My JESUS Story
The preachers booming voice reverberated off of the meeting room walls. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Are you a 100% sure you’re going to be accepted into heaven? Have your sins been forgiven? Your parents faith in God and salvation is not enough. You need to have your own experience and relationship with Jesus the Savior. If you want assurance of salvation, today, walk down to the front of this room and let’s pray together. Today, is the day of salvation!”
I was only 9 years old at a kids camp in Leakey, Texas. My parents, Pete and Rosalind, had sent my sister Natalie and I with the children’s church group at Revival Temple. I had gone for the fun and adventure of it all, but now I felt rather strange. This man was telling me there was something wrong with me and if I didn’t fix it, I’d be in trouble. It seemed real clear to me that one day my life would end, badly, if I didn’t get my sins forgiven by Jesus. If I didn’t get this eternal life.
As I was contemplating joining the preacher at the front for prayer, so many thoughts flashed through my mind. Thoughts like, “I think I’m a pretty good guy. I haven’t done anything that bad. I always try to please my parents. My friends like me, and above all, what is everybody going to think of Ted if they see me walk down to the front?”
Fear of what others would think of me nearly glued me to my seat, but something began to happen. In my mind, I began to hear a small voice, “You need to pray with that preacher, you need your sins forgiven, you need to be 100% sure, heaven sure sounds like a wonderful place, don’t worry about what others think of you.”
So, I bit the bullet and began walking to the front. As I approached the front, it looked like I would be the first to respond. However, to my amazement, my older sister Natalie had arrived there first. In that moment — with the preacher, my sister, and then the other kids that followed — something began to happen to me. For the first time in my life, I began to feel a strange presence and power come over me. I felt a weightiness that began to break my spirit. I could feel it in my body and I began to cry. All I can say is that, I believe, I began to feel the presence of God for the first time in my life. Feelings of — peace, conviction, joy, assurance! It felt like everything the preacher had said from the Bible was true. That God was real! Heaven was real! And I actually felt that I had, at only 9 years old, missed the mark and needed a Savior. And finally, this new found confidence and compassion for others began to fill me. I wanted others, those I knew and loved, to know and feel what I was feeling in that moment. It was so real! It was so right! I felt more alive than ever before!
I’m 44 years old now and God’s been kind to let me experience the presence of His Spirit numerous times since. It’s available to you too, even today! The Bible says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) In addition to that, through learning the Bible from others and for myself, I began to understand more of what I was needing at that young age of 9.
I Needed Life
What I discovered, is that I needed abundant and eternal life. You may think that’s strange because I seemed fully alive. Well, you’re right! I was fully alive in the physical, but spiritually I was dead as a door nail. You see, the Bible teaches that each and every person is a triune being. We consist of spirit, soul, and body. My body was well and as strong as any other 9 year old, but my spirit and soul needed to be made alive to Jesus Christ and eternal life.
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
My life was incomplete! I was missing something. I had been stolen from God and God had been stolen from me. So who was the thief?
None other than that fallen angel, Satan. In his ongoing rebellion and disloyalty to God, he convinced God’s first family, Adam and Eve, to follow him instead of their life-giver and friend. This couple that God loved dearly, lost something that we all need desperately. They lost the Tree of Life!
The Tree of Life promised an eternally good life — no tears, no crying, no mourning, no pain, no sin, no death — only newness of life, forever. (Genesis 2 & 3 / Revelation 21 & 22)
Here’s the good news! Jesus, the one and only Son of God, came to give the Tree of Life back to you. God never wanted Adam and Eve, or us, to lose eternal life. But they made a choice and we have to make a choice as well. Who are we going to follow? The Father of Life or the Father of Lies! There are only two families. The family of God and the family of God’s enemy, the devil. He’s a thief, he steals, he kills and he destroys people’s lives. That’s who he is and that’s what he does. Following him, will produce that in a person’s life. “Bad company corrupts good morals”. Bad people, bad news, you lose!
The Bible says, “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:7-10)
It’s real simple! As a 9 year old boy I was in a great natural family, but I hadn’t yet been born into the spiritual family of God. I was spiritually dead. I needed to be made alive!
How can that happen? Well, the picture of the Tree of Life on the front of this flyer makes it crystal clear. We’ve got to get the seed of God’s Spirit into our spirit (our heart). Do you notice the seed in the center of the heart bellow the tree? That’s it!
If you desire to be in God’s family and have the Tree of Life available to you forever, pray this prayer that’s similar to what I prayed at 9 years old:
Heavenly Father, thank you for making me your new friend and bringing me into your family. I desire to be a child of God. I now realize, that my sin has separated me from you and the Tree of Life. I want to live with you forever in heaven, one day. I ask you to forgive my sins and wash me with the blood of Jesus, your saving Son. I turn away from my old life, to a new life in you. I choose to make you my Savior and Lord. Thank you for putting the seed of your Spirit into my heart. I will follow you all the days of my life!
I believe, you’re going to feel better and better and good things are going to happen to you, my friend. Here’s the good news! You’ve been born again into the family of God. You’re a child of God and it’s all a free gift that Jesus earned for you when he died on the cross and was resurrected to newness of life.
Growing the Tree of Life
You see, the picture of the Tree of Life also represents your new life rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ. This new seed of the Spirit of God, in your heart, is going to grow as you water it. It’ll grow into a mighty tree that symbolizes your new life as a Christian, a follower of Jesus.
How do you water this seed? Reading and studying the Bible, worshiping Jesus with other believers in a Christian church, and striving to obey every good thing God puts in your mind and heart to do. Be quick to obey and you’ll be blessed, joy-filled, and fulfilled in this new life.
So your new life is like a tree that has to be nurtured to grow strong. Your spirit is now saved from death and assured heaven, your soul is being saved, and your body will one day be saved from corruption. Your soul is made up of your mind (thoughts), will (choices), emotions (feelings). This is the area of you that the Bible teaches is the battle ground. The Devil is going to continue to attack this part of you with a vengeance, but I believe you’re going to overcome and God is always going to provide a way of escape for you to take. So in the heat of the battle, with God’s help, make that choice to resist the devil and run from temptation and sin. You’re a new person, a child of God! You can do it!
It’s the washing of the water of the Word of God that’s going to make the tree of your life healthy and strong. You can’t do it on your own! You need God and other Christian leaders to support you. We all do!
The fruit on the tree is what the Bible calls the Fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22)
These characteristics are what God is like. This is the Spirit of God. So if you now have the Spirit of God in you, and you do, these characteristics will now begin to flow out of you as well. You’ll become more and more like God as the years go by. Others will come and look at the tree of your life and enjoy the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. God’s Spirit will flow out of you into others! This is how God’s Spirit will spread! The Bible says, “How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits, and live!” (Hebrews 12:9)
Healing and provision of Jesus
We can’t forget the leaves! The Bible says, “And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:2) Remember, you now have a new perfect loving Heavenly Father. He knows what you need even before you ask Him, but he desires you to ask Him for anything and He delights in providing whatever you need. If you need healing in your body this side of heaven, ask Him. If you need increased financial provision, ask Him. If you need forgiveness, ask Him.
He’ll never turn you or anyone in need away. You’re His beloved creation, child, and friend.
God loves you more than you’ll ever know, and He’ll accomplish more through you than you ever thought possible.
And remember, good things are going to happen to you!