It is officially pumpkin spice latte season. If you live in the Midwest region of the United States like I do, fall is the time of year when the leaves start to change, the weather is cooler, the air is crisp, and the apple orchards are packed with people longing for warm delicious cinnamon sugar donuts.
For me, fall is much more than seasonal changes of weather, trees, and social activities. Fall is the time of year when I remember who I once was and what life was once like. It’s a time when I remember all that God has done and all that He has brought me out of. It’s a time that I rejoice and am thankful that I’m no longer chained to my past, like I once was. It’s a time that I remember the day that I bowed down at the foot of the cross and surrendered my life to Jesus, forever.
I remember that day like it happened yesterday. It was Sunday, October 17th, 2010 and I had somehow ended up at a retreat for the weekend with hundreds of other college students, most of whom were firm believers in Jesus Christ, and most of whom I didn’t know. I was like a deer in the headlights; after walking in the darkness for most of my life, finally finding the light and having the option to follow it was overwhelming and frightening.
However, the more I heard the gospel, the more a desire to know God grew within me. Suddenly I was eagerly wanting to know more about this God who offered forgiveness and freedom from sins. My whole life I had constantly been searching for something. But when that something was placed right in front of me, I was afraid to grasp it because I was afraid it was too good to be true. My friends, that is the incredible thing about the gospel; it is the one thing in the world that is too good to be true, but is actually true.
It is the one thing in this world that is always constant and never changing. It’s the one thing that you can always fully rely on.
So, what is this “gospel” that I speak of? The gospel is this: that Jesus is our hope. “He is the true Israel – whenHe died as a perfect man and rose glorified, He took our rebellion to the grave and brought us back into relationship with Him”.He paid the debt for our sins, a debt that we couldn’t pay on our own. He bridged the gap between us and God so that we may be saved, so that we may have a relationship with the one true God, and live in eternity with him, forever.
As I’ve recently been reflecting on my past (life before I believed the gospel as being truth), I’ve been reminded of a passage written by Paul in 1 Timothy:
12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
As I read this passage over and over again, I kept coming to the same realization: I am SO much like Paul. Before Paul was dedicated to sharing the message of the gospel and advancing the kingdom of heaven, he was an unbeliever that persecuted christians, and in turn persecuted Jesus. I may have not traumatized the church by imprisoning Christians like Paul did, but before I was a believer I mocked and scrutinized Jesus and those who surrendered their life to the gospel. Just like Paul, I ignorantly walked in the darkness because I thought I had to, I thought it was the only option, even though it wasn’t.
As soon as I surrendered my life to Christ, everything that was dark and gloomy turned green and bright. Suddenly my past, my depression, my mistakes; they no longer mattered because of the debt Jesus paid for me when he sacrificed himself on the cross. He accepted me where I was at, even after the way I had treated Him and his people. My slate was instantly wiped clean and I was made new.
And it is because of that instant transformation of believing that their was no God, to instantly knowing with all of my being that their is a living God, who created me with a purpose, who calls me by name, and loves me still that I am confident that the gospel is true and will always remain so.
Even six years later, I stand firm in my decision to live a life devoted to glorifying the one true God. Not once has he left me or forsaken me. No matter how much I have wavered and been distracted by the things of this world, not once has he given up on me. He supplies me with a breath of life that is new each morning. He fills my heart with overflowing joy. He gives me hope and a purpose. Living in the light means that it’s okay that I make mistakes and fall short, because Jesus made a way for me, even when I turned my back on him. Jesus didn’t just do this for me, he did this for you, he did this for us, His people.
Jesus invites everyone into a relationship with him and an eternity in heaven and He does this through his sacrifice for us on the cross, which was done out of his radical and steadfast love for us. Although not everyone will choose a life with Jesus, all are invited.
“For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:14)
It is my hope that you know that there is a God out there who loves and cares about you deeply; who will meet you where you are at and whose promises are never changing and always true. Friends, there is a God out there who can open your eyes to how beautifully green and vibrant life with Him can really be and I promise you, it’s the best view you’ll ever see.