“The walk to the altar during the invitation seemed agonizingly long. I sobbed uncontrollably, and I was faced with the realization that I was a dead man walking!”
When considering my testimony, I really don’t have the magnificent story of a horrid past that others do. My rescue was not from a life dependent on drugs, alcohol, crime, or other such deviant behavior. Rather, my rescue was from a life lived without knowledge of my need for a Savior. Sure, alcohol was gaining control of me, and it really made me into something grotesque at times. Regardless of how good or bad I was in the sight of my peers, I needed to know that I was a sinner and in danger of being eternally separated from God.
The defining moment in my life came during a drunken rage one night. Newly married and madly in love with my wife, I started turning into someone that was deeply insecure and verbally abusive. There’s no doubt that alcohol was the catalyst, and I was definitely starting down a dark road in which culminated with my wife packing her bags and attempting to walk out. “I just can’t live with you like that!” is what I remember her telling me. These were words that would change me forever!
My wife worked for J.C Penney at the time and was in the process of completing her bachelor’s degree from Valdosta State University. We had met about six months after I arrived in Valdosta, Georgia, courtesy of the United States Air Force, and after 10 short months, we were married. For me, it was love at first sight! It was during this time that one of her co-workers began regularly inviting us to church. There was no animosity in our life toward God, so we would visit when it was convenient. Unknown to me at the time, this godly co-worker of hers began diligently praying for us to come to realize our need for a Savior! And for that, I’m thankful!
Standing there in our doorway, I begged my wife to stay. I made a commitment to her that I would change, and perhaps I said many more things in that dreadful moment. I knew that I loved her more than anything, and whatever else was said, it was apparently convincing enough for her to stay. And though it was a tremendous relief, it was at this point I started to realize that I needed help. The type of help I thought I needed, would soon be replaced by the help that I really needed.
Those church members were friendly. A bit too friendly it seemed at times, but they always seemed genuinely happy to see us. I had my suspicions about them at first, but those started to diminish after a while. “No one could be this happy all the time” was an early thought of mine. “Surely, they were putting on an act.” Even so, if going to church would convince my wife that I was willing to change, I was all for it! So, we began going…and going…and going. All the while, my wife’s co-worker was praying…and praying…and praying!
As my wife and I were settling into our life together, we soon learned that I would have to deploy in support of Desert Storm. This came as a tremendous shock to me, even though I was in the military and knew the chance existed. I guess I always considered that the Army or Marines would take care of it. The Air Force and Navy seemed to be the safest bet for me, and since I get seasick, I had joined the Air Force. How little I knew. Yet, here I was in this moment, trying to be a good husband, starting to make new friends at church, and now facing a difficult moment that would bring separation from all of that in which I was finding comfort. If God was in control, why would he be doing this to me?
In spite of my upcoming deployment, we continued going to church. Those suspicious people started becoming friends, and those sermons started making sense. Week after week, I heard the message of how sin entered the world and that we were all born into it. I started to learn that all human life is infected by it, and that there was a penalty to be paid for it – death. That very sin that entered through the one man, Adam, had corrupted all of Creation, I would soon learn. God’s perfect creation had been marred by man’s attempt to usurp His control. How true this is, even today!
More Sundays passed, and the message became clearer. Even though one man’s disobedience brought a curse of death to all mankind, another man’s obedience would bring life! This is what I needed to hear! It was Jesus that brought life! I began to listen intently about how Jesus was born supernaturally. I learned about His perfect life that was lived without sin. I learned that He was also the Son of God, but was also God at the same time. This can still be confusing to some, but it is a truth that the Bible makes clear. I learned of the Old Testament prophecies that pointed to Jesus as being the Savior that would suffer and pay the penalty for our sin. Furthermore, I learned that He fulfilled those prophecies and was indeed put to death for our sin, raised back to life, and has now returned to Heaven. His life and death, according to the Bible, was considered a perfect sacrifice by God, thus paving the way for us to have forgiveness and be reunited with Him in the future. It was something that the Scriptures make clear that we could never do for ourselves! Having always believed I needed to be good enough, make myself better, and do stuff to gain approval, I welcomed this good news and sought to know more.
By God’s grace, I now realize that He was drawing me to Himself during this time. Each sermon was like a spoonful of truth that led me to want more. And though I still struggled with the fact that I could do nothing to gain God’s favor, I was slowly beginning to realize the significance of grace. It was His love for me that compelled Him to offer His only son as a sacrifice for my sins! The Gospel was becoming clearer to me Sunday by Sunday, until that one particular Sunday when it became perfectly clear!
In what felt to me like an empty auditorium, the pastor preached. He was speaking directly to me. There was no one else, not my wife, not my friends, no Deacons, Sunday School teachers, no one! The message was simple, yet profound. I had a decision to make, and I knew it. Would I receive this gift of salvation that God was offering based on the work of His son, Jesus, or would I continue on in my unbelief knowing that at a moment’s notice death could take me away to eternal separation from His goodness to a place that the Bible says will be eternal torment with weeping and gnashing of teeth? Perhaps it was the fact that I realized that I was not guaranteed one more second into the future that opened my eyes. Maybe it was a fear of eternal condemnation without relief. Or maybe, just maybe, it was an understanding that this Jesus loved me enough, in spite of who I was and what I’d done, that He’d lay down His life for me and pay the debt for my sin! All I had to do, according to the Scriptures, was to believe that Jesus had paid the price for my sins through His death on the cross, ask Him to forgive me of those sins, and then ask Him to lead me for the rest of my life and be my Lord! I would also come to know more fully that even though I’d be forgiven, I would continue to struggle with my sinful nature until I breathe my last breath and am ushered into Heaven. God does not leave us abandoned as orphans. He has promised to provide us His Holy Spirit to help guide us. Once again, this was welcome news. In fact, it was great news!
The walk to the altar during the invitation seemed agonizingly long. I sobbed uncontrollably, and I was faced with the realization that I was a dead man walking! I needed a Savior, and here I was now bowing my knee; my life; to Him there in that place. To say it more simply, I asked God to forgive me and save me. I told Him that I trust that Jesus is who the Bible says He is, and I believe with all of my heart that He was crucified for my sin and raised from the dead for my justification. I accepted the fact that I could not save myself, and I committed to follow and serve Him for the rest of my days!
Overwhelmed by His love and this gift, I could barely stand. Tears streamed down my face as I made my profession of faith public to those in attendance – those that moments ago I was totally unaware were present. Unaware of what the journey ahead would be like, I was certain of this – I was perfectly loved by a perfect Savior, and I was sure that I now belonged to Him!
Much more can be said of my life since Christ redeemed me, and I would happily devote pages to that. However, for the sake of this post, I will tell you that I am glad I came to the realization that I was not saved because I was a good person, or that my parents were Christians (in fact the only thing we inherit is sin). I was saved because I surrendered myself to the authority of Jesus and believed with my whole heart that it was HIS work that provided for my salvation! Nothing I could ever do would ever be good enough! And for that, I am eternally grateful! That, my friends, is GOOD NEWS!
If you find yourself in a situation similar to mine – wondering why you need to be saved, or thinking that you’re good enough to go to Heaven, please consider my testimony. Don’t think that you have to be good enough, because you will never be. There’s nothing you can ever do to earn salvation. We have inherited a death penalty, but Jesus has come to give us life.
If you haven’t already done so, what is stopping you from calling on Him to save you today and trusting Him as Lord of your life? You can do that today by admitting that you’ve sinned. Believe that Jesus died on a cross for your sins and ask Him to forgive you, and then confess that He is your Lord and that you will trust Him for the rest of your life.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” (John 14:6)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
(All Scripture reference taken from the NIV)