It was as marked a contrast as I can remember. One day I came home from work cursing God’s name and the next I opened the same door proclaiming his goodness to me.
I had grown up Roman Catholic but was not very good at it. In fact, my religion looked a lot more like atheism than Catholicism. I acted like there was no God; whether he was dead or nonexistent I did not know. I just knew that I did not fear him.
Then the God that I neither knew nor feared drew near to me. He began pressing hard upon me. He convicted me of sin and made me to despair. My fear of death and judgment overwhelmed me. A dead or nonexistent God could not explain what I was going through. He had knocked me off balance. I was unsettled and looking for answers.
I went to work (the Air Force) and sought out a Bible thumping guy named John who used to always give people tracts. This was a guy that I used to shamelessly mock and try to make blush. Now I was coming to him with the emergency of my soul. The castle of my unbelief was crumbling at its base.
I told him of my plight and strangely, he smiled. However, the smile did not communicate a twisted delight in my struggles but a confidence in his Savior to meet me in this brokenness. This faithful evangelist reached into his BDU’s (military fatigues) and pulled out a small Bible. He opened to Romans and walked me through the gospel. When he spoke of my sin in light of God’s character it was like he was speaking my own private language of “Erik.” He had me hanging on his every word. He gave my experience a name. He called it sin. I am so thankful he did not fear man, but instead he feared God.
Over the next couple of hours we talked. He kept preaching Jesus. I kept rubbing the eyes of my mind trying to refocus. “He really will forgive me?” I kept asking. “He will take me? You don’t know who I am.” I didn’t know who he was. Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
The rest of that day is really a blur. I kept repeating the truth in my mind that Jesus can and will forgive me. His grace (a new term for me) is sufficient. I asked him if Christ was Jesus’ last name (you know, son of Joseph and Mary “Christ”). He smiled and told me that Jesus is the King of kings. He is God’s own Son. He showed me the King of glory from the Scriptures. I was meeting Jesus for the first time.
When I got home that day, I opened the same door I always had. Even previously I would open it cursing God in my mind and on my tongue. This day was different. I opened the door and called to my wife, “I have big news!” She thought we got orders to Hawaii. I burst out and exclaimed, “Did you know that Jesus Christ died for my sins!?” A bit dejected (and unconverted) my wife replied, “Yes. Everyone knows that.” (Divine grace would soon besiege her castle of unbelief as well) “No, you don’t understand,” I said, “he forgives me for all of my sin. He died on the cross for me.”
The gospel of Christ was so fresh that day. It was indeed the day of salvation. The death clothes were removed and the righteous garment of Christ’s merit was given to me. He truly forgave me. He truly accepted me. I remember saying to myself, “I can’t believe that I believe this. I can’t believe it is true!”
It was 15 years ago today that God’s “grace overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim. 1.14) In some ways it seems like it was just yesterday and in other ways it seems like a lifetime ago. I know that I have not been completely faithful to him but he has not wavered for one second in his faithfulness to me. My Father continues to keep, uphold, and preserve this wayward son by his omnipotent grace. Realizing this afresh is good for my soul. I hope it is for you as well.