A few nights ago, Tim and I went on a mini-date. We took a long drive, mobile ordered Chipotle (my favorite!), and then sat in our truck and ate our meal square in the middle of a parking lot. It was absolutely delightful. Somehow, we got to talking about when I was first invited to church.
If my memory serves me correctly, I was a freshman in high school, and I was spending the night at my friend Tami’s house. One of her family friends went to a little church across town, and she asked me if I would like to come along with her, to which I promptly responded, “No, thank-you.” At the time, I couldn’t imagine anything more boring than going to church. However, when she mentioned a group of cute boys who were in the youth group, I was quickly persuaded.
I don’t remember if we first went to a youth group meeting or attended a Sunday morning service. But, my friend Tami didn’t lie, there were a lot of cute boys, and they kept my interest initially. But, I was most surprised by the kindness of the people around me. Couples and families were smiling and happy to be at church. Their warmth spilled over to me, and I felt like I belonged.
Each Sunday, as the pastor preached, I stared at the purple banner that hung behind him on the wall. It read, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son.” John 3:16 I wasn’t sure what all of that meant, but by this point, I loved going to church. I wished the music would never end, and each Sunday, I left the people’s faces radiant faces etched in my mind.
My First Bible
Somewhere along the way, I received my first Bible. It was a dark brown hardback, and all of Jesus’ words were in red letters. I remember not knowing how to navigate through the pages. Someone patiently explained that there were different books of the Bible and then showed me how to find the chapter and then the verse. One day, I looked up John 3:16 on my own and discovered the second part, “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Finally, one night at youth group, the pastor invited anyone who would like to learn more about following Jesus to come to the back of the church to find out more. Well, one of the boys who I had my eyes on, stood up and walked back. I was curious about what he was doing, and I followed him. When I did, the pastor spotted me and asked me if I’d like to talk. I said, “Sure,” and then he shared the Gospel with me. He told me that Jesus loved me and that He died for my sin. He asked if there was any reason why I didn’t want to follow Jesus? I said, “No, no reason at all. I want to follow Jesus.” We prayed together, and I walked out of the church, a brand new Christian, full of hope.
That little body of Believers loved me well. Even though I lived across town, they transported me to and from church Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. They invited me into their homes to share meals around their tables, and they nurtured my faith with patience.
Today, I am still in contact with many of the people from my first church family. In fact, to my surprise, several of them were present Justin’s memorial service. I am forever grateful for each of them.
Perhaps what I remember the most about that time in my life is the simplicity of the Gospel. Sometimes, I think we get too caught up in over complicating things. When I placed my faith in Christ, I hardly knew how to read the Bible. I had absolutely no understanding of theology, and I was a hot mess, but none of that mattered. He would see to my sanctification; I needed only to believe.
The Scripture says,
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” And, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:16, 3:36)
I invite you to investigate the simple but profound realities of the Gospel. Do you have any questions? Please feel free to send me a message and ask away.