After being arrested for the third time, I was forced to see a drug and alcohol counselor. The counselor recommended that I attend an AA meeting, so I did. I was very nervous attending my first meeting. Dispite my fear, I stayed for the whole meeting.
After the meeting ended, I started to walk out the door when I noticed a poster on the wall that read “The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous”. As I glanced at each of the steps, one of them seemed to leap off the poster. It was the third step that states, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” I thought about that statement all the way home.
When I arrived home, I turned on the TV out of boredom. As I was flipping through the channels, I stopped on the channel that aired the 700 Club. As I listened, Pat Robertson was speaking and it was like he was speaking to me personally. That night, through the magic of TV, he led me to Christ. I would never be the same. God, as I had understood Him, had always been the Christian God. My understanding, however, was skewed, having not understood a key element of the Christian message. I believed in God and believed in Jesus to be sure, but never understood the gospel. It wasn’t that I didn’t know about the sinner’s prayer or had never heard about getting saved. I learned those concepts by occasionally attending my grandmother’s church when I was a kid. Several times, I had answered altar calls and repeated the sinner’s prayer. I understood that Jesus forgave past sins, but never understood the concept of justification.
In retrospect, I now know that I never understood the gospel. After I answered each altar call before, I got up from my knees and tried to be a good person. Each time, I had relied on my works to save me. But that night, something different took place. God cut through my misunderstanding and illuminated the gospel to my heart by His Holy Spirit, which allowed me to grasp what Christ had done for me.
What I discovered that night, in its full orbed reality, was that God came to save sinners.
Because of putting my faith and trust in Christ, my sins were forgiven: past, present, and future. The gospel, as I discovered, is the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Through these acts, I was justified in the court of heaven. While I deserved eternal punishment, through Christ’s death on the cross, He took upon Himself the punishment of my sin. My conversion came because of placing my faith in the finished work of Christ alone for my salvation. I was delivered from both the power and penalty of sin. I had become a new person.
This didn’t mean, however, that I ceased to struggle with sin. It was just that now I had victory over it as I surrendered each area of my life to Christ. This required that I grow deeper and deeper in my understanding of the gospel. I found that with God, through the assistance of the Holy Spirit, coupled with the study and meditation of God’s Word, this could take place. Because of this pursuit, my heart and mind began to change. The burden of the guilt of my sin rolled away. Fear was now dispelled from my heart. I understood how much God loved me. I didn’t have to try to earn His approval. He was no longer the traffic cop in the sky. Instead, God became my loving Heavenly Father. The more that I understood how much I had been forgiven the more I understood His love. For nearly twenty years I grew in my understanding of His grace before Faith entered my life.