Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come.”
This verse is very personal to me. The first time I ever read it was on February 25th, 2004. I just got home from the Grand Haven 9 movie theatre. I was in a rented upstairs apartment. I was on my knees at the end of my bed looking at a gifted Bible for the first time. Moments earlier God changed my life.
I went to go see a movie called the Passion of the Christ. Nothing I have ever seen was as brutal as that movie. But there was something more powerful there than the beatings and the blood. I saw it was for me.
You see, I had heard the Gospel before at Alaska Baptist Church in Caledonia Michigan. In high school my best friend’s dad was the pastor, Dr. Brian Harrison. My family wasn’t Baptist. We were Catholic, even though we weren’t what you’d call “good” Catholics. Now being with my best friend, I had been in ABC many times before and heard about Jesus Christ. Because of the great teaching I could tell you that He was the Son of God and that He died for everyone’s sins. But I was not saved.
What I was at 23 years old was a good guy. I held a job, paid my bills, and attended college. I was clean cut, likeable, and spoken well of. Mine is not a gutter to glory story. I was an average guy just doing the average thing. In an average life.
But when I sat in that theatre that night and saw what Christ went through for me I remembered everything I ever heard about Him and it was like I understood for the first time. Walking into the movie theatre that night I thought I was a good guy. But when I saw Jesus Christ I realized how pathetic I was. Looking at Him made me feel ashamed of myself. Whatever I thought I was I realized I was nothing compared to Him.
I watched Him take the worst beating imaginable. I watched Him carry the cross. I watched the nails go into His hands and His feet. I watched Him ask His Father to forgive His executioners. I watched them hoist Him up on that hill. I watched them shame Him and disgrace Him – spitting on Him, punching Him, mocking Him, and taunting Him.
And I knew the whole time that what He was doing He was doing for me.
I saw it for the first time that night. He didn’t come to die for the sins of the world. He came to die for mine! All in one moment I saw how wretched I really was and how loved I really was.
So I drove home that night, got out of my car, and stood in my driveway. I still remember it was so cold and crisp, and the sky was so clear. I looked up and I didn’t know what to say. I just prayed, “God I give up, I’m yours.”
The next thing I did was run inside to look for a Bible. I knew I had one somewhere. If you’re ever looking for a Bible in a bachelor pad the best place to look is under the dirty clothes pile in the closet. Someone gave it to me a couple years earlier and I still hadn’t read it yet. When I found it the cellophane was still on it.
Now, I don’t know how I came to the verse – but when I came to it and my eyes read it, it was like those words were put there just for me: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.”
Excited, I said, “That’s me!” “That’s me!” I quickly turned to the inside of the front cover and wrote down these words, “A changed life”. That verse will always stay with me. I knew I was changed. I knew my life was not the same. I knew God had done something to me.
I remember afterwards a guy kept telling me I was going through a phase and it wouldn’t last. But somehow I knew what was going on wouldn’t stop.
God began doing things right away in me. First, He gave me a hunger for His Word that I never had before. But since then all I seem to want to do is read and know the Bible.
Another thing He did was this: He changed my heart to give forgiveness to someone I hated. I would have taken that hatred to my grave had it not been for Jesus Christ. Now, thanks to Christ, this person and I have a wonderful relationship.
One other thing I noticed God changed was this: I wanted to find a church and be with people who had what I had. For so long I had thought that I had to change myself and clean up my own act so I could feel like I belonged in church. I didn’t feel that way anymore. I wasn’t trying to “fit” myself in to a group anymore. I knew that I now belonged to Jesus Christ. And now I wanted to belong with others who belonged to Him.
He made me a new creation that night. I knew something old about me had passed away, and, I knew that something was new. Since then, God has been very gracious to me. He has blessed me with a wonderful and godly wife, 7 children, and the privilege to serve Him as a pastor in a great local church. I praise God through Jesus Christ His Son for all the good He has done for me. All glory is due to Him.