Somewhere in elementary school, I saw the irrevocable differences between the theory of evolution and the Biblical story of creation. As most people will do when left to their own devices, I chose the story that seemed to make more sense to me. But I did draw one correct conclusion -- I decided that, if part of the Bible was untrue, then the whole book was unreliable. So I discarded Christianity altogether and called myself an atheist. Truth was all that mattered to me, I would say; if you can't prove it, I'm not interested.
This posed no difficulty to my lifestyle, because I didn't know any serious Christians. Oh, Mom would warn me not to use bad language around this family or that family, but that's as far as it went. I got all the way through high school without ever hearing the Gospel or knowing what Christianity meant.
That all changed when I got to the University of New Hampshire. There were Christians all over the place -- Campus Crusade for Christ, Navigators, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and it seemed that every one of them had a Gospel pamphlet with my name on it. I had to come up with new ways of dealing with these people. These "new ways" mostly involved mockery and scorn if I wasn't outnumbered, and making a fast exit if I was.
The irony was that, aside from their insistence that I needed Jesus, I enjoyed hanging around with Christians. They didn't drink, I didn't drink; they didn't use drugs, I didn't use drugs; they didn't like the Grateful Dead, and neither did I. By the time I was a junior, most of my friends were Christians. Why they put with me, I'll never know. Most of them considered me the last person they'd ever expect to get saved.
My roommate in my junior was a wishy-washy Christian, but a very popular guy on campus, and I made many friends through him. One of them was a girl named Chryl. She loved people and was constantly making new friends, not in an immoral way, just friendly. She was so busy making new friends, in fact, that she neglected her classwork and flunked out of college in her first semester. She decided that the best thing to do was spend some time with her older brother in Florida, getting her head together and deciding where her life ought to go from here.
Her brother was what I called a fire-breathing Christian, and he wasted no time sharing the Gospel with her. When I heard that she had gotten saved, I nodded and said, "Yeah, yeah, that's nice. She'll still be the same old Chryl."
Meanwhile, my junior year wasn't going well. I had declared a major in Spanish, because that was the only area I had enough courses to make a major out of, but I had no idea what I would do after college. I was on the verge of failing a computer-science course, which might force me to stay in college a fifth year to get my degree. Worse, I was having second thoughts about my future. I had accepted a four-year Army ROTC scholarship in high school, which meant the Army paid for most of my schooling, and I owed the Army six years after I graduated. I'd done some growing up in the three years since I accepted the scholarship, and I was not at all sure I wanted to be in the Army. But I'd signed the papers, and I was stuck. My friend Ed, whom I'd known from high school, asked if he could pray for me. I said, "It can't hurt." For me, that was an amazing statement.
Chryl came back to UNH for a visit on Friday, April 16, 1982. True to form, she was soon running all over campus, renewing acquaintances. I and a few other friends followed in her wake, waiting until she stayed in one place for a few minues so we could talk.
The place where finally she settled down was a quad dorm room. It was after midnight, Pink Floyd was blasting from the stereo, and a bottle of Scotch and a water pipe were being passed around. She abstained because of her new faith. I had never acquired a taste for alcohol, and as for grass, I'd experimented with it early that year, started to get dependent on it, and was abstaining in my own strength. And in the midst of this den of iniquity, Chryl pulled out her Bible and tried to share Jesus with two of her friends.
If I had been one of them, I probably would have turned and left. But I was sitting behind her, out of her line of fire. Maybe it's because it was late and I was tired; maybe it was just my basic curiosity. I found myself listening to her. When the guy she was talking to offered some lame objection to what she was saying, I rebutted him. When the party finally broke up at 2:00, I wasn't a Christian, but I wasn't an atheist, either.
My roommate said he had a book that Chryl would like. She said she'd visit our room in the morning and get it. Saturday morning came and went, and there was no sign of Chryl. My roommate took off on some errands, leaving me alone in the room. With the book. I was curious.
The book was called The Satan-Seller, and it claimed to be the true story of a man who became the leader of a satanic coven while in his teens. He ultimately came to Jesus and wrote the book as a warning to others. I couldn't put it down. But when I was two-thirds of the way finished with it, I had to stop and think.
I was now fully convinced that there is a devil. This meant that there really is a God. And this implied that He would expect something from me. But what? I didn't know. But I knew who would know.
Try to put yourself in my friend Ed's shoes. He's sitting alone in his dorm room on a Saturday afternoon, working on his calculus, oblivious to the world, when there comes a knock on his door. More like a hammering, really. He says, "Come in," and in comes his friend the atheist, very agitated, and blurting out words to the effect of, "Ed, I want to pray, now!"
We prayed for two hours. When I got up off the floor, I felt like the weight of the world had been taken off my shoulders. Ed could see the difference in my eyes; he knew it was real. When my roommate heard the news, it was the only time either of us had ever seen him speechless. As the word spread to my other Christian friends, their reaction was almost always disbelief, followed by extreme rejoicing.
I'm not completely sure that April 17 was the day I really became saved. I now believed that Jesus was the truth, but there was a lot I didn't know yet. But when I learned that all people are sinners who deserve to be cut off from God, I didn't argue -- I knew it was true for me. When I learned that we can't work our way into Heaven because good works don't take away sins, I had no problem with that. And when I learned that trusting Jesus for forgiveness was the only way to be saved, I embraced Him that much more joyfully.
And, just to make sure I knew that I was now safe in God's hands, He worked it out so that the Army cancelled my scholarship without making me serve a day or repay a penny. I squeaked through the computer course, and went on to make computers my career.
I've since learned that The Satan-Seller was fraudulent, that most of the events in it never happened. This changed nothing; Jesus is still true. I've had some wonderfully good times since that day, and I've had bad times I wouldn't wish on anyone. But some things haven't changed, and one of those things is my favorite Bible verse. It used to be carved above the doorway to the UNH library. They've rebuilt the library since I graduated, and removed the verse in the name of political correctness. But they can't take that verse out of the Bible, and they can't take it out of me. It means as much to me as it did in 1982:
You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.If you're reading this and you don't know for a fact that you would go to Heaven if you died today, I'd love to pray for you, just as Ed and many other friends prayed for me. My "The Bible Way" page shows you everything you need to know, straight out of God's word. Anyone can get saved. I know it's true, because I did.