Changed By His Love
by Bob Chopin
Being raised in a Catholic household we attend Mass almost every Sunday. Like most Catholics I was christened as an infant, made my first communion and received the sacrament of confirmation. As a child I prayed and talked to God whenever the need arose. Mostly, emergency prayers like “God, if you get me out of this trouble I promise to go to church every Sunday.” Other than that my relationship with God was based on the Catholic catechisms and a Sunday Mass.
During my teen years I put religion on the back burner and limited church attendance to Christmas and Easter. Who needed religion anyway; there was a Cultural Revolution changing the landscape of society and like most teens seeking self-expression, individuality and independence, I bowed to peer pressure and conformed to whatever was in. I had no interest in conquering the world or making a name for myself, just live and let live. If it feels good, do it— as long as you’re not hurting anyone. Yes, I was enjoying life and living everyday to the fullest. Before my 20th birthday I would experience what was to change my life forever.
I was at the barber shop getting a haircut when I heard about a friend who supposedly found Jesus and was attending a Holy Roller church. He and his cousin (my barber) were invited to visit the church by one of my barber’s regular customers and while at the church service they went to the altar and asked Jesus to forgive their sins and be Lord and Savior. I can remember shaking my head from side to side in unbelief. These guys always seemed to hookup with the latest fad and this seemed a bit much.
A few weeks later I heard the story firsthand from my friend the “born again” Jesus fanatic. By now his wife and cousin’s wife had also become Jesus fanatics. After hearing their experience I bought a Bible and began reading to see if what they were saying about Jesus and this “born again” experience was really in the Bible. Surprisingly, I found the bible fairly easy reading. The words of Jesus were not difficult to understand, especially when I read the part that said:
I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. (John 3:3)
That was certainly clear, but what did all this mean to a Catholic anyway?
Some time later my brother and our friend decided to checkout the Holy Roller church and attended one of the Sunday evening services. After hearing their report on the strange and bazaar worship practices (speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophesy, and people shouting “praise God, hallelujah, thank you Jesus”) I decided to check it out for myself. It sounded like a scene right out of that Elmer Gantry movie with Burt Lancaster that I saw on TV.
How God Changed Me
Strategically arriving at the church a few minutes late, my brother and I slipped in the rear door and sat behind an older couple. The congregation was on their feet singing. Suddenly, the older man in front of us began shaking his right arm and raised it in the air while babbling loudly in an incoherent language (speaking in other tongues). When he stopped speaking some other man started shouting in English, “Thus saith the Lord…” Talk about frightening! My defenses went to red alert and my force field was engaged. I was not going to let any of these crazies grab me. Finally, things settled down and the offering bag made its customary journey through the pews — what a relief! I was no so happy to see a collection bag.
The Pastor welcomed everyone and asked us to open our Bibles to some passage of scripture and began to read. He spoke about Jesus as if they were close friends. At the close of the Pastor’s sermon he issued a general invitation to all present. It went something like this:
Perhaps there might be some present that have never truly been born again and received Jesus as their Lord and Savior… If that’s you, please raise your hand.
I refused to participate in this exercise and began thinking about my Catholic teachings and beliefs, trying to convince myself that none of this applied to me— I’m a Catholic. Nevertheless, I could sense that God seemed very real to me at that moment, more real than at any other time in my life.
Afterwards, I went home and read the Bible everyday. I was trying to justify who I was and what I believed. I wasn’t a murderer, rapist, or a criminal. I wasn’t doing anything wrong to anybody. I wasn’t a bad person! I wasn’t mean, hateful, or full of revenge. Just live and let live, and that’s not a sin. I was desperately trying to rationalize why I didn’t need to pray and be born again.
On the following Sunday I returned to that church and listened again as the Pastor preached about Jesus. When he reached the close of his message, once again he invited anyone who had not been born again and received Jesus as their Lord to raise their hand. I wrestled with the idea of raising my hand and finally slipped it into the air. Then everyone that raised their hand was asked to come to the altar area for prayer, “but only if you are serious,” said the Pastor. A battle ensued in my mind, and an emotional tug-a-war was raging in my heart. Something was saying don’t go, and another voice was saying go. At the time I didn’t realize it was the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart urging me to turn my life over to Christ.
When I stepped into the aisle and headed for the altar the struggle ended. I could sense the presence of God in a very real way. It was like when you close your eyes and someone walks up to you, you can feel their presence. I was not walking alone. The Holy Spirit was leading me.
Reaching the altar area the Pastor led us in a prayer where we asked Jesus to forgive our sins and confess Him as our Lord and Savior. As I repeated the prayer I could sense God’s presence, and it was awesome. Tears of sorrow turned into tears of Joy. As we knelt at the altar I remember telling God that “I know I’m not much, but whatever I am, I’m yours from this day forward.” When we said “amen” the power of God had changed me into a born again Christian just like the Bible says in the third chapter of John’s Gospel.
After Receiving New Life
In the following weeks and months I attended church services, Bible studies, prayer meetings, and read and studied the Bible daily. I learned the importance of listening to Christian music, especial some of the old hymns, and what a blessing it was to gather with my brothers and sisters in Christ. When a person is born again their new spiritual nature develops an appetite. The scripture says:
Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
As I grew in the grace and knowledge of God I began to understand the true satisfaction and fulfillment that is mine through Christ. His strength and power began supplying exactly what I needed to live the Christian Life. It is difficult even today to express just exactly how absolutely amazing it is to be born again and experience the love of God our Father. It’s not so much that when I die I go to heaven, which will be great, but a relationship with the Lord enriches my life now, daily.
Reading the Bible was like discovering the road map to life. His words seemed to come alive in my heart. My eyes were opened wide to the false values, philosophy, and so-called happiness constantly being promoted by one generation after another. People are constantly searching for truth, purpose, meaning, and satisfaction in all the wrong places and things. Now that God had removed the blinders from my eyes, I felt responsible to do whatever I could to help others discover the real truth.
I started telling everyone about Jesus and how I had received a new life in Christ. Some listened to my testimony and turned to Christ for new life, and a few thought I was nuts. Eventually my 2 brothers and mother were born again, several friends, and many others have come to me over the years after being born again to say thanks for telling them about Christ. And who knows, perhaps God will use these words to change your life too? As the old song says:
It is no secret what God can do, what He’s done for others He will do for you. With arms wide open He will care for you. It is no secret what God can do.