God doesn't give up

"God doesn't give up" Continued...

Issue: "Playing with capitalism," May 23, 2009

Off we went to the First Conservative Baptist Church of La Mesa, Calif., with its small, old-pew sanctuary, its well-worn hymnals, its elderly population, and its nonintellectual pastor who essentially had only one sermon that he preached week after week, "Ye must be born again."

It was perfect. God uses the simple to surprise the purportedly wise. As writer Eric Metaxas puts it, "Suddenly the penny drops and for some unknowable reason you turn your life over to Jesus in a completely new way."

Except that in my case the sudden continued to be slow. For two months Susan and I listened. Week after week the organist slowly played the hymn, "Just as I am." Week after week several dozen pairs of eyes politely stared at us, the only newcomers. We didn't move. We went one night to hear Billy Graham at the ballpark of the San Diego Padres. At the moment of decision we did not make a decision, but at least we didn't object to anything he was saying.

The church also practiced softball evangelism. In the first evening game of the fall season I joined the First Conservative Baptist softball team and played second base. The first ball hit to me went right through my legs-too many mashed potatoes at dinner-and my teammates showed Christlike forbearance. But we still didn't join the church.

Finally the deacon of visitation, elderly Earl Atnip, came to our apartment. He and I sat outside in the fall southern California sunshine. A simple, kind man, he did not offer any intellectual razzamatazz. He held up a Bible and said, as best I recall, "You believe this stuff, don't you?" I mumbled, "Well, yeah, I do." He said, "Then you'd better join up."

Irrefutable logic. My response-"Well, I guess I should"-may have set the record for the weakest proclamation of faith imaginable. Joyfully, Christ's deeds and words, not our own, are key. Not only did I show myself unable to change on my own, but for nearly three years I resisted grace that proved itself irresistible. On the Sunday after Earl Atnip's visit, Susan and I were both baptized and became church members.

Everything immediately changed. We lived happily ever after. The end.

Not exactly. Conversion stories sometimes end with a victorious profession of faith-but the larger story was just beginning.

To be continued . . .

Read other episodes in this multi-part biographical series.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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