I was brought up in a home that taught good moral values, and I thought I followed them rather well. After I graduated from high school, I moved out to college and discovered the freedom to do pretty much whatever I wanted. I was especially glad that I wouldn't have to put up with any more boring religious meetings! (At least while I was living at school).
It wasn't too long before my new acquaintences convinced me that I couldn't have any fun unless I had some vices. At first I was reluctant, probably because I had been such a good kid all my life. But before the end of my 2nd quarter, I found myself heavily involved in the raucous lifestyle typical at a secular campus. As a result, I didn't feel quite so lonely anymore, as I had up to that point.
Across the hall from me, there was a student who was known to go home on weekends and go to church. I felt sorry for this religious 'nut' because he was missing out on all the 'fun' the rest of us were having. During the week, though, he seemed to have a confident assurance within himself that everything would go okay with him. And that puzzled me and got me curious.
This guy occasionally left some small illustrated booklets in a dorm lounging area, and sometimes the guys and I would talk and argue about what they said. Some of the tracts affirmed from the Bible that the Lord Jesus Christ created the universe and that he visited the earth in human form with certain definite purposes in mind. Others spoke of events and concepts recorded in the Bible hundreds of years ago that impressively spoke to contemporary issues. This changed my then recently-formed opinion that the Bible was just an old dusty and irrelevant book.
All of the tracts mentioned that the Bible says we must all receive Jesus Christ as our own Lord and Savior. Every time I saw this, I would start wondering about what it meant. I thought I was a Christian already; after all, I had never done any of those 'really bad' things like murder. I rationalized to myself that if I kept from infringing upon another person's rights, I would be fulfilling my obligation to God. So I reasoned that if I kept the good deeds outweighing what I thought were the bad, I could hope to make it to heaven. And besides, I had gone through confirmation when I was 12. Well, as I continued living my self-centered life, I occasionally wondered whether or not I had ever really become a Christian.
A few months later, there was a table set up near the cafeteria for a week or so promoting a Christian conference. There was a student there passing out literature, and explaining it to interested people. I dropped by there after lunch once, and after he presented the way of salvation to me, I bombarded him with all the questions I could think of to evade the issue. This guy had a facial deformity which made me feel real sorry for him because I knew that those with deformities are sometimes mistreated. But, I was able to detect a certain peace and confidence in him that defied explanation.
Two days later, I passed by that table and that 'Christian' was there again. I started asking more heavy questions, and the strange thing was that he was able to answer most of them. I finally ran out of questions to ask him, and he asked me if I would like to receive Christ. Images raced through my mind: the lake of fire as judgement on those who remain unforgiven; Jesus dying for the guilty even though he was guiltless; and the uncanny peace and confidence that my two friends had, especially the deformed fellow. I told him, "Yes, I would like to do what I should do to get eternal life." So I closed my eyes, and he guided me through a short prayer to the Lord Jesus Christ in which I asked Him to forgive all the wrongs I had ever done and to make me the kind of person he wanted me to be.
Later on that day, I was walking across campus reflecting on what had happened to me. My lifetime of believing that I must struggle to earn eternal life was over! And as I realized that I had gotten it merely by stopping my effort and embracing Christ as my master, I was filled with a freeing sense of joy I had never known before. Later on, as I got to know Christ even better, I discovered that my loneliness was significantly fading, as I now had a good friend who was always with me and giving me wise guidance. In the years since then, I've failed him many times, but his word the Bible, confirms that he always forgives me and helps my attitude to do better next time.