Thirty three years ago today (June 15th, 1980), in Cedar Park, Texas, I was rescued! Rescued in the truest sense of the word! I was born again by the grace of God! And I can never get over just how marvellous that experience was! Oh, it wasn’t really the experience as much as the fact that the Creator of this universe, had saved ME! I knew Jesus came to save the “world”, but 33 years ago this evening was when He actually was allowed to save ME!
It was just at the close of the Sunday evening church meeting at Hilltop Baptist Temple in Cedar Park, when I heard the pastor plea with everyone to make sure their soul is truly born again. He had preached on Unsaved Church Members and how church, baptism, good works, positive thinking, etc, could never change anyone’s eternal destiny. Only the perfect and finished efforts of the Son of God, in our place could actually be enough to make up for all the wrongs of anyone! He preached from Matthew 13:24-43 about Tares and Wheat. Over and over the pastor explained how that tares look like wheat, and feel like wheat when touched, and can easily fool almost anyone into thinking they really are wheat… until, they grow up and they have no fruit! They never were wheat! And they are only good for burning!
And then he pleaded for everyone to make sure THEY were wheat – that they were really born again into the kingdom of God! He commanded people that they had to be saved from the wrath to come. That there was no other way out. That if a person did not get their sins forgiven in total, they would one day perish, and spend eternity in a lake of fire, with the devil and his angels, because that is what we rightfully deserve because of our sinfulness!
I remember sitting in the middle of the crowd of about 250 people and wishing I could go up and take Pastor Jack’s hand and let him kneel with me in prayer and help me trust the Saviour to cleanse my every sin, and be forgiven. But as the hymn “Only Trust Him” was sang, I was torn. Torn between knowing I was not good enough to ever be in God’s presence, and yet knowing there was a doorway, an opportunity to get forgiven. Why not take it? If the God of heaven has made a way to be saved from my sin and its punishment, why not take it? But I was 17 years old, and that meant that I was more worried about what people would think of me, than what God would think. Looking back, I can’t believe I stood there, during the singing of that Hymn and actually held onto the back of the pew in front of me. I remember bowing my head and thinking to myself, why is this so hard? Why is it so hard to move out of this crowd and go up front? I remember thinking about how wonderful it must be to know that all your sins are washed away and are forgiven and are actually completely forgotten by God! And yet I stayed there, in the midst of that crowd.
And then the singing ended. Silence. I was surrounded in the midst of a crowd of people, and there was silence. And it felt awful. Then the pastor seemed sad. He said he knew more people needed to quit playing the game of Christianity, and get really saved! He then asked everyone to bow their heads and pray with him as he asked God’s blessings on us all as we headed home. When he finished praying, the crowd erupted with joy and conversations that only Christians have at the end of a good church meeting – rejoicing in the fact that the truth had been preached, and that hearts were melted. You see, while I was debating and struggling with my “image”, there were several people who actually HAD gone forward to the front of the church and knelt and pleaded with God to forgive them and give them the gift of eternal life like Jesus promised He would! But I had not. I stood there and watched the crowd around me slowly melt away and move towards the doors, and my heart began to beat like a piston! I knew I was definitely headed for hell. I had just missed my chance to get saved. And I knew that if I got into my car, that I might not make it safely home that night! And it was then that I saw John Cranford! I had gotten to know John in the teen Sunday School group. He was one of the class teachers. And I nearly ran over to him and just blurted out, “I need to talk to you”! He asked, “What’s wrong?” I just simply responded, “I am not saved. I am still lost!” He looked at me and then said, “Then yes, we DO need to talk! Come on over to the house and we will get it settled.” My heart was still beating a mile a minute, but I had some hope.
I followed him over to his house and walked into his home and he sat us both down at his kitchen table. His wife was so nice and fixed us some Iced Tea and brought out some muffins and I just anxiously waited. I couldn’t wait for John to open his Bible. John waited till his children were finished getting their snacks and headed on out of the kitchen before he started talking with me. He asked me why I thought I was not saved. I told him, because I am only a faker. I have blended with everyone at church now, and I can act like everyone around me when I am at church,… but I have never been born again.
He asked me how long I had been coming to church. I said, about 7 weeks now. Before that I had not been to any kind of a church in years, and I told him that up to coming to this church, going to church to me was stupid. But THIS church was different! This church was Bible only, and “that Book” spoke always right to my heart! He said that was the Holy Spirit talking from the pages of the Bible, and that I need to obey whatever the Bible said to do. I agreed.
He then started showing me Scripture after Scripture about why I am separated from God and that my separation would result in me being eternally separated from God in the lake of fire! He went over basically all that I had just heard from Pastor Jack. I patiently listened, but inside I was screaming, “GET TO THE GOOD PART!” I wanted to be saved!
He finally got to John 3:16, and Romans 10:13, and Titus 3:5, and asked me what I wanted to do. I said, “All I want to do is get the gift that God had purchased for ME, and walk out of this house a new person! But I don't know HOW” He asked me if I was willing to just firmly believe what God says in His Bible. I said yes. He then said, “Then just ask God to forgive you and make you His child!”
I bolted out of my chair and knelt on the floor next to that kitchen table and started crying like I hadn’t since my dad left my mom when I was 12 years old! I asked Jesus to forgive ME for all MY sins. I asked Him to come into my heart and save me, and make me a child of Almighty God!
When I finished, and looked up at John, he was smiling the biggest kind of grin that only a Texan can have!
I stood and he hugged me and then called for his wife to come in and asked me to tell her what just happened! I smiled and told her I was now forgiven, and it felt great! Like a real, massive burden had disappeared off my back. I was so, so excited that it had worked!
I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my Mom! I thanked John and his wife and then drove home. It was almost midnight by this time, but my mother was still awake, but in bed, with a book in her hand. I knocked and then came in and then jumped on her bed and announced, “MOM! I got saved tonight! And you need to get saved too!” She looked at me and started crying and we hugged, and then she said “I am already born again Craig” I said, “No way!” She said, “Yes, but I just have not been living like it.”
Oh I was so happy that night.
And you know what? I still am!
Thank you Lord for saving MY soul! Thank you Lord, for making ME whole!
Thirty three years ago today!