Tuesday, 29 May 2007

A wing and a prayer

My search continued, meanwhile, notwithstanding the very poor reception I got when I told my parents that I had left their church. I suppose it was hard for them to see their youngest take such a strong stance against what they sincerely believed. I remember my mother crying in the kitchen one afternoon. I asked her why she was so upset and she told me how she thought that each of her children had disappointed her. Typically, I wanted to be excluded from such a charge but she said that departing from her church was my crime.

In the early eighties I heard the gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time. That may sound a bit surprising but it is true. All that I had been brought up to believe and all that I had heard from these other religious groups left me in complete darkness. None of them had the slightest clue about Jesus and His death for sinners. They had the words, mostly, and the facts, sort of, but not the meaning, not the understanding. Finally I got to hear why Jesus lived and died. The truth was shown to me and it was so very simple and so very crushing.

I watched a very poor quality film in a house in Dundalk, shown by an American Missionary couple, Dave and Betty. Along with two friends, I went to this film show and saw, for the first time in my life, what the Bible teaches about sin, hell and God. Although the film was badly made and badly acted, the content was riveting! Everything in it was straight from the Bible. What I watched that evening began a process that eventually brought me to my knees and into an eternal relationship with God!

Unfortunately, the process was not a smooth or simple one. I started to attend Bible studies in this home and in other homes around the town. I learned a few very interesting things during those studies. The true nature of the Christian church, that Christ is its founder and head, not any man! Therefore no church or group based on the ideas of any ordinary person could possibly be a Christian church. I saw that no amount of good works that we might do could make us right with God. I found out that there is no Purgatory and that confessing sins to another man doesn’t earn forgiveness! I began to get a clearer picture of why Jesus lived and died as He did. Over and over again the simple message was given to me. Christ died for sinners. He was punished for the sins of others. He was the only person who had never sinned. Imagine that! Not for a moment did He even think something that was wrong!

I began to see from the Bible that I was a sinner in serious trouble. Any doubts I had held about sin, hell and punishment were removed by the words I saw in the Holy Scriptures.

What happened next, however, served to send me on a much longer journey to the truth than I had expected. Dave persuaded me to repeat a prayer after him. He asked me if I believed certain things about God, Jesus and my sin. When I answered ‘yes’ to each question he then encouraged me to pray using the words he told me. I know now he had the best intentions in the world but what he did was very foolish! For some reason he seemed to think that salvation could be assured by saying a prayer. It can’t.

I prayed that prayer and I really thought I was saved. And for more than five years I went along with the notion that I was right with God.

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