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Who First Showed Tony Merida the Beauty of Jesus?

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Editors’ note: 

We are asking various TGC Council members a simple question: Who was the first person who showed you the beauty of Jesus?

I am indebted to those who’ve shown me beauty of Jesus. In Romans 10, Paul honors faithful messengers: “As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news’” (Rom 10:15b, CSB). In former days, messengers might declare the good news of a victory over an enemy nation, but now, gospel messengers are bringing even better news of Christ’s victory over sin and death.

Speaking the good news may involve taking our feet across the world, or it may mean simply taking them across the room, across the street, or across a gym. As I reflect on the question, “Who first showed me the beauty of Jesus?” I could list many people who commended Christ to me. But those who had the most influence include my mother and a few teammates in college.

Witness of My Mother

I must begin with my mother, Brenda Merida. She is a lady full of the Bible and full of mercy. She has been a model mom to me and a wonderful wife to my dad. She was a teacher’s aid in special education until her recent retirement. When she retired I told her I wanted to take her on a trip anywhere in the world. She told me she wanted to see the leaves in Vermont in the autumn.

My mom is a simple lady with a genuine faith. She took me to church services at a young age, and through her witness and those in the body, gospel seeds were planted. I watched her read the Bible every day. I watched her care for those in need. I watched her pray. I listened to her counsel me with Scripture.

I didn’t start following Jesus until college, and when that happened my relationship with her deepened. When I went to seminary, I would call her at least twice a week to tell her all I was learning. She still sends me text messages ranging from “Give them the Word, son” to (most recently, in response to a long sermon on Hosea), “Good message. Lots of information.” Distance separates us now, as she and Dad are eight hours away, but she is still my praying, supportive mother, for whom I give God praise.

I must also testify to the Lord’s grace by mentioning that I had the privilege of baptizing my father some eight years ago. He too has become this kind of encouragement to me. Seeing him grow in Christ is one of the greatest joys of my life.

But I feel as though I must recognize a few more people. While my mother was the first person to show me the beauty of Jesus, she wasn’t the only one the Lord used to bring me to faith.

Witness of My Teammates

I went to college on a full ride to play baseball, where I was a four-year starter at shortstop. I loved baseball and wasn’t much interested in school. I certainly wasn’t interested in Jesus. My mother made me take my Bible to college, but I had no desire to read it or pursue spiritual things. But the Lord placed two guys on my team—a second baseman named Stephen and a pitcher named Kenny—who showed me the beauty of Jesus. There were other faithful Christians on the team and on our campus too, but these two guys were the spiritual leaders on our team.

Stephen would beat on my door on Sundays, waking me up for church. I would reluctantly get up to go with him. He would take notes, and I’d watch in amazement that a guy my age, who was a good player, was actually interested in the Bible and sermons. Kenny was like him in this regard. I would listen to these two talk to my teammates about the faith in a way I had never encountered before. They gave good arguments, and they were also filled with grace. I felt safe around them, as if I could ask any question.

During my sophomore year I was searching for meaning, freedom, and joy. After conversations with Stephen and Kenny, and after attending Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) for a few nights, the Lord brought me to himself.

The next practice after my commitment to follow Jesus, we were running sprints, and Stephen said in between sets, “We’re going to start a Bible study for our baseball team.” I went and bought a massive study Bible and began my journey. In that apartment with Kenny and Stephen, I learned the basics, prayed, worshiped, and caught a vision for ministry. The next year I met Jim Shaddix and watched him do expository preaching for three consecutive nights. I want to do that for the rest of my life, I thought. The longing hasn’t left! By God’s grace, until I die, I want to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ from the bottomless Word of God.

I praise God for my mother and for these teammates. I think the lesson for evangelism in my story is threefold. First, consider the simplicity of your witness. None of these individuals did anything sensational. They simply lived out their faith in the ordinary rhythm of life and had gospel conversations with me. Second, consider the unity of your witness. The Lord often uses more than one person to bring a person to faith. And third, consider the sovereignty of God through your witness. I wasn’t looking for Jesus, but God used these witnesses to open my eyes and draw me to the Savior. Both planting and watering are essential, but only God gives the growth (2 Cor. 3:6–8).


You can read previous installments in this series.

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