Around 2011 or thereabout, I had realized that I was hell-bound if my salvation was based on my efforts. Of course, before or during that time I thought we are only saved to some extent by grace and salvation is perfected by our efforts. I had tried my best to be who religion demanded of me but it wasn’t happening. I remember those times I would sit in the dark crying and asking God to change me, to make me perfect or to kill me at the spot.
I remember one of those days, I was the only one at home, I shut the doors and raised my voice crying out to God and shouting on top of my voice “make me perfect Lord! How can you give me the law and not make me perfect to fulfil it? What is the essence of demanding perfection from me when you can make me perfect at the snap of a finger? Is life worth it if after existing I find myself in hell?”
I had a lot of questions for God, I prayed lots of prayers. I wanted the pureness of thoughts; I wanted a situation where I knew nothing else or remember anything else but heaven. Maybe, just maybe, I loved heaven more than I loved God because I didn’t want to end up in hell. Well, I know I loved God but making heaven was more important to me than anything else.
Those days, when I thought I was getting it correctly, one of those people who claim to have died, met Jesus and resurrected would come up with so many theories including things that were impossible. I wasn’t a fornicator which most preachers magnify when preaching their threats but I wasn’t safe either!
I remember a preacher who said “When I died, I saw myself in hell and people were burning! I asked one of them why she was here and she said it was because she had someone’s stuff that she couldn’t return before she died. I heard the voice of Jesus say to me ‘if you are in possession of something that wasn’t yours whether by intention or mistake, whether you picked it on the road or you stole it, you are going to hell except you look for the owner and give it to him.'”
Of course, as a young boy, I had pencils and pens I had picked at the school compound, I had rough papers I had picked during school cleanup which I always used to write my stories and draw my imaginations. I had stuff people gave to me and then stopped coming to school! If God was all-knowing, why would he allow me to enter such an unredeemable situation, I thought.
Because of the kind of home where I grew up, I wasn’t exposed to certain peer pressure, I belonged to none and I found myself not doing certain things many young people at my age were doing at that time. But I was a “miserable offender”, my thoughts, my actions and my temperaments weren’t meeting up with the supposed demands of the law and principles I was being taught in Church. I was a good person because I didn’t have the opportunity to be bad and anytime an opportunity came, I never disappointed.
When it dawned on me that I can’t win this struggle, that I have exhausted my strength, I knelt one night and said to God “Lord, you know I love you and I have always asked that you possess me by your power and make me do what you want me to do. I love you, but I am sorry, I can’t be able to keep your laws.”
Some months later, probably within the end of 2012 or the beginning of 2013, I decided to do a Biblical journey. I have always enjoyed reading Bible stories, I have always enjoyed the story parts of the Bible but this time, I decided to take a brave step into the boring Romans, Corinthians and the rest. Perhaps, that was the turning point for me, my liberation from the shackles of religion was close but I never knew it!
I remember coming across Romans 3:10 which says “No one is righteous – not even one…” And then I came to verse 19 which says
“For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.”
Wow! I discovered I wasn’t alone in this struggle and if I was going down, everyone including Pastors was going down with me because no one is righteous. What is our fate then? I thought, did God create us to burn us in hell?
I got my answers in verse 21-22 which says
“but now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law… We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.”
That was a turning point for me! It came with its struggles but it sounded so good to be true but this is the Bible, the same book those who threatened me with hell held on to when they preached terror! I read further and didn’t stop reading. It seemed something was taken off my eyes and the outlook of this world changed. The verses of the Bible I had always memorized as a kid started making sense to me. I understood John 3:16 better knowing that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
So it wasn’t God who placed all those demands on me in the first place, so all those while that I had thought I was hell-bound because of what I couldn’t do right, it wasn’t God’s opinion! It was a liberating truth and somehow, I found myself loving God more than I loved heaven, I saw myself getting hungry every day to know more of God rather than work my way into heaven.
I didn’t stop making mistakes, I didn’t stop falling here and there but my confidence in God’s ability to save me even to the outermost became very obvious. Knowing that my faith in God was enough I dealt with my sin-consciousness. It was a game-changer for me. It never gave me license to be proud about doing the wrong thing; it only gave me the freedom and opportunity to love God without obstacles and to try again even when I stumble.
Just like verse 30-31 says “There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles… Does it mean we can forget about the law? Of course not! Only when we have faith do we truly fulfil the law.” This has become my reality and I am free at last!