“But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.”
The above verse is perhaps the foundational verse on my life. It took me a little bit to fully understand all the ramifications of this piece of God’s Word, but it describes me. It describes the God I worship. It describes our relationship.
Let me tell you the story.
I was born on November 9, 1992, at 8:37 a.m. in Central Carolina Hospital in Sanford, N.C., to two awesome parents. Of course at the time I had no way of knowing whether or not they were awesome parents, but over time, they grew to be.
As long as I can remember, I was in church on Sundays. I grew up going to Jonesboro Heights Baptist Church in Sanford, all the way up to sixth grade. I was very involved at church, participating in plays and kids groups and Bible drill and grand prix cars, all that fun stuff.
Over that time, I began to build my bank of biblical knowledge. Bible drill was huge for that. I would memorize verses and “titles” for chapters and bits of Scripture. For instance, Hebrews 11 was the “faith chapter.” John 19 was the crucifixion of Jesus. I can’t remember any of the verses I memorized.
But I was a good kid. As good as I could be, at least. That was my calling card. I was the one who wanted to follow all the rules, do all the right things. I prayed the prayer and got baptized when I was 7 years old. I was a Christian from the moment I was born, it felt like.
Around sixth grade, my family started attending Turner’s Chapel, also in Sanford. Again, I carried my “good kid” mentality around with me. I was the pure definition of a goody-two-shoes just walking around.
But I didn’t have a real relationship with Jesus. I wasn’t faking. I think I legitimately thought I was a Christian, but I don’t think I grasped the Gospel, the fact that Jesus lived a perfect life, died and rose again, all so that I could be forgiven of my sins and have a relationship with God.
The Climax (Which Wasn’t All That Climactic)
I don’t know for sure when Jesus became my personal Savior. I do know it’s one of two instances. I’ll write about both as if they were the real thing when, in reality, I have no idea. But both experiences were as real as Reese’s Cups are delicious.
First: July 2006. I was at Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters, a youth camp in the mountains of North Carolina, with my church’s youth group for a week. Snowbird is an awesome place where the Bible is preached, the Gospel is emphasized, and staffers are goofy and funny and love their students.
That Wednesday night, I went to the prayer chapel, a building where different stations were set up to pray for different parts of the Christian experience – missions organizations, personal holiness, etc. There was a painting of Jesus with a glass pane on top of it. People were encouraged to write a sin they were struggling with on the glass with a whiteboard marker.
So I did it. I think I wrote pride or something like that. I then sat down to pray. All of a sudden, somehow, I realized that I hadn’t accepted Jesus. So I prayed and said, “God, if I’m not saved, please save me.”
Second: November (roughly) 2006. It was a late night and I was feeling the weight of conviction of sin (which makes me think that perhaps I got saved in July, but I’m not 100 percent sure). I was distraught and overwhelmed. I felt like I needed to read my Bible, which hadn’t been opened in a while.
So I pulled it out of my bedside table (still the same one I have today) and did the famous “Scripture roulette” method – open it randomly and see what happens. I landed on Psalm 49.
It’s kind of a depressing Psalm to start off. The psalmist writes about men who are stupid and pompous. For instance, verse 12 – “Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish.” Pretty bad stuff. But then I stumbled across verse 15.
But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.
In that moment, I knew God’s love for me. The simple fact that God will receive me was so encouraging in that moment. I had grasped, almost unknowingly, the meaning of the Gospel in that moment. And I believed it.
Psalm 49:15 became my calling card. I named my movie production company “Act 49 Studios.” Ransom My Soul was the name, and the verse was the basis, of my longest short film. Even today, my church league softball number is 49, after Psalm 49.
But perhaps the way this verse stays most relevant in my life is through this blog. The summer of 2011, I started this blog and needed a name. I thought a fun gimmick would be to say all these posts were written “by a ransomed soul.”
And it’s stuck. Over 100 posts later, I’m still a ransomed soul. Jesus paid the penalty. He paid the ransom for my soul. And because He paid it, God receives me. Death and Sheol wants to bring me down and keep me from pursuing Jesus. They want to keep me from loving God. They want to keep me from obeying His Word. They want to keep me from accepting the grace and mercy of Jesus.
But I must remind myself that it’s God who has ransomed me! And there’s nothing that can cancel out that ransom. There’s nothing that can separate me from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). So why should I fear in times of trouble? It is all God. Through Christ.
And that’s the Gospel. And that’s why I’m a ransomed soul.