I started going to church because my mom made me, but by the time I was in 9th grade, I went to church every time the doors were open because I wanted to—and for all the wrong reasons. For me, church was a social outlet, not something I considered part of my spiritual journey. It was clear that most of the youth group, including a particularly cute boy, were what would be considered “the good kids.” I watched them, and I adapted my words and actions so that I sounded and looked like them, but nothing in my heart changed.
I prided myself on being a street-smart, independent kid who knew how to survive in any circumstances. Sure, I believed in God, and Jesus, and all the Bible stories. But they didn’t have any application to my life. I didn’t need anyone to save me because I could take care of myself.
But often the Lord uses our imperfect intentions to bless us beyond our wildest dreams. You see, to be a good imitator, I had to listen carefully, and that meant I was listening each time the pastor or the youth leader shared the Gospel. And it soon became clear to me that I was really not a very good kid because no one was, no matter how hard they tried. But day after day, I’d hear the truth of the Bible, and I’d feel what I know now was the Holy Spirit working on my heart.
But this was my dilemma: I’d already acted like I was a real Christian. I’d been playing the part. How could I come forward now and get saved? Everyone would think I was a liar. It would be embarrassing. I would lose everything.
Our youth group hosted an event called “Christmas in July.” I don’t remember much except that when the youth leader asked everyone to close their eyes, he read Mark 8:36: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
It hit me there, in the silence and stuffiness of a church gymnasium, that I was on the path of losing my soul. I had to make a choice between wanting to keep the life I’d made for myself and following the pull of the Holy Spirit toward trusting Jesus. I knew that I wasn’t “good” enough, but I didn’t need to be. I couldn’t be. So quietly, in my heart, I asked Jesus to be my Savior.
It was a long time before I talked about it to other people, but I changed that day. Everyone noticed. And I realized that I probably hadn’t been as good of an imitator as I thought. I might have passed for a good enough copy of a Christian, but compared to the real thing, I was a completely different person.
You see, I had been complicating Christianity. It’s not only exhausting trying to do everything right all the time; it’s futile, impossible. In stark contrast to that hard work, Romans 10:13 says, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
It’s really that simple.
Maybe you have everything in the whole world, or maybe you don’t have two nickels to rub together. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your life looks like right now. The free gift of salvation is waiting for you. All you have to do is accept it. You just have to call on Him, in the quietness of your heart. That’s it.
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