In the first days after I had given my life to Jesus, I was very quiet about the event. I did not have a ‘running-around-the-streets, heralding-the-good-news’ kind of moment.
Don’t misunderstand me, I knew without a shadow of doubt that Jesus was Lord and Saviour of my life, that there was no going back, but I was not able to bring myself to tell anyone about it at all.
I gave my life to Jesus, whilst sitting under a tree in Donnybrook. I looked up at the stars and declared that if Jesus really was the way, the truth and the life, that I was going to follow Him with every fibre of my being.
This declaration caused me to cut off my dreadlocks, (I thought I had to shape up – my first misunderstanding), and go find a church where I could make a more public declaration.
When I arrived at the church (in Perth), I should’ve known something was up when I heard myself pray, ‘I’ll put my hand up if they ask me to, but there is NO WAY I’m going down to the front of the stadium Lord. I believe you are Lord, but I can’t do that.’
Funnily enough, that day, they did not ask for any ‘new converts’ to come to the front. God heard my prayer and again showed me kindness.
In the hours that followed, I caught a lift back to Donnybrook with a ‘hellfire-and-brimstone’ kind of preacher. He, not realising I had given my life to the Lord, spent two and half hours telling me that if I didn’t receive Christ, I was, simply put, going to Hell. Fortunately for me, I had already committed, otherwise I’m not sure I would have.
Arriving back in Donnybrook, I couldn’t even bring myself to tell my friend who had been sharing about Jesus with me for the previous six weeks, that I actually believed! For some reason, I thought that if I did tell him he might not talk to me anymore. That somehow this wasn’t what he’d been hoping for. I really had no idea of the truth that I’d accepted.
In retrospect, I realise I was ashamed. Ashamed because up until this point, I thought I had it all worked out. Ashamed because, even though I knew it was true, I wasn’t sure I would be able to share with my friends and family that I had made a full 180-degree turn and committed to following Jesus.
You know Jesus? The guy with the blonde hair who carries a lamb and is the poster boy for all who need a ‘crutch’ in their life (SERIOUS MISCONCEPTION).
Where is the sense in choosing to follow someone who actually doesn’t mind that I’ve spent my entire life doing missing the mark and causing pain?
Where is the sense in acknowledging that I can’t do this life by myself, in my own strength?
Where is the sense in declaring to others that I do need help, that I do need someone to show me the way, that I do need someone to sort me out?
Yes, I was ashamed.
Ashamed because I did not truly understand the wisdom of God and the power that is found in the old, rugged cross. It was foolishness to me.
I had been travelling for a while at this point of my life, and I kept on travelling, trying to make sense of what was going on inside me. Trying to really understand the difference between faith and religion. Trying to deeply understand who Jesus truly is, and what Jesus did in his life.
The first few months after I became a Christian were some of the most horrendously guilty days I ever remember spending.
I thought I could live up to what I deemed ‘Christianity’, but was absolutely incapable of meeting my own perceived standards of ‘Christian perfection’. There was nothing that made any real sense to me about Christ the Saviour.
Thankfully, a few things happened that true change was embraced.
Firstly, I eventually gave up on trying to do it all myself. By yielding to Jesus’ saving grace, the Holy Spirit gave me a surety that I was sealed in the promise of God’s salvation. I knew I was a Christian because of what God had done, not because I was doing all the right things.
Secondly, I found a church that gave me brothers and sisters in the Lord. People I may never have chosen to be friends with, but whom I felt a deep, unexplainable affinity with. People, who like me, were also on a journey of knowing their worth in Christ.
Thirdly, I began to study the Bible with people who were much further along the journey of understanding than I was. They showed me kindness and love, helping me to see that Christ loves me, and that He died and was resurrected for me.
They helped me to see that the Gospel is necessary for salvation, and that it is for everyone and available to everyone. That I merely need to recognise I am a sinner, and believe I can be saved by grace.
They helped me see that the emptiness in my heart was as a result of sin, and that yes, I had been a wretch, but now was rescued. Not only rescued, I had been acquitted of all charges against me. I was redeemed from death and brought into true life.
My heart had been made new and I could now truly know and experience the love, joy and peace that come only from God Himself.
It has taken years for me to grow in my understanding of who I am and I anticipate a lifetime of continued growth and maturing.
I know now though, that
‘… I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”’ Rom. 1:16-17
I am justified. I am righteous. I am liberated. I truly have life. And all of this, not because of who I am and what I have done, but because of Jesus.
My life has changed. Not by application of a ‘Christian band-aid’, but by trusting His grace will change me from the inside out. It has so far and still is.
I receive these things by choosing to believe they are true. By choosing to put my hope in Him. I receive these things simply by faith and always because of grace.