From Atheist to Agnostic to Now Saved!
I was raised in a family that went to church every Sunday, like many of my generation. I had claimed to know God based on a prayer I made in summer camp when I was young. However, many of my friends had no church background, and since my church didn’t really offer many answers to life’s questions, in my teen years, I drifted away. Like many I fell into the “party” mentality with all of its trappings and found myself living life based on my emotions and physical “highs” that came with alcohol and drugs.
After flunking out of college, I went to work for my father. I met my future wife there, and we were married. She claimed to know all about “being saved,” and we started going to church. At this time, I made the first of many “professions” of faith and dutifully tried cleaning up my life to fit what our current church and my wife expected. But my heart was not in it. I didn’t put my heart into anything – my marriage, my children’s lives, work – except what made me “feel” good.
"I wanted to be part of the membership and forge new friendships, but I really didn’t want to let go of my sin."
I have hated my career, been disappointed and discouraged with my family life, and have been apathetic toward our church. Essentially, there was nothing that brought comfort or joy. I was an angry father and husband, terrorizing my children and frustrating my wife to such an extent that I can only thank God she stayed with me. During this time, sin was my only refuge. While I will not elaborate on all the sins that made up that refuge, suffice it to say that it only brought a “season” of relief to my life.
My life fell into a series of cycles – hundreds of them in the past two decades. The cycle was one of sin, followed by guilt and regret, followed by a cry for forgiveness, followed by a season of “right living,” followed by pride about living right, followed by a fall into sin.
Over and over again this happened. I would “will” myself into believing I was saved – become proud of that – slip back into sin – become angry that God didn’t free me from sin – suffer with doubt about my salvation. It was very frustrating and discouraging. It would cause me to be bitter toward God. I would rail against God in conversations with my wife, stating that He didn’t care for me, or He would have done something about this horrible life I was living. She would calmly assure me that God was not that way. I would calm down, think things through, and then lie to myself and God again.
Almost 21 years to the day after the start of this misery, in the fall of 2020, my father came to live with us due to his health. During this time, I fell deeper into various sins. I just started “giving up” and not caring about it anymore. Strangely, this lack of caring scared me. At first, I just shrugged it off and tried not to think about it. But slowly each message from the pulpit would include reminders that I was possibly in trouble – or was I? I couldn’t figure it out. I had lied to myself and everyone around so many times that I was confused. I didn’t trust myself to search the scriptures because I only thought it would bring another cycle of temporary relief. Did I need to be saved? Maybe I already was. Was I backslidden? Was salvation even possible? Who knows!
"I was tired of half- measures and failure. I really wanted to know what was wrong with me."
Finally, on Easter Sunday morning, I was thinking of several messages that Pastor preached from Hebrews regarding God’s Word.Sunday mornings, I would spend with my dad at home. Those mornings were “times of relief” when I didn’t have to go to church and act like a Christian. This morning, however, God’s Word was working on me. I had a greater appreciation for the concept of God’s Word being alive and “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). I can’t relate particular points – only that I was recognizing that there was an aspect to God’s Word that I was not fully appreciating.
I went to church that evening and the preaching was from Revelation – it was good, but not completely applicable to my circumstance. What struck me that night was strange. It happened when Pastor said, “I will be going to a preacher’s conference this week…” Not the Word of God, of course, but something in me wanted to know if those messages would be live-streamed. I don’t know why. Part of me really wanted to listen, but, partly, my self-righteousness wanted to be “seen” asking about opportunities to hear good preaching. Finally, someone told me how I could listen to past messages from Mt Zion Baptist Church, where the conference was to be held.
I went to Mt Zion Baptist Church’s website, and my wife and I listened to one of these messages on the ride home from church. Something in me wanted to listen to more. I went in for bed and turned on another message – and promptly fell asleep! I woke up later and was restless, so I found another message called “Born Again by The Word of God.” Sounded applicable, so I listened. The preacher (I don’t know his name) preached from I Peter, chapter 1, verses 23–25:
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
I was struck first by “corruptible vs incorruptible” – my efforts at cleaning myself up were just that, my efforts. They were corruptible, meaning they wouldn’t last. The preacher then stressed that our efforts were nothing more than grass that withers. My efforts to clean myself up again and again and telling God that now He “had to accept me” was all temporary and useless – nothing more than “the flower of grass.” Finally, the preacher stressed that the Word of God was incorruptible, or eternal, unchanging and the only way by which we can truly be made right. Everything else was changeable. My emotions, my wisdom, my efforts, my entire life was always in flux, and I could not make things right by relying on me. But the gospel reveals the Word for what it is and what it can do in my life.
"I told Him I would trust the redemption through Christ to reconcile me to God. I wanted the eternal Word to govern my life from that point forward."
I got back into bed. No bright lights, no hoopla, no doves alighting on my bed post. Did that really happen? Lord, did I really trust you? I know I was sincere – I still knew there was no hope for me in me. I started feeling something in my chest, in my being. It was forceful, almost as though something was trying to come out of my chest, but it was simultaneously a great feeling. It was joy! I was happy! All I could do until I fell asleep was thank God. I woke the next morning with a new certainty in my life.
I also wanted to read my Bible. I was happy all day long, without even thinking about it. You may not think this is much evidence, but please believe me when I say I was always a miserable person inside. I was cynical, sarcastic, mean-spirited within. Every day, even if I managed not to show it, I was empty inside. There was now something “living” in me that just made me happy. I was joyful all day long. Sin and its temptations are still there, but now there is power in me but not of me to counter it! I know He is there!
God has been working steadily on me and in me to start the work of making me more like Christ. I am so glad He is! His Word is now alive when I read it, and the greatest evidence is truly the Joy of the Lord! Praise God for his goodness, patience, and mercy!