My family and I were living in England, and for weeks I’d been beside myself with excitement about an upcoming camp I was scheduled to attend. The camp was taking place in my native Sweden, and my sister, some other friends and I were travelling there by bus and ferry. I was 13 years old at the time, and this would be my first international trip without my parents, so I was convinced that I had made it to the big time with this adventure.
As my friends and I waited to board our bus in the carpark of a nearby college, we threw our backpacks on a truck that would carry larger luggage to Sweden. The truck then took off and, full of adrenaline, we made final preparations to board the bus and start our trip.
That’s when it hit me: My passport was in my backpack, which had just left with the truck! I would not be travelling internationally without my passport! Was my big adventure over before it had even started?
Panicked, I rushed over to tell my dad the bad news—he’d stayed to wave goodbye to us. Together we went to see the travel coordinator who, unsurprisingly, wasn’t happy. But to his credit, he avoided making me feel too bad. However, he made it clear that this kind of carelessness was not acceptable. Embarrassed about my mistake, I wallowed in remorse, wondering what I was going to do.
That’s when the travel coordinator, in an act of mercy, dangled me a lifeline. There was a stop coming up where we’d be able to catch up with the truck. If all went as planned, I’d be able to retrieve my passport from my backpack at that point.
I could have hugged the man, but this being the rather formal England of the 1990s, I said a relieved thank you and quickly boarded the bus. An hour or so later, we caught up with the truck and, full of gratitude, I dug through a mountain of luggage, found my backpack and grabbed my passport. While this incident gave my pride a severe hit, my trip was saved by an act of mercy.
As with my passport drama, so many of our troubles in life are self-inflicted—we bring them upon ourselves. There’s something about humans that’s incredibly error-prone. The Bible says that we have all sinned, and the natural result of this is death (Romans 3:23, 6:23). Our only lifeline comes through the salvation that is offered us by God. There’s nothing we can do to earn this salvation and eternal life. They are free gifts offered us as an act of God’s mercy and Christ’s sacrifice in giving up His life on the cruel cross.
The Bible talks about this gift of salvation as a dramatic rescue effort: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13,14).
Here the Bible makes it clear that God wants to save us. He doesn’t want us to be lost to this dominion of darkness and death. Through Jesus, who died to save all of us, God delivers us. He redeems us and gives us a new lease on this life and a future of eternal life with Him. This is grace. This is how we are offered salvation. It’s how we are rescued.
But while this gift of salvation is free, it’s anything but cheap. Philippians 2:5–8 talks about how much Jesus gave up to save us. He joined humanity with His divinity so that He could die the death of a criminal. He paid the death penalty for our sins so that we could be forgiven and go to heaven with Him. Nobody would make this kind of sacrifice unless they loved us profoundly. That’s why the Bible says that “God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that by believing in Him we could have eternal life” (John 3:16, my paraphrase). If we believe in Jesus and accept what He did for us on the cross, we have the assurance of eternal life.
How to accept the gift
The key, though, is making the decision to accept what Jesus did and follow Him. Salvation doesn’t come as the default setting for humans when we’re born. Salvation is nothing to be taken for granted. “All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one,” says Psalm 14:3. This is not a pretty picture. The cancer of sin has become malignant and is spreading within all of us. If we ignore it, the consequences are eternally serious.
Accepting Jesus means admitting that you can’t save yourself and confessing your sins. Then you can claim the sacrifice that He made for you on the cross. It’s incredibly simple, but it’s an essential step, nonetheless. The good news is that this step, once taken in faith, has guaranteed results.
First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
This Bible promise is a good one to take hold of when you feel you’ve made an impossible mess of your life and you’re too sinful for God to save. Once you’ve confessed your sins, you don’t need to stew in your guilt and self-flagellation for another minute. You’ve been forgiven. It’s time to confidently own your new status, courtesy of the best Friend you’ll ever have: Jesus.
The apostle Paul is blunt about what a beautiful realisation this can be when you allow it to sink in: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” he asks in Romans 7:24. And with a rhetorical flourish he triumphantly answers his own question in the next verse: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
A transformed life
Let’s back up a second here. Paul, or Saul as he was called before he was converted, had been a nasty piece of work in his younger days. Before he changed his ways, he had incited violence against Christians and actively persecuted them. Saul aggressively sought to harm the followers of Jesus. He was a religious extremist who used his influence to weaponise the masses and incite hatred, a lot like the dangerous religious zealots of today.
So when Paul turned his life around and decided to follow Jesus, people were understandably sceptical. Wasn’t this the same person who, only a short time before, had been hot on the trail of Christians, intent on arresting them? Paul’s complete turnaround stretched people’s credulity. To say he had a lot to answer for would be an understatement of epic proportions. But despite all this, Jesus forgave Paul. Jesus delivered him. Jesus transformed him.
If God can take such a violent, hateful extremist and offer him salvation, he can do the same for you and me. We, too, can join Paul in thanking God who delivers us through Jesus. Even if your memory replays the events when you stumbled in the past, accepting Jesus’ salvation allows you to claim Hebrews 10:17 as your promise: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”
It’s time to move on. Welcome to a beautiful new life!
A native of Sweden, Bjorn Karlman is a freelance writer who travels the world as a “digital nomad”, living in two or three countries per year with his wife and preschooler.