As I look back on it, I recognize that the day that I realized my overwhelming and desperate need to be saved from my sin and placed my faith in Jesus Christ to rescue me is absolutely the most important day of my life. Certainly there could be no more profound experience that I have had or will have in my time on Earth. I look back upon that day with admiration, thankfulness, tearful joy, and inexpressible satisfaction. But, for anyone who is reading this, the following is my testimony. My story of how I encountered the risen Jesus and was graciously saved by Him.
I grew up in what I would call a politically and theologically conservative, church-going, supportive, and loving home. These traits mark it to this day and I am very glad that that is the case. My family and I began attending church together when I was about nine years old at a little Baptist church in Pekin, Indiana, just about seven minutes from our humble home in Borden, Indiana, a tiny town known for strawberries and basketball. After what I think was about a year of attending church there in Pekin, one Sunday service closing grabbed my attention, as it was my first experience with what are sometimes called "altar calls." Now, as an aspiring pastor and student of theology, I'm frankly unsure as to how I view altar calls now, but at this time I was ten years old and understood just the very simple necessities of Christianity at a very basic level. Feeling very interested in the whole thing, I went up to the front of the congregation, made a profession of faith, and was baptized by immersion the following week, if my memory serves me right. After I was baptized, I was presented with a large-print King James Version and began to immediately read it that night, starting in Genesis.
Now, I was taught all my life up to that point that Jesus was the Son of God, that His death on the cross was a sacrifice for sin, that He rose from the dead, and so forth, and my profession of faith that I made that day basically resembled an intellectual assent to those ideas, but not a placing of my faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ as the Bible implores mankind to do. I truly believed in the reality that Jesus both died and rose from the grave in a purely intellectual kind of way, but I cannot say that at that point in my life I had really experienced the grace of God moving through my heart to where I could say along with Psalm 34:8, "Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!"
It is ironic given the true sacredness of baptism, but shortly after my baptism and as the next five years went by, I began to morally collapse in a number of ways, but it is obvious to me now that when I was baptized I didn't genuinely believe in Christ and have a relationship with Him. I was still lost. I began to allow all sorts of things into my life that I now know, and if I would've been honest knew then, to be sinful and detestable to God and in many cases harmful to the people around me and even loved ones. I began to develop an incredibly foul mouth, to find sexually perverted jokes funny, to have mean-spirited and even racist feelings toward others, to have true hatred for others in my heart, to continually disrespect my parents, to bully other kids, and unfortunately much more. Not only that, but I still disingenuously called myself a Christian and went to church even though I didn't like church and had no heart for God whatsoever. I was judgmental, cruel, profane, and altogether disinterested in worshiping and walking with the Lord.
Perhaps worst of all, I became enslaved to a bad and shameful addiction to pornography, as if an addiction to such a thing can be anything but shameful and bad. Those words are understatements for such a thing. I won't go into too much detail on this part of the story, but I will say that I stumbled upon porn on accident during my unregenerate days and it became a worsening addiction that still, to this day, must be combated through dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit. This, without question, was life-destroying for me and kept me intoxicated by sin and unhealthy, ungodly inclinations. I am confident that this is the single greatest sin that existed in my life in a sense that it had the biggest hold on me and has lingered as a troublesome and consistent temptation for me, even to this day. By God's grace I have been clean for some time now, but I will be transparent enough to admit that it had a tight grip on me at one point that took the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit to loosen. But He is so patient, gracious, and compassionate to help with it and all other sins.
All of these rebellious and wicked things were all symptomatic of my rebellious heart toward God that was so hard against Him that it found the prospect of worshiping and enjoying Him to be repulsive and found the prospect of living in sin to be pleasing. This is an idea that reformed or "Calvinist" theologians such as myself refer to as total depravity, but that is a topic for another time. But God, in His love and providence, continued to pursue me and work to soften my heart. My sinful path led me to a life of seeking after sexual sin and seeking to do what I now call "get laid and be cool." All I cared about was getting sex and having everyone like me and find me to be cool, but God used this foolishness on my part to bring me to a place where I could be reached with Gospel truth. I am so thankful that that foolish pursuit that I had been chasing after never panned out and I still have that purity, by God's grace. In 2012, when I was a sophomore in high school, I had a girlfriend and only had sinful and God-dishonoring plans with her, not even truthfully loving her or having genuine affection for her but only perverted desires. Together we attended a lock-in at my local church, which I oddly enough still went to for social events and services despite my unbelief and wicked lifestyle. It was here that the Holy Spirit elected to draw me to Jesus by piercing my stone heart.
We were at the lock-in not to worship but just to socialize and to spare details that aren't necessary, the very unhealthily sexual way we had behaved toward each other in conversation had taken a weird direction for me on an emotional level. All I cared about was "getting laid," but the prospect was scary to me now. I had talked with the girlfriend about that sort of thing, but all of sudden all of the discussions seemed very wrong. That day at school before the lock-in I had boasted about it, now it seemed downright wretched. In my heart and mind I thought of Jesus, someone I had very rarely sat down and thought hard about. I saw an image of Jesus on the cross, suffering incredibly and bleeding horrifically, a picture reminiscent of the movie The Passion of the Christ . In my head I said something like, "He did this for me and THIS (speaking of my lifestyle) is how I'm living my life?" I felt convicted to the core of my being and it was that night where I began to truly walk in repentance and turn from my sin. I knew the message of the Gospel, but had suppressed it through sin and rebellion; now that rebellion was over. Though I cannot put my finger precisely on the hour it happened, after that deep conviction, I trusted in Jesus Christ to save me from my sin and from the wrath of God that I deserved because of that sin. If Jesus as a savior maybe likened to a chair, it was at that point that I stopped acknowledging Him as a good chair and began sitting in the chair and trusting it to hold me completely and perfectly.
Since then, that dating relationship ended and I began to attend a different church, but God has tremendously worked in my life to sanctify me and transform me, in all of it drawing me to Himself as my treasure and source of joy. Indeed, the grace of God in the Gospel saves and changes lives, I am living evidence of that fact. Now I no longer love and chomp at the bit for sin, though I am still very imperfect and subject to failing. I have begun to pursue a career in pastoral ministry, I lead in my local church, and I am a dedicated student of theology, philosophy, and apologetics, all of it by nothing other than the radical and electrifying grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. I can say, with a glad heart, that God saved me from my sin, from His wrath, from Hell, and from myself in a very real way, and that He has given Himself to me as the most valuable treasure and deep pleasure that can be had or experienced. I now can say, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, that I have tasted and seen that the LORD is good!