By Alfy Austin
Growing up a “pastor’s kid” in a loving and compassionate home was a great experience for Jay. He basked in the security of his parents love and acceptance. But he found in the theology of their denomination something very different.
He was taught that one could not expect to have unconditional assurance of the love of God. Security was not a word often associated with one’s relationship with God and the doctrine of eternal security was scorned. Continued acceptance by God was conditioned upon one’s behavior. For Jay that theology led to a Christian experience that was unsettling, upsetting, and sometimes depressing. How many times had he gone to the altar weeping? How many times, as a child, had he awakened his parents at night to make some matter right so he would not die in his sins? How many times had he been “saved”? Hundreds? At least.
As an adult the frustration continued. Whenever he failed God the uncertainty swept over him leaving him awash in despair. He longed to be able to live a life acceptable to God, one that would allow him to rest from constant pressure to stay right with God. As he became more sensitive spiritually he understood how far short of God’s righteousness he fell and his despair deepened. Fear eventually lost its power to motivate. Only the constant unconditional love of his earthly family and sheer stubbornness kept him from giving up on God altogether.
In his career in corrections he saw men with broken lives. He knew that Jesus Christ held the answer for them. But there were times when he hesitated to speak to them. He had little to offer. Did he not live in his own spiritual prison? Was it not as desperate, in its own way, as their physical prison? Why burden them with such a life? Yet he knew something was wrong. This could not be what God intended.
He began to search for whatever it was he had missed all his life. His search led him to a church in which the grace of God was preached. He came to understand the Gospel and the grace of God. He learned that eternal life is a gift received by faith. It is not received or kept by human effort. He learned there is security and assurance in Christ, the Bible says so. The love and acceptance he had always enjoyed from his human parents he began to enjoy from his heavenly Father. It was a life transforming experience.
Now, as an administrator in a nursing care facility, Jay has a message to share with the residents he ministers to. God accepts us as we are and offers us a free gift of eternal life in His Son Jesus Christ. Regardless of our past and without threat of future rejection we can come to God in faith. As one ninety year old lady put it to Jay some months ago, “It’s sort of nasty, isn’t it Jay, that I thought there was anything I could add to what Jesus did for me on the Cross. He paid it all.” That was the day Isabel accepted the free gift of eternal life by believing in Jesus Christ as her personal Savior!
Today Jay’s Christian experience is vastly different. As he says, “This is such a great salvation! So simple a child can trust it, and so profound it gives me reason for living. That I can share.”
Alfy Austin is a member of the GES board and is pastor of Woodstock Bible Church in Woodstock, Illinois. The man about whom he writes is a member and leader of his church.