Really, how bad can an eleven-year-old boy be? Or maybe a more appropriate question would be, “How bad does an eleven-year-old have to be to be separated from fellowship with his Creator?” That was the key question I had to deal with. It was a November morning in 1955 when I found myself struggling with a question that would ultimately lead to the most important decision I would ever make in my life. Life was good back then. My neighborhood was filled with boys and we spent hours playing baseball, football, riding bikes, roller skating, and after supper playing one of our favorites, “kick the can”, a form of hide and seek. My family would go swimming at the lake, camping and all-night fishing. I spent many Saturday afternoons at the movie theater watching my favorite cowboys along with Tarzan, Abbot and Costello, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and an on-going Buster Crabb serial. I also learned a little about work. I learned to wash dishes, clean house, do a little cooking and work in the yard. It seemed that even the work was fun most of the time. But even with life this good I was far from a perfect kid. A couple of things I remember was stealing a candy bar from the corner drug store and telling an occasional lie to stay out of trouble. And while in the fifth grade I began the habit of cursing (or cussin as we called it). There was even a trip to the principal’s office once because of my foul mouth. These things ran through my mind that morning when I realized God demanded perfection and I wasn’t perfect. Oh, I wasn’t too bad, but I didn’t meet God’s standard, nor could I ever meet it.
So, what did that have to do with me as an eleven-year-old boy? Well it just so happens that I believe the Bible is God’s revelation to man about a whole lot of things. And one of those things the Bible talks about is a place called heaven and the possibility of spending eternity there once I die. And that has always been the place of choice as far as I’m concerned. So, what is necessary to make sure that happens? According to the Scriptures, as I understand them, it is rather simple, even simple enough for an eleven-year-old. First, one needs to recognize that he is not perfect and never will be. The Bible refers to these imperfections in our life as sin (I’ve never liked that word but that’s what the Bible calls it). That part was easy for me. Second, we need to understand the result of that sin. Scripture says, “the wages of sin is death….” (Romans 6:23a). In other words, the payment we receive for the wrong we do is death, meaning separation from God. And regardless of how good we become or how much good we do, we can never bridge the gap between us and God. That is the difference between religion and true Christianity. Religion involves us doing something ourselves to gain favor with God – all in the hope that one day we’ll make it. Christianity involves Jesus Christ having done everything for us already when He died on the cross at Calvary. “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God” (1Peter 3:18). Third, we need to understand that eternal life is a gift and, as with any gift, we can choose to accept it or not accept it. Again, scripture says, “…. but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). “Yet to all who received him (Christ), he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
So, did I understand all that stuff as an eleven-year-old? No, but I understood that I was a sinner and that Jesus had died on a cross that I may have forgiveness for stealing candy, telling little lies and cussin with my buddies. I understood eternal life was a gift from God, to me, and I could either accept it or reject it. So, I accepted God’s gift to me that morning. I wish I could tell you that I became the best little boy in the neighborhood following that morning, but I can’t. I wasn’t even the best little boy in my school! The apostle Paul said, “What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:15, 18-19). So, hey, if this guy had struggles, I’m sure to have some. But believing the Bible is the inspired word of God and using it for direction in my life has made a difference. It has provided instruction for raising my children, loving my wife, fulfilling my role as an employee, and understanding my part as a member of God’s family. It has taught me patience, given me encouragement and filled my heart with peace. And most importantly, it has given me the assurance of eternal life in heaven. There is still a clear picture in my mind of that morning years ago when, as an eleven-year-old boy, I made my decision to accept God’s gift to me, Christ Jesus. It was the most important decision I would ever make. And there is no doubt in my mind that I got it right.
If you have comments or questions about my story, or perhaps yours, I would love to hear from you.
If your living in my area and looking for a church home, I would like to invite you to
visit with us at Two Rivers Church.