When you're alone at night, do you possess peace and joy? If not, you can experience both, but you can never find them in yourself, in the arms of another, in a movie, or in a magazine.
Consider Mrs. Calfee, a lady from Tennessee. During the last years of her life, I visited her in the nursing home and hospital. Although I went to encourage her, she usually encouraged me. Her passion for Jesus bubbled continuously.
Yet she lived a hard life. Her dad had abandoned her family prior to her birth. She buried five of her siblings, her husband, and four of her children.
She also endured blood clots, multiple strokes, arthritis, diabetes, kidney problems, Parkinson's disease, Bell's palsy, cancer, cataracts, hernias, and underwent 13 surgeries. Yet her sweet attitude and love for Jesus dazzled more than a few people. Although she experienced enormous trouble, she relished God's goodness. She wasn't always happy, but she knew true peace and joy.
This kind of deep contentment comes only from a relationship with Christ. In order to have a relationship with Christ, you must place your full trust in him. You must trust that only he can bring you into full fellowship with God the Father.
Jesus died on the cross and rose again so that those who put their faith in him will experience forgiveness and significance.
But the starting point is to understand that God created the world good (Genesis 1:31). When he created Adam and Eve, he was pleased with them. Then, they sinned (Genesis 3). They chose to do their will rather than God's. Ever since then, we've all been rebelling against God.
While we still bear God's image, we are rebels. Romans 3:23 says, "For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard." We are more prone to do what's wrong that what's right. And the Bible teaches that our sin earns us death because God is perfect and can't tolerate sin. Hebrews 12:14 says, "...those who are not holy will not see the Lord."
Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord." Not only will we die physically, but we'll have to suffer forever in hell if we die without a relationship with Christ.
Matthew 25:46 says, "And they [those who haven't trusted Christ] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life." The Bible warns people that they can fool themselves into thinking they're Christians when they're really not. Jesus said, "On judgment day many will say to me, 'Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.' But I will reply, 'I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God's laws'" (Matthew 7:22-23). So, we must never take lightly the Bible's teachings on hell.
But the Bible also talks about heaven. Romans 6:23 says, not only that the wages of sin is death, "...but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord." We can have a relationship with Christ in this life and in the life to come.
God has showed his love to us by sending his son Christ to die for sin. Romans 5:8 says, "But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." Jesus doesn't ask us to clean our lives up and then come to him. He wants us to come to him as we are--sinners in need of forgiveness. We come to him by faith. In other words, we trust that only Christ's death on the cross can make us right with God. We could never do enough good things for God to love us. Titus 3:5 says, "[Christ] saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit."
But true faith is more than just head knowledge. Many folks possess knowledge about Christ, but that doesn't make them true followers. The difference is between something you know and something you trust. For example, it's one thing to know a chair will hold you up if you sit in it. But it's another to trust the chair enough to sit in it. Christians don't just believe facts about Jesus...they trust their whole lives to him. They are staking all of eternity on his teachings.
Romans 10:9-10 says, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved." One of the main ways we confess that Jesus is Lord is by telling our friends and family that we have placed our trust in Jesus.
Although Christ gives peace and joy, Christians still face difficulty. In fact, Jesus said,
"If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23). To follow Christ means you will live God's way not your own. Sometimes, this will mean facing persecution for Christ. "Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12). Difficulties and trials will come, but Jesus will give you the strength you need to make it through, just like he did for Mrs. Calfee.
If you want to follow Christ, below is a prayer you can pray. Just repeating the words will NOT make you a Christian. You must sincerely trust Christ:
"Dear God, I am a rebel. I deserve to die and go to hell, but Jesus your Son made the way so that I would not have to perish. He died on the cross and rose again. I know that you are right and I am wrong in my rebellion. I have sinned against you and I am sorry. Please forgive me and cleanse my sin. I accept and confess you as the Ruler of my life. Thank you Father for adopting me as your child."
If you've trusted Christ, welcome to God's family! Please see my article on baptism. And check out my free book, Growing Up in Christ: Biblical Teaching for New Believers.