“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”Ephesians 2:8-10
Growing up, my grandfather was a Federal Game Warden in my home state of Louisiana. Hunting and fishing, gun safety, and obedience to conservation laws were really big deals in our family. Because our family placed so much emphasis on gun ownership, gun safety, and gun responsibility, it was no small thing the night I overheard my dad tell my grandfather that he was planning to gift me my first shotgun for Christmas. Although I was overjoyed by what I’d heard while eavesdropping, I knew I had to keep the secret to myself…at least until Christmas Day! To this day, that first shotgun was one of my favorite Christmas gifts ever!
But the message I overheard that winter night was nothing compared to another message I would hear just months later. It was the Spring of 1974 and our church was hosting its annual Spring Revival. As a young kid, Spring revival meant a delicious potluck dinner at church, lots of fun music, and a guest speaker, who usually proved to be much livelier and far more entertaining than our regular pastor, Dr. Hedrick. I had no idea that spring evening that God was about to deliver a gift even better than the shotgun I’d received at Christmas.
Like most 10-year-olds, I struggled to pay attention at church, especially at revivals. Once the sermon started, I transitioned between occupying my time with drawing on the offering envelopes or thumping the ears of my buddies who sat in front of me pretending to read the Bible while actually napping. All those techniques and more had proven to be fool-proof ways to keep from actually listening to speaker as he rattled on and on and on…
But that year was different.
That year I found myself actually listening to the sermon, actually paying attention to the words. And, it was there in that old-fashioned, gospel revival where God first touched my heart with the salvation message. It was there where He convinced a 10-year old boy that Jesus was His Son and that He’d died for my sins, sins that I would never be able to justify before God without the forgiveness provided through faith in Jesus. It was the greatest message I’d ever heard!
That night, as I tried to fall asleep, I felt the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit. Unable to fully understand the emotions I was feeling, I called my mom into the room and told her about what I had heard at church. I told her that I knew I wanted to become a Christian but wasn’t sure what to do. After listening to my questions, she asked my dad to come into my room.
As we knelt beside my bed, Dad explained that the emotions I was feeling and the questions I was wrestling with had been specially placed there by God Himself. He helped me understand that God desired a personal relationship with me through His Son, Jesus Christ, and that all I needed to do to begin that relationship was to ask Jesus to come into my heart. He then led me through a short prayer to invite Jesus to be my Savior. That prayer led me to the greatest gift I’ve ever received: the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ!
If you’ve not received the gift of salvation for yourself, I would encourage you to grab a Bible and read the book of Matthew in the New Testament. In the book of Matthew, you will read the story of the life of Jesus, the only sinless person to ever live on this earth. After reading that book, I hope you, like me, decide to invite Jesus to be your Savior, as well. It’s the greatest gift you can ever receive!