How God Saved a Sinner

My parents were 1st generation Christians; neither set of their parents truly knew the Lord. Mom & Dad were converted to Christ through the ministry of Highland Park Evangelical Free Church in Des Moines, Iowa when they were about 16 years old. They committed themselves to serving the Lord and raising godly children. I remember many times seeing my Mom or Dad reading Scripture in private, kneeling beside their bed praying unto the Lord. They had us, from the youngest age, involved in the Evangelical Free Church of Madrid, Iowa. It was there I accumulated a nearly perfect record for attendance (a long, dangling chain of Attendance Award pins hung off my little sweaters every Sunday morning), memorized tons of verses of Scripture to take many Memory Verse Awards, sang, played piano, and did many other things at church. God was gracious to me in this upbringing.

However, all was not well within me. There were many times, as I neared adolescence, that I began to find myself restless (and this was more than just that “phase in life” all Jr. High-aged boys go through). So it was, in the summer of 1972, at Twin Lakes Bible Camp in northern Iowa, that the building conviction and guilt met its match.

Pastor Don Stover (a faithful EFCA pastor of many years, who is now at home with the Lord) was the camp speaker that summer. He was “wow-ing” all the campers with his presentation of Bunyan’s classic, Dangerous Journey“Pilgrim’s Progress” with flannel graph under blacklight (please remember, this was the early ’70s). I hung on every word of the presentation. Bunyan’s allegory was nearly coming to life before my young eyes and the Holy Spirit was using that, along with the scriptures Pastor Don would use, to bring my heart to the Lord. I remember the night so well, even these many years later (I quote from the modern re-print, Dangerous Journey):

“How his burden had got on his back in the first place… we are not told. But never had he been so eager to be rid of it. And that was… half the battle.

“Now I say in my dream that the road, from then on, was fenced on either side with a wall. The wall was named Salvation. Along this road did burdened Christian run. Or should we say, he did his best to run, so far as he could,with that load upon his back.

“At the foot of a hill, he passed an open tomb. Then up again, upon a little knoll, he found himselfPilgrim at the Cross beneath a wayside cross. And as its shadow fell across him, so suddenly the burden, slipping from his shoulders, fell from off his back. It tumbled down the hill. It tumbled into the mouth of the tomb. It was never seen again.

“Christian kept feeling behind his back. He couldn’t believe it. For it was very surprising to him that the simple act of gazing at the cross had set him free, and the burden of his guilt was gone.

“As he stood there in amazement, behold three Shining Ones appeared. The first one said:

“‘Your soul is now swept clean of sin.’

“The second stripped him of his mud-stained rags, and gave him bright new clothes, the third one handed him a parchment.

“‘Guard it carefully,’ he said, ‘and surrender it only when you have reached the gate of the Celestial City.’

“Great dangers lay ahead of him. But for the moment, he was light as air. Christian gave three leaps for joy, and went on singing.”

This was my moment as well. Recognizing “…that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I…” (1 Timothy 1.15) was one, in spite of my parents’ faith, my church attendance and my godly upbringing, hit me with the fullness of God’s grace that evening. Coming to know that I had “…sinned and fall[en] short of the glory of God” (Romans 3.23) and that “…the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6.23) began to wash over my guilt-ridden soul. Oh how I longed to know the joy of John 1.12: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” So I cried out to the Lord to save me, to forgive my sins, to grant me Christ. And by His grace, He did.

It has been every bit a journey, much like Christian’s pilgrim journey. I’ve learned much from the Word. When I was around 20-21, I began to sense His calling me into ministry. I transferred to Trinity College, Deerfield; passed right on to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and have since served in the pastorate since 1985.  Along the way, God graciously allowed me to discover the doctrines of grace (that’s another testimony that began in the summer of 1991), which I have come to love and cherish and see as the clear truth of God’s Word. I pray I’ll continue on, faithfully serving Him and someday, like Christian, cross that river into the Celestial City.

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