A horde of rowdy kids shuffled out of the chapel room, and I sighed. They seemed eager to leave, and I wondered if my message had gotten through to any of them. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a camper moving toward me.
I turned to see little Serena approaching cautiously. Her head was bent low and she held her hands folded together in front of her chest. Blonde locks of hair draped over each side of her timid face. I smiled at her, and she nervously smiled back before speaking softly. I couldn’t hear her at first, so I leaned in toward her and asked her to repeat herself.
“I was just wondering if you could tell me how to have God and Jesus in my heart.”
I gently placed my hand on her shoulder, trying to contain my excitement. “Of course,” I said, “Let’s sit right here on the front row, and we’ll talk in just a minute.”
As the last few campers made their way out of the room, Serena’s cabin director, Lexi, asked if everything was okay.
“Yeah, it’s great. Come sit with us,” I told her.
The three of us sat together in the now-quiet chapel room. Serena looked up at Lexi on her right and then at me on her left. Her look of serenity showed that she could feel the intense love of God surrounding her.
I explained to Serena that there aren’t any magic words in the Bible to bring Jesus into your heart, but that it is simply a matter of what you believe. “There are a few very important things that you must believe in order to have a relationship with Jesus,” I explained. “The first thing to believe is that you have sinned—that you have done wrong things. And our sins keep us from knowing God. Do you believe that?”
“Oh, yes,” she replied assuredly. “I’ve done a lot of wrong things. One time I did something bad and even blamed it on someone else.”
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
“Okay that’s good,” I told her. “Now, the next thing that you need to believe is that God loves you. In fact, He’s absolutely crazy about you.” A huge smile began to spread across Serena’s face. “He never stops thinking about you because He loves you so much. Do you believe that?”
“Yes. I believe that,” she said.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 1 John 4:16
“That’s wonderful,” I told Serena. “I’m so glad that you believe God loves you. Another thing you need to believe is that Jesus died on the cross because He loves you so much. Did you know that Jesus died on the cross?”
“Yes,” she replied. “I saw a play one time about Jesus, and, in the play, He died on a cross. And then He came back to life again!”
Because, 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. Romans 10:9
“That’s right,” I said. “Jesus came back to life. But do you know why Jesus died on the cross?”
Serena thought for a moment before shaking her head. “I don’t know.”
“Well,” I told her, “Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins. When Jesus went to the cross, all of your sins were put on Him. Do you believe that?”
“Um, I don’t know how,” she confessed.
“Yeah, this part is a little hard to understand,” I admitted. “But before you were ever born, Jesus knew every wrong thing you were ever going to do in your life. Do you believe that?”
Serena nodded, so I continued. “Jesus didn’t want you to be punished for your sins, because He loves you so much. So, He decided to take your punishment. Jesus took the blame for all of the wrong things that you’ve ever done. And that’s why He died on the cross.”
Serena’s eyes lit up like fireworks, as the Holy Spirit brought the revelation to her. “Really?”
“Yes,” I assured her. My heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest as I realized I was witnessing the very moment of her new birth. Then I asked her again. “Do you believe that this is true?”
“Yes. I believe that,” she said through watery eyes and a broad smile.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18
“And here’s another amazing thing,” I continued. “When you put your faith in Jesus to forgive your sins, they’re gone. Now, when God looks at you, He doesn’t see any sin at all. He sees you as perfect, because Jesus took all your sins away.”
This time an audible giggle escaped through Serena’s beautiful smile. This Good News was almost too good to be true, but there was no stopping the Holy Spirit now.
“Do you believe that God sees you as perfect?”
“Yes,” Serena exclaimed in humility. “I believe it!”
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
“Serena,” I said, “there’s one more thing that’s very important for you to believe. When you put your faith in Jesus, He comes to live inside you.” That broad smile filled Serena’s face once again. “He lives in your heart now. He will always be there for you.” Serena began nodding excitedly. “He will never leave you for the rest of your life. No matter what comes your way, He will always be with you.”
“I believe it!” she said, before I could even ask her. “I believe it!”
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? 2 Corinthians 13:5
“That’s it then,” I exclaimed, no longer able to hold in my excitement. “The Bible says that, when you believe these things, you are saved, and you are a brand-new person.” Serena was giddy with excitement. “Now were going to pray together, and I’m going to help you.”
The smile faded and Serena looks at me nervously. “Oh, I’ve never really prayed before. I just listen when other people pray.”
“That’s okay,” I assured her. “You’re just going to tell God the same things that you told me. I’ll say the words first, and you can just repeat them. It’s important for you to know that you can talk to God on your own.”
Serena smiled again and agreed. We prayed together.
“Lord, I believe that I have sinned and done wrong things.”
“I believe that You love me.”
“I believe that You died on the cross for me.”
“I believe that You have taken my sin away.”
“I believe that You live inside me now.”
“Help me to follow You.”
Two days later, Serena stood in front of the entire assembly of campers and staff and boldly proclaimed that she has trusted in Jesus to take away her sin, and that Jesus Christ is Lord of her life.
I baptized her in the swimming pool with Lexi on her right and me on her left, just as we had been that moment when everything changed, and Serena was made new. This time, I don’t know if she could sense the love of God coming from us, but I could certainly feel that love emanating from her.