Because there are some who questioned why I invite the reader to accept Jesus and because we Christians are to testify of Jesus and what He means to us, I present my testimony.
I was largely ignorant about God until I was nine years old. I had never read the Bible. If I was told any Bible stories when I was a kid, they didn't impact me enough to remember them. The impression I had about God was a mental picture of an old man with a long white beard and white robe sitting on a giant throne somewhere far away in the sky. I had rarely been to church. The few occasions that I did go were a strange mixture of boring and terrifying.
You were supposed to sit still for a long time and be quiet. The man that everyone was listening to had such terrifying things to say. He was usually angry and speaking of an angry God. Leaving the young impressionable me with the certain knowledge that if I did anything that he didn't like he would tell God and I would get an instant one-way trip to hell.
I had never heard (or at least I do not remember hearing) such children's songs as "Jesus loves me, This I know . . ." Inevitably, the few times people spoke of God, I was warned about an angry God who was very disappointed with me. He would surely send me to hell if I kept doing whatever the latest thing was that had angered someone. Needless to say I was in no hurry to know such an angry being. I followed my fathers lead and avoided the subject entirely.
Then one night in what I think was the late winter of 1968, something happened. There was a Billy Graham crusade on tv. It was in the evening on one of those nights when there wasn't much on, then the regular schedule was pre-empted for the crusade. My parents were not watching. Had they been, my father would have changed the channel as quickly as he had done in the past when such things were on.
At first I watched out of sheer boredom, there was nothing else on and nothing else that I wanted to do. It would soon be time for bed anyway. I remember being amazed at the number of people that had come to listen to this man. They had actually filled an entire baseball stadium.
This man was different from the ones I had heard in church. He spoke of a God that loved everyone, no matter what they had done, and who wanted everyone to be able to be with Him in heaven. He talked about Jesus Christ, a name that before this I had thought was merely a curse word that my father used a lot. I listened with growing fascination as he told about this Jesus. How He was God, and also a man, and that He lived a perfect life without ever doing anything wrong. He told about miracles that Jesus had done, giving a blind man sight, making a deaf person hear, and even bringing a dead person back to life. He talked about what Jesus taught, that God loves us all, and that we should love God and each other. He also told about the night that Jesus was arrested, accused of things He did not do, and sentenced to die on the cross. He showed from the Bible that Jesus could have called twelve legions of angels to rescue Him, but did not because He loved us enough to die on the cross that we all deserved so that we could have the right to enter the kingdom of heaven.
As he asked people to invite Jesus into their hearts, I pictured a beaten, bloody, dying Jesus. I saw the tears and flashes of searing pain as the soldiers drove the nails through his flesh into the cross. As He hung there dying, having to struggle for each breath, I saw Him turn His head to look at me. I could see in His eyes the message of love. "You deserve this. This is your punishment. But I love you enough to take it for you. You are responsible for me being here." I could barely speak, and with quiet tears I said the prayer that Dr. Graham was leading and invited Jesus to live in me. Thus began my walk with Jesus.
At first this walk was very shaky, the only thing that I knew for sure was that when I said that prayer, my life had changed completely. No more was I afraid of God, I knew that because of Jesus I would be able to stand before Him and know that I would be admitted to heaven. I do not remember much about the next few days other than thinking a lot about what I had prayed and what it meant. Three or four days after the prayer, my mother gave me a hardbound King James new testament and I started reading in Matthew.
While there were parts that I did not understand, like the virgin birth (I didn't know what virgin meant back then), for the most part, in my mind, I walked with Him as He went from place to place, healing the sick, casting out devils, and teaching. I cheered for Him when He drove the moneychangers out of the temple. I watched in amazement as He walked across the surface of the sea of Galilee and invited Peter to come out of the boat to Him on the water. I wept with Him as He lamented over Jerusalem, and was awestruck when He fed the five thousand and again with the four thousand. When He raised Lazarus from the dead, I was left speechless.
He taught how to live, treat others, and to respect and obey God. He called hypocrites, liars and all sin for what they were. He didn't cut anyone slack when it came to righteousness, but at the same time He was merciful and instantly forgiving to the truly repentant.
And then it was Passover with the wine and the bread, Peter's rash boldness and Judas' secret meeting with the pharisees. Evening in the garden, a lonely Jesus prays. Friends and followers sleep, and when they waken the nightmare begins. Judas and soldiers arrive. He betrays his Lord with a kiss.
Arrested, brought before the high priest, then to Pilate, and on to Herod. Jesus is beaten, mocked, and spit on. Stripped of His clothes and dignity, He is crowned with thorns, dressed in a royal robe of purple. The soldiers bow and salute in mocking worship as they beat and kick Him. His own clothing is returned and He is sent back to Pilate, questioned again and then finally condemned to die. He is scourged, Blood flowing from many wounds now, He is made to carry the cross. Weak from abuse that would have killed most men, He falls. Another is called to carry the cross the rest of the way. He arrives at Golgotha, and insult is added to injury when even his clothes are taken. White pain as nails are driven once, twice, three times. More pain as the cross moves and is raised upright. Now it hurts to move, even breathe. Beaten, whipped, tortured, naked and humiliated, in His agony He still forgives. Then the sin of the world is on Him. He has become sin. His fellowship is broken with God. He is more alone than anyone has ever been.
With His last strength He declares completion and finally surrenders to death. The earth is shaken and the veil of the temple is torn from top to bottom. The Son of God has died, and the world will never be the same.