For reasons I don’t always understand, I have put off this moment far too often. Bits and pieces have come to me over the last year or two, and I feel it’s best to try to put these words down before time runs out.
I grew up in a home with only a little bit of religion, and no knowledge of what a relationship with God or Jesus Christ was like. As a small child, I went to a Roman Catholic school, and Roman Catholic Church most Sundays. This religious exposure continued till about the age of 10, when my parents could no longer afford to send me to a private religious school. Near as I can remember, our church attendance stopped at about the same time. If anything lasting came out this religious experience, it was there was a God, that He had a moral law, and that I was supposed to try my best to meet the conditions of that moral law. I knew that there was God the Father, and there was the Son Jesus Christ, but I knew very little about them. I also knew nothing of the Holy Spirit and of His purposes.
On this weak and sandy foundation, I began to build a life. Despite knowing of God’s moral law, I did not hesitate to choose evil in so many circumstances. Stealing, drugs, alcohol, and pornography where all choices that I made from the evil of my heart. And yet, the world did not hesitate to tell me how good I was. I was considered by many to be smart, to be personable, and to be a good person. And sadly, I believed them.
As I came out of college, a great many things went well for me, and I’m sure I would have told that it was all due to me, my smarts, and my people skills. There were also circumstances that drew me back into religion, both through a girl I dated and through the woman who is now my wife. And while I am one to declare that religion does not bring salvation to a person, there were elements of religion that began to form a bridge to a place where I would find Jesus Christ. That element was the hearing of God’s Word for the first time in my adult life.
Through the early 1990’s, the one element of church attendance that interested me was the expositional preaching from the Bible. While the ritual and ceremony of church did little for me, the often-brief diggings into the Bible readings were a fascination. This fascination, however, was not enough to keep me from being a slave to all my sins. God was still something to be contained, either in a church service or in a piece of cross-shaped gold jewelry. If I wanted to head out for a night of sin, all I had to do was leave the cross behind.
In 1995, God chose to impose a change a direction in my life. I came home from work to hear a message on our answering machine – it was a new neighbor inviting us to attend a weekly Bible study in their home. And I remember exactly how I responded to that message – I told my wife to call them and tell them we’re too busy. My wife decided otherwise, and called and told them we’d attend. I hope I never forget that my wife did that – If you ever hear me saying something bad about my wife, you might want to remind me that if it wasn’t for her, I might have missed out on the necessary pieces of the bridge that brought me to Jesus Christ.
Those weekly Bible studies were a very humbling experience. It’s sad when you are 30-some years old and you don’t know whether a book’s in the Old or New Testament, or what numbers, colons, and dashes mean after the book name. If people in that Bible study were shocked by my ignorance, they hid it very well. That first study was appropriately enough, in Genesis, followed by a study on the Epistle to the Colossians, then to Joshua, next to a study on the trustworthiness of the Bible. At the time, I was frustrated that we were reading a book about the Bible instead of the just reading the Bible, but I think God knew that I needed to grow in the confidence of His written Word – to understand that this was not just a collection of stories, but a faithfully transmitted revelation of His Son Jesus Christ.
At about this same time, I became a Lector, or Bible reader, at the church we attended. It’s funny – the priest had asked me to be a Eucharistic Minister, a server of their communion bread – and before I could even think, I blurted out that I would rather be a reader of God’s Word. Perhaps it was coincidence or perhaps some prideful desire to stand in the pulpit – but I’d rather think that it was God’s desire that I spend more time learning from Him. Of all my memories of serving as a Lector, I will always remember a woman coming up to me after the service and saying, “you can really tell that you believe what you’re reading”. She was right, but sadly, I also remember being filled with pride upon hearing her words.
In our study group, we worked our way through the Gospel of Mark, and followed next with the Book of Revelation. I won’t lie to you. Reading and studying the Book of Revelation was an amazing and incredible experience. The collection of materials that I gathered in this study was mind-boggling. Prior to this study, I saw no conflicts between my religion and God’s Word. In Revelation, I saw a story unfolding that was so different from my religious teachings – instead of the world getting better and better until Christ’s return, I saw a world becoming more and more sinful. I saw that the churches were not protected from evil and deception – that Jesus Christ could take away a church’s light if they didn’t hold to His teachings and didn’t cling to their first love. I saw warnings of deception – that things that appeared to be good could be evil. And, finally, I came to realize that a day was coming – perhaps even today or tomorrow, when there could be no more opportunity to repent – that all those who heeded and followed the teachings of Christ would be with Him forever, and those who ignored the call would have no more opportunity to repent, and they would be forever separated from God.
Still, with many questions in my mind, we moved onto our next study – an in-depth, word-by-word study of the Epistle of James. While there is no particular passage in this study that stands out from any other, there is a day that will forever be in my memory. It was a day I was laid-off from work, home watching the children. The children were napping, and I was off on one or multiple wicked things – and suddenly I saw myself for what I was – I was an unrepentant sinner. I was not good. I deserved to go to hell. I begged God to change me – to take my life and destroy these desires to sin. Even in all the things I’ve learned since that day, I can’t say that this was my day of salvation – perhaps it was, or perhaps it happened back in the study on Revelation, or perhaps it’s best to just think that God chose me before He laid the foundations of the Earth – so that I don’t get the distorted view that I somehow caused this wonderful thing to happen. And yet, I will say that in the time that followed that day, sins no longer seemed to hold the reins to my life. I was so far from perfect, and yet I no longer felt like I was a slave to selfish sinful desires.
There are many passages from God’s Word that had enormous meaning at this time of my life, and I could spend many hours telling you how all of them affected me, but I fear I’d never finish this testimony. If I could share just one, it would come from the 14th chapter of Luke:
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.” (Luke 14:28-30)
I can answer Jesus’ question in this passage – what kind of man starts to build a tower without counting the cost? The answer would be “me”. I didn’t understand the cost. When Jesus helped me onto the path leading to the narrow gate, I just assumed that the people I knew and loved would come with me. That somehow my wife, children, mother, father, brothers, sister, and friends would see this incredible thing that Jesus Christ did for me and be happy, and jump on this narrow path with me. For whatever reasons, that hasn’t been the situation. Perhaps some are on this same path, and I just can’t see them – they’re somewhere up ahead or somewhere behind me. There are places and times when I feel it’s just me and Jesus Christ on this path, and it’s taken me some time to understand that His grace is sufficient for all these circumstances. Happily, there are other days when I talk and interact with others on this narrow path. Someday, whether I go to the Lord, or He comes back for all His church, I’ll understand how all that has happened was a part of His plan. This tower will be finished. And I’ll praise Him for the utter perfection of His plan.
I’ve learned to thank and praise God every day for His new mercies. Every day, I think I understand more of God’s plan for me. Despite all the joys that come from these new lessons, I very much identify with the desire expressed by the Apostle John as he closed out God’s Revelation to man.
“He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20)
Today would be a great day for Jesus to return.
All thanks to Jesus Christ – my Lord, my Savior, my Master, my Teacher, and my King. And thanks for listening.
David Love is a metallurgy and materials engineer who spent about seventeen years in the melting and casting shops of two large steel mills. He progressed into being an engineering manager, but then left the steel mills to be a regular 40 hour/week metallurgist (so he could have more time with his wife and two small boys) at a small hi-tech company that makes metals for computer chips.