The Former Days
Heb.10:32-33 - But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;
33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.
Regardless of how much theology I think I know, or how much original languages I learn, or how many sermons I preach, I will always be amazed by this one thing: Jesus Christ saved my soul. I can never seem to get over that, even though that event happened in March of 1975. You see, I was not manipulated or coerced, and I did not say a prayer and then go home to eat lunch. And when I awoke the next day, I knew I was a different person. Everything seemed new and fresh.
I turned on the radio in my car and searched for Christian stations I did not even realize existed. Some man with a British accent, who I later learned was Alexander Scousby, was reading from the King James Bible. I was overjoyed! Today such things are considered dry as last year’s bird’s nest. But let me give you some background, as I promised.
I was raised In southern New Jersey. I went to Lutheran catechism for three years, and I was confirmed in the church where my mother was the choir director. I went to church on Sundays until I left for college. After I flunked out of college in my first year, I got a job and lived at home. I began to experiment with drugs and alcohol, and I became very promiscuous and violent as well. I bought a van, placed a couch in the back, and had a bumper sticker that read, “Don’t laugh, your daughter may be in this vehicle”. I was a real piece of work.
My mother died in 1973 and from there my life spiraled further downward. My father remarried and moved away. My life was drugs, alcohol, violence, and an unbroken stream of partying. I began to sell drugs, even in the local high school. One night I and three of my friends made plans to rob a bank. In New Jersey in those days, just an attempted bank robbery resulted in a 20 year sentence. We all agreed that no one wanted that. So after we chose the bank on the outskirts of town, we agreed to kill the guard as we entered. So it was set.
But before that happened, I got into a street brawl over a girl, and I was injured. I had my finger bitten almost in half. I was living on the street and had no one to attend to my injury. I called my aunt, my mother’s sister, who lived in North Jersey and she told me to come up to live with her. I hitchhiked to Clifton, New Jersey with only a shirt and a pair of Jeans and a pair of shoes. I had nothing else. The hospital had told me to keep my finger in water 24 hours a day for a week, and miraculously my finger healed with a scar noticeable until today.
It was about that time one of brothers became a believer and shared with me over the phone that he was considering becoming a minister. That stirred something inside me but I as yet did not know what. That same brother came to visit me and took me to a Broadway show called, “Godspell”. I was stirred all the more. I went and bought a Bible in Manhattan. I took it out of the box and when I opened it it seemed daunting. Oh wait! There are words in red here. I began to read the words in red. After a few days of reading I began to see that I had to make a decision.
While I was at my aunt’s house, I watched the television in my room. One night I saw Billy Graham preaching, and in those days there was no remote, so unless you were able to get up you had to watch what was on. I began to watch. I was intrigued, so I decided to watch again the following night. Mr. Graham preached on the Second Coming. As a Lutheran I had no idea He was coming again. I was more than intrigued, I was spiritually awakened. Was Jesus who He claimed to be? And if He was, and if He was coming back, were would that leaved me?
That night, at about nine o’clock in the evening, and on a cold, March night, I climbed the face of Garret Mountain that was right across the street from my aunt’s house. On a clear night overlooking the Manhattan skyline I called out to Jesus and asked Him if He was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. There was no audible reply, but the inward witness of the Spirit was unmistakable. I remembered these words,
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
That very night I believed on Jesus and was born again. As I climbed down the face of that mountain I could hardly contain my joy and excitement. No one had ever told me that you could actually know Christ and know that you had eternal life. For many months I drove people crazy as I clumsily witnessed to almost everyone. Yes, I was a newborn and wild lamb.
But here it is 37 years later and I still revel in the simple fact that I am saved! Do not let my attempts at linguistics and literary prowess fool you. I am just a simple sinner saved by grace and all I think I know is just dung compared with knowing Jesus on a childlike level. I still can cry when I share these things since they are so real and tell the actual story of my life. And when I one day lay eyes upon my Lord and Savior, nothing will mean anything then.
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
I am not what I should be, and I am not even what I could be, but I am not what I was, and for that I openly and publicly praise Jesus. And one day I will be like Him. It is all of Him and none of me, and so shall it every be. Amen.