Religious but Lost
I have heard it said that it is easier to build boys and girls than it is to fix men and women. I now know this to be true from first hand experience. I was saved by the grace of God at the age of 41 at Will County Baptist Church. The story is actually a long one so I will attempt to shorten it.
As a child I was brought up in both the Catholic and Lutheran churches as my parents were of each faith. My mother converted to the Lutheran Church when I was about 10 years old, so that is the church I remained loyal to until the age of 41.
I went through all the motions a good Lutheran goes through. I was confirmed in the eighth grade. In confirmation we went through Martin Luther's catechism. We learned and memorized the ten commandments and what they meant. We learned and memorized the various creeds such as the apostles and nicene. We learned and memorized the Lords prayer. My mother before her conversion to Lutheranism had taught me the Lord's prayer as part of the Rosary.
After graduation I was courting a wonderful young girl named Brenda who was later to become my wife. She was saved as a child in a Baptist church. Realizing that I needed a church to get married in, I started attending the Lutheran Church again. It was either that or get married in a Baptist Church. Perish the thought.
We were married in July 1984 and moved to the suburb of DesPlaines, Illinois where we joined a Lutheran Church. Brenda and I were both very active in the church. We attended faithfully every Sunday. When our children were born in 1990 and 1992, we had them baptized (I use the term loosely) there.
In 1993 we moved to the south suburbs and transferred our membership to a nearby Lutheran Church. I attempted to start my own business that eventually failed. during 1994 and 1995, as I put more time into the failed business, finances became tight. I took a second and third job to make ends meet. If I wasn't working on Sunday, I was too tired to attend Church. This was the downfall. I quit going to church.
In 1995 I gave up the business. We moved to another town and downsized our house. Now we had another excuse not to go to church, it was too far away. There was a period of several years where we did not go to church at all. I was unable to get back into the accounting field so I took varous jobs, selling insurance and selling cars, neither of which suited me, but it put food on the table. At one point, Brenda and I decided we should go back to church. We visited several Lutheran Churches and picked one that we liked.
In April of 1999, I finally secured a good accounting position but it was in downtown Chicago which necessitated a one hour train commute each way. This was to be the great turning point in my life. During my commute, I started reading the Bible. It started out just five or ten minutes but slowly worked my way up to where I was reading and studying God's word one to two hours a day, a practice that I still continue. It was at this point that something was convicting me. Something was missing in the church I had been attending. The Gospel was being preached, but is was a watered-down, weak version of the Gospel. I didn't know the difference. I was reading things in the bible that were never discussed in the Lutheran Church or discussed very lightly. As I read through the old testament, I saw God's holiness. We as mere human beings could not approach God because we are sinners. The strange sacrifices and customs of the old testament were really types or shadows of things to come of how God would save us. The new testament showed me what God's plan was for us. He wants to save us, all of us. This is done through the Lord Jesus Christ.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. --John 3:16
I became convinced through my Bible reading that the Bible was the word of God. I did not believe that before as I do now. God inspired the Bible and preserved His words for us. The things that occurred in the Bible were actually true! The Flood, the walls of Jehrico, Moses wandering with the Children of Israel in the desert, the literal six-day creation, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Samson and Delilah, and all the other Bible stories are really true. They are not just fables as most denominations now believe. They are true because Jesus said they are true. Once you start picking and choosing what you want out of the Bible, you are creating another gospel, a false one.
I searched on the Internet for churches that believed the truth of the Bible and came up with an independent Baptist church called Will County Baptist Church. It was not the first time I had ever gone to a Baptist church, but this was somehow different. The pastor was bold and unapologetic in his approach to the Word of God. There was no skirting the issue of the penalty of sin. "Hell is a real place, just like Joliet," he said. But Jesus paid the price. There is nothing we can do to earn it. No works will save us or make us righteous. Only the blood of Jesus. He paid our price and we must accept this gift and receive him as our personal saviour. (See the doctrinal statement on what the Church believes page) I wish now I had accepted Jesus on that first visit, but I am ashamed to say it took over five months for me. The Lutheran doctrine just ran too thick in my veins. My stubbornness would not allow me to accept Jesus as my saviour.
Four days after my first visit to Will County Baptist Church the pastor showed up on my doorstep. This guy takes his job seriously I thought. No pastor has ever come to my house to talk about spiritual matters. On this first visit, he asked me if there was a point in my life where I accepted Jesus Christ as my saviour. I rattled off how I my parents had brought me up in the Christian faith and how I attended church faithfully, but no, I had never accepted Jesus Christ as my saviour. I told him that I did not think it was necessary. The pastor was very cordial and did not press me to hard. He had been dealing with people for decades and most likely realized that pressing me would have not done any good.
For those five months, I would alternate between the Lutheran church and Will County Baptist dragging my wife and two children with me. After a couple of months, I started to pray about the situation. I felt compelled to leave the Lutheran church but did not agree with everything that the Baptists did. I did not want to be re-baptized again. I did not want to go in front of the congregation and accept Jesus as my saviour. I felt I was already saved and did not need to do such a thing. Every day before reading my Bible I would pray for wisdom about what to do.
The answer came to me on November 7th, 2002. On my train ride downtown that morning, I said my prayer, asking God for wisdom in making a decision about a church. I opened up my Bible to start my daily reading. I was reading the book of Joshua, and when I got to the end of the book where Joshua was giving his final charge to the Israelites, the answer came to me. Joshua Chapter 24:15 reads
"And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
It was just like someone had flipped a switch and all the bells, whistles and lights went on all at the same time. For those of you who are born again, you know what I am talking about. For those of you who are not born again, I cannot describe the feeling. If you are not born again, this is probably a term you feel uncomfortable with as I did. It is a term that is used and abused. Many denominations deride the term as the Lutherans do. Many people who call themselves "born again" are "professors" but not "posessors". Jesus himself used the term "born again" twice in a conversation with Nicodemus saying:
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unot thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. -- John 3:3
Another term that is used and abused is the term "saved". Saved is a term that is used many times in the bible. Jesus tells us how to be saved. Many people will tell you that they are "saved" but really do not know what that means. In order to become " saved" we must first become lost. Actually we are all lost, either we don't realize it or we don't accept the fact that we are all sinners and therefore cannot approach a most Holy God. By believing that Christ died for us and has taken the penalty for our sins we become saved. Not with a head knowledge but with a heart knowledge.
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. -- Romans 10:9-10
Many churches have thrown out that term and replaced it with "making a commitment to Jesus" which is something man does. That is not the same thing as being "saved" which is something God does. This is part of the watered down gospel that is rampant in the churches today.
I knew God was talking to me through the Joshua passage. He wanted me to make a decision. Either I was to follow Him, or I was to follow the gods of my fathers, my old way of life. I was at a crossroads and I knew it. The Holy Spirit was calling me and I chose to follow God. The God of the Bible. I am so glad that I did!
I went through all Thursday, Friday and Saturday with this exhilarating feeling. Was it just emotion? I thought this feeling would go away in a few days. As a Lutheran, we do not have emotional experiences. When Sunday arrived, I took the family to Will County Baptist Church. As the pastor preached on revival, I knew before the sermon ended that I would go forward and accept Jesus Christ as my saviour. Actually I had already done that on the train. This was to be a public profession. There was a look of both surprise and delight on the pastor's face. I am sure he was wondering what took so long.
In retrospect, I now see the Holy Spirit at work in my life. The Holy Spirit had actually been convicting me for quite a number of years before my conversion. I was in a dead church. There was very little Bible reading and very little prayer life. There was no balance. I was just going through the motions. Sure I knew that Jesus had died for me. I had a head knowledge but not a heart knowledge.
There must be balance. The combination of reading God's Word daily (God talking to me), prayer (me talking to God) and attending a Bible believing church (I underscore here because not all churches are Bible believing) is what brought me into a personal relationship with the Risen Saviour.
Please dear friend, if you are reading this, don't wait as I did. There are several resources here for you to look at. Check out the God's Simple Plan of Salvation page. It really is very simple. Don't take my word for it. Take God at his word. Read the book of John or Romans. These probably are the two best books of the bible to start with. The important thing is to pray before you start your reading each day that God will lead you to the truth. Jesus is calling you. Don't fight him as I did.
Contact me at Sfollmer.firstname.lastname@example.org if I can be of any assistance or contact Pastor Steenhoven at Steenhoven@juno.com.
Scott Follmer - December 16th 2003
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