My mother tells me that I accepted Jesus into my heart as a young child of just 3 yrs old. I don’t remember that, but I know that as great as God is I probably don’t understand a whole lot more about him know as I did then. I also know that the Gospel message is simple enough that I could have accepted him at such an innocent ago. What I do remember, however, is that at 12 yrs of age I had many sleepless nights wondering if I would go to heaven or hell when die. Such an odd thing for a kid so young to loose sleep over you may think, but it is a huge thing when you think about it, and I had been blessed with parents, grand parents, Sunday School teachers, and others who care enough about me to help me understand enough about such things, and who prayed for me. When my folks sent me off the Mt Lebanon Christian Encampment that summer, my heart nearly jumped out of my chest when the preacher told us at chapel service that we could know for certain where we would go when we died. I practically ran down the isle between the old metal folding chairs at the end of that service to nail down that issue in my own life.
1st John 5:11 and following says that “… God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. “
The counselor I spoke with that night told me that the struggle I have been having was clear, as was the solution:
- (Romans 6:23) All have sinned and fall short of God’s plan for our life.
- (Romans 3:23)Sin always has a cost, and all sin has a cost of separating us from God and his plan for our life including living with him in Heaven after we die.
- (Romans 5:8) But God loves us so much that while we were still in our sin, or at least before we could get right with him, he sent his one and only unique son, Jesus Christ, who willingly obeyed to become a sacrifice for our sins.
- (Romans 10:9,10,13) The solution lay in me admitting to God that I need his forgiveness for my sin, that I wanted to turn from living for myself and give Him control of my life, and I believe what he did for me and realize that He is Lord and am willing to be public in my confession of those facts.
I nearly ran back to the cabin which was home that week of camp, in the dark and right through briers and all in excitement of having successfully discovered the answer to what had been keeping me awake for what must have been weeks at least. I assumed others my age had been plagues similarly and couldn’t wait to share with them that I now had assurance about the direction of my life, here on earth as well as in the afterlife!
The church we attended was the historic First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas, TX. I was very privileged to get to sit under the teachings and care of our wonderful pastor, the much beloved Dr. W.A. Criswell during the most of the 1970s. To get a feel for what kind of preaching influenced my early life, click here. Who baptizes a person really doesn’t mean a hill of beans in the Kingdom of Heaven, but the fact that I was baptized by my pastor, who always referred to himself as “Wally Amos” instead of “Dr. Criswell”, has always been dear to my heart personally. For more on the theological and philosophical impact of this pastor on my life, click here.
When I was 16, my brother Dwight and my sister Denise gave me a new Bible for my birthday. I grew up using the nearly 400 yr old King James Version and understood it well enough, but Elizabethan English wast not mine tongue natural, nor that of mine heart. As I started to read this newer version, it started to speak to my heart in a strange new way. I felt like God was talking directly to me, in my own language for the first time in my life. I was starting to finally get a little more involved in my church’s youth group, now at a church closer to where we lived so I also was now going to school with kids from church who I realized were trying to be serious about living a Christian life, sometimes at the expense of ridicule from others for what they stood for. Between spending more time in the Bible (and I was eating it up!) and with other Christians with life situations similar to mine and in the context of a local church, I started to finally grow spiritually.