I grew up in a Christian home, and went to a Baptist church as far back as I can remember. My mom (my dad passed away when I was eight years old) took my sister and me to Sunday school and we were involved in the kid programs on Wednesday nights. The church we attended was associated with a Christian school and I went there from kindergarten to eighth grade. I grew up learning faith inspiring Bible stories (i.e. David and Goliath) from the teaching at church and school. I also learned about Jesus and that He died for me on the cross to pay the penalty of my sin (John 3:16).
When I was six years old I said a prayer and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Looking back at my life, I understand now that being a Christian is more than just saying a prayer. The Bible teaches that spiritual growth will (must) accompany salvation (2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:1-17).
When I reflect back on my faith in God when I was a child, I believe that my faith was influenced by my mom. She was driving us to church on Sundays and enrolled us in a Christian school (my mom is a wonderful Christian, godly woman). Although I had made a profession of faith in God at a young age, my life did not reflect my claim to be a Christian. Sure, I was a pretty good kid growing up as I said my prayers and memorized a few Bible verses. But when I reached the age of having the mental capacity to understand right from wrong, most of the time I chose to sin. I had learned about God, and the Bible, but He was not the center of my life. By the time I reached high school, I rarely gave my relationship to God any thought.
In high school, I was still going to church on Sundays and involved in the youth group. But that was the extent of my faith; I left it at church on Sundays. In my life, there was no spiritual growth, no confession of sin, and no developing my relationship with God through Bible reading and prayer. On the contrary, I sought to satisfy my sinful desires (i.e. sexual impurity, drunkenness, etc.) whenever the opportunity presented itself. I was even caught shoplifting when I was 16. Of course I justified my behavior by thinking, “I am not a bad kid. I’m a good person; I get good grades; I am an athlete; I am on student council; and hey, I go to church on Sundays.” The sad part is that my friends/girlfriends knew that I claimed to be a Christian and that I went to church on Sundays. I never attempted to share the Gospel with any of them (Matthew 28:19-20). My life reeked of hypocrisy as I always put on a good act at church (1 John 1:6). I was spiritually dead, as the apostle Paul describes in Ephesians 2:1-3,
1“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.”
When I turned 18, I stopped going to church and declared to my mom “I am an adult now; you can’t make me go anymore.”
My spiritual decline after high school continued on a fast track. After dropping out of college after one year (19 years old), I got a full time job, and moved into an apartment with a buddy. I distanced myself from my family, which I know broke my mom’s heart. My roommate and I drank (beer and liquor) practically every day. We hit the bars, had parties and I was living in sexual sin (outside of marriage) with whatever girlfriend I had at the time. As is the case with most sin, the depravity of my mind continued to snowball.
When I turned 21, I started experimenting with drugs. At first it was smoking dope on occasion, then every day. For the next couple of years, I tried everything from LSD to cocaine. I was going down a road that was only going to lead to my destruction. I remember waking up on some mornings, not really remembering how the heck I got home. I always went to work with rarely any sleep, and I would pop Vivarin all day to stay awake (and lots of Mountain Dew). One night, driving home from working a 12 hour shift after a night of partying and only 2 hours of sleep, I fell asleep at the wheel. I was traveling at about 75 mph on the freeway and my truck smashed into the center concrete median. Thankfully, I walked away with only a bruised shoulder and no one else being hurt. At the time, I thought I was lucky. Now I know it was God watching over me.
With my new lifestyle, came a new group of friends. Not only was I distance from my family, but my lifelong friends as well. My life had changed and my interests had changed. I mentioned before that I was an athlete (I played one year of college baseball). During my drug days, I never exercised or even watched sports anymore. My life was all about wine, women, and song. Among my new group of friends, there were about 5-6 guys that I hung out with every day. These guys would be at my apartment as soon as I got home from work. We did everything together, got drunk, got high, went to the bar, concerts, and played video games.
One day, something happened to my friend Kevin. I was 22; it was the beginning of fall, 1995. He had gone out of town and when he came back, he told us that he was a Christian. He stopped smoking dope, drinking and partying. I think at first, everyone else said “that’s great Kevers” (his nickname), but figured it was just a phase. But Kevers kept coming around to where we were hanging out and telling us about Jesus, and how God had changed his life. I would just sit back and listen while everyone else debated with him, and I never said a word. Until, one night someone asked me, “What do you think about all this?” I was caught off guard; I had not even had a single thought about God in over 5 years. I thought for a minute and then answered, “I understand what Kevin is talking about because I learned about it when I was younger, but right now I am indifferent as I am just trying to figure things out.” That is all I said, all those times going to church, growing up in a Christian home, and I sat there and denied God. I remember getting somewhat of a sick feeling in my stomach, but it didn’t last long. Another hit from the bong would cure that.
A few months after that, something else happened to another guy in our circle of friends. My friend Matt showed up at my apartment one day and announced that he was a Christian. He told us that he was done partying and for us to not take offense, but we would not see him around anymore. Just like that, we thought, another one bites the dust. But inside of me, something was happening. I started thinking about my life as it was. I started having thoughts of God. Matt was true to his word, he didn’t come around anymore.
On a Sunday morning around 8:00 a.m. in February, 1996 (I had turned 23 in January), I was sitting on my couch in my apartment. I was just coming down from one of many (multiple) highs throughout the night. We had not gone to bed all night and there were still about 7 friends at my apartment. We were partying hard but it was typical, and I did not have to work that day. The past 5 months I had been having the occasional thoughts about my life, and God. This morning, I was having one of those thoughts. I thought to myself, I have to get out of here, but I had 7 people at my apartment. What would I say? So I asked, “I am going to go get some breakfast, does anyone want to come?” On occasion, we would get breakfast after a night of partying. I didn’t know what else to say, and that was the first thing I could think of. To my surprise, (thanks to God’s providence) they all responded with no interest. This was very unusual that not even one guy/gal was interested in some food after a long night of smoking (munchies), and drinking. So I got up and left, and at first, didn’t really know where I was going.
As I began to drive, I decided that I was going to head to my mom’s house. I was somewhat reluctant at first because I smelled like booze and dope, and probably looked like death warmed over after partying all night, but I went anyways. As I pulled into her condo complex, I realized that she would be more interested in what I had to tell her than what I looked and smelled like. When she answered the door (probably in shock), I remember my first thoughts were that she looked like an angel. She had her Sunday dress on, and was just getting ready to leave for church. As always, she welcomed me in with open arms, and asked what was going on. I immediately broke into tears, and just hugged her. The first thing I said to her was, “Mom, I think that if I were to die right now, I would not be going to heaven.” After talking a few minutes, I told her that I didn’t want her to be late for church and I really needed to sleep anyways.
I woke up that afternoon to my mom’s comforting, warm, and loving smile. I confessed to her how I had been living, and that I wanted to change. She reminded me of God’s love, and that on the cross Jesus covered all of our sins, past, present, and future. I called my friend Matt (who I hadn’t seen in a while!), and told him that I wanted to come over to talk (I didn’t tell him why). I went over to Matt’s and told him of my desire to live for God. I will never forget the joy he expressed, and the big smile on his face. We prayed there in his kitchen, and I asked God to forgive me of my sins, and expressed my desire to make Jesus the Lord and Savior of my life. Praise God!
God immediately began working in my life. I started attending church again! Which I know was an answer to prayer for my mom (and others who were praying for me). She later told me that she had faithfully been praying for me all those years (and still does!). As I studied and submitted to God’s Word, I stopped smoking (cigarettes & dope), drinking, taking drugs, and swearing. Those were the immediate “big” things that I changed in my life. The amazing thing was that quitting those things with God’s help was not that difficult. As I prayed to God for strength and submitted to His Word, the power of the Holy Spirit worked in me, which made dealing with those sins easier. That experience of God’s working in my life then has provided me the road map for my daily battle with sin now (and throughout my walk with God). I can truly claim as Paul did in Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
In the summer of 1996, I started attending a Bible study at Matt’s church. I quickly took notice of a young gal who, like me, had a desire to glorify God in her life. Through God’s Word, I understood that dating a Christian was important (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). There was one problem, she had a boyfriend. We became friends, and I was confident that when the time was ready, God would bring someone into my life. Well that someone turned out to be her because a few months later, they broke up. Danielle and I began dating in the fall of 1996; we were married in June of 2000. Through God’s strength, we were able to say no to the temptation of sleeping with one another until we were married. What an amazing feeling, our relationship was based on our love for each other, centered in Christ. We were able to experience a wonderful wedding night with each other that God has intended (instructs) for all dating (married) couples. God has truly blessed me with an awesome, beautiful (inside and out), loving, caring, and godly wife! God has recently blessed us with the birth of our daughter (first child), Alayna, who was born in April of 2005.
Walking with God these past 10 years have been wonderful. God has truly blessed my family and me. God is changing my life so that as I grow in my faith, each day I am reflecting Him more to others around me. Of course, I have a sinful nature (my flesh) that causes me to stumble now and then. We are all born sinners (Romans 3:23) and will never live life here on earth without sin. But through Jesus’ death, we are free from sin’s power (Romans 6) over our lives. Through His Word and the working of the Holy Spirit, God has given us the ability and power to overcome sin. I am reminded every day that through Jesus Christ, God has forgiven us of all our sin. As Christians, we should make it a daily habit to confess our sins to God (1 John 1:9). As I battle daily with sin, I am reminded of God’s amazing love and grace (Romans 7:7-25). I thank God everyday for His salvation and His free gift of eternal life (Revelation 2:4-5).
Over the past 10 years, God has given me opportunities to serve Him. On several occasions, God has given me a great privilege (opportunity) to share the Gospel message with others. I have seen friends, strangers, and co-workers come to faith in Christ! I have had the opportunity to teach God’s Word to others in Sunday school class, Bible study groups, and one on one (discipleship). It brings me great joy to be able to share with others the truth that God has revealed to me through His Word. In 2002, I had a neat experience of going on a short term missions trip to Haiti. While I was there, I was reminded of the daily blessings that I have living in the United States that I so often take for granted. It was a life changing experience and I thank God for the opportunity to go. This year (06), I created a website, new-testament-christian.com, with the hope of glorifying God by presenting the Gospel in a clear way so that visitors to the site will come to understand who God is and what He has done for them through the death of Jesus on the cross. Also I hope that I can encourage other believers to grow in their faith by providing resources to help with their spiritual growth.
In closing, I again thank God for what He has done in my life and the many blessings that He has given me. Is my life perfect? No. Does life always run smooth for me? No. But I am confident of this: God is sovereign (Daniel 4:35) and He is in control of all things. I strive each day to place my trust in God, knowing that He will work things out in accordance to His perfect will.