When the Word comes alive right in front of you. John 5.24.
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Their faces were expectant as the four of us sat atop stools at the local frozen yogurt joint. Three beautiful high school seniors, athletes heading to three different areas of our country to play their sports at the college level: Franki to Rhode Island to play volleyball, Janae to Texas A & M for soccer, and Dani to Santa Clara, also soccer. But on that day, we were not talking about sports. We were talking about Jesus and all four of us were filled with anticipation.
Trying to sync our schedules had been tough, but finally we were together! The question on the floor: ‘how can we know for sure we are Christians?’
“Becoming a Christian is a prayer away. It is the acknowledgment of who Jesus is and what he has done for us,” I told them. “Don’t ever confuse being a Christian with being religious; religion is man-made, but knowing Jesus is all about relationship. And here’s the thing,” I smiled into their eyes, “Once you come to know Jesus, you are never alone again.”
“So how do we do it?” Janae asked. Inside, I was like a greyhound, wanting to charge the question, but on the outside I calmly said, “Oh, it is just a prayer, but understand that it is a decision … actually, a commitment to follow Jesus - to choose his way over your way. Sometimes, it might even cost you something.”
All three of them looked at me, wide-eyed, as if to say, ‘wait—no one ever told me this part!’ “Sometimes it is lonely because you might be the only one of your friends who is truly following Jesus, even though others call themselves Christians — ‘you know what I mean? But when you follow Jesus, you are free to be you!” I looked from face to face and then I was quiet for a bit.
The girls knew the Gospel message, and now they knew what was involved in making a decision. Then Franki said, “I have been saying I'm a Christian for a while now even though I wasn’t. I didn’t even know how to be one! My parents did not take me to church, so I have just been learning all about Jesus on Sunday nights. [Sunday nights were with me at Sunday Night Live, an adjunct of Fellowship of Christian Athletes at San Clemente High School] I told other people I was a Christian because – what else would I be? I wasn’t Muslim, I wasn’t any other religion, so I must be a Christian, right? Even though I knew I wasn’t.”
“I am not here to talk you into anything — you understand that, right?” I looked long into their eyes. “On the other hand, if you want to ask Jesus to lead your life, then let’s do it.” They wanted that, and so we prayed. Right then, right there. In the big picture window of the yogurt shop on El Camino Real in San Clemente, California, the three friends made their decisions. And then there were hugs all around and we made plans for our next time to get together.
John records the words of Jesus, which we know flow from the heart of God …
“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.” John 5.24
The word came alive that afternoon in San Clemente. The girls walked away from past sins, forgiven; they passed from death into life ~ eternal life because they believed the message of the Messiah.
It is not always easy; actually, sometimes it is a lone decision that can lead to some lonely times. But it promises life forever with him. No reason to carry guilt any longer, and that is oh, so good.
When the Word comes to life right in front of you there is nothing like it.