Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Conversion Story

I grew up in the mainline Lutheran Church in which my mother was the choir director and my father attended at Easter and Christmas. I went through the three mandatory years of catechism and was confirmed as a member and took my first communion. I was absolutely as lost as Hitler no matter what the church said about me. After high school I entered a life of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I quickly spiraled downward until in 1974 I conspired with several of my friends to rob a bank. We had chosen a rural bank which had one elderly guard and we were committed to kill the guard as we were agreed that we didn't want to go to prison for the twenty mandatory years that New Jersey law required. Before the robbery took place I was involved in a street fight in which my finger was almost bitten off(pretty tough fight, huh?). Since my mother was deceased and my father would have no part of me, who could blame him, my aunt in North Jersey took me in. So in 1974 my mother's sister, who was an atheist, took me in to live.
At the outset I was still healing from the injuries I incurred from the fight and I took some welding classes provided by the government. It was during that time that my brother took me to Broadway to see the play "Godspell" which even with all the things that it could be criticized for God used it to start a searching in my heart. I mean I reasoned in my heart that if Jesus was who He said He was I wanted to know Him. For the next several months everything I saw spoke to me about Christ. A bumper sticker on the car in front of me; a statue in a cemetery; a radio station I accidentally turned to; and finally a Billy Graham crusade on television. Now this was before the advent of "clickers" and you had to get up to change the channel. As I ate my sandwich I decided to wait to change the channel until after I ate. As I listened I became mesmerized by the topic he was preaching on because I had never heard it before. He was proclaiming that Jesus was coming again. I had never been told that before, and it put a totally different light on my search. If He was returning to this earth again it meant two things to me, first it meant that Jesus was real and alive. Not just a historical figure that taught us to love our neighbor, no, He was all that He claimed He was, God in the flesh. Secondly, if He was returning, what implications did that have for me? Needless to say I was consumed with the Spiritual reality about the Lord Jesus that transcended religion.
I couldn't escape it and it was in my heart constantly. One night in March of 1975 I climbed up the face of Garret Mountain in North Jersey overlooking New York City and I said out loud "Jesus, if you are the Son of God and the only Savior, than I want to know you". The Scriptures declare that "whosoever comes unto me I will in no wise cast out". On that night the Holy Spirit revealed to me who Jesus was and by faith I became a follower. Now I was as theologically unsophisticated as one could imagine. I had never heard the term "born again" but when I first heard it I thought that was a great phrase because it described what happened to me, I didn't even know it was the Lord Himself that had said those words. My witnessing approach back then was to ask people "Do you know Jesus?" and when they said yes they knew Him I would respond "No, I mean really know Him. He is alive!". People would then look at me with the discomfort that something in me was unbalanced. My atheistic aunt would chide me that it was alright to let Jesus help you get off drugs but don't get fanatical about Him. But I couldn't help but be fanatical, after all, if it was true that everyone that dies will spend eternity in either heaven or hell what else really matters. And that will be the topic of my next article dealing with the changes I have witnessed in the last 31 years since I have become a Christian and what should be our response to these changes. These are serious times with serious issues that need to be addressed. But let us not lose sight of one of the serious issues that needs our attention is our own need of a major revival that will Spiritually impact our world.

Lk.14:33 - So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

3 comments:

JT333 said...

Wow...A beautiful story of God's triumphant grace and redemption!

Anonymous said...
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DianaK(creeky37) said...

Dear Rick,

Your story sounds a lot like mine. However, later, about five years ago, I learned of the real Jesus of the bible and not the one I imagined with my own thoughts and the one that has been presented by the traditions of men over these many centuries. At first I believed in a false gospel, just like you do. I didn't want to hear what I am saying to you either. But God did give me ears to hear and I pray that He gives them to you also. Only He has the power to break through the wall of religion that surrounds you.

God bless you and I pray that you come out of the religious anti-Christ system.