I was born to a born-again Baptist preacher who is the son of a born-again Baptist preacher, so I heard the plan of salvation throughout my whole life. By the time I was 5 years old I had heard many hundreds of sermons, and practically all of them had the Gospel tied into them in some way, even if just by tagging it on to the end in closing.
Even as just a child I knew that I had done wrong.
Ephesians 6:1 (KJV) ¶ Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
Ephesians 6:2 (KJV) Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)
I had heard that commandment many times before (it’s one of the Ten Commandments), and I knew that I didn’t always obey my parents.
Exodus 20:16 (KJV) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Exodus 20:17 (KJV) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that [is] thy neighbour’s.
Romans 3:10 (KJV) As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
Romans 3:11 (KJV) There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
Romans 3:12 (KJV) They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Two more of the Ten Commandments that I knew I had broken, and I knew I was included in that “not one”. I had lied about my siblings, like when I did something wrong and said they did it. I had also coveted things of others, and I knew I was wrong. I knew I was a sinner. However, I also knew that I had never done anything “big” like robbing a bank or murdering a neighbor—just “little” sins.
One Sunday morning, my father gave a sermon on James chapter 2, verse 10:
James 2:10 (KJV) For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty of all.
Now THAT was scary. That meant that there was really no such thing as “big” or “little” sins when it came to guiltiness of breaking God’s law. That meant that I was guilty, and worthy of the same punishment as other sinners.
My father also often used a simple analogy that I remembered well: if you take a full glass of pure water, and put just a drop of dirty water in it (like from the sewer) then all the water in that glass is dirty. If you then pour that water into a gallon pitcher, and then fill that pitcher with more pure water, the pure water filling the pitcher doesn’t make the dirty water clean—it is still dirty. This is an analogy of us as sinners: after we sin, we are guilty and no matter what good we do, that will not make us not guilty of sin, and will not save us. We can NOT save ourselves, and I realized that. I realized I was a sinner who couldn’t save himself.
For hours I gave some thought about what I had heard, and the things I had come to realize, but it just wasn’t enough for me at that time so I just tried to shrug it off and go play. That Sunday evening, however, I came to realize just how serious things were. My father preached about Hell. Now, I had already heard about Hell before, but this time the reality of it really sank in.
Revelation 21:8 (KJV) But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Revelation 14:10 (KJV) The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
Revelation 14:11 (KJV) And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
Mark 9:44 (KJV) Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
That was sobering. ALL LIARS tormented in FIRE FOREVER: always thirsty, always being eaten by worms, wailing and gnashing teeth, never any rest—no hope! Wow! I knew I had lied, and so was a liar, and Hell did not seem like a very nice place—it was terrifying. And there were no good works I could do enough to save myself from that place.
As usual though, in both sermons that day my father also tied in the good news—the Gospel:
1 Corinthians 15:3 (KJV) For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died FOR OUR SINS according to the scriptures;
1 Corinthians 15:4 (KJV) And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
Romans 6:23 (KJV) For the wages of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Ephesians 2:8 (KJV) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God:
There was a way I could escape punishment! Jesus (God in the flesh) died on the cross for MY sins to save me! I really wanted that free gift! I really, really wanted to go to Heaven instead of Hell! There was still something holding me back though:
Romans 10:9 (KJV) That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
Romans 10:10 (KJV) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Romans 10:11 (KJV) For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
2 Peter 3:9 (KJV) ¶ The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
Turns out that not only did I have to understand that I was a sinner unworthy of Heaven, but I had to admit that, and I had to repent. I was ashamed to do so. I was too proud to do so. And I was afraid of what everyone else would think of me. (Silly since everyone already knew I was naughty anyway.) So there I set in my seat after the service for many, many hours into the night, struggling in my mind and heart about what decision to make.
- Do I confess my sins to God, admitting I’m no good?
- Should I believe in Jesus and confess with my mouth to everyone that I did so, admitting to them that I’m a sinner saved by grace? A bad person that couldn’t be good enough?
- Or do I keep my pride and not admit it (as though everyone didn’t already know anyway…).
Remember the first two kinds of people mentioned in Revelation chapter 21, verse 8? “…the FEARFUL, and UNBELIEVING…”
Revelation 21:8 (KJV) But the FEARFUL, and UNBELIEVING, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Finally, I decided that my pride wasn’t worth the future torment it would cost me. I finally decided that what others thought of me wasn’t worth Hell: let everyone think badly of me if they want—I want to go to Heaven!
I decided I wanted to be saved, but I didn’t 100% understand yet so I left the auditorium empty and went upstairs to my father’s office to talk with him alone. I told him that I wanted to be saved and go to Heaven, and asked him to explain things again. So again he read in God’s Holy Word about everyone being sinners, and asked me if I understood that, and I said I did. He asked me if I could save myself, and I said I couldn’t. Then gave the ever popular verse that I already knew by heart:
John 3:16 (KJV) 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.
He told me that was God’s promise to us. All we had to do is admit to God we know we were sinners, unable to save ourselves, sorry for what we had done and repentant, and believe in Jesus as our Savior and Lord God. So I let my father know I was ready and wanted to do it now. I knelt down on my knees with my elbows on a stool by the door, and I confessed to God that I was a sinner and knew I was wrong and unworthy to go to Heaven, and I was sorry and wanted to be changed, and that I also knew that he promised he would save me if I believed in Jesus, and I told him I believed, and to please keep his promise. He did! He kept his promise! The very moment that I truly believed in Jesus, I felt different: I was no longer afraid, I was no longer ashamed. My belief became knowledge: I KNEW that God existed, and I KNEW that I was saved (and still am 🙂 ), and I KNEW I would never have to fear Hell again.
During my life, after being born-again, I have almost died 4 times. All four times I never feared my death. I had peace, knowing that if I died I would go to Heaven, not Hell. I hope you also receive God’s precious gift to us, Jesus Christ his Son (and God in the Flesh), so that you will also have this “peace of God, which passeth all understanding.”
Philippians 4:7 (KJV) And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.