I wasn’t always this interested in spiritual things. In fact, there was a time in my life when nothing interested me but getting in to trouble and organized sports. I guess you could say that I was an athletic troublemaker. By the time I was in high school, my two passions of sports and trouble collided. I had gotten in so much trouble at school that the principal had expelled me for the entire year! As far as I knew, this was the end of my sports career and possibly my education.
I knew that more trouble was to come when I got home, but I had no idea that the next several hours would impact the remainder of my life. I can remember emptying out my school locker and then making my way to the gym to empty out my athletic locker. While in the gymnasium, a youth pastor who had been volunteering his time with the wrestling team stopped me. He wanted to know why I wasn’t at practice. I informed him that I had been expelled from school and I was going to clean out my locker. To my surprise, this began a three-hour conversation about God.
This conversation was almost twenty years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. This pastor told me that God was holy and perfect (1 Peter 1:6). He told me that man was anything but perfect. In fact, he said that every man had sinned and fallen short of meeting God standards (Romans 3:23). He then showed me a picture of two mountains. Between the two mountains was a bottomless pit. He said that sinful man cannot approach a holy God, and in fact, God will one day judge man for their sinfulness (Hebrews 9:27). He was right because, as I have read the Bible in my later years, I have learned that even one lie could merit us an eternity in Hell (Revelation 21:8). The Bible says that liars, adulterers (those that have even looked at a women and lusted for her), and thieves (regardless of the value) will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9). You could imagine how a young, troublesome teenager might have taken this news. This was the first time I had ever heard something like this! I didn’t know that my sin could keep me from knowing God. I didn’t know that God had appointed a day where I would be judged for my sin. Sitting in that gymnasium, gripping my backpack filled with books that I no longer needed, and suddenly realizing that my eternal destination was much more dire than my current situation, this man began to tell me about Jesus.
The pastor could see that this new information concerned me so he grabbed a pen out of my backpack and used it to draw a cross between the two mountains. He said, “The cross is the only way that I can get to God (1 Peter 2:24).” I had no idea what that meant until he told me about the life of Jesus. He told me that Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life. He then said that Jesus willfully went to the cross to pay the debt of my sin so that I could stand before God innocent on the day that God judges me (Romans 6:23). He compared it to being in a courtroom. I have lied, stolen, coveted, and done other things that have broken God’s law. Just before the good and just judge gives me what I deserve for breaking the law, Jesus enters the courtroom and pays my fine. This means that I am free to go because my fine has been paid. Jesus paid my fine by taking my place on the cross. It should have been me that received the punishment of my sins, but God in his kindness, sent his only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). As you could imagine, this was truly good news for a troublesome teenager. I wanted desperately the forgiveness that only comes from Jesus Christ. The pastor told me that I could be forgiven of my sins by turning away from sin and by turning towards the living God who sent his son to reconcile the world to himself (2 Corinthians 5:18).
It may surprise you that I didn’t turn to God that day. The pastor definitely got my attention, but I wasn’t so interested in letting go of my sinful lifestyle. Honestly, it was four years later when I woke up convinced that I was a sinner and in need of a Savior. I remember getting out of bed completely frightened by the fact that I would one day give an account for my sinful life. Fortunately, I remembered everything the pastor had told me when I was in high school. I immediately got on my knees and prayed to Jesus. On October 3, 1999, I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins. From that day forward, I placed my trust in Jesus like I would place my trust in a parachute if I were 15,000 feet in the air.
Today, I live a life dedicated to Jesus because of the amazing grace he exemplified on the cross over 2000 years ago. My life has not been perfect since that day, but I do know this, I will be innocent on the day when I meet my Maker. Not because of anything that I have done, but because my trust is in Jesus and he has paid my fine.