One Friday evening it all came to a head. After yet another enjoyable evening of preaching we stayed back to chat to everyone. I met a man from Newry, Jim, who opened up his conversation with me by asking, ‘Are you saved?’ I had never been directly challenged like this, so after a few seconds hesitation I responded, ‘No’. It was the first time since going to these meetings that I had admitted this to anyone. He then proceeded to tell me how the Lord had saved him before the war and kept him all these years.
As I was leaving my girlfriend home later I got an irresistible urge to return to the house we had just left. She argued strongly against the idea and suggested leaving things until Sunday. We had a very loud row and she stormed off to her flat. I sat and simmered for a few minutes. Then I did something I had never done in my life before. I turned away from my chance to get things sorted out. You have to understand, I always tried to get arguments sorted there and then. I hated to leave things, even for an hour or two.
But this time, I drove away and returned to the house we had left. It was half past midnight. The only other person who hadn’t gone home was Stephen, the person I wanted to speak to. He had led most of the Bible studies I had attended. I needed to ask some questions and I needed to ask them there and then. Stephen was more than happy to sit with me and listen and answer. My main request was this: ‘Show me, one more time, what the Bible says about being saved.’
Stephen showed me several verses and passages from the Bible. There was nothing I hadn’t seen or heard before, many, many times; ‘for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’ Romans 3:23, ‘the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ Romans 6:23, and so on.
It was all very clear to me. I was a sinner. God is Holy. He hates all sin. He must punish all sin. He must punish my sin! He sent his only begotten Son, Jesus, to die for sinners, to die for me! I knew I had to respond. I had to pray to God. I needed His forgiveness and His mercy. I was so afraid of repeating my mistake of years earlier that I even asked Stephen how I should pray. I didn’t want to repeat a formula of words but I wanted to be sure that my prayer covered the necessary things. Stephen advised me and I got down on my knees in that small meeting room. In my own, awkward words I spoke to God. I prayed for His forgiveness. I told Him that I was a sinner. I knew Jesus had suffered and died for sinners. I knew that God had promised that anyone who believed in Jesus, and Jesus only, for the forgiveness of sins would be saved. I asked God to save me. I was trusting in the fact that God says in His Word that He would have mercy on anyone who asked Him.
As I finished my short prayer there was no great emotional outpouring. There was no blinding light or sound of angels singing. What did happen was amazing though. As I rose to my feet I knew, I really knew, that God had heard my prayer. I knew that all my sins, yes, all of them, were forgiven. God had kept His promise that ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ Romans 10:13. For me, that came true on the morning of October 31, 1987.