Well, really my next to the last beer.
So I drank and partied on the weekends. I really didn’t drink during the week because it would interfere with school, football, or work. These where higher forms of competition. So we kept our drinking so it would not interfere with life’s higher priorities. I was not an alcoholic. I was a partyaholic. I loved being with and around people, so I drank to have fun with everyone else.
I had gotten back into church for sales and networking reasons. I mean, it was a place for “respectable” people who might be a prospect for me to sell them something. It made good business sense. Gain respectability and make connections. It was a win-win.
But there was a problem. My best friend and I could not make it to church when we were closing down the bars at 2:00AM. If you went to one you had to close it down, I means what’s the point. Losers leave before the party was over! So we found a bar that was closer to home and closed at midnight. Another win-win! So after partying we could sit in the balcony at church at get some “churchin” all the while thinking I was fine with God.
I did not expect to encounter God.
Ok, so i was at church on Sunday’s but did not expect to encounter God. I heard the pastor preaching on two things that changed my life. Really, genuinely changed my life.
The first thing was that all true followers of Jesus had a turning point in their life. The Bible word for this is “repent” or “repentance.” It is the point where you realize your ways are the wrong ways, God’s ways are the only right ways, and you reject your ways and totally turn to God and his ways. The pastor asked us to search the timeline of our lives and see if we could go back to a place in our life where we had a turning point like that. For two days I thought about it and could not find that place. I had cleaned up my life at times, like not drinking as much and getting back into church, for business and community respectability reasons. It was a zig-zag, not a real u-turn. I was still in charge of my life, following my ways. God was not in charge of my life, I was.
The next time I heard the pastor, it all came together for me. I heard the message of Jesus’ death on the cross for my sins. Now, I had heard this numerous and numerous times before, but this time, it connected with me. I realized I had never truly trusted in Jesus’ bloodly sacrifice on an old rugged cross for my filthy, wicked, sinful ways. I was stricken with the reality that I loved my selfish sinfilled rebellious ways more than I wanted God’s love and His ways. God had just been another person to be used in the competition of life to get what I wanted. I never expected God to interject himself into my life and ask me to give up my selfish ways and follow him. But he did.
That night I cried out to Jesus in prayer saying, “Lord! Save me!” That is all I remember. I knew I wanted Jesus to be in charge of my life because all I could get was a list of regrets doing life my way. And I deeply realized, my sins had nailed Jesus to his cross, his cross was really the cross I should have been punished on for my sins, and that he loved me enough to take the punishment for my sins that I deserved. I finally trusted in his sacrifice on the cross as all I need for forgiveness and peace with God.
In that moment! In that single moment, my life was radically changed. I truly encountered the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ. He radically and deeply changed my life from the inside out. I didn’t get religion, I met the Creator of the universe.
I never went back to the bars. For the previous ten years my weekend-life had been characterized by the party and bar scene. It had really been characterized by my doing my thing and my ways. I never went back because, I didn’t want to go back.