I was never encouraged to read the Bible when I was growing up. My mother was very faithful in attending the Roman Catholic church. I attended the services with her until I began high school. Then I was allowed to choose for myself, whether I went to church or not. Since I saw no purpose for attending, I stopped going.
Upon graduation from high school, I went to the University of Delaware for a degree in accounting. During those years, I continued in life attempting to fulfill my own plans. It wasn’t until I was at my second job, at Sacred Heart Hospital, in Allentown, PA, that I had my first exposure to a Bible-believing Christian. My boss, Bob, would always pray at lunch and was never interested in the crude stories and jokes that I thought were so funny. I had a lot of respect for him as I observed how he handled situations that occurred in his life.
Until October 1984, my interests were in anything but the Bible and church. I always believed religion was a crutch, and not reality. If there really was a God, I figured I would be OK, since I wasn’t any worse than the majority of people. “I had a lot of respect for him as I observed how he handled situations that occurred in his life.”
After many years of searching for a wife, I found that very special girl. When we got engaged, I informed her that if she found a church that wasn’t made up of a lot of traditions, then I’d consider attending. After all, we were anticipating starting a family after we were married, and church would be good for the children. Gina, my soon-to-be wife, was going to a Bible study. I asked Gina if I could go with her, as I was curious about what was going on. I had never been encouraged to study the Bible. I thought it was just a book of stories, but I later found out it is a blueprint from God for my life.
The Bible study was very interesting, and brought great spiritual concern to Gina, but I was still hesitant. Then I got a phone call from my mother telling me my father had a heart attack in the hospital and almost died. I was shaken up, and I prayed to God. Up to this point in time, I was doubting even the existence of God. For years I claimed that this was my prayer of salvation. (Note: “saved,” “salvation,” and “born again” are Biblical concepts referring to the forgiveness of sins by God and the rescue of a person from the power and penalty of that sin. This is God’s requirement for everlasting life). We started a 10-week Bible study that pointed out areas that were not right in our lives. I started living the Christian life because it really made sense.
God blessed us as we followed the principles in His word. My life did change drastically. However, I wasn’t at peace with my walk with God. “The outward things were in order, but the inward struggles were unsettling.” The outward things were in order, but the inward struggles were unsettling. I had struggles with witnessing to others, with my personal devotions, holding spiritual conversations, and with my prayer life. In retrospect, I didn’t see the Holy Spirit leading me. After a series of messages on repentance and faith, and testimonies of others that were living the Christian life, but were also having the same spiritual concerns, I determined to diligently search the Scriptures to see if my salvation experience was real. The Lord showed me that my prayer 10 years before lacked the repentance and faith described in the Scriptures.
On February 23, 1997, the Lord opened my heart as I wept over my sin, and I put myself at the foot of Calvary, realizing that it was for me that Jesus died. God was doing a work in my life, and I knew I needed to repent and surrender and, by faith, accept Jesus as Lord. Since that day, I have the assurance that the Holy Spirit is doing a work in my life. Salvation is a personal relationship with God— and not just an acknowledgment of God.
I’d like to leave you with one final thought, and a challenge. Study, search and examine the Scriptures. You will individually stand before God some day, so be prepared. This life is very, very short in comparison to eternity. The Bible tells us in Hebrews, chapter 9, verse 27: “And as it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment.” So, start making plans for your eternity. God has the free gift of salvation available to anybody who, through repentance and faith, comes to His Son — Jesus. “God has the free gift of salvation available to anybody who, through repentance and faith, comes to His Son — Jesus.”
I have found the following verses from the Scriptures to be especially pertinent to my search for the truth of God. I hope they touch you also:
Matthew, chapter 7, verses 13-14, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.“
Luke, chapter 13, verse 3, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.“
John, chapter 1 verse 12, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.“