On January 8th of 1983, I was at home getting ready to go to work! At that time in my life I was a “maintenance mechanic”, and I was employed by the “Presbyterian Synod Homes of Florida” in Manatee County. It was a cool early morning, which was not an uncommon event, in Bradenton, Florida, where I worked and lived with my wife, and two boys at the time. As I was slowly moving along into my daily routine I had a cup of coffee, and then went and took a long and hot needed shower to start my day.
A couple of months prior to this I was visited by a church member from Bible Baptist Church, in the late afternoon. It was after work, and I was at home sitting down, watching my cable television. At that time in my life, there was nothing more relaxing to me then smoking a marijuana cigarette, and drinking a beer. It had been a long and busy day, and my wife was out on an errand with our children! The man’s name was Ron Jarvis, and today he is currently the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Bradenton, Florida.
The timing of his visit did not set with me, at the time. He was very friendly, however, when he started asking me about my relationship with God I automatically got on the defensive. Imagine! The nerve of this guy coming in at my invitation and questioning me about my relationship with God. Just who did he think he was speaking to me in such a way, and where did he get off with that kinda tone? He asked me, “ if I were to die tonight, would I know for sure where I would spend eternity?” I told him that I thought I was going to go to Heaven! He then asked me why I thought that. I explained to him that it was because I was trusting in the Catholic Church, and trying to keep the Ten Commandments! He showed me from the Word of God in John 14:6, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Telling me that unless I was trusting Jesus Christ as my way to heaven I was doomed to spend eternity in Hell forever. His response did not cause any rejoicing in my heart, in fact it did just the opposite. I went from relaxed to upset in just a matter of minutes! I also mentioned to him that I was a nice person, and did a lot of good things for people in my line of work. He quoted again from that book he was holding (The Word of God) from Ephesians 2:8 & 9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast.” It appeared each time that he came back with a Scripture reference to make me look bad. I was not comfortable with this situation at all! Each time I gave him my reasons for going to Heaven he very softly reassured me that according to the Word of God, Paul, you are not going to Heaven. My discomfort was escalating but, I had several other reasons I thought would justify this matter of SALVATION. I went on with some other excuses that were not supported by the Word of God....I gave my tithe of $.50 cents a week to the church when I go. I believe in God, and pray to the virgin Mary, and the saints. And finally, surely God will let me into Heaven because I am attending a Baptist Church, as well as the Catholic Mass.
All these reasons did not seem to satisfy this man, and I really wanted him to hurry up and leave but; not until he shared with me another quote from the Bible in the book of Titus chapter 3, verse 5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”.
During all this time on and off he was showing me that I was a sinner, and without having trusted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, based upon the Word of God, I would spend eternity in Hell, and suffer the 2nd death that is spoken of in Revelation 20:14 & 15, “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire”. He also went as far to show me from the Bible that according to Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”. I wasn’t swallowing what he was trying to tell me! I had my understanding of God (THE Man upstairs) and how I had been taught to believe, and this SALVATION thing about trusting Jesus wasn’t making my day. Don’t get me wrong, I had a respect for God, but for some reason I failed to see the importance of what seemed like a one-sided conversation. This man was inconveniencing me tremendously, with his plan of SALVATION. He also told me about the man Nichodemus that came to Jesus at night, in the book of John chapter 3.
Other Bible verses that Mr. Jarvis showed and quoted to me were Romans 3:10 & 11, “As it is written, THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NO NOT ONE: THERE IS NONE THAT UNDERSTANDETH, THERE IS NONE THAT SEEKETH AFTER GOD.” Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” , and 1st John 5:11 & 12, “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son hath not life”.
Finally! This dedicated man of God left my residence leaving me in a state of frustration, anger, and doubt, but I was so relieved when he left. Right after he left, I had to get a little higher to try and escape my season of vexation.
I still continued to go to St. John’s Catholic Church for the early Mass, and then I would go with my wife and children over to Bible Baptist Church where Pastor Gary Byram was the preacher. I truly enjoyed going to church it was helping me to feel better about myself, even though what Ron Jarvis had shared with me seemed pointless at the time. Each time I went to Bible Baptist Church something was going on inside of me. The services did not provoke me to weariness, or sleep, in fact they kept me alert, and grabbed hold of my attention. The preacher was not boring, and the messages seem to target me more and more.
You see, my wife Susan is a Christian! At that time she was terribly back-slidden and living in sin with me. She started going back to church with her parents, and after having visited many churches with her mom and dad found Bible Baptist Church, which naturally I started to attend. I started going because I had noticed a change, A BIG CHANGE, in my wife’s life and I was curious as to why this had happened!
Now here I am on January 8th, 1983 getting ready for work, along with taking a shower. I’m thinking to myself (or at least I thought I was alone) this is a good day for me, and it is my 30th birthday.
Yes that’s right, I had just turned 30 years old on January 8th. You see I was born on January 8th, 1953 and it was looking like a great day to be alive. Here I am in the shower, and I’m all soaped up all-over! But something which I had never expected was taking place. God had me right where He wanted me, and there was no way out for this birthday boy. Suddenly I wasn’t feeling so good about myself, and the Holy Spirit of God was speaking to my heart. It was like a light bulb that just clicked on in my life, and I realized according to the Word of God that I was a sinner in need of a Savior.
So I stopped what I was doing soap and all, and got down on my knees and cried out to God for forgiveness, and received Jesus into my heart as my personal Lord and Savior. The Bible says in ROMANS 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” And praise God, that whosoever was me. I kept hearing the words of the preacher over and over again in my head quoted from ROMANS 10:9 & 10, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” It must have been the soap that flicked the switch that the Holy Spirit was using to bring me to that place of repentance. I was getting cleaned on the outside, but then I realized how filthy I was on the inside with sin. I had to receive what I could never purchase, because Jesus purchased it on my behalf on Mount Calvary when He died in my place, for my sins, and the sins of all mankind. Tears pushed away the soap and suds from my eyes, and the washing of water by the Word washed all my sins away. Today I’m a Christian because back on January 8th, of 1983 I made a conscience decision to trust Jesus Christ as my way to Heaven. I now celebrate 2 birthdays at the same time, and showers have a completely different meaning to me. God is not willing that any should perish, and He reached out to me when I was dead in my sins. A person does not have to be in church to accept Christ and get gloriously saved, but if you are like I used to be it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to get the rest of the story. And maybe someone like Bro. Ron Jarvis, someone who loves God and is concerned about where you will spend eternity might be your next visitor. If not take it from me you can believe in God, or anything for that matter, but unless you have trusted completely by faith(verbally and actively)you are only deceiving and denying yourself of the greatest blessing this side of Heaven...being a new creation, a child of the Living God.
Today by the grace of God, I am drug and alcohol free, and have been since that day in 1983. God delivered me from the treacherous perils of pornography, profanity, selfishness, and tobacco to boot on the day that I got wondrously saved. I’m still married with three children, and In am a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am saved by grace, and I am a Baptist by choice. But best of all, Dear Reader, when I die based upon the Word of God, I will not spend eternity in Hell. My eternal destination is Heaven, hallelujah. Remember Jesus did not come for a RELIGION, He came for a RELATIONSHIP. RELIGION is man made, and man in his own ability reaching out to God. SALVATION is a RELATIONSHIP, with God reaching out to man through the person of Jesus Christ. We all make personal decisions and choices everyday: some good, some bad, and some MIRACULOUS. It is my prayer that you know the Savior in a very personal way, and if not it is my prayer that my personal testimony will flick that switch in your life to bring you into the family of God. I have no regrets, as I am praising the Lord for the many blessings that I do not deserve! Thus began an end to a beginning.
Thank you Lord for doing for me what I was not capable of doing for myself!