Ryan is a fifth year physiological sciences major who just finished his undergrad courses this quarter. He enjoys watching and playing most sports (especially basketball) and is down to just hang out.
I was raised in a Catholic believing family. Growing up, I even attended a Catholic elementary school. What I remember being taught there was that I would be saved and go to heaven if I was a good person, basically salvation by works. As a child, I believed what I was being taught, mainly because I didn’t really know any better and also because my parents believed it too.
It wasn’t until around 4th grade when I started thinking for myself and really analyzing what I was taught that I started having a lot of questions about the theology. Mainly, that if I were saved on the basis of my works, then what was my standard? How good of a person did I have to be in order to attain my salvation? Not only that, but there was never any certainty in my salvation if it were based on works. Each and every day I had to worry about all of my bad actions negating my good ones. It could be that one minute I was above the standard and then the next minute I’d be below it. This just didn’t make a lot of sense to me and so I began to stray away from the Catholic faith.
Continuing all the way through high school, I did my best to just be a good person because I still believed that caring and loving others was still important, just not what was essential for salvation. It wasn’t until I transferred here to UCLA for my junior year of college that I was first exposed to the gospel through Grace on Campus. It was completely an act of God’s sovereignty that I even discovered GOC as I stumbled out of the gym during the Tour of Westwood event and saw everyone gathered outside. Out of curiosity I decided to ask about what was going on and eventually ended up tagging along.
Now, I wasn’t looking for a Christian fellowship at the time and wasn’t particularly interested. I will admit that the gospel that was presented to me made a lot of sense, but I just didn’t see a need for it in my life at the time as I didn’t truly understand the depths of my sin. Not only that, but things had just started going well in my life at the time as I had made it into UCLA and things were going well with family and friends.
I was very hesitant to believe in something that I knew could change my life so drastically from what it was at the time. In addition, there were certain events that had happened in my past that I just couldn’t come to terms with in light of the gospel that was presented to me. This made it all that much more easier for me to run away and deny the truth that was set before me. But the people here at GOC were incredibly loving, caring, and faithful in their outreach to me. There were two people in particular who consistently made a concerted effort to check up on me throughout the year and were able to display to me God’s love.
As the year continued, I came out to GOC pretty on and off. I would only occasionally come out on Friday nights and only very rarely would I come out to church on Sundays. During spring quarter of that same year, I came out a little bit more often. But even by the end of the year, I wouldn’t have considered myself saved because I was still attempting to overcome the things that had happened in my past.
But during the ensuing summer, my family took a trip to the Philippines to visit relatives there. My relatives had heard that I had been attending a Christian fellowship and so they began to ask me questions about Christianity. As I answered their questions, I found myself not just reciting the things that I had learned, but rather I truly believed them in my heart. I believed how deep of a sinner I was and that the only acceptable punishment for my sin was eternal condemnation in hell, but out of God’s great mercy and love, he sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross and save me from the depths of my sin. That nothing I myself did could ever atone for my transgressions, but that Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient. It was at this point that I remembered one of the verses that someone had shared with me that year. Romans 10:9-10 “Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead then you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
At that point I recognized the desire that God had instilled in me to learn more about who He is as well as the desire to be obedient and seek to honor Him in all that I do. The things that had happened in my past are still somewhat difficult to deal with, but I am certain that God is sovereign over all that happens to me and that He is using these events to shape and mold me more into the likeness of His son. I remember that during his outreach to me, my beloved old small group leader would tell people, “I don’t see any humanly way possible that Ryan could be saved,” based on the things those events. And he’s right, I couldn’t be saved by any humanly ways. Only by an act of God’s amazing grace would a sinner like me be able to come to know him as Father. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.