As my wife and I watched the movie, The Jesus Revolution – of which we are a part – I thought of my own experience as a young man without Christ in 1969-1972. And now for days after watching the movie, my thoughts have returned from time to time to the time Jesus opened my eyes to truth. Here is part of my story:
Although raised in a Jewish home, the closest I ever came to religion was when I drove past a synagogue. So, when I stopped at a traffic light in 1969, the thought caught me by surprise: "What if there IS a God?"
Even though I knew nothing about the Bible, and even less about the Christianity and the Church, I did know that if God existed, He would not approve of my use of drugs, and young women, my thefts and blasphemous, foul-mouthed lifestyle. I would have to change.
But I didn't want to change. So, as the light turned green, I decided the simplest course of action was ignore the question.
Several months later, while walking toward my apartment, I spotted an ant hill along the sidewalk. Hundreds of the little creatures scrambled back and forth in what appeared haphazard motion. Then I remembered from my high school biology class that ants are vital to the ecosystem. Without their irrigation of the soil, much of the earth's plant life would not be possible. That meant ants were part of a precise ecological structure. Structure implied someone who did the structuring. However, by the time I reached my front door I had forced those thoughts from my mind. I knew where they were heading, and I didn't want to go there.
For the next two years my life careened in an almost hypnotic flow of careless living. But a nagging emptiness followed me. Something was wrong, although I didn't yet know what it was.
Thinking I needed a change of scenery, I joined the Navy in May 1972. That October, I spent Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement, the holiest of the Jewish holidays) alone in my San Diego barracks, and for the first time in years I looked honestly at myself. I did not like what I saw. My lifestyle – my life – was terribly wrong. Worst of all, I didn't think I could change. I pulled my journal from the shelf and wrote, "God, forgive me for my past sins, and look with tolerance on my future sins."
I knew I was trapped in sin. I thought I could never be free.
Two months later the Navy assigned me to Japan. While in my barracks, a roommate offered me a copy of a book on Biblical prophecy titled, The Late Great Planet Earth. Amazed, I leafed through the pages and read the hundreds of Messianic Prophesies in the Jewish Bible. For example, Isaiah 7 foretold Messiah's virgin birth; Psalm 22, His crucifixion; Jeremiah 31:31-34 of a new covenant (new testament); Daniel 7 of the Son receiving an eternal kingdom, Isaiah 9:6 told of a child who would be called "Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace;"
Then I read the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. The ancient Jewish prophet spoke of Jesus' sacrificial death which paid the penalty for my sins:
"But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."
After reading and re-reading the Old Testament Scriptures, I suddenly realized not only did God love me, but because Jesus bore the punishment for my sins, I could be forgiven! I could be forgiven of every evil, wicked, sinful and rebellious thing I'd ever done. Even – even the abortion of my baby.
On December 25, 1972, I knelt by my bunk and prayed, "God, I believe that Jesus is the Messiah." Not a very long prayer, but God saw my heart and knew I was at that moment committing my life and my lifestyle to His control. I rose from my knees and flushed the marijuana I had in my room down the toilet. The pornographic magazines went into the trash bin, and my language immediately got a hefty dose of soap. The next morning, when I arrived at work, I began telling others that God had forgiven me of every rotten thing I'd ever done.
In 1972 I didn't understand very much about what commitment to Messiah meant. I didn’t understand ANYTHING about theology, ecclesiology, eschatology, soteriology, or any other Biblically-themed ‘ology.’
But I DID understand on that day in 1972 that I needed God’s forgiveness. And I needed His help to change my life. I understood – and believed – the simple promise of Scripture: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
The Jesus Revolution movie reminded me of what God did for me 50 years ago. Fifty years. What a wonderful life He has given me, and all because I said ‘Yes’ to God when He showed me my sins – and my Savior.
But what about YOU? Do you have a story about when you realized as an adult that you needed God's forgiveness? That you needed salvation?
What’s your story? And if you don’t have one, I want you to know you can start one – today.