Thirty years ago this spring, God changed my life.
My father Alan was a godly pastor. My mother Ellen was a tender homemaker. Both are alive and still serving the Lord faithfully today. I was an only child, but my parents’ affection more than compensated for my lack of siblings. They loved each other and they loved me. But most importantly, they loved God. Because of this, I had the privilege of learning the Bible early, both at church and at home.
I honestly don’t remember the day I accepted Christ. It feels like a faint dream lying just beyond the haze of my earliest memory. According to my parents, I asked one night how I could avoid hell and make sure I was going to heaven. That evening, my dad shared the gospel again, then led me in a prayer to receive Christ. It was Monday, March 29, 1982. I was three-and-a-half years old. Every December, my Mom inscribes that day on the new year’s calendar so we can celebrate the day of my second birth. In many ways, it is even more important than my first birth.
One key moment in my spiritual journey took place at summer camp when I was around six or seven years old. The camp speaker asked who would be willing to go anywhere and do anything for Christ — to completely surrender to Him. With heads bowed, we were invited to express that commitment by walking up to the front of the auditorium. No one moved. The room was silent. It felt like hours had passed. I was sitting on the front row next to my mom (one of the camp counselors). I was one of the youngest campers there. I turned to her and whispered whether I really had to go forward — to do this in front of all these people. She said if I really loved the Lord and believed in Him, I should be willing to do it. So, I stood up and went forward. Soon, others followed suit. This was a big step for me to work out my salvation in bold obedience.
I’m thankful God saved me so young, but I must confess I struggled with doubt during my adolescence. Had I really believed in Jesus? Was I truly saved? Was I absolutely sure I’d go to heaven if I died? These questions haunted my soul. To make matters worse, traveling evangelists would sometimes come to our Christian school, employing scare tactics to get us to walk the aisle and convert. But finally, on Friday, March 27, 1992, I had enough. I realized that my lack of assurance was really a lack of faith in the finished work of Christ. I needed to stop fearing and start trusting. If I had truly believed in Christ, then His gift of eternal life was already mine (Jn. 3:36). That night, I re-dedicated my life to the Lord one last time — just to be sure. And I’ve enjoyed peace ever since.
The Bible promises that “if anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). That is precisely what God did in my life. He transformed me. He gave me a new nature, new thoughts, and new desires. I remember the thrill of sharing the gospel with a girl not more than five or six years old. I remember the joy of listening to a men’s quartet who visited our church when I was a little boy. I remember being scared out of my wits and praying desperately for God’s protection while huddled on the couch during a fierce Midwest thunderstorm. I remember gazing each night at the John 3:16 plaque hanging above my bed. I remember memorizing Bible verses for Vacation Bible School and Quizzing. I remember refusing my first cigarette and declining my first porn magazine — not because Dad and Mom might find out, but because I knew it would dishonor God. Even the tiniest “white lie” tormented me until I confessed it. God was faithfully protecting me and using His Spirit to produce a growing holiness in my life. While I was far from perfect, God was undeniably living inside of me.
Ultimately, I don’t rest my assurance in any childhood experience, but in my present understanding of the gospel and the fruit of a changed life. I admit that I am nothing but a poor and helpless sinner (Eph. 2:1-3) who stands condemned before a holy God (Rom. 1:18). I rejoice that God sent His only Son to obey God’s Law and die in my place, raising Him up on the third day (1 Cor. 15:3-4). By the grace of God, I have repented of my sin and been washed by the cleansing blood of Jesus (Titus 3:5). My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
Echoing the words of John Newton, my testimony can be summed up in one sentence:
Thank You Jesus.