What made you Lord, to die for me?
Why would you die for me, your enemy?
You took my place to hang on a tree
To be a curse, MY curse for me.
You loved me, Lord, so very long.
And with a love enduring and strong
Although I mocked and cursed you so long
You waited and prayed for me all along!
I was a man who was just sin
Which issued in a life full of sins
My heart toward You was in rebellion,
But, Lord, you touched me with Your compassion.
My sin – oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
These are not my words. But this is my story.
Before I came to know Jesus, I was severely depressed and suicidal. Each new day was a wretched, torturous, meaningless farce, and I desperately wished for a way out: ideally in deliverance, but likely in suicide.
I condemned myself for my mistakes. For breaking promise after promise to those I cared most about. For breaking people’s hearts, over and over again. For the slowly deteriorating condition of a dying ex-girlfriend, which I blamed on myself. For the way that depression made me feel and act, lashing out at those who cared most about me and isolating myself from everyone. I thought I was impossible to love.
I bore a scarlet letter, branded into my chest – that none but me could see. The weight of my guilt and of my wrongdoing crushed me inside. I stopped enjoying life. Everything I once enjoyed soon became as disgustingly flavorless as unflavored protein powder. (which literally tastes like dust).
As a naturalistic, nihilistic atheist – I had nothing to hope in. I saw no reason to believe in a God, so I saw no ultimate meaning in life. Just like throwing a ball in a hoop is just an arbitrary waste of energy unless you understand it as the game of basketball. Unless the illusion of the game is sustained, every action taken on the court is meaningless. Going a step farther, if you look at life through the perspective of an alien, everything is arbitrary. All meaning would be an illusion – every “success” isn’t really success, it’s just chemicals going off in your brain that make you feel good. Morality, family, love, kindness – all honor, all virtue: just illusions of the brain. We’re all just running in circles on giant hamster wheels, waiting to die.
At the pinnacle of my life’s meaninglessness, God sent my best friend Royce into my life to preach Jesus’s sacrifice for my sins and show me the unconditional, unfailing love of God. I walked into those church doors looking for intellectual and emotional anesthesia. Instead, I found truth and love.
I found that the existence of the Christian God is the most rational way to explain reality – that atheism was insufficient to account for all the given evidence. I don’t have enough time or space here to get into all the rational, historical, and scientific arguments for God’s existence and Jesus’s resurrection, but know that there is a rich intellectual history of proof for the Christian faith. Additionally, know that the Christian worldview, unlike atheism, necessitates a higher purpose and actual ultimate meaning to life – to love, know, and obey God through Jesus.
Most importantly, however, I found the one thing that could breathe life back into my hopeless world: the unbelievably forgiving, incredible love of God. But, in order for the love of God to make sense, I have to start with the beginning.
According to the Biblical story, God intended us to be co-rulers with him, taking care of his good world and creating good things with him. However, the world has flipped a middle finger at him instead and went off to seek our pleasure from whatever we want, creating whatever we want, not caring about what he intended his good creation to be.
We seek pleasure and status from others – and many actually exploit others for their own gain. We’ve all messed up God’s good creation and pursued wicked and evil thoughts in our hearts, trying to claw our way to pleasure and fulfillment on our own terms, giving no thought to God. This is the definition of sin – rejection of God and his ways in order to pursue whatever we want. And we all fall under this definition, no matter who you are. We’ve all rebelled against God’s moral law, which is written on our hearts as our consciences. Whether you’re Mother Teresa or Hitler, we’ve all sinned and received a death sentence – Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death.”
So, our punishment that we deserve, according to God, is death. Because we are all guilty of sin, and God would be an unjust judge to overlook rebellion. From God’s point of view, we’re fallen and broken creatures, responsible for the broken state of the world as it is. Murder, war, exclusion, divorce, hate, malice, and discrimination exist in this world because of humans. The claim of the Bible is that God is king and ruler over this universe, and yet we have chosen to make ourselves the sovereigns of our own lives and pursue whatever we want – at the expense of others.
And, yet, even others choose to be direct enemies of God, like the apostle Paul used to be – he would carry off Christians to prison, constantly breathing murderous threats against them. I myself, admittedly, have been a part of this category. Though I never went to the religious extreme that Paul went to, I myself was a militant atheist whose objective was to undermine Christians’ beliefs and convince them of how stupid it is to believe in a God. I in fact may have played a large role in my sister walking away from practicing the faith. In Jesus’s own words:
Mark 9:42 “If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.”
So, I have brought the utmost of condemnation upon myself. I have received the death penalty in even such a gruesome fashion.
Now, I ask the question: What reason does God have to love me?
He’d seemingly have every reason to hate me: I’m mocking him and openly hostile to his children, even causing my own sister to stumble. Not to mention all the sin going on in my life aside from that. I was the very definition of one “in rebellion against God.” I hated him!
Yet, what does God say?
Romans 5: 6- 8 “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Just let that sink in for a second. Paul, the very man who wrote this, was the same one who was dragging Christians off to prison and casting his votes for their executions.
This God demonstrates himself to be one who LOVES AND DIES FOR HIS VERY ENEMIES.
God forgives his enemies by dying in their place, even when they don’t deserve it at all!
What did Jesus say to those who crucified him?
Luke 23:33-34 “When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals–one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”
What are the Roman soldiers doing that deserves forgiveness? Forgive the language, but they don’t give a ****!
He’s up there praying for their forgiveness, and they’re down there gambling for his clothes! Just yesterday, they had spit on him, beat him, and mocked him!
God’s love is unbelievably radical and unbelievably undeserved. In other words, God’s love is PURELY UNCONDITIONAL. He dies for those who don’t deserve it at all!!
He died for those who didn’t have any power to save themselves by their own good works. He died for those who were unaware of him, desiring to make himself known to them and adopt them into his family. He died for his enemies and those who actively rejected him.
He shows remarkable kindness to us by canceling our legal debt of sin, becoming guilty of our sin on the cross, being punished in our place, and giving his own perfect moral record to us so that we become sinless as he is, finally able to enter a restored relationship with God, which is eternal life – all of this completely by faith in Jesus and not by good works, so that no one can boast!
However, all these wonderful things come with a condition:
Romans 10:8 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
As for declaring Jesus as Lord, that means to turn towards him and begin to follow him as King over our lives, having authority over all that we say and do, conforming our lives to his commands, and loving and enjoying him as our personal friend, lover, father, and king.
We were made to know and enjoy God in a perfect relationship. I’m sure you might have heard the story of Adam and Eve and how we sinned, lost our standing with God and were thrown out of paradise and God’s presence. And I know that we’re all aware that our world’s been broken by human selfishness and greed ever since then. Well, even though he didn’t have to, God stepped in to solve that problem! He chose to send his son to die for us so that we could have eternal life with him and a restored relationship with us now where he reveals more of his love and kindness every day.
Man, if you’re like I was and never understood the love of Christ, just pray. The very moment I comprehended God’s amazing love for me for the first time was the moment I realized I could trust Jesus with my life – if he loved me enough to die for me while I was THAT much of a sinner, he’s worthy to be followed.
Follow Jesus. Listen and learn from his words. Be shaped by his commands. He promises everlasting riches and joy in his presence. Also, he is coming soon to bring a never-ending, perfect kingdom to earth where there will be no more sadness, crying or pain. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
Because of Jesus, my story has a happy ending. Because of Jesus, the pain and anguish of my past, which has messed me up in many ways, will not define or overcome me. Because of Jesus, I have the power to fight my sin and rid myself of laziness, callousness, selfishness, and a lack of discipline. Because of Jesus, I am able to enter the very throne room of God himself with confidence and ask for whatever I wish – though my every desire is laid down at his feet in submission to him. Because of Jesus, though I would have thought this inconceivable a mere 2.5 years ago, I love God. Because of Jesus, I will do all that I can to fulfill his command to make disciples of all nations and teach them to obey everything that he has commanded us.
I eagerly look forward to the day when Jesus will return to make all things new.