“I’m probably going to hell when I die. So be it.”
It was a dark time in my life when I uttered those words. I was a cheat and a liar. I was friendly, but my friendliness was self-serving. I used people for my own advantage, especially those closest to me. Sacrificial love was foreign to me. I was weak in areas a man should be strong, spineless in my fear of rejection, and proficient in my rebellion against authority. Having been brought up in church, I knew I was at a low point on the day I thumbed my nose at God. But I didn’t care. My life was a miserable wreck, and it could stay that way as far as I was concerned.
I don’t know how else to describe what happened to me shortly after my hellbound resolution except to say that God came after me. Through sickness, through a terrifying encounter with evil, through growing unease about my lifestyle, surely through the prayers of my parents, the heavenly Father pursued me. He brought me to an end of myself. He unmade me.
It was then, in the black of night, that God turned on a light. It was a light that I hadn’t seen since I was a young boy with childlike faith. It was the light of his glory shining in the face of Jesus, who died and rose again for people like me. On the cross Jesus bore the punishment I deserve; in his resurrection I have life. I could see that now, and it appeared wonderful to me.
I have never been the same since awakening to Jesus. Changes were dramatic in those first few years as I began to deny the shallow pleasures of self-gratification and to embrace the deeper pleasures of walking with the Lord in faith and obedience. Now in my 40’s, the changes continue. I’m still learning what it means to die to myself, to live in the light, and to love God and my neighbor.
Perhaps the biggest way I’m growing is in my amazement over God’s mercy. God isn’t treating me the way I deserve to be treated. In fact, he’s doing just the opposite. In Jesus he is loving me as his own child. Nothing makes me more wide-eyed in wonder than this.
It has been a long time since I thumbed my nose at God. Now I thumb it at my sin. My hope is in my Savior, Jesus Christ. And I say, with all the happy certainty that comes with God’s grace, “I’m going to heaven when I die.”
So be it, Lord!
If you would like to learn more about the basic message of Christianity, I would encourage you to explore Two Ways to Live.