By the end of my junior year of high school, the world had become a very dark place for me. Raised in a military family, I attended seven elementary schools and two high schools by the time I was 14. Most of my elementary years were spent in Roman Catholic private schools. I was an altar boy. Thinking I might become a priest, I spent a few days after my eighth grade year exploring a Vincentian seminary for high school students in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. My parents asked me to delay the journey to becoming a priest until after high school… I did.
After a brief period in a Catholic high school for boys in Little Rock, Arkansas, my family relocated to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base just outside Dayton, Ohio. For the first time since the fourth grade, I found myself attending a very large, public school. It was a rude awakening, but I adapted. I got involved in sports. I made good grades, and some good friends, but I was deeply unhappy.
I distanced myself from my family. God seemed unwilling or unable to make anything better. I was angry at God. I stopped attending church. I began to engage in self-destructive behaviors — hurting myself and those closest to me. No longer thinking about becoming a priest, I was finding my world to be an increasingly dark and hopeless place.
Not long after that, some friends invited me to their church. I began to attend services. It seems like they were always going there –Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and more! But I was listening too… and learning truth about myself and about God. The preachers used the Bible and referred to it as “God’s Word.” I could read it for myself. I didn’t have to take anyone else’s word — God provided a way for me — and anyone else — to learn about who He really is. He wants to us to know Him. With questions mushrooming in my mind, I asked to meet with a pastor.
He shared the following Bible passages with me:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:18)
There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one. (Romans 3:10-12)
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Romans 5:8-9)
If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)
I took them home and read them. I thought about them a lot. I kept listening to the messages that were being taught and, over time, the Lord opened my heart to the truth — the good news — that life could be different. I saw what I had been doing to myself and to others was sin — sin that I could never get rid of on my own. I realized I was blaming God for problems I had created in my own life. I needed a Savior.
I saw the way out through the cross of Jesus Christ.
In the fall of 1978, I trusted Jesus Christ to forgive all of my sins and to change my life. He became a real presence in my life. He rescued me from a future that was dark and empty. He took over the directional control of my life… I wanted Him to lead me.
The change was immediate and dramatic. I wish I could tell you that I never made mistakes — that I stopped sinning — that I never had another dark day. But that wouldn’t be true. However, what I did have was this incredible, awesome new Person in my life. I wasn’t perfect and pure — but I knew Someone who was. And He had forgiven me for all my sins. He had a will and a plan for me. He loved me. The world was no longer a dark place. C. S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity describes where I was in 1978:
God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game. But there may be a period, while the wings are just beginning to grow, when it cannot do so: and at that stage the lumps on the shoulders—no one could tell by looking at them that they are going to be wings—may even give it an awkward appearance.
I certainly had those “lumps on the shoulders” and I didn’t fly much in the beginning… but it was just the beginning!
Would you like to explore the same Bible truths that enabled me to know God personally? In the Bible, the apostle John wrote, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13). God wants you to know! Let me encourage you to explore this website by Billy Graham, who has helped thousands of people come to know Jesus in a real, personal way: Steps to Peace with God .
3 thoughts on “How Jesus Changed My Life”
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Bro Don your growing up story is almost identical to my Jon’s. He also grew up in a Roman Catholic church and
School. He was always worried about dying because he sinned before he could get to the Priest to be forgiven.
He was a serious thinking child and couldn’t understand how to be good enough to be a Christian. Finally he refused to attend Catholic school at age 16, he was put in public school and did many things he knew was a sin.
He lived a life in fear of death. He never shared this with me. After we married he refused to go go church but always encouraged me to attend. Finally one Saturday night he informed me he wanted to go to church with me. Jeff Gibson lead him to Christ. This was when he told me how he had suffered all those years in fear of Hell. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. As you know he did not fear death at the end of his life.
He always enjoyed your visits when he was terminally ill.
He also took apart his toys to see how they were made and ended up going to college and had two different degrees in engineering. And he was a devoted loving husband.
Thank you again for your visits and prayers when he was terminally ill.
Thank you Gayle for sharing Jon’s story here. There were many Sundays when Jon would approach me with excitement and joy over something the Lord has shown him afresh in His Word. He had a heart that was tender towards Jesus. He was a blessing and an encourager to everyone who knew him. We did share a common past and a similar conversion story. Both of us knew what it was to step out of the shadows of manmade religion and human tradition and away from the idea that someone can earn their salvation. He knew the grace of God against the dark backdrop of his previous hopelessness. When Jesus made Himself real to Jon, he never looked back! Much love to you Gayle — you are a dear sister in Christ.