My name is Paul Keefer. I’m 21 years old and I am a Christian. But I want to tell you how I got here and why I’m still there. I grew up in Cincinnati in a religious home, with three older brothers and two great parents. Life didn’t bring many struggles early on; I enjoyed the privilege of living in a comfortable family in suburban America. As a kid I think I vaguely understood the message of Christianity. Around the age of eight, I went to a Bible camp where God hit me for the first time. I realized the simple truth that we are screwed up and need something bigger to save us. That something is Jesus, and what he did, on the cross for the sins of the world around 2,000 years ago. While I knew these facts, they were hardly visible in my life. I was comfortable having the identity of a Christian, but I didn’t want it to change me.
Around my freshman year of high school, my family left the church we had been attending for years. I developed a distrust in religious leaders and while I continued to go to church, I didn’t see much value in it. Throughout high school, I placed most of my aspirations towards sports and relationships with girls. In my senior year, I chose to go into a relationship with a girl who was not a Christian, directly opposing my parents. By the end of high school, everything that I saw as good in my life seemed to fall through. My dreams of swimming in college were crushed, my girlfriend and I broke up, and I enrolled in a local school instead of going away like I always wanted to do. I sank into a depression the following spring and summer and I got to the point where I questioned if I even believed in God at all. But I knew something was wrong, and I wanted something to be different.
In a rapid change of plans, I decided to attend a Bible school in the wilderness of Montana. Yet unfortunately even there I was still questioning my faith. But the good news is that God provided a great community to help me through it. That year I learned I am way more messed up than I imagined. I grew up understanding that I need God but I generally thought I was a good person. During that year, God exposed that lie. I no longer saw sin as a outward behavior. It’s not lying, lusting, disobeying your parents, or whatever else I felt was “wrong.” I now realized that sinning is choosing something above God. When I sin, it’s not just the behavior that’s wrong. It’s choosing that behavior over God’s grace and everything He has to offer. I have the choice to accept lifelong hope and joy through God instead of trying to do everything myself. This truth radically altered the way I saw myself and the world.
With a new hope in my life, I have felt renewed as a person. I didn’t dwell on the past, instead I focused on the goals and relationships I could improve through my newfound faith in Jesus. I decided to read through the entire Bible through that year, and it was life-changing. I experienced healing and my bad habits were replace with good ones. Since God has come into my life, I’ve done things that are still amazing to me. I cut out many parts of my life that weren’t productive, and I even had the opportunity to intern for a local church for six months. My life is far from perfect, and the beauty of that is that God takes our imperfections and finds ways to make us better. As Jesus said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29). I don’t have everything figured out, but God does. I chose to take a leap of faith by trusting in him, my life has never been the same. I’m Paul, and this is my changed life story.
Just like you heard a story of a life changed by Jesus, This could be your story too and it begins by inviting Jesus Christ into your life by faith. The greatest story happened two thousand years ago when God sent his son Jesus Christ to live a perfect life, and to die as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This righteousness of God is given “through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:22) so that we can have a personal relationship with God both now and after we die in heaven.
Your story could change in a moment. The Bible says “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This could be your story. You can receive Jesus Christ right now by faith. Romans 10:9 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.” You can invite Jesus into your life right now by praying this prayer.