This is good stuff . . . thanks to everyone who has posted. Very uplifting
I was born into a Christian home, and by the time I was seven I had come to understand that I was a sinner and thus separated from God. Better, I had also come to understand that He had provided the means of salvation through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, and that I simply had to trust Him for my salvation. It is a bit funny how that came about. My earliest memories are of my parents reading me Bible stories, and our family's favorite pastime was Bible Trivia. So by the time I was seven, I was pretty well versed in the stories and themes of the Bible. But then came the Great Crisis.
We were at church--Calvary Baptist Church in Savannah, GA--when the commune plate was passed around. I really didn't know what was going on, but I saw everyone getting a piece of bread, so when I figured I'd do the same. But, my mom said no. Same with the grape juice that came around! Of course, I didn't understand. Everyone else, including my parents, got some. When I asked her why, she said, "Because you aren't a Christian yet." It was like a dagger went right through me. On the way home, I immediately started asking questions, which was the first time the gospel message was REALLY explained to me, rather than just Bible stories.
Of course, I wanted to go ahead and "get saved." I asked my parents for weeks if I we could go talk to Dr. Turner, but they kept saying I was too young . . . I didn't really understand. So, finally, standing in the kitchen all by myself at the ripe old age of seven, it dawned on me that I didn't need my mom, dad, or pastor to tell me I could trust Jesus. So I got down on my knees there on Cobb road and received Christ. I told my parents what I had done, so that Sunday, they reluctantly took me after church to see Dr. Turner. He asked me all the right questions and concluded that I did understand (duh!
), and prayed with me. I was baptized the next week.
I spent the next several years in the same routine . . . church, Bible study, Sunday School, VBS, and, of course, Bible Trivia. I started becoming a little theologian, and then came Great Crisis II . . . Middle School.
I had mostly homeschooled up until that point, so it didn't take me long to realize that most people were not nice Christians! The catch phrase for "how to get saved" in my home was "give your life to Christ," and the important verse was Rom. 10:9-10. So began my legalism. These people clearly were NOT Christians, because they sure didn't act like it. And Paul said that Christ had to be Lord! For the next ten years, I devoured the Bible like never before. I got into apologetics. I discovered C. S. Lewis, Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, J. P. Moreland, and the rest. My idea of evangelism became this: show people the logical nature of Christianity. They were separated from God by sin, but God provided the means to reconciliation through Jesus Christ. All we have to do is give our lives totally to Him and we would be saved.
You should know that between the age of seven and about fifteen, I had led a good handful of my friends to the Lord. I'd prayed with many of them to receive Christ, just as I had. But, the last part of those ten years, I didn't lead anyone to Christ. It wasn't until I took a youth ministry position that I led a couple of kids to the Lord, but that wasn't by my "tried and true method" of "Convince them they are a sinner, convince them to give there lives to Christ." In fact, just the opposite, while I witnessed to more people than ever before during that time (because, after all, no one was really saved! It was obvious by the way they lived!), I found people less and less inclined to receive the "gospel." I remember one time in particular in which I spent about two hours explaining Christianity to a very, very good friend of mine who was lost. When we finished, she admitted that everything I said made sense, and that it was probably true. But, she just wasn't willing to submit her life to Jesus. She wanted to live life her way. She walked away, not hearing the true Gospel of salvation by faith in Christ.
Of course, all of this had a strong impact on me. I became very, very harsh. I was very judgmental. I doubted almost everyone's salvation, at times, even my own. I would pray, "God, if there is anything I've not given to you, take it now!" I prayed that so often . . .
I had responded to the call to ministry during this time of my life (I'd known since I was four, but that's another story), and ultimately enrolled at Luther Rice College and Seminary, where I took Theology 101 from Hal Haller. In that class, he explained that Christ's death covered all sins, and that the only thing between man and God was unbelief. That hit me like a ton of bricks . . . it changed by theology dramatically. I finally got around to rejecting the last of the Calvinist points (Perseverance), and felt somewhat liberated. Then, a few months later, he invited me to attend a Grace Evangelical Society conference. It was there that I heard, for the first time in seventeen years the simple message that salvation was by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. I remembered, that is what I had done as a child!
The liberation was immediate. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I came back from that conference a changed person. I used to be told on a regular basis that I lacked the gift of compassion, and that I was too cold . . . too harsh. Now, I'm told just the opposite at times. I'm too forgiving and too gracious. But how could I not be? Christ saved me, not because I deserved it or gave my life to Him, but because He wanted to. He offered me a GIFT and I took it. I can't begin to describe the freedom and joy.
I used to wonder how people could get so choked up when they talked about God's grace. I just figured that they were naturally emotional and that I was naturally more logical, so things didn't affect me that way. I used to tell people that I couldn't relate to that sense of bondage that many people--many of you, in this thread--talked about. But I do now. I couldn't relate because I'd forgotten what grace meant, and I'd been living under a type of legalism.
God is awesome. He is gracious, and I absolutely cannot thank Him enough for what He's done in my life. So that's my story and I'm sticking to it!