3 Bible Verses That Have Changed My Life

Matt Mahla is the RUF Campus Minister at Duke University. You can check out what RUF at Duke is up to here.

One reason that I have confidence that the Bible really is the Word of God is because I never could have come up with it: what is shown to us in Scripture is so far beyond us. 

Here’s an example, Psalm 32:1 – “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” I would expect the Bible to say something like this instead: “Blessed is the one who has no reason to be forgiven.” 

But the Bible is real, and it invites us to be the same. This verse is life-changing for me because it has freed me up to be honest about my need for forgiveness. In fact, honesty about sin is necessary to be blessed because confession accesses the one who covers transgressions. 

And this isn’t a cover-up. It’s not sweeping sin under the rug. I can’t help but think about how God’s glorious presence would cover the temple in the Old Testament. Psalm 32:1 is a picture of our out-in-the-open sin being overwhelmed by the glory of the forgiver. There is perhaps no better picture of God’s glory than the cross, which draws me to another life-changing verse, John 15:13 – “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” 

If I’m honest, I so often connect friendship to performance– if I can put on the right kind of performance, whatever the circumstances and the crowd call for, then I will have friends. I can feel that pull, too, when it comes to Jesus. Is he the kind of friend for whom we need to perform? No! Because the one who lays down his life for his friends is a friend of sinners. This is one of my favorite titles of Jesus. No performance necessary, just a need to acknowledge that I am one of those sinners who needs the kind of friend Jesus is. 

Receiving this kind of love makes me want to be that same kind of friend of sinners. So how does that love play out in our lives? Perhaps not always the way we think. After all, a global pandemic didn’t feel very loving. But that’s why I need the life-changing reality of John 11:5-6. It completely blows our categories when it comes to what the love of Jesus really looks like. 

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” (John 11:5-6) Uh, what? If he really loved them, shouldn’t he have sprinted as fast as he could to rescue Lazarus? 

Suffering in this sin-stained world is inevitable, and it can threaten our sense of Jesus’ love. But we never have the whole picture. I imagine his disciples must have really wrestled with feeling abandoned on the Saturday after the cross. How could this friend who loved them leave them alone in this world? 

If Jesus was at Lazarus’ side to heal him, he would have robbed them all of the life-changing love displayed in Lazarus’ resurrection. If Jesus stopped short of the cross, he would have robbed us of the life-changing love that would dare to die even for sinners. 

When we suffer, we are called to remember that we don’t have the whole picture. What we do have is a God who meets honest confession with blessed forgiveness. And we have a God who lays down his life for his friends. And we have an empty tomb – not Lazarus’ but the one in which Jesus was laid. Jesus’ death and resurrection are all the evidence we need to know that no sin or circumstance can threaten his love for sinners who come to him in their need. 

Sin and suffering never have the last word. These verses help me remember that. And they tell a story that must be divine because no mere man could ever have come up with it.