JP: I was asked to provide my testimony for SharperIron. I thought I would post it here as well, trusting that God might use this to bless a reader.
I was saved in November 1969 through the ministry of Hebrew Christians at the University of Cincinnati and the ministry of Westwood Baptist Church in Cheviot Oh (Metro Cincinnati).
I was baptized (infant sprinkled) and a member of the United Methodist Church. Sadly although I was “in their system” for years (baptism, Sunday School, VBS, confirmation, serving as an acolyte, participating in Methodist Youth Fellowship, et cetera) I never really was taught the Bible or heard the Gospel preached and explained.
In 1967 I enrolled in the business program of the University of Cincinnati and basically just stopped going to church. I joined a fraternity, dated, partied, drank, worked and went to school. My basic concentrations in life were pleasure, women, work and school. I excelled in most of these arenas.
From the “after I was saved” perspective, the “before I was saved” or “how I was saved” is always interesting to ponder. I know that in the deadness of my trespasses and sins that I did not desire to know or to seek God. But God used events and persons in my life to bring me to Him.
- In one of my history classes (I think either World History or European History) one of my assigned books was Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, by Roland Bainton. This book introduced me to the concepts of “the Reformation”, “justification by faith”, and the great battle that produced Protestantism. I previously had somewhat of a mindset that Christianity was for women and a rather wimpish pursuit. In my own background, only my Mother went to church and Dad stayed at home. I saw in the person of Martin Luther a man who risked his life for truth. This left a huge impact upon my life.
- An assignment in an English literature class was to read and report on Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God (Jonathan Edwards). This sentence deeply disturbed me: “Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a fallen rock”
- Another English reading assignment was to memorize Henley’s Invictus. I was a “master of my fate … captain of my soul” kind of guy. It was pretty obvious to me that “master of my fate” diametrically contradicts “if God should let you go” I would be in HELL. At this juncture of my life (my Freshman year) I still sided strongly on Henley’s perspective of life.
- I was confronted with many things on campus that raised questions in my life. Literally before my Freshman year of college I did not know what a “homosexual” was or that there was such a thing. When confronted with this (never experienced it!) and the rampant immorality that was on campus along with open drug use; I began to ask questions about the rightness and wrongness of behavior. I wondered, “Are there moral absolutes?” and who decides them? At this time I was open minded and took a “live and let live” approach and decided that whatever behavior was “between consenting adults” was certainly fine with God. This view was basically an extension of my infantile view of Christianity that that “golden rule” embodied Christian truth. While I never used illegal drugs I certainly abused alcohol.
- In the several years before my conversion, I experienced a deep emptiness in life. I wondered: “who am I?”; “What am I here for?”; “Is God knowable?”. I would liken this time to what I have read in Ecclesiastes 1 & 2: Life is a waste; Pleasure does not satisfy (chapter 2) and “I hate life” (2:17)
- In the Fall of 1969 God saw fit to bring many Christians into my life. The first was a young woman that I met at the shoe store where I worked. She had recently graduated from High School and was a Freshman at the University of Cincinnati that year. I had been acquainted with her years before but had not seen her since I graduated from High School. Brenda was a committed Christian. That Fall we began to date. It was obvious to me that Brenda was god-fearing woman who had knowledge of God.
- Brenda hung out with a diverse group of Christians: Pentecostals, Presbyterians and Hebrew Christians. As I spent time with Brenda’s friends I was, in somewhat of a “sideways” way, introduced to Christ. They carried Bibles (not the leather bound kind but hardbound with University of Cincinnati book covers), talked about things of God and prayed. I enjoyed my times with them in the Student Union and the cafeteria. I played hearts and UNO with them. This was a different (seemed much better to me) crowd than the drinking and partying crowd.
- Brenda attended a Baptist church near her home and I asked if I might attend with her. She provided me a small blue KJV Bible for me to carry to church.
- Events began to converge: I was hearing the Bible preached at church (the Pastor was preaching through Leviticus) and taught in Sunday School (Dick Sauer was our teacher and he was teaching through the book of Hebrews). In those first months of church attendance I received both “law” and “grace”! Additionally, I loved the congregational singing. At the Student Union and in the cafeteria I was hearing Christian testimonies and enjoying the friendship of these Christians. One day, Joel, a Jewish Christian, asked me if I was a Christian. I stammered hesitantly and responded indignantly “of course I am!” Afterwards I was bothered by his question. I was raised a Christian, a Protestant. I had been baptized and confirmed. Of course, I thought simply, I’m a Christian! How dare a Jew ask me if I’m a Christian!
- At that same time I began to read the Gospel of John. Night after night I would take some time to read a chapter or two.
- So many things swirled in my mind: “if God should let you go” … I would be in Hell!; Joel’s question “Are you a Christian?”; The doctrine of “Justification by faith” and the heroism of Martin Luther; Gospel snippets from messages and the readings from the glorious Gospel of John.
- One night I awoke from sleep and cried out in belief to the Savior. I’m convinced that that night in November 1969 that I was saved. I struggled with assurance of salvation for many weeks. I used to claim the promise of John 3:16 night after night and pray again to be saved.
- Shortly after my conversion I was at a Fraternity party with Brenda. It was standard fare: drinking and dancing. That night I felt shameful being with my fraternity brothers. I left the party early and never went back to the Fraternity again.
- Along the way, Dick Sauer spent time with me. God brought a student missionary from Campus Crusade for Christ into my life. This man, Dave Iverson, met with me daily on campus for study and prayer.