This Is My Story: From Law To Liberty

I grew up as a Roman Catholic. I attended Saint Catherine of Sienna elementary school in the Cincinnati, Ohio neighborhood of Westwood. I graduated from Covington Latin School in Covington, Kentucky in 1985 at the age of 16. I guess I was around the age of 13 or so when I first started having doubts about some of the things I was being taught in these Catholic schools. I did not know where to turn to find out if my doubts had any merit or not because all of my family is Roman Catholic and just about everyone I knew was Catholic. Besides that, I had been taught that all the other denominations were wrong. It was in my late teenage years that I started having a desire to read The Bible. However, I never followed through with that desire, but I believe that desire is what helped me see the truth when I was 25.

I remember on our way home after that third Sunday that I commented to Kelly that I did not believe that someone could know for sure that they would go to Heaven when they died.I met Kelly, who now is my wife, in October of 1993. After we had dated for a few weeks, I started asking her when she was going to introduce me to her family. She had told her mother about it and her mother said to invite me to church and we would go out to eat afterward. So Kelly told me what her mother had said and I said OK. The next Sunday, I went with Kelly to Fellowship Baptist Church in Lebanon, Ohio. I was excited when I found out that they used The Bible in the services. I went back again the next two Sundays. I guess the messages started sinking in and I started to think more about God and Heaven. I remember on our way home after that third Sunday that I commented to Kelly that I did not believe that someone could know for sure that they would go to Heaven when they died. Kelly was not looking to argue with me but she said that is what The Bible says.

The next Sunday Kelly had to work so Saturday night I borrowed Kelly’s Bible and planned to go without her. I was a little nervous about going that morning because I had asked Kelly to marry me that Friday and I knew her dad was upset about it. I was surprised by the huge smile her dad had when he saw me come into the church that Sunday morning without Kelly. The preacher that morning preached on being saved and how it was either “yes I’m saved” or “no I’m not saved.” He said there was no “I don’t know.” After the service ended, a man came back to where I was and asked if I knew if I was saved. The message was still ringing in my head and I had a slight smile when I said “I don’t know.” I had grown up believing that you just had to be good to get to Heaven but I wasn’t sure I was good enough so I knew I could not answer “yes I was” but I didn’t want to admit that “no I’m not.” The man asked if I would go up front with him and let him show me some things from The Bible. I said sure and went up and sat on the front pew with him. He started showing me things about Jesus Christ and how he is the Son of God and that he died for my sins and how he arose from the dead. He asked me if I believed all that and I said I did. Eventually, we came to 1 John 5:13:

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

I was amazed! Just a week ago I made that comment about it being impossible to know and here The Bible was telling me I could know! Immediately after I read that verse, I told God that I was wrong – that I had been living in darkness all my life but now I saw the light and I believed his word. I repented of my rebellion from God. I trusted in Jesus Christ as my saviour. I could not get to Heaven on my own. God saved me and lifted the burden of sin from off me. The guilt was gone! The shame was gone! I was alive for the first time in my life! I never again have to worry about what will happen after I die! O what a marvellous God and Saviour!

I can remember many times when I would get so scared about death. There was one time when I was about 7 when I was nearly hysterical. My mom thought my older brother had been teasing me but he had nothing to do with it. I now realize it was Romans 1:20 being fulfilled:

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”

Deep down I knew I was sinner and that my sins were not pleasing to God. When I was a teenager, I prayed every night before I went to sleep asking God to let me live until the morning. I had convinced myself that I was afraid of dying simply because I did not understand death and could not comprehend eternity. But the real reason was that I knew I was lost and needed some other way besides myself to get to Heaven. Thank God for the shed blood of Jesus Christ!

You too can have the peace of God by repenting and trusting Jesus Christ.

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One Response to “This Is My Story: From Law To Liberty”

  1. My name is Joshua Paul Schoniwitz, and I am 32 years old. Four years ago, after being convicted of my sin and shown my lost condition by the Holy Spirit of God through the preaching of His Word, I asked the Lord for mercy and forgiveness; believing in my heart that God would save me for Jesus’ sake. The moment I turned in belief to Jesus as my Saviour He saved my soul, sealing it with the Holy Spirit of God until the day of redemption. I now have a hope I did not have before. No longer am I worried about Hell, or death; no longer am I uncertain of where I am going when I die. I have a home in Heaven now, though I have never seen it with my eyes, I have seen it through God’s Word by faith. Every born again child of God has a testimony to give, to tell others about the One who saved them. This is mine.

    Amazing Grace for me is the Unmerited Favor of God. Unmerited because I have done nothing that was deserving of it. As a child, I was raised up in a Baptist Church. I walked the aisle during the invitational song and made a profession of faith on two different occasions. I even began piano lessons and played an occasional song during song service. I knew about God and Jesus, because I was brought up believing there was a God and a Jesus. Looking back now, I believed in God in the abstract way. He was an idea, not my Father. Jesus was a historical figure, a hero maybe, but not my Saviour. I believed that I sinned, but I had not been convicted of my sin. I listened to the preacher, but did not hear the Word of God. I was emotionally upset when I came down the aisle, but I wasn’t repentant. I had not come to the point that I knew I was lost and needed help. Instead, I joined the church.

    Then when I was about 15 years old, I fell out of attending service. My influence over my parents pulled them away from church as well. I began drinking alcohol with my teenage friends and working part time at a bingo hall on Hwy 49. One night when I was 17, I left work and went to a birthday party for a co-worker. To make a long and painful story short, I tried to drive home drunk, passed out at the wheel and hit a concrete ditch culvert. I would like to point out here the Amazing Grace of God on a miserable wretch like me that He did not kill me there and then; nor did He allow me to hit anyone else. I deserved to die that night. I remember waking up in the Intensive Care Unit a few days later, and the doctor telling me that I would never walk again. My life turned to anger and despair. I was so self centered that I was unaware of the pain I caused my family and parents, along with the financial hardships. I am still and will always be ashamed of that. Again my Lord and my God had mercy and Grace on me, in that I recovered enough to learn how to walk again with the assistance of a leg brace. Instead of seeking God, I sought destruction. I became a real alcoholic instead of a social drinker. For 10 years afterwards I lived a dark and miserable life. I would frequent beer joints and bars that most people wouldn’t dare go to for fear of their own safety. I went to parties, casinos, heavy metal concerts; I spent thousands of dollars a year on alcohol, and drove thousands of miles behind the wheel so intoxicated, that I could not remember the next day how I got home. Self pity and self indulgence were the false gods of my idolatry. I was without God, without Jesus, and without hope.

    Then about 4 years ago my parents moved their membership back to Cedar Dale Landmark Missionary Baptist Church, in Saucier, Ms. They tried to get me to come with them to service, but I had no desire to be in the House of the Lord. One day Dad told me Brother Gifford Hickman sent word for me to come to church, said he wanted to talk to me. Brother Gifford is a preacher called to the local mission field. He was filling in as Interim Pastor at Cedar Dale until the church could support a full time Pastor. I reluctantly came one Sunday morning, and when I saw him I was burdened by memories I had completely forgotten. I remembered coming to Cedar Dale as a boy, attending Sunday School, singing hymns and listening to the Pastor preaching the Word of God. There were only a handful of people in service that morning, Sister Gladys Scarborough was one of them. Sister Gladys is Cedar Dale’s oldest living member at 97 years old. I learned how attendance had fallen off to the point that the remaining members had decided to disperse and attend other churches. Sister Gladys stayed though, and through several phone calls convinced several members to come back and open the doors. The Lord used these people to prick my heart. Why did these people come here? What was the use? There were several other churches of like faith and order in the area. Why continue to come here? What was so important about the worship services held in this old block building? It made absolutely no sense whatsoever. What made even less sense was that I wanted to come back. I wanted to know why they wouldn’t give up. I wanted to hear what that preacher had to say, I wanted to learn more about Jesus. I began attending services, I even cleaned up my life and quit drinking. Something was still missing, though. A few weeks later, Cedar Dale had its Spring Revival meeting. They had invited a preacher named Brother James Beech to preach. I noticed something different about this fellow. He reminded me of Brother Gifford, but I remember observing him while he was by himself preparing for a service. I doubt he was aware of me, but the thing that struck me was his whistling. He was whistling a hymn (I forget which one) and I remembered singing that hymn as a child. He also had an air of peace and contentment about him that I knew I lacked. I wanted that peace! During the revival, I came up at the invitational song and told Brother Jimmy that I wanted to move my membership from New Hope Baptist Church to Cedar Dale. The church accepted me, and I thought that now everything would be alright. It wasn’t. I started attending Wednesday night service at Saucier Baptist Church where Brother Jimmy was Pastoring (Cedar Dale’s mid-week service was then on Thursday nights.) I listened to him bring a Bible study from the book of 1Peter, chapter 1. I began attending revival services at other churches, trying to maintain the disguise to myself and the world that I was a child of God, when the Holy Spirit had shown me that I was lost.

    Finally, one Tuesday night I attended a revival meeting at Morris Hill Baptist Church where Brother Clyde Cooper was preaching. It was if he had been inside my heart with a flashlight, as if he were preaching directly to me. I knew he wasn’t though, it was the Holy Spirit using him to preach the Truth, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. He preached that the Holy Spirit was the Comforter, not a wrestling partner. If a person knew that they were lost and undone, then they could turn in repentance and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and God would save them for Jesus’ sake. After service that night, I drove those same back roads I used to drive drunk. I could find no peace within. Then right before the Saucier creek bridge on Hwy 67 I surrendered. I spoke to God (I don’t remember if I spoke audibly or not, it came from my heart) and acknowledged I was lost and I needed him to help me. I asked for mercy and forgiveness, to please save me. I had never known true despair until that night, and after the moment I believed, I finally knew true peace. Now I could call God my Father. Now I could call Jesus my Saviour.

    After I was saved, I followed the Lord in scriptural Baptism. Baptism did not save me, Jesus did. Baptism came afterwards. It was a symbolic ordinance, an outward showing of an inward experience. I buried the old man that had died in a water grave and arose out of it a new creature in Christ. The change had already taken place when Jesus saved me. I was baptized into the local body of Christ known as Cedar Dale Landmark Missionary Baptist Church. Since that time, I have not lived a perfect life. If a person wanted to, it probably would not be difficult for them to find fault with me. I have no excuse for any mistakes I’ve made, and if I stumble and fall I hope that you will not use my faults as a reason to reject Jesus. If you have not trusted Christ, please understand that God does not want you to die and spend eternity in Hell. He did not create Hell for mankind, but for Satan and his fallen angels. A person chooses to go to Hell through unbelief. They reject the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, and reject the account God has given us about Him through His Word. They put their faith in their own works, or religions, or in someone else praying them into Heaven, or in their own righteousness. In Ezekiel chapter 33 verse 11, God states that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked:

    11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

    Please, if you have not trusted in Christ as your Saviour, do not reject him. He loved you enough to take your place, as He took mine. We deserved to die on that cross, He didn’t. And yet he did it for you and I. Won’t you trust him before it is too late?