As I listened to a song sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, my mind shuttled back to my years before 1972. Part of the lyrics of that song are these: I won’t go back, I can’t go back to the way it used to before your presence came and changed me.”
Those words reminded me so much of my life before I met Jesus that day in December 1972. I was 22 when I knelt beside my bunk on the Yokosuka Naval Base and God changed me. In a moment – no longer than it takes to read this sentence -- God cleansed every lingering stain of my dreadful sins. In that navy barracks God removed from His sight and from His memory every reason for my deepest shame.
And He made me His son.
Before 1972 my life was a moral mess. My sins overwhelmed me. I remembered the baby I killed in the abortion clinic, the young women I turned into whores, the drug abuse, the thieving, the lies I lived to gain an advantage. The drunkenness, the abuse, the self-righteousness…. They all stayed with me. Worse, I didn’t think my life could ever be different. I didn’t think I could ever find my way out of the hole I kept digging deeper and deeper.
And then I discovered I could have a new life. I could find forgiveness – deep, abiding forgiveness. It could be as if, in God’s eyes, I had never done the things I did.
Only those who know the deep darkness of their sins and the grace of God’s forgiveness can understand what it means to me to know that God has forgiven me. That He has cleansed me. That He has changed me.
And that is part of the good news of the gospel: We can become new. Here’s what God tells us through St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
Think of it! If you don’t like the person you are, you can become a new creation in Christ.
God continues in that passage to say that not only can we become a new creation, but we can be reconciled – brought into His loving arms – through Christ: Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ . . . not imputing [our] trespasses to [us].
So, how do we make this good news OUR news? Here is how I did it in December 1972:
I got onto my knees beside my bunk in my navy barracks and said to God: “I believe Jesus is the Messiah.”
Six words. But in those six words God knew I meant this:
Oh, God, I am so sorry for my sins. I have done so many things wrong in my life, and I do not want to ever do them again. Please, cover me with the blood of Jesus, cleanse me. Make me a new person. And I promise I will do my best to follow Jesus and obey Him all the days of my life.
That’s how I did it. A few weeks later, I was baptized. And here now nearly 43 years later I assure you: I won’t go back, I can’t go back to the way it used to before His presence came and changed me.”
What about you? Are you sorry for the way you’re living? Do you want to be a new creation? I told you how it happened to me. It can happen to you, also. The Lord Jesus said in Revelation 3:20: Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.
Isn’t that great news?