Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Testimony/Salvation Story

I have posted it before, but I wanted to post a detailed account of my testimony/salvation story.

After growing up Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic and going to a Baptist church on and off during my teens, in 2008, when I was 24, God put a desire in my heart to seek Him. I knew God existed (see Romans 1:20-22 for proof) and that Heaven and Hell were real places and I was headed for one of them. I wanted to make sure I was going to Heaven and not the latter so I decided to start reading the Bible on my own to find out the truth (going into it with the premise that whatever the Bible says is true and there are no exceptions).

If you start out with the belief that God's Word is complete truth and there are no exceptions, I believe anyone can read the Bible and find salvation. On the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said in Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Jesus Himself said that if you are pure in heart, you shall see God. He also says in Matthew 5:6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." If you hunger and thirst for the righteousness that only Jesus can provide, you will be satisfied.

Again, this assumes that you are willing to submit to God's Word without exception (not pick and choose what you like and don't). When I sat down with the Bible with this attitude for first time, God immediately gripped my heart with the Sermon on the Mount (which I was quoting from). I always thought murder was the one commandment I hadn't committed until I read this famous sermon. In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire."

Shortly after reading this, I read Matthew 5:27-28: "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." I had no idea that even my lustful thoughts could damn me.

A little bit later, I read Luke 13:3 where Jesus said, "Unless you repent, you will perish." This was another surprise to me. The definition of repentance is to turn away from your sin and towards God. Not that I knew if it was right or wrong before I was saved, I would blatantly and willfully sin and just ask for forgiveness at night with no intention of ever stopping my sinful action. It was starting to become clear to me that I may not be going to Heaven.

Then I read Jesus' words in John 3:3, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." Up until this point, I thought "born again" was a term that was coined fairly recently by Evangelicals and didn't give any weight to it. It was at this point that I realized I was not saved. I felt like Nicodemus in John 3:4 when he asked Jesus, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" I reached out to my pastor and asked him what Jesus meant by this.

God had shown me that hate was murder, lust was adultery and without repentance I would perish. If I was truly sorry for my sins and would turn away from them (repent), God would give me a new heart with new desires (being "born again"). This is a life changing event and if it isn't for you, I would ask you to re-examine your salvation. Everyone will have different sins they need to turn away from, but nevertheless, Jesus demands repentance.

As I continued to read the Bible, it became clear to me how sinful I am and how there is nothing I can do to save myself. Lest I think I wasn't as "bad" as other people, Romans 3:23 says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." James 2:10 says, "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it." My only hope to be saved was in Jesus Christ. Not even just mere "belief" in Jesus was enough- James 2:19 says "Even the demons believe—and shudder!"

The belief that I had to have was like believing in a parachute that could save me. If I were on a plane about to crash, merely "believing" a parachute exists will not save me. If I were to jump from a plane, I would need to put on the parachute and trust it with my life. The same is true with Jesus- to be saved, one needs to put on the Lord Jesus (Romans 13:14) and trust Him with your life.

Everyone knows John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life," but they don't understand how that applies to their life. It is a historical fact that Jesus died on a cross 2,000 years, but how and why does that apply to you and me?

Imagine yourself in a court room, guilty of a crime and the sentence is life in prison or a one million dollar fine (if you happen to have one million dollars, substitute an amount that you would never be able to obtain). You don't have one million dollars and you are facing life imprisonment. The presiding judge asks if you have anything to say for yourself. You mention all the good deeds you have done in your life and that the judge should have leniency. The judge tells you that while you may have done some good deeds, you still committed a crime and a punishment is due. You are left speechless and at the mercy of judge when at the last second, someone comes in and puts down one million dollars in front of the judge.

The judge looks at you and says, "You are free to go. Not because you are innocent or deserve it, but because your fine has been paid." This is what Jesus did for you by dying on the cross. He lived a sinless, perfect life and bore your sins on Calvary's cross. When you die, instead of God looking at your life (which will be sin stained and only damn you to hell), He will instead look to the perfect life and righteousness of Jesus.

So, what kind of attitude would you have towards this person who just paid your debt? You would want to do good deeds on their behalf since they saved you, but you realize that none of these good works could ever amount to what they did for you. This is the response we are to have towards Jesus- we perform good works not to save us, but as a result of our salvation. "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

This post has transitioned from my testimony into an evangelist post and so was the intent. I hope if you are not saved that you will repent of your sins and trust your life in Jesus and Him alone. Jesus said in Mark 8:37-38, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?" Nothing is more valuable than your eternal salvation.

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