I received Jesus when I was 12 years old at a church youth camp. It was an amazing week from the first day to the last. The standout moment however, happened the last night of the camp.
Frank, the camp pastor, portrayed Jesus’s final hours on the cross. His presentation was so graphic, it was hard for me to take. I had heard the story many times in church, but this time was different. The story was becoming real to me. At the end, Frank uttered Jesus’s final words: “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head as if to die. We sat in stunned silence until Frank said “Jesus did this for you.”
I didn’t know this verse at the time, but God was etching Romans 5:8 on my heart and in my mind. If I had known the verse, I would have quoted it this way, “God demonstrated his own love for me in this: While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me.” It was that personal, that overwhelming.
There wasn’t a bright light and I didn’t hear peals of thunder. Nor did I hear any audible voices. But a keen awareness of my need for Jesus overpowered me, and it was something I could not shake.
At the end of the service, Frank invited us to pray to receive Jesus into our lives. As he prayed, I prayed. Sitting in a chair in Mobley Hall at the state FFA/FHA camp in Covington, Georgia, with my heart beating out of my chest, I asked Jesus to come live in me.
Earlier that day, I hadn’t been thinking about spiritual things. I wasn’t praying for God to do a work in my life. It just happened. Christ’s death for me became real. It pushed its way into my heart and soul and brought to life my need for Christ.
From that point forward, I never questioned my need for Jesus. This truth was in my heart to stay. Even when life was its messiest for me some eight years later, something deep down kept telling me that Jesus was my answer. However, as a twelve-year-old kid, I wasn’t sure why I needed him in my life. I wasn’t asking any of those nagging questions about identity, purpose, or destiny. I was just a kid, content to play sports and ride bikes and have fun with my friends. God, however, saw me as someone who needed his Son. He loved me enough to let me know. That’s grace.