Three Ideas that Changed My Life
“Josh is Coming” was all over the campus at the University of Calgary. It was painted on all the plywood fences surrounding construction areas. It was written in chalk all over the sidewalks. It was on posters, banners, flyers. Everyone on campus knew that Josh was coming. I certainly did, and so I was really looking forward to hearing this rock band called “Josh”.
But when I showed up, a few minutes late, there was no rock band; only a guy standing up in front of 1000 students talking about God. My first reaction was to leave as fast as I could, and if this “Josh” had been a stereotypical evangelist, dressed in an all black or all white suit, and shaking a floppy black Bible at me, I would have left. But he was young and sharp and a dynamic, interesting speaker, so I sat down at the back of the room and listened to what would eventually change my life forever.
By the way, the reason I was so confused was that there was a rock group in Calgary at that time called “Jaws”, and I had just gotten the names mixed up in my head. Rather than a band called “Jaws”, I walked in on Josh McDowell, a travelling speaker and activist with Campus Crusade for Christ.
I recently spent some time with Josh and told him some details in the story of how God used him to change my life, and discover the truth to what life is all about. His positive response has prompted me to tell you the story as well.
There were three main things that Josh said that day that revolutionized my thinking and changed my life.
1. Knowing about God versus knowing God
Josh explained that there is a big difference between knowing about God and knowing God. Having been brought up with a church background and having been relatively devout, I thought I knew a lot about God, but I never would have said that I knew God. Furthermore, as a second year university student, although I wasn’t actively rebelling, I was letting God, church and my religion quietly slip out of my life.
Josh used phrases that were radically new for me, like “personal relationship with God”. If it truly was possible to know God in such a personal way, I was very interested.
2. Part of the solution or part of the problem
The second thing Josh said that really grabbed me was that the world needs changing. I was right with him on this one. I was an idealistic young man who really wanted my life to count, and to make a difference in our world. But then he said that unless we each underwent an inner transformation at the heart level, we would just be part of the problem, not part of the solution.
I knew he was right about this, at least as far as I was concerned. Although most people would probably have said I was a nice guy, I knew that that deep down inside I was a self-centered person. The way I treated people, especially girls, revealed the selfishness that dominated me and my relationships. I knew that I needed forgiveness and inner transformation if I wanted my life to count and change the world. Otherwise I was, and would continue to be, just part of the problem as Josh said.
3. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross paid the penalty for all of my sins, Past, Present and Future!
Then Josh combined the first two points and said inner transformation can take place is through a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Christ’s death on the cross provides the forgiveness that I knew I needed for the guilt that I felt for the way I had treated people.
But then Josh added a simple but profound point that revolutionized the way I thought about God. He said that Christ’s death on the cross paid the penalty for all of my sins, past present and future!! Up until then I had thought I was forgiven only for the sins that I had confessed up to that point. He settled the issue in my mind when he said, “If Jesus’ death on the cross did not pay the penalty for your future sins too, then he is going to have to come back and die again for those sins! After all, all of your sins were ‘future’ compared to his death on the cross.”
I cannot tell you how this truth so radically changed the way I related to God. Whereas prior to understanding this detail, I related to God out of guilt and fear, now I understood that I can relate to God out of gratitude! He already accepts me! He already has forgiven me! He sees me a blank slate cancelling my debt because of Jesus’ death on the cross for me, and my response to what he has done for me.
By the way, I do see a role for confession of sins in the believer’s life, but that has more to do with experiencing God’s love and forgiveness on a daily basis rather than being forgiven.
I thank Josh for being courageous to tell me about the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Can you identify with any part of my story? Have you begun a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ? If you would like to, then check this out.
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