I was born in 1976 into a religious home. My parents were active Lutherans, going to church every Sunday, singing in the church choir, and participating in Bible studies. Shortly after I was born, they had me baptized, believing baptism would make me a child of God.
When I was three years old, our family moved to Grand Forks, ND. Several of Dad’s coworkers were born again Christians who befriended my parents and invited them to visit Bible Baptist Church. They consented, and soon began to learn truths about salvation from the Bible that they had never been taught before. It wasn’t long before my mom received Jesus Christ as her personal Savior, and sometime later, my dad was also saved.
Even as a young boy, my parents’ example and our pastor’s faithful preaching of the gospel had an effect upon me. As a 6-year-old, I wanted to be saved, even though I had no real understanding of my own sin or my responsibility before God. Several times between the ages of 6 and 14, I prayed “The Sinner’s Prayer” in order to be saved, but words, even in sincerity, without a proper understanding and acknowledgment of truth do not save one’s soul.
As time went on, I can remember lying awake in my bed many nights thinking about eternity. Certain questions would plague my mind, such as, “What will happen to me if I go to sleep and don’t wake up?” or “What if Jesus returns tonight and I’m not ready?” On a number of occasions, I can remember going downstairs and waking my parents with questions about salvation and eternity. I’m sure they were tired, but they never refused to talk to me.
Despite my supposed sincerity, I was deceived by my pride and bound by my sin, with no power or compelling desire to resist it. I can remember living in malice and jealousy toward others. I was proud, thinking that somehow I was better than others, because I tried to act better. My mind was filled with ungodly and fleshly thoughts, and I developed ungodly habits. Although I had great respect for the Bible, I didn’t understand it and had no desire to spend time reading it. Prayer was something I would do at church, but rarely would I take time on my own to talk to the Lord. All this time, I never really experienced the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and didn’t have real peace in my heart.
What I was missing was a relationship with Jesus Christ. I have spoken with people who claim to have such a relationship, yet if the truth were known, they are in the same position I was in. The Bible, in Titus 1:16, says, “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”
In the summer of 1991, I attended our church’s annual Family Camp. On Friday evening, the visiting preacher began to preach about hypocrites – those who profess to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, but whose lives do not match their profession. Almost from the very beginning of the sermon, the Holy Spirit put me under deep distress over my own hypocrisy. There was no doubt in my mind that God was dealing directly with me. I realized that if I had died at that time, hell awaited me, and I was fearful of standing before God in that condition. At the end of the service, I made a beeline to the front of the auditorium and told my pastor that I needed to talk with someone about being saved. A godly man in our church took me aside and explained again what the Bible says about salvation – that a person must repent of (change their mind about) their sin and sinfulness, and put their faith solely in what Jesus Christ did for them on the cross. I was tired of my sinful life and habits, and knew that only Jesus Christ could give me the peace and deliverance that I so desperately needed, and so I bowed my head and simply called out to Christ for salvation. An instant sense of relief and joy came into my heart, and from that day on, I have been a different person.
Since that time over 20 years ago now, Jesus Christ has become more and more precious to me, and He affects every single day of my life. He has given me victory over the sinful habits and attitudes that once overcame me, and He gives joy as I obey Him. I have peace that I’m ready to meet Him when I die or when He returns. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Romans 6:21-22, which says, “What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.”
God has a wonderful purpose to accomplish through His children in this life, and then, He promises them Heaven besides!