time that I deserved hell. The bad news couldn't get any worse.
But God provided the solution. I started to read about God's mercy. But more amazingly I was learning that God is merciful—forgiving sin—and at the same time holy and just—demanding that the penalty is paid for sin. But how can this be? The solution is mind-blowing. No human could have dreamed it up, and this to my mind is what sets Christianity apart from all other religions.
The solution is a substitute, and the substitute is Jesus. (No wonder they call it 'CHRISTianity!'). God the Father sent his own Son to live and to die in the place of people like you and me. We couldn't live a perfect life, but Jesus did it for those whom he came to rescue. Though he was God, he became a real human being, felt the full strength of temptations, felt pain and humiliation, but never disobeyed God. Then he died in the place of his people, satisfying God's justice. So, God himself paid the price and paved the way for us to be at peace with him.
What was I to do? I went on to read that I could never earn 'salvation'—Jesus had done it all. It was a gift from God. How did I get this gift? I had to come to God 'confessing' my sin—agreeing that I was a rebel and deserved hell; I had to come to God in 'repentance'—turning away from my disobedience and turning towards God; and I had to come in 'faith,' trusting and loving Jesus. I did it! I prayed simply and sincerely. And that night I was 'saved'—Jesus had 'rescued the perishing.'
It is not the same for everyone though. For example, in the case of my wife Joy, coming to Jesus was a more gradual thing. But it is the same 'good news' in every case, and the same Jesus who makes us safe.
So, what about you? God offers you peace and reconciliation, and this is found in coming to Jesus. Meet him now as Friend, Master and Saviour, or in the next life as your Judge.