Let me share with you the difference God has made in my life. I grew up in a loving family filled with comforts and happiness. It was in junior high school that I began to deal with peer pressure, and it was then that I remember being enticed to participate in doing the wrong things. One of the biggest struggles I experienced was the fear of not being accepted. This led me to do foolish things in order to fit in with my peers. I was ashamed of what I did, so I lied about it because I did not want to hurt or disappoint my parents. My lying to others and getting away with it led to self-deception. I thought that if I didn't get caught and nobody knew the wrong that I did, then I was okay. After all, I really was not hurting anyone, which was more self-deception because my decisions were hurting me. Without realizing it, I had become more lonely and fearful than ever before, always worrying about what others thought of me. I was even becoming confused between right and wrong. The value structure my parents had built in me seemed to be slipping out of my grip. Even though I attended church, I felt that no one there would understand what I was going through. It seemed to me that to help myself I had to increase my good behavior. Needless to say, it was not working out.
Then when I was 15 years old, the summer before my sophomore year in high school, I went to a college church retreat with my older brother. There I experienced college students talking honestly and truthfully about sin and its destructive nature in our lives. I was aware of my own sin, but I had not been in an environment to hear others talking about their struggles and the need to have Christ change them. Through this interaction my heart became opened to the gospel message. I was amazed that the college students would be so interested in talking about their mistakes and the need for God to change them. My brother was one of those college students, and hearing his testimony got me thinking about my own life. Though there was a 5 year difference in age between me and the college students at the camp, they were reaching out to me, and I saw a joy in their lives that I wanted. I was a little confused at first how being honest about your sin and failures gave you a joy and strength to change and do the right thing. Then at a campfire one night, when the gospel message was shared, everything I had been told concerning Jesus' life, death, and resurrection seemed to come together and make sense. I understood that God sent Jesus into the world because of His great love (John 3:16) and that He died on the cross to pay the price for my sins (Rom. 6:23). I realized that He had done that for me and that I had the opportunity to be forgiven of my sins and receive His grace and forgiveness. I trusted Christ at that point and Jesus became my Savior. I knew that it was not just an emotional decision but rather a willful act of faith to commit my life to the Lord and to live for Him and not for myself. I knew that Jesus was truly the only "way, truth, and life" (Jn. 14:6). Jesus radically changed my life that day and was faithful to direct me as I learned to trust the Holy Spirit and follow His Word. He replaced the fears I had with a security in Christ, and He gave me the confidence to know I would never be alone. It was incredible to be free and to gain the wisdom to choose right from wrong because of a love inside of me for God.
I know that my trust in Jesus Christ was a gift of grace which motivates me today to live for God instead of myself. I have also learned God desires to change every area of my life to glorify Him. There is nothing sacred about me that God has not had to address or change in some way. Christ calls us to put others before ourselves, to change our thought life to believe God instead of the world, and to choose goals that will please Him. He gives me the courage to face adversity and also to lead others in the direction that God has led me. This same life-changing opportunity that I have found in Jesus Christ is available for you right now if you would trust Jesus as your Savior.
I grew up in a Catholic home in San Antonio, attending mass and catechism classes regularly. I received all the sacraments, went to confession, was confirmed and had done everything a "good Catholic" should do in order to be right with God. But why then did I still feel so empty and guilty and why did I continue to struggle with my thoughts, actions and motives the other six days of the week only to be "absolved" of them on Sunday committing that I would just try harder to be good? Was this what God and religion was all about?
It was in the fall of 1993, my sophomore year of college at Texas State University, that my eyes were being opened to the truth. I had started reading the Bible that fall, something I had never really done before, and I began to get to know who Jesus Christ was. God was drawing me to Himself as I read the pages of His Word. I began to see as if looking into a mirror. I saw me in those pages. God was addressing me! The light of His Word illuminated and exposed that I was a sinner condemned before a holy and righteous Judge. I believed that I was under God's wrath because He could plainly see as if in broad daylight the secret sins and darkness of my heart that I tried so desperately to cover up and gloss over on the outside. The truth of my sin weighed heavily like chains around my neck.
As I continued to read the scriptures I found hope in the fact that despite my failed efforts and sinful heart, my salvation was not about what I had or hadn't done (Ephesians 2:8,9). My salvation rested solely on the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ and His choice to deliver me from the punishment of my sins. It was Christ?s blood that covered, cleansed and forgave my sins and caused me to be born again (John 3:5-8). It was true that now that I had asked forgiveness for my sins and trusted in Jesus Christ as my Savior that the old me had passed away and I had been made new through the power and work of the Holy Spirit that now took up residence in my heart (I Cor. 5:17). I had been saved!
My life changed, and I had an insatiable hunger for the word of God. My heart was so full of love for Jesus, and I overflowed with gratefulness for what He had done in my life. I had a strong desire to testify of the goodness of God and tell others that their lives could be changed, too, through repentance and the saving grace of His atoning work on the cross. I remember talking to girls in my dorm, talking to other students on the tram to and from classes and asking God for opportunities to share my testimony with fellow classmates or people who I would come across in the library. I loved the song by Wes King, "I Believe", and would play it over and over and many times just loud enough with my dorm room door open to see if I could create another opportunity to share the new love that I had found. J What a joy it was to be different and free! Shortly after becoming a Christian I did an inventory of the clothing in my closet, the CD's that I owned and a bunch of fashion magazines. I was convicted by God's Word about many of those things and most of them ended up in the trash where they belonged!
I have gratitude and joy in sharing that I have never been the same since. I am fully aware that it has not been my unfailing grasp on Christ, but His unfailing grasp on me through these years. Today, just like the first day of my salvation, I am completely dependent on the grace of God, and it is a choice that I make daily in my sanctification (Romans 6:8-14) to align myself with what God desires to do in my life to set me apart for His purpose and holiness. As some of my precious sisters and brothers in Christ have taught me by example, the Christian life is about being honest with yourself, truthful and humble before fellow believers and repentant towards God as I continue to compare myself to God's standard of holiness in His Word. I continue to pray that my life will be an offering holy and acceptable (Romans 12:1-2) in the sight of my God and Father as I wait in anticipation of His eminent return!
In July of 1994 the Lord opened my eyes to understand that I was a sinner and an enemy of God in desperate need of his grace. I realized that the just punishment for my sin is eternal separation from God in hell and that saving grace is found only through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. I understood that Jesus Christ is the creator of all things, He is both fully God and fully man, He lived a sinless life on this earth, He died for my sins according to the scriptures, He rose from the dead after three days in the tomb, He lives today, and He will reign forevermore. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and regeneration, I am born again into new life and fellowship with Him, and my salvation is assured; when this finite life comes to an end, I will spend eternity with my Lord. These truths are the foundation of my faith and my life. I have committed my life to Christ; therefore, the life I live I do not live for myself or for this world but for my Lord and savior.
"For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf."
2 Corinthians 5:14-15
I was a "good girl" growing up. I wasn't one to be real loud or rambunctious; I left that to my other three siblings. Though quiet and seemingly good on the outside, I really struggled obeying this verse as a young girl: "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable; if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things." Philippians 4:8. No matter how hard I tried, I would have a "bad thought" about someone or something at least once a day. My older brother (Josh), Bubba as I called him, was born again about two years before me. I knew that something was different about Bubba because he was so excited about all the new knowledge of Jesus that he was obtaining, and he would relentlessly share that knowledge with me. I guess some things never change.
Through my older brother's excitement of his new faith and my parent's choice to live out theirs, God used their testimonies in my life to show me my need for a savior. I realized I was not a "good girl". For one, I couldn't think good thoughts every minute of every day, and that meant I was not perfect. For another, committing one sin is like committing them all. Convicted of my sin and realizing my need for a Savior, I went to my parents for counsel. They directed me to kneel before the cross and lay down my burden of sin and in doing so my sins were forgiven. I was given new life in Christ because I came to realize that the very man who died on the cross was raised again and still lives, Praise the Lord!
My father, anxious to test the genuineness of my faith, asked me this question: "If a robber broke into our house, held a gun at your mom, and said, "If you say you are a Christian, I will shoot!" What would you say?" My answer, "I would say I am a Christian." I knew to do otherwise would be lying and I couldn't deny something that I loved and believed in with all my heart. "Besides," I said, "I know Mommy will die and go to heaven to be with Jesus and get a new body." My dad was slightly stunned by this answer, but as I said before, Bubba was the source for much of my spiritual knowledge and was not the type to skip any details.
I now began the journey of new life in Christ. Through prayer, I began to develop a closer relationship with the Lord and found control over my thoughts. Today, as I continue on with my journey in Christ I throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and run with perseverance the race marked out for me, choosing to lay aside the old-self and put on the new (Hebrews 12:1-4).
When I was six years old, I gave my life to Christ, and I have been a new creation ever since. I was in my bedroom waiting for my big sister to come and play with me. My little six-year-old mind began to wander, and I found myself thinking about hell and what I had been taught about sin. God began to convict me by bringing certain things that I had done to mind, for example, telling a lie or saying something mean to my brother. I realized that these were serious sins against God. This led my six-year-old mind to the thought, "So that makes me a sinner!" After thinking this through for a few minutes, I came to the startling thought, "If I were to die, I would go to hell!" These realities caused me to realize that since I was a sinner, I needed a Savior. I went downstairs and told my parents that I wanted to become a Christian. They asked me, "Are you a sinner?" My answer was, "Yes, I know I am." The next question was, "Who do you believe Jesus to be?" I told them with confidence, "He is God and He died for my sins on the cross and rose from the grave so I could be with Him in heaven." And as the Bible says, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved." (Romans 10:9) I asked for forgiveness, believed and was saved!
I have gained an even more intense love for my Savior as I have grown in my knowledge of Him over the years. I believe with all of my heart that He is the One and Only true God and the Creator of the universe who humbled Himself by coming to earth, fully man and fully God. He lived on this earth for one ultimate mission: to die on the cross for our sins. After being buried for three days, He rose to life proving that He was God, conquering sin and death. He appeared to the disciples and many other witnesses. Since He has chosen to redeem me, I have a relationship with Him and have been reconciled to God. I now have the privilege of being called His friend (John 15:12-17) and the privilege to share the love of God through the gospel message with others so they, too, can believe and become children of God.
I was born again when I was eight years old. I am the youngest in my family and was the last to accept Jesus Christ into my heart. Because I was the youngest, I was able to observe my older brother and sisters and learn from their mistakes. I had a lot of the advantages younger siblings have. But despite all my advantages, I still had trouble seeing my need for a savior. I grew up hearing all the popular Bible stories and could quote a good portion of them by heart. I was very protected in my Christian home from the world and didn't see the sin in my heart. The sins I would commit would be things like lying to my parents about who unrolled the whole toilet paper roll throughout the bathroom or having an attitude if something didn't go my way. I didn't see my need for Christ because I thought I was living all right. I had plenty of food, a great family, and plenty of clothes; what more did I need?
When I was young, my family lived in New Braunfels right on the river. There was one week, however, I will never forget. It was October 18, 1998, the day my house floated down the river, literally. We only had time to get ourselves, the clothes on our back, and our dog, Bandit. I was lucky to get my favorite stuffed animal, Piglet, who we saved from the flood (I still have piglet to this day). My sister said our house was baptized, but I had a harder time taking it lightly. That fall I was going to a Bible study with my mom, and I was in the children's class. We were talking about the story of Noah and the ark, one I knew very well. That very week of the flood we were talking in Bible class about how God keeps His promises, and He promised He would never flood the whole earth again. What!? Is God a liar? To my 4 year old mind, my house was my world. The world was flooded! I began to have my doubts about God and why he would allow this to happen. After growing up three more years and a few more scraped knees, we were settled in again. I understood by now how only a part of the city was flooded, not the whole world. Even still it took me a little while to overcome my fear of the flood and be able to take a bath with the water level above a few inches.
Around this time my granny died. I was young and didn't know her that well, but it was the first time that someone I knew died. Her death pressed me with a question, "Where did she go? Was it heaven or hell?" The thought pounded on my mind, not allowing me to forget it. At the same time I began thinking about my own eternity. Where would I go when I died? Well, I'm a good person so that should get me into heaven, right? But I knew the Bible said that we are all sinners and deserve God?s punishment. Well then, yes, I know I'm a sinner and in need of Jesus Christ. At that moment my eyes were opened and a light seemed to come on in my head. Wow, I understand, I need Jesus. It was at that moment at age eight that I gave my life to Christ.
Like all who are truly born again, my story doesn't end there. My life truly changed after that day, and I will never be the same. Jesus came and gave His life for me so I may know him. Because of His sacrifice I will live my life for Him. The Bible says in Romans 3:23, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." I am a sinner and deserve God's punishment. But God took the nails for me and died in my place. He opened my eyes and gave me His free gift of salvation. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." After hearing other amazing testimonies of how God has worked in other people's lives, it may seem like mine is average. But I believe every testimony is unique and extraordinary. We all have a story to tell and amazing things to do in this life. But like the apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:12-14 "Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus." Never lose sight of the goal, Jesus Christ, and live your life for Him.