Today is a special day for me. Of course it is Good Friday, which is special because on this day we commemorate Christ’s death for us on the cross. But for me, personally, March 21 is special for a different reason. This is the day when I remember God’s amazing grace that he showed in rescuing me, a scoffer and a blasphemer, from the path of destruction. This is the day when I was born again.
I was fourteen, which might seem a tender age to be considered a scoffer and a blasphemer. What can I say? In this respect I was quite precocious. I had always been interested in science. From the time I learned to read I devoured every science book and magazine I could get my hands on. I watched science TV shows, and whenever I had the chance went to science museums. When I attained the age of reason, which for me was about age twelve, I began to question the Christian upbringing my parents had given me. At that age, in seventh grade, I also came under the influence of a young and energetic science teacher. In my sheltered Bible Belt childhood, he was the first adult I ever met who freely admitted he didn’t believe in God.
Under these influences I decided I didn’t believe in God either. I became an agnostic. I wasn’t actually willing to state that God did not exist; I simply believed that it was impossible to know whether or not he exists. I had decided that I would only believe what could be scientifically proven. It seemed to me that if God exists he is by definition supernatural, so it is impossible by natural means to discover any evidence of his existence. You can’t see him. He doesn’t register on any scientific instruments. His existence is effectively undiscoverable. And though I didn’t say it explicitly, by implication his existence is irrelevant. What I did say, explicitly, is that anyone who does believe in God is a fool or an idiot.
My parents still made me go to church and Sunday School, although I argued with them about it. I also argued with my Sunday School teachers. Later, while sitting in the church service, I would occupy myself by looking around scornfully at all the foolish, and hypocritical, people around me in the pews. You probably have a pretty good picture by now that besides being an agnostic I was also an arrogant little twerp. It was a wonder I had any friends at all, but I travelled in a circle of friends who thought and acted just about the same way I did.
In ninth grade I had two godly women as Sunday School teachers. I was very rude to them. I told them I wouldn't believe in God without hard evidence. I ridiculed their faith, but they were very patient and loving. Their heart's desire was to lead each of us into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. One week they invited the class to attend a youth evangelistic service at another church. I only went because a couple of cute girls in the class asked me to.
At the service I saw hundreds of teenagers excited about Christ. The speaker presented the Gospel in a clear and moving way. He kept saying to give God a chance. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. I despised hypocrites. So I quietly prayed, “God if you’re real, show me.” At that moment I felt an incredible rush of joy and ecstasy flow through my body. I was amazed. I realized that God had answered my prayer. Yet I began immediately to rationalize what had happened. I must be doing that to myself, I thought. It must be some sort of subconscious wish fulfillment. But the experience was so real and so obviously from outside of me that I could not easily dismiss it. So I prayed the same prayer again and it happened a second time – less intense, but accompanied by an absolute conviction that God is real, that everything the preacher had said about Jesus was true, and that my whole life had just changed. I was thunderstruck. I knew immediately that the foundations of my worldview had been overturned, not leaving a single stone on top of another. It was Sunday, March 21, 1971 at about 8:00 pm.
Tonight I remember that moment thirty-seven years ago, when the boundless grace of God miraculously rescued another miserable sinner, whom he loved even when I was unlovable.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:6-8 NIV)