Theme: Positive Christianity
by Harold Dowdy
God lets you start your life over again. It’s called being “born again,” “forgiveness,” “sanctification.” Examples are found in the most unlikely places.
The ringing of the telephone in the night, a call for help, a short drive to the only lighted house in a poor neighborhood start one’s heart pounding. A beat-up pickup truck in the driveway reflects the condition of both house and occupant.
“Oh, if l could only start my life over,” began the story of drunkenness, adultery, job loss, and separation from wife and children. Here was hopelessness and frustration.
Fortunately, the man was sober. As he told his story I reflected on those whom Jesus met in His ministry. There was the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears; she had not been a nice person either. The woman at the well had a family life that was filled with tragedy; the thief on the cross had been in a bit of trouble, too. The outcast publican and the open sinner had clung to the Master’s every word. Even Peter had denied Him at a crucial moment.
The case before me was sordid indeed, This man needed more than a cosmetic treatment applied to his life. He needed to be able to start his life over. He needed to die, to be resurrected and start again.
But had God made provision for a man like this? Could Jesus help one who had sunk so low? Could this derelict really start over? Did the Scriptures truly teach that faith, repentance and baptism could do such a miracle? Did Romans 6 teach that a hardened sinner could be baptized into the death of Christ, attend his own funeral, gain the benefits of the Lord’s death and be resurrected to a new life?
It was not God’s intention to simply make nice people a little nicer. He rather takes a sinner and makes him fit to be one of the saints in light, Colossians 1. He could make this man new again,
But how do you reach such a person as this, at a time like this, with saving grace? Why not tell him the gospel story? The power of those passages that tell of God giving His only Son were not lost on this one who was now grieving for his own family. The story of lost things, the sheep, the coin, the boy, made an impression on one who had lost much. The murderers of Jesus who were made to face their crime on Pentecost were characters with whom such a one could easily identify.
Repentance surely would be the stumbling block. Yet in the midst of the black and hopeless world that had been caused by his own sin, there were moments, like this one, of pain and introspection. He saw the piercing light of the New Testament saying, “turn around and go the other way.”
He was beginning to see that God had really been good to him while he was being bad. Creation, redemption, revelation, the church, prayer, hope, morality, every Biblical theme cried out that God was his friend, not his enemy, God was not trying to trap him, or trick him; God was trying to save him, make him lovable, save his soul.
After that first stark evening, more teaching followed. The entire family became involved, and all found the forgiveness so freely offered by God, The loaded gun on the table that night was put away. The man traded it for the sword of the Spirit. He’s preaching now.
I often wish I had sought him out sooner; he had called me instead. But I will remember the lessons he taught me that evening about God’s love, forgiveness and power. I had heard He could do that and now I know it.
CHRISTIANITY MAGAZINE JANUARY, 1984