For several weeks in FCA we've been studying the gospel so kids are familiar with it and can share it with others. Tomorrow it's my turn to talk to the kids, so I've been praying and thinking about what God would have me share. And I can't get the gospel off my mind....so, I think I'm going to share my testimony with the kids (something I haven't yet done) to sort of show the power of the gospel to change someone's life. I don't want them to think I'm some saintly being just because I help with FCA. I want them to know what God has done in my life and how He's transformed me...and what part the gospel had in that. So here's my story along with some scripture I'll share:
This weekend I tried to remember when the first time was that I heard the gospel. I remember hearing it as a little kid, but I didn't comprehend it then. I went to youth group at a few different churches, but I don't ever remember hearing the gospel spelled out clearly for me. I remember feeling a lot of guilt for the music I listened to, for the words I said, and for my choice of friends. But that guilt never lasted long enough to make me change. I had Christian friends, but I don't remember them sharing the gospel with me. Once when I was a senior in high school I was at this coffee shop that my friends and I frequented. It was owned by a Christian couple who ran a homeless ministry in town. My best friend's dad had just died, and I was pretty devastated about it. I saw the pain it caused my friend and her family, and I couldn't understand why God would take him from her. I was pretty upset and wondered if God even existed. While I waited for my friend to arrive at this coffee shop, the owner came and sat down next to me, which was nothing new. He was the friendly type, but I had never talked to him one on one before. My Christian friends were always there, talking to him about church. We made small talk for a little while and then he asked, "When you die, do you think you'll go to heaven?" It was a bit unnerving, really. I mean, I was still trying to deal with the loss of my best friend's dad, and then he asked me about dying. But without much hesitation, I stated confidently, "No. I don't think so." He asked me why I felt that way, and I think I got pretty defensive with him and mumbled something about not being good enough to get into heaven. Luckily about that time, my friend walked in and saved me from the awkward conversation. It shook me up for awhile. I couldn't sleep that night as I remembered all the stories about hell I heard at Catholic school and youth group. I was sure I was going to hell for various reasons and that there was nothing I could do about it. Still--I don't remember anyone stepping in to clarify this theological misconception.
During my first year of college a friend of mine (John) dragged me to campus ministry (Navigators) and bible study each week. He shared the gospel with me, but I wasn't quite ready to accept it. I was in a relationship at the time that I knew I shouldn't be in--I knew that it wasn't glorifying to God, but I wasn't ready to give that up. But John kept dragging me to these Jesus things, and I started to break. The next time I can remember hearing the gospel vividly was at a Navigator's meeting during my first year of college. I typically went to the first part of Nav meetings--just so I could participate in the dramas we did to introduce the week's scripture readings. I usually left before the message. But this week the topic was, "Does Jesus love gay people?" I was into controversial topics, so I stuck around that night. There was a guest pastor, and I don't remember the entire sermon or the specific verses, but I remember clearly the gospel message: God loves you so much that He sent his Son to die for you and to bear the weight of your sins (Romans 5:8). He doesn't care what you've done; if you trust and believe that Jesus' death makes you right with God, then you will be made righteous and will have the hope of an eternity spent with Him in heaven. "We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are" (Romans 3:22). I left that night crying because I wanted that. I was terrified of going to hell--and I knew I deserved hell for all the swear words I said, for how I treated people, for having sex out of marriage, for drinking underage, the list of my sins is (notice how I used a present tense verb...) long and complicated. It humbled me to think that God would send His son to lead a blameless life and then die a bloody, brutal death for me. It made me respond. I talked with my friend John, started reading the Bible, praying, and attending church. I knew these acts wouldn't save me (Romans 4:5), but I wanted to do all of these things sort of as a way to thank God.
I've been walking with God for eight years now. And it hasn't been all rainbows and cupcakes. After I made a decision to follow Christ, I lost a lot of friends; I broke up with my boyfriend of nearly two years--someone I'd given way too much to and had put too much hope in. Later in life, I experienced many trials. But the one that nearly broke me again was hearing that my husband and I would probably never have our own kids. For about a year I really wrestled with God. Why would He deny me this blessing? After all, I had responded to the gospel message, so why did my life appear to be falling down on me while others, who hadn't accepted Christ seemed to be getting everything they wanted? I finally learned that God does not promise a perfect life after we respond to the gospel message and decide to follow Him. I learned (by studying the Bible) that God gives us trials to develop us and ultimately to help us "strengthen our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment" (Romans 5:3-5). Everything in this world will disappoint. God won't. He won't because he offers us salvation from our sins when we don't deserve it, and eternal life spent with Him. What's disappointing about that? So when trials strike, I try to remember the hope of salvation.
So in a not so small nutshell, that's how the gospel message changed my life...it forced me to confront my life and it gave me something better. It took awhile, and I experienced lots of trials along the way--but the hope of an eternity spent with Him keeps me going back to Him and gives me strength to push through the tough days.