I mentioned briefly in my eulogy for my Dad, which I delivered at his funeral on September 5, how God had surprisingly changed my life. I was recently inspired to share my full testimony after reading my friend Russ Gehrlein’s testimony.
I was raised in a Roman Catholic home. My Mom saw that we were faithful to go to church every Sunday, take religious education, and follow the sacraments. I’m a rule follower by nature. By following the rules of the church, I thought I was OK. I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. I was convinced that I was “good enough”, at least in comparison with others.
But you see, there was no change in my heart. I had a temper problem, at times a bad temper problem. I also saw no problem in going to Mass on Saturday, so that I could go out and party that night and not have to get up and go to church on Sunday morning. Also, when my future wife Tammy bought me my first Bible (a Good News Bible), I set it right next to a Playboy magazine on my nightstand, and didn’t see any problem with that. Seriously.
My parents were very involved in a Catholic program called Cursillo, and had tried to get me to attend the weekend event for several years. I really had no interest in attending at all. Years later, my Dad would tell me that I had agreed to attend several times – seven I believe – backing out each time. Finally, in the early 80’s, a few years into my marriage with Tammy, I agreed, surprising my parents, and yes, even myself!I have to admit that I hated the entire weekend (Thursday night to Sunday night), which was held in an old convent next to the church where I had made my first communion. We attended Mass each day and listened to a number of talks. I do remember the truth that I can’t do it (my life, my salvation) on my own. I remember feeling sorry for myself that I was missing the Illinois State University homecoming football game that weekend as I was cooped up with a group of strangers. I couldn’t wait for the weekend to end.
The weekend always ended with a time in which the attendees could testify – in front of family, friends and the person who had sponsored them for the weekend – about how much the weekend experience had meant to them. We were seated in chairs on a stage. I recall asking one of the leaders if we had to speak. They said we didn’t, but it would encourage our sponsor if we did. I was resolved to stay firmly planted in my seat. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and get home.
But…. after a few people spoke, I shot up out of my seat to the microphone and shared what the weekend had meant to me. God had drawn me to Jesus.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. John 6:44
I mean I had hated the whole weekend. And now I had been changed. In….an…. instant! I didn’t make a decision. I wasn’t responding to an invitation after the presentation of the Gospel. God the Holy Spirit had propelled me out of the chair up to the microphone.
When I got home, Tammy was stunned. I couldn’t stop talking about what had happened. From that day, I couldn’t read enough, listen to enough sermons, etc. Tammy wasn’t sure what to do with this new husband of hers.
Is the Christian life easy? Certainly not. Did I still sin? Yes. Do I still sin today? Of course. Paul’s lament in Romans 7 has become familiar over the years:
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Romans 7:15
I like Pastor R.C. Sproul’s quote below:
Dr. Sproul would go on to say that his life didn’t really become difficult until he became a believer. Amen to that. It was only when I became a believer that I realized that things that I thought were OK, actually were not.
But here’s the good news – God knew how desperately we’re not OK, and made a way for us to be reconciled to Himself. Not just tolerate us, or like us when we do good works, but love us as His beloved children – flaws and all. Our sinful rebellion against God deserves judgment and death. But the amazing thing is that Jesus came for The Great Exchange – he took our punishment and his perfect life was credited to our account. Amazing grace, right! So now we don’t do good works because we want to earn God’s favor – we already have it. We want to obey Him as our Good Father in response to His love.
As believers, we often take three steps forward and two steps back, as Charles Swindoll once titled a book. I often tell a young man when we meet that we want to keep growing as believers. A year from now, we want to look back and see that we have grown in our faith from where we are now.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:18
Thanks for reading about how God got ahold of me at that Cursillo weekend many years ago.
Augustine said, “Because you have made us for Yourself, our hearts are restless till they find their rest in Thee.”
Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, etc. said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”
May today be the day that God changes your life and gives you His gift of salvation, a true sense of belonging and identity, purpose and a deep sense of well-being in the midst of trials.