I once lived in a row-house where the only thing I saw through my bedroom window was a solid brick wall. That dead-end view was an accurate portrait of my life at the time. But it's also the very place where Jesus came for me, where He opened His arms wide for me, where everything was forever changed for the better. Not because I deserved anything good, but simply because He is good.
Let me give you a little bit of background on me. I didn't grow up in what you might call a traditional Christian home, but I did have the privilege of attending a variety of Protestant churches. So I learned a lot about the Bible and what a life devoted to Christ is supposed to look like. And that left me with the nagging and unsettling impression that I could never be good enough to truly live up to God's standards. Then add to that all of the natural questions like- is the Bible really true? Is Jesus really God like He says He is? Why did He have to die on a cross?- And this left me wavering between doubt and discouragement for many years.

Fast forward to now, and one thing is exceedingly clear: sitting in the pews, singing the hymns, and even praying and reading the Bible are nothing but dead works if I'm estranged from God Himself. I hadn't met Jesus, I had absolutely no personal relationship with Him through all of those years. In fact, it wasn’t until my sophomore year of college during a simple Bible study with my best friend {in the bedroom with the brick-wall view} that I actually met the Lord Jesus. The two of us were reading about Him in the book of Mathew, and the only way I can describe it is that He opened my eyes to finally see Him for who He really is- a friend and a helper, a righteous and loving God. It was as if I could see Him walking towards me with a big smile on His face and open arms. He was no longer the distant, mysterious God-man I'd heard about growing up, but a real, living person. He gave me His light, His joy, and {for the first time ever} peace and assurance! He truly took me into His family that day, and I’ve never been the same since. 

Not only was there this new joy and sense of belonging, but suddenly I had a deep desire to read the Bible. As Jesus calls His Word "the bread of life" {Mathew 4:4}, it truly became like food to me. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, it all started making sense. No longer what you might call a duck out of water, I had true guidance for how to pursue a genuine Christian life. And I learned why Jesus had to come and die for us {cue the light bulb!}: Our God is perfectly Holy and Righteous in every way. But He would not be righteous if He allowed evil to go unpunished. So, to allow us to have free choice and to maintain His Holiness, He must punish sin. So picture this- every time a sin is committed, God's "cup of wrath" is filled with his righteous anger. And that anger must be poured out in justice and punishment. But on who? Well, onto sinners like you and me, via physical and spiritual death followed by eternal separation from God in Hell. Many call Hell cruel and unjust. But think of it this way- Hell was created as a prison for the angels who rebelled against God {Mathew 25:41}. And when we rebel against God by sinning against Him, we are, in effect, declaring our allegiance to Satan. In that case, we give up our right to eternal life with God in Heaven and follow Satan's path to eternal destruction in Hell. Ultimately, we get what we want.

But this is where the good news of Jesus' death and resurrection comes in. Jesus Christ, God Himself, came to earth to live a perfect, sinless life before the Father, so that He could then effectively pour that wrath out onto Himself. He endured the full wrath of God's sin against evil on the cross. And when He rose three days later and was witnessed as alive- historical fact- by over 500 people {1 Cor 15:16}, this was proof of His perfection and victory over death. So now, this is His free gift for all- He will exchange our sin for His righteousness. He will put His Spirit in us, so that when our Father looks upon us, He sees the image of His perfect Son rather than our stained hands.

Let me just stop and say praise God. I don’t know why He came for me when I was so blind and indifferent towards Him, but I can say with full certainty that it was all of His doing and none of mine. A true gift of undeserved, unmerited grace. And all I can do in return is get on my hands and knees with face to the floor and praise Him and honor Him and thank Him for all eternity. He is worthy.

It's been about nine years since the day I became a believer, and I'm so thankful to Him that He's still walking with me patiently. He teaches me to study His Word, to pray, to listen for His voice, to see my own sin for what it really is, to loathe it and to repent of it. It’s still a struggle, but now I’m free to actually move in the right direction with His help. I have nothing but gratitude for His amazing grace. And on top of fulfilling my most desperate need of salvation, He's blessed me with a godly husband whom I love and respect with all my heart, a two precious sons, a child in Heaven, plus another baby on the way. Not to mention countless other beloved family members and friends- you included!

Now that He's brought me this far, I can look back and know with certainty that any time I spent trying to live a good life before meeting Christ was pointless. I didn’t understand that I needed to born again {John 3:3} and to receive His Spirit before there could be even one ounce of true change in me. And it’s the same for you. If you're already a born-again believer, praise God! I rejoice with you! If not, I hope and pray that you would give your life to Him in humility and repentance. Otherwise, your entire life will be lived in vain and any good pursuit you follow will be meaningless. You may be able to perform "good" behaviors to some extent, "do better" at this or that, or justify your sin by comparing yourselves to those you think are worse. Or you may even assume you don't have any sin to repent of, that the only person you'll ever have to answer to is yourself. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but it's end is the way of death" {Proverbs 14:12}.

The truth is that we can’t do a single good, lasting thing without Him. Every act of our own righteousness is but a filthy rag in His sight {Isaiah 64:6}. This is the opposite of what the world teaches us to believe- that we're good, that we've earned the right to be proud and independent people. But that's a deception that's been blinding us from the moment Satan caused Eve to question God's goodness and authority, leading to the very first act of sin.

The bottom line is that each one of us are either 1) redeemed by Christ for eternal life with God or 2) unredeemed and sentenced to eternal Hell as the just and lawful reward our of deeds. Praise God that there's a chance for all of us to be redeemed. But until you surrender to Christ and receive a new heart {Ezekial 18:31}, you stand condemned. Each and every one of us needs a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus, one characterized by love and obedience to His Word. And to have that, you need the Holy Spirit. Jesus says to ask for it, to seek it, to knock on the door for it, to be persistent {Luke 11:9-10}. He says that if we, being sinful, can give good gifts to our children, “how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” {Luke 11:13}. So if you want to be reconciled to God, just take a humble step of faith and tell the Lord that you can’t do it without Him.

"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." {John 3:16}

He is waiting for you with open arms!  

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