John Davies thought he was a failure as he tried to live according to a list of rules.
Unlike his childhood experience of church with his parents, John shares that in his teens, "My faith did not feel warm and welcoming, and instead it was an impersonal list of do's and don'ts."
He was a dedicated student, excelled in rugby, and yet underneath he felt like a failure.
At a young age he remembers, "I accepted Jesus as my Saviour – that He had paid for my disobedience – but I thought I needed to be as close to perfect as possible.
"I knew God loved me, but like my parents, I could well imagine there were a lot of moments where He didn't like me much.
"I struggled with arrogance, anger, selfishness and objectifying people. I gauged my relationship with God on how well I did in these areas.
"How wrong I was."
In his first year at university John joined a Christian student group on campus that changed his life.
In their Bible study group, John learned that from the moment he had trusted Jesus he was pure in God's eyes through Jesus' death on the cross.
"Jesus had paid for all my mistakes, for all time," John explains.
"Learning that was so liberating. However, for that truth to mean anything in my life, it had to mean everything."
For John, that meant submitting to Jesus as Lord over everything in His life, and immediately he experienced Jesus' love in a whole new way.
"I went from a religion to a relationship, from law to love, from 'do' to 'done' - and I'll never go back," John says with a smile.
"Now I talk to Jesus, knowing that He accepts me wholeheartedly. I still try to be a better man, but it is out of gratitude, not to feel worthy.
"I still sometimes fail, but that doesn't define my relationship with Him. Jesus' completed sacrifice does." •
Courtesy Student Life New Zealand, www.studentlife.org.nz