I am glad you have chosen to read my story of when I came to know Jesus Christ and invited Him to be my Lord and Savior. I will try to communicate it in the way I understood things then rather than using many of the church/theological words often given because it is my hope and prayer that others will read my story and come to know Him in a much deeper way through it.
It was June, 1987, and I was getting to go to youth camp with my church at Falls Creek for the first time. I was almost thirteen years old, and besides the normal pre-teen challenges that one has to deal with, there was a lot going on in my life. Lots of challenges in my family, lots of challenges in my head and heart, and I was struggling to find where I fit into what seemed at the time a rather small (and closing in on me) world.
Mike and Jeri were the new youth pastors of the church that my family and I used to attend. When I was much younger, we were at that church all the time, but then Satan devised a scheme that dealt a devastating blow to my family. Bitterness and anger crept in and things drastically changed. People became the enemy and the world was out to get us, or at least that was the new belief at our house, and I was soon to be the outlet of their frustration. I will come back to that in a moment, but for now let’s keep talking about my conversion.
Shortly after Mike and Jeri arrived, through the Lord’s leading they sought me out. So they decided to try and plug me in. That may have been what they were thinking, but in reality God led them to me because He had a much bigger plan (as He always does). I started participating in the group, and it didn’t take long before they began intentionally investing in me. Even now, as I type this out, tears begin to well up in my eyes as I recount how God loved me in such a needed way during that time.
Now, let me interject something here. It wasn’t that my parents were bad people. As a matter of fact, my parents have always been good people, the kind of people you would want to get to know, and today we have a great relationship. As I look back, I do not blame them for the way things were in those days. After my own recent experience I understand the situation better. They were hurt deeply and everywhere they turned more hurt seemed to find them. Nonetheless, to this young pre-teen boy, that knew very little about the world at that time, home had become unsafe and confusing…a place I did not want to be.
When it came time for camp registration it was very disheartening because I really wanted to go, but I knew my family could not afford it. I was also very introverted at that time and asking for assistance was not something I was going to do. However, God had a desire to meet the greatest area of need in my life, which was my salvation, and He knew it had to be done away from my every day life. So He made a way by having Jeri come to me and say, “Someone has paid for you to go to Falls Creek. All you need to do is get your parent’s approval and I’ll help you do that.” Again, because of the love and obedience of a few people, who had no idea what their obedience to God would do, God changed my life forever.
Do not get me wrong, it was a hard week. I wanted to be there for many reasons, but I did not want to be there for just as many reasons. However, it was right where I was supposed to be. Pastor Garland was preaching the evening messages and there were bible studies in the morning. I remember feeling like all of the teachings going on during that week felt like they were directed right at me and I couldn’t get enough of it. The pavilion times were full of practical lessons that the teacher made come alive and Pastor’s preaching was absolutely captivating.
Finally, on Wednesday evening, I prayed and asked Jesus to be the Lord and Savior of my life. I could not completely explain how I was feeling that day, but I had a lot of unrest inside of me even before I arrived at camp. The teaching just seemed to make it worse. I actually spoke with my youth pastor earlier that day about how I was feeling and he told me to try something that night before the message. He told me to pray and ask God that if He was speaking to me to make it clear what I needed to do or what He was saying. So I did. That night Pastor Garland taught about heaven and hell and God’s plan for every man and what that looked like. It was obvious, God was offering this to me but I had never responded to it. I needed that in my life. I had just assumed that I was saved before because I went to church and was not a bad kid, but it was obvious that I had not understood all that God had done for me previously nor had I ever responded to Him like this before either. It was like everything came together and made sense now. I had a new understanding and there was no confusion about what I needed. I needed forgiveness from God for my sin and I needed Him in my life. So when the invitation began I prayed and asked God to forgive me of my sin and asked Him to be my Lord and Savior just as the Pastor led. I gave my life to the Lord and was baptized a few weeks later. And guess who walked down and stood beside me until the invitation was over? My youth pastor. God forgave me of my sin on that day because I finally believed in what Christ did for me on the cross and I wanted to live my life the way God commands me to. So I prayed asking for His forgiveness and help and He has been helping me ever since.
It was with Mike and Jeri that God began doing some amazing things in my life in order to protect me and bring me to Him. I look back all these years later and I can see so clearly God’s loving and guiding hand drawing me to Him. Before Mike and Jeri there was Mrs. Engle, there was my babysitter, Lowell Moffet, and my aunt. After Mike and Jeri there would be Mr. Z, Bob, Phil, Todd and Angela, and Tracy that would teach me about God’s acceptance, His truths, and how to be devoted to Him with my life. It was Tracy who God would use to reveal my calling, what I was supposed to do with my life, and give me a chance to actually serve in that area. It was through all of these people, and many others that God would use, when they didn’t even know what was going on, to draw me to Himself and mold me into the man I am today.
One of the greatest lessons I want people to get from my story, and that I work so hard to display in my own life, is what God can do through a life lived for Him. Most of these people had no idea what God did for me through them until many years later when I called and told them. They were simply doing their best to let Him live His love and many other amazing attributes through them; and the result, a life changed and now being lived for Him…and they had no idea. God can use us, sometimes even despite ourselves, in ways we are unaware, but we must be surrendered.
For that person reading this who has never truly responded to God’s gift of salvation, let me ask you this question, are you surrendered? Perhaps you were asked to read this for a totally different reason or perhaps you stumbled across this and might be tempted to dismiss it as just coincidence. Let me ask you to consider, after what you just read about my life and experience, could it be that this was the leading of God despite what you might have thought you were doing?
Is He the Lord and Savior of your life? Do you believe in Him as the God of everything, including you, and that He has a plan for your life? Are you trying to live according to His ways? If not, what are you waiting for or what has you hesitating? Jonathan Edwards, a renown preacher and theologian in the early 1700’s, described all of those who did not believe as dangling over hell by a string. What stands between you and eternity is one heart beat and then there is heaven or hell for all eternity. Are you ready?
If you would like to have Him as Lord and Savior of your life, it’s as easy as A-B-C or 1-2-3.
A. Admit. Admit that you have sinned against His commands and have been living for yourself.
Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This includes what the world considers big sins and small sins, but sin is sin to Him. The person who has only told “little white lies” in their life but has never believed in Jesus and called for His salvation will go to hell the same as a serial killer who has never believed. It’s not in the types of sin we commit that sends us to hell, it’s sin itself…breaking His law and then standing before Him on our own. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The penalty that has to be paid for sin is death, which is eternal death in hell, and if you represent yourself and die for your sin your fate is sealed. However, there is good news. 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The reason there is forgiveness is because Christ, who never sinned in His life and did not deserve death, paid our penalty with His life on the cross for all of those who deserved death in exchange for them believing and following Him with their lives. Then, because He was raised from the dead, conquering death and taking the power of the grave to hold us, we can have hope that when we die, all those who have believed, repented, and followed Him, will be raised from the dead to one day live in heaven with Him for all eternity. That’s the “A,” to admit that we are the sinners we are and need His forgiveness.
B. Believe. Believe in Jesus Christ. This is not simply saying “I believe,” like it’s in the words or walking the aisle at church, it’s more than that. It’s believing that results in action. When we truly believe in something, there are always actions that follow. When we are told hot things will hurt us, we avoid hot things. When we are told doing something will improve a situation, we try it. When we meet someone special we strive to enter into a relationship that transcends a typical relationship. Believing in Jesus Christ as God’s Son the result should be a desire to get to know Him and live according to His ways.
John 3:16-18, “16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Acts 16:31, “…Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” Romans 10:9-10, “because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved…For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” John 6:47, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” John 1:12, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
C. Confess. Confess to all those around you, in both word and deed for the rest of your life, that Jesus is the Lord and Savior of your life. This is key and paramount to you and others knowing that He is in you. 1 John is full of verses that point out that you and the world will know that He is in you by the way you live your life. James says that faith without works is dead (2:14-26). Not that we are saved by works (Ephesians 2:8-9, “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”), but works are the natural fruits that are produced from what’s inside (John 15:1-5).
Romans 10:9-10, “9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
Or you can think of it this way:
1.) You and you alone (1) are a sinner and must confess that to God and ask for forgiveness (Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; 1 John 1:9).
2.) Invite Jesus into your life to be Lord and Savior of all that you are and all that you do, and together (2) you can stand before God forgiven and righteous as He requires you to be, but that you can’t do on your own. (Psalm 49:7-8; Romans 3:10)
3.) Confess your relationship with God to those around you (3) for the rest of your life. Tell them what He has done, is doing, and is going to do in your life and invite them to begin the same relationship.
Do you have a real relationship with God? If you haven’t done these things why not begin that relationship today? It’s not too late and it’s not complicated. All you need to do is simply pray (talk to God just like He was standing in front of you because He is with you), believing in Him and who He is, and ask Him to forgive you of your sins and be Lord and Savior of your life. Once you have truly done that, begin reading His Word, praying (talking) to Him constantly, and attend a good Bible believing church for growth. We don’t attend expecting the church to be perfect (because there are none), nor do we attend expecting the church to serve us and meet our every need. We attend because of the Word they teach (God’s Word…the Bible), which is perfect and true and will strengthen/encourage our faith, and to join in the ministry of that church to expand the Kingdom.
If you have done this, I would love it if you would contact me and give me the opportunity to pray for you, rejoice with you, and even encourage you as you begin your relationship with your heavenly Father. However, the most important thing for you to do right after receiving your salvation and beginning your eternal life is to tell another believer that can help you begin your spiritual growth. May God bless you and do amazing things in and through you as you walk with Him daily.
Kenny D. Kelly