Sunday, April 05, 2009

Telling My Story: Part I--the beginning

The problem in telling a story that covers a lifetime is in determining where to begin and just how to condense it so that it doesn't take a lifetime to read. Some of the stuff--like how cool my family is--I've already posted about in the past and so I won't say much in this post. Other stuff, though relevant to who I am and how I think, isn't really relevant to this particular part of the story. And yet other stuff, though very much a part of what I have become, is stuff that you just don't want or need to know.

If we take a look back to the end of the '70's, we find a young man that is struggling with the decision of whether or not to stay in school. I had already quit once (after the 1st semester of college) but was talked into staying another semester. After the 2nd semester (actually a few weeks before it ended), I quit for good. I gave up a full scholarship to a very good university and struck out on my own. (For anybody contemplating dropping out of college--don't. I've had a good life, to be sure, but it has been more difficult because of that decision.)

Work (Zales Jewelers) eventually took me to the Greater Chicago Area and I met the woman that would become my wife. (She was also working for Zales at the time.) Just after I turned 21, I got my own store (manager). Chris and I got married that fall and I left my job at Zales in November. I went to work for 84 Lumber and was a rising star in sales. I often led the store in sales for the month and was soon promoted to co-manager and assigned to a store in Northwest Indiana. At that store, I met a person that would change my life.

Hyles-Anderson College is located in Crown Point, Indiana. It is an independent and very fundamental Bible college. A student from the college worked part-time at the lumberyard. One day, David Presson, asked me this question: "If you were to die today, do you think that you would go to heaven?"

I grew up in the Catholic Church. I went to a Catholic grade school, served Mass, and was a part of a family that was active in the church. I already knew a lot about God, Jesus, heaven, hell and that kind of least I thought I did. I remember telling David that I would like to think that I'd go to heaven, but that I didn't think that there was any way to know for sure. I was under the impression that you have to be a good person to get into heaven.

David shared some verses out of the Bible with me. I didn't know it at the time, but I would become very familiar with those verses and the pathway known as The Roman Road. They are verses from Paul's Letter to the Romans that point out man's depravity, God's judgment, man's need for repentance and God's deliverance by grace through faith in Jesus.

I already knew (believed in my heart) that Jesus is the Son of God. I already believed that His death on the cross was to pay the price for the sin of mankind. I already knew that God raised Him from the dead and that it is in His death,burial and resurrection that we have the hope of eternal life. What I didn't know was that I was so close to the assurance of eternal life with Him and yet far enough away that I would be left behind unless I was willing to take one more step of faith.

What I didn't know was that His death was to pay the price for my sin. What I had failed to realize was that in His death, burial and resurrection I have the hope (the promise) of eternal life with Him. I still thought that I needed to do something to earn the right to enter into heaven. However the Bible teaches that I can never be good enough (perfect) to enter into heaven. I am a sinner. I have sinned and therefore cannot enter into heaven. But Jesus took on my sin. Jesus took on my punishment--my sentence of death. And Jesus, being God, conquered the grave and lives today...something that I could never do.

It wasn't hard for me to see that there was something that I needed to do about Jesus...but I needed some time to process this new information.

The following day was my day off. You might think that I had a reprieve and wouldn't have to address this decision about Jesus for a few days...not so. David knew the family living across the street from me...Phil Pins was also a student at Hyles-Anderson...and sent him over to talk to me. Phil asked if I had any questions. I really didn't. I knew that I had to make the decision to trust Jesus as my Lord and Savior. That afternoon, in the living room of our apartment in Crown Point, Indiana, I asked Jesus to be my Savior. I was baptized the following Sunday at the First Baptist Church of Hammond where Jack Hyles was pastor.

That is the beginning of my walk with God. There is much more to tell, but it can wait for another day, another post. Before I leave you today, I want you to walk with me along that Roman Road. I want to share with you the scriptures that helped to change my life. Maybe the Holy Spirit will speak through them to your heart.

Man's depravity: Romans 3:10 As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one;"
and Romans 3:23 ...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,...

God's Judgment: Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death,...

God's Grace: Romans 6:23 ...but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. And Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Man's repentance: Romans 10:9-10 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

God's deliverance: Romans 10:13 ...for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

Maybe there is something here that is speaking to your heart today. Maybe you've always thought that you could be good enough to get into heaven. You may have thought that you just needed to believe in God and go to church. Those are great ways to live...but they won't get you into heaven. Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

If you would accept that truth today; if you believe it in your heart (as I did), you are half way to heaven! The only thing left for you to do is to confess it--say it with your mouth--"Jesus is Lord!" Tell a friend--Jesus is Lord! Tell me through comment or e-mail--or call me so that you can say it with your mouth--Jesus is Lord! Study His teachings. Become a disciple. Live like you have eternal life in heaven...because you do!

"Jesus is Lord!"

John <><


Anonymous said...

Hey Brother I praise God for your salavation and your personal testimony!
Pat S.

Sicilian said...

I love listening to how people became Christians. . . .

fiona said...

Thanks for sharing John!