When I was young, my mom would drop my brother and I off at Sunday school on Sunday mornings. Those were the days when they dressed boys in suits and ties. I have photos to verify it.
After Sunday school, back at home, we would continue our “spiritual” training by watching “The Three Stooges” until dinner. The sad thing is that I don’t remember learning anything lasting about God or his Word at that Sunday school.
Then everything suddenly changed in the spring of 1967 when I was in fifth grade. My parents were invited by friends to the new Grace Brethren Church. I remembered it because earlier when visiting my friend Tommy who lived nearby, we had explored the unfinished building. Oh yes, we were chased off after getting too close to the baptismal pool.
I really did not know what to expect here. In my small fifth-grade S.S. class, I was fascinated by the Bible stories and learned of Jesus’ death on the cross for my sins for the very first time. In the church service, the elderly pastor quietly but firmly shared from God’s Word. After that first visit, we went every Sunday morning. No more “Three Stooges.” We also went on Sunday nights (no more “Wonderful World of Disney”) and Wednesday evenings. The farm work was always done on time to do so.
Something had drastically changed in my family. It turns out that my parents both trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Dad quit raising “the devil’s weed” (tobacco), our cash crop. I never asked why, but I did not miss all that work.
While my parents were “babes in Christ” themselves and not really equipped to teach their sons, they gave us every opportunity to learn at church.
On Sunday evenings our church had a kids’ ministry called Jet Cadets where I learned how to compete in “sword drills.” That’s where you hold up your Bible, listen for a reference and search like mad to find it and hopefully be the winner to stand up and read it. I suppose many a good Bible suffered permanent “spinal” injuries in such contests. All the while God was instilling a love for his Word within my heart.
Then in December 1968 (sixth grade), our church had a week of evangelistic meetings. Of course, we were there every night. One night (I can’t tell the exact date), Pastor Ober preached from Genesis 22, the amazing account of how God told Abraham to actually offer up his long-promised son, Isaac as a burnt offering on Mount Moriah. Unbelievably, the patriarch did exactly that until God stopped him just as he grabbed his knife. The Lord said, “Now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (Genesis 22:12).
Pastor Ober explained that this was an illustration of John 3:16 and how God the Father loved us earthlings so much that he gave up his one and only unique Son, Jesus Christ to die on Calvary’s cross for our sins. Jesus willingly submitted to the Father’s will just as Isaac willingly submitted to his father Abraham’s will after being told that God will provide a lamb for the sacrifice (Genesis 22:8). Ultimately Jesus fulfilled Abraham’s prediction as the Lamb of God who “takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Pastor Ober further shared that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23), eternally separated from God and heaven (Romans 6:23), with no ability whatsoever to do anything to pay for our sins (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus, God in human flesh and blood, out of love for us paid our eternal sentence of hell himself on the cross, was buried and rose triumphantly from the grave. Oh, by the way, the reason that Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac was that he really believed if he did so, God would raise him from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19).
This was not the end of the story as Pastor Ober said that we had a choice to make. “Will you turn from your sins and put your trust in Jesus alone to forgive and save you?” He prayed and then invited those to come forward who wanted to receive Jesus as their Savior while the congregation sang “Just As I Am.” In my heart of hearts, I knew that Jesus was calling out to me. Slowly but surely, willingly and uncoerced, I made my way forward.
That night I pounded “my stake in the ground” so to speak and claimed Jesus’ promise of John 3:16 for my own. I was one of the “whosoevers” who trusted in him for everlasting life. As I prayed with simple childlike faith, I was born again (from above, John 3:3), saved, redeemed, justified (declared righteous before God) and became a child of God. I shed tears of joy knowing I was now absolutely sure of heaven!
So what has been the best day of my life of 64 years? That night in December 1968 when my whole life and destiny totally changed. In my life I have doubted myself and my abilities, but I have never (praise to God!) doubted that I am headed for heaven. God made a promise to me, and I am holding him to it for all I am worth. He can do the same for you if you will believe and trust him. It will be the best day of your life — trust me.