Emily is a 4th year Phy Sci major who likes human bio and talking to people. A few of her hobbies include cafe hopping, being in awe of God’s created nature and being a foodie.
Like many, I grew up in the Christian church and was taught the basic foundations of Christianity – namely, the Bible is true, and Jesus Christ came down from heaven to die on a cross for your sins. Likewise, the same Bible stories, games, and memory verse competitions were super fun, so my curiosity to understand who Jesus Christ was grew. Until, I realized that all of my questions were answered with, “read the Bible and pray”. I was not nearly satisfied with such a “basic” answer. Reluctantly, I continued going to church throughout middle school because I knew it was the right thing to do. Though reluctant, my heart was still sure that there was more to God than just attending church and answering trivia questions. Around 7th grade, I attended my first Christian conferences where I, for the very first time, saw people who were radically different than anyone I had ever seen. Their faces lit with smiles, their worship with raised hands, and hearts full of sorrow yet full of joy. Now, THIS is what I’ve been looking for. My mind left those conferences full of questions – what is so different about these Christians? How can they be so full of emotion for the Lord? What key am I missing? In middle school, one of my older brothers was attending UCLA GOC and brought home a MacArthur study bible for me. With that, he also gave me MacArthur’s sermon on Matthew 7:21. It reads,
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
When I first read this passage, I was beyond frustrated. How can God preach a message of salvation and grace to all who call Him, yet so definitively draw a line that says not all who do will enter into His majesty? I was immediately filled with disbelief and doubt. A cloud of questions drew me into a large study of Scripture. Praise God, He allowed my theology to grow and my understanding of Christ increased. But unfortunately, my desire to learn faded as I tried to fill my mind with knowledge. I was confused, thinking that knowledge of the Lord would lead to some sort of answer, and a better understanding of Him. To an extent, it definitely did. But I never reached the answer that satisfied my curiosity. Soon, and subtly, God used my high school experience to let me be captivated by worldly joy and satisfaction, but quickly brought me to my knees and showed me that it was really worth nothing.
Many say that entering middle school changes you. For me, it was high school. Throughout high school, I began socializing with a group of friends who became my source of joy, and my support, despite my knowing Jesus. They were the ones I called up in the middle of the night to do nothing at Target, who I jumped off cliffs with, who laughed and cried with me, who studied day and night with to be the top of our class. But they were also the ones who caused me to say things and do things a follower of Christ would not. However, I understood enough of the gospel to see that it was good. I loved my friends so much that I tried to evangelize to them for 4 years, only to find that I was using it as an excuse to remain comfortable and was unable confront the sins in front of me. To no surprise, they rejected the gospel. Not only that, but these very friends that I thought fulfilled my joy and needs, in a moment’s notice, turned their backs on me, with words now slandering my own name, and persecuted me when I did not reject the name of Christ. In a moment, I went from having the best of friends, to feeling entirely alone. Words fail to describe the betrayal and depravity I felt, when I personally realized that sinful people cannot satisfy. But the Lord knew I would keep looking for joy. At this time, a good friend was diagnosed with leukemia my sophomore year, and soon after, the Lord took him home. To clarify, this was not my first encounter with death, and I myself was going through health problems. Familiar as I was, death does not make sense to a sinner who cannot comprehend the goodness of God. I could no longer deal with the lifestyle and worldly perspective I had. I was left at a fork in the road and I needed to choose who to follow.
Praise God! Because He showed me the abounding sin of this world, and caused me to cry out to Him when I tried time and time again to reconcile myself with the Lord, to confess my sinful soul. My friend’s death was the last straw, where He showed me that I had absolutely no control over my own sin or the sin of this world. Knowledge of the Lord did not satisfy because I was not created just to read and know about Him as the Pharisees did, but to know Him personally and understand that repentance required my acknowledgement of sin, the reliance on Christ to eradicate my sin and ultimately change my heart. People did not satisfy because only the Lord was steadfast and faithful. My acts of righteousness did not satisfy because I was a sinner stained with blood trying to be pure as snow, while only a holy and blameless God can wash me clean. Worldly joy did not satisfy because the world fades as a mist, while His grace overflows with unfading joy. This is the beauty of the gospel: I am a sinner, who is wretched to the point of disgust, but Jesus Christ is God who became man to die on a cross, and was resurrected to give me the free gift of grace; I am no longer a slave to sin, but am free to fight against it. I will stand before God pure and blameless on that day. I then made it clear that for me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. There is no greater joy that will satisfy me, because I am fully satisfied in knowing Christ himself. It’s not to say that sin does not appeal anymore, but that the love of the Lord and His righteousness is far more worthy of my praise. What overflowing grace, and what a gospel. This is the good news in my life.