The Powers of Darkness vs. the Power of the Gospel
“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (II Cor. 4:3,4).
There are numerous ways in which Satan attempts to blind the minds of the unsaved. Perhaps his most effective means is through organized religion. Sadly, countless souls have gone to a Christless eternity because they were led to believe that, if their good works outweighed their folly, they would go to heaven. But let’s be clear from the outset: The good news of salvation is vested in a person, and that person is the Lord Jesus Christ. The only way to receive the forgiveness of your sins is by believing Christ died for your sins and rose again (I Cor. 15:3,4 cf. I Thes. 4:14).
In my case, Satan used my own pride and self-confidence against me to keep me in darkness. But God was going to shine the light of the glorious gospel into my heart and teach me a lesson I would not soon forget, as we are about to see. I’ve often said that God glories in diversity. If you stop to think about it, no two conversions to Christ are the same. Each believer’s testimony is as unique as a snowflake.
Here’s one example! William was born in a log cabin in Ames, Iowa in 1862. He was named for a father he never met, his father who didn’t return from the American Civil War. He lived in utter poverty as a young man and, when he was ten years old, William and one of his brothers were sent to an orphanage in Davenport, Iowa because his mother was unable to provide for them. William never finished school, so he struck out on his own at age fifteen, working at a number of odd jobs for the next few years.
At age eighteen, he was noticed for his prowess at baseball and was given a tryout by a team later known as the Chicago Cubs. After an impressive tryout, William made the team thanks to his incredible speed, which made him an extremely valuable player. For the next five years he played big league ball. During this time, William became a brash man who was given to hard living and hard drinking.
Then one day in 1887, after leaving a Chicago saloon with some of his teammates, William stopped to hear a group of gospel singers. The singers were a part of the Gospel Wagon from Pacific Garden Mission. They shared the gospel with him and invited him to services at the Mission. He visited the Mission that day and returned frequently when he was in town. Then one night he went forward, believed the gospel, and his life was changed.
Four years later, the call of the Lord proved to be stronger than the roar of the crowd for William, as he walked away from his sports career and devoted himself to full-time Christian ministry. After working for various ministries, William conducted an evangelistic crusade in Garner, Iowa in 1896 where 268 people were led to Christ. “The Baseball Evangelist” was off and running. And from that time on, William Ashley Sunday, or Billy Sunday, was never without invitations to preach.
His evangelistic campaigns were conducted all across the U.S. and it was said that he shook a community when his crusade came to town. The Lord used his electrifying preaching style, as thousands upon thousands trusted Christ. One of his popular mottos for his crusades was: “Get Right with God. Do It Now!” He fervently preached Christ, exposed sin, and warned against the dangers of hell. Many literally fainted at the horrors of hell described by Billy Sunday. God used Billy Sunday in a tremendous way, as He can anyone with a willing heart.
Confidence in the Flesh
“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one….There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3:10-12,18).
My wife Vicki and I, unknown to each other at the time, attended the same Sunday school class growing up. We had some of the same teachers in different years and were both taught all the stories in the Bible—from “in Adam, all have sinned” to the story of Calvary, how Christ died for our sins—but it was like water running off a duck’s back. I didn’t see the truth nor did I desire to see it. I was living in darkness and happy to dwell there. Little did I realize the peril I was in at the time.
Vicki and I were introduced to one another and married in the late Sixties. Shortly after we began the journey called married life, I was hired by Mine Safety Appliances Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In addition to providing all types of safety equipment for the mining industry, they also produced hard-hats for construction workers and firemen. Like most young couples, we were seeking the American dream, to have our own home and raise a family. I quickly worked my way up through the company, making the dream a reality.
Like the Apostle Paul, I had a great deal of confidence in the flesh before I was saved. I was self-confident, ambitious, and felt I could take on anything life handed me. With that type of attitude, in the world, you tend to go places. The problem was it nearly took me to the point of no return, spiritually speaking. Before I knew it, I was given a supervisory position on the second shift, in the injection molding department. I counted this a real accomplishment at the time because I was chosen ahead of others who had far more seniority than I had. But what I counted gain for me then, I clearly see now was loss for Christ.
When you work the second shift, as a supervisor, you are pretty much your own boss, which was perfectly fine with me! It was my responsibility to keep all the hydraulic injection molding machines running smoothly and make sure the twenty or so workers put in my trust did their jobs correctly. I was mechanically inclined and enjoyed working with people, so this was right up my self-confidence alley. But God was about to bring me down from my self-constructed ivory tower, so much so that I had to look up to see the bottom of the barrel.
About a year later, the plant manager called me into his office to let me know that he was transferring a first shift employee named Joe Grill over to my shift. Since daylight was the primary production shift, this usually meant there was some type of a problem with the employee that they really didn’t want to deal with. Normally it was someone who was unable to keep up with the cycle of the machine, which created all kinds of time-consuming problems that were often difficult to correct.
A week later, the plant manager, true to his word, introduced me to Joe. Afterward, I took him to his machine and showed him how to place the inserts in the mold for the run that evening. As I was standing there watching him work on the parts coming out of the machine, Joe said, “May I ask you a question?”
I said, “Sure (my first mistake—at least, this was my thought at the time), what is it?”
“Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?” I never answered, but the first thought that crossed my mind was that now I know why they transferred him to second shift: They didn’t want to hear it and neither did I. It wasn’t enough that I had to navigate through personnel issues and quality control problems; now I had a religious fanatic on board to deal with every night.
Seeing that Joe was such a good gate operator, I put him on jobs that required perfect timing to catch the gate (my second mistake). The “gate” is the time between the mold opening, removing the part, and the mold closing again. These particular jobs were sensitive to humidity and changing temperatures in the plant. You see, injection molding machines operate under extreme conditions: extreme hydraulic pressure, extreme water temperature to heat the mold, and extreme temperatures to melt the plastic. It was not uncommon for me to stand at a machine for two or three hours to correct a problem with a part that wasn’t forming properly.
Of course, Joe saw this as an opportunity to share Christ with me. Under the circumstances he had me as a captive audience. Joe was a fundamental, independent Baptist, so he wasted no time getting to the heart of the matter. He took me down the Roman road beginning with Romans 3:23—”For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
“Paul,” he said, “you’re a sinner and the only way you can be saved from your sins is by trusting Christ as your personal Savior.”
I responded with the typical response of the natural man. “Joe, I’m not the bad guy you think I am. I’ve never murdered anyone, I provide for my family, don’t kick cats, and would be the first to stop to help someone with a flat tire along the road.”
“That’s all well and good,” Joe said, “but none of those things will save you or get you to heaven.” He knew the Scriptures like the back of his hand and immediately quoted Romans 3:12—”There is none that doeth good [before God, he added], no, not one—which includes you!”
A few days later I found myself at his machine again, trying to resolve another molding problem. This time Joe made sure I understood that the Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). “Everyone looks forward to receiving his wages,” he said, “but this is one payday you will regret for all eternity if you die in your sins.” He told me that those who rejected Christ would experience eternal separation from God in the lake of fire, after the Great White Throne Judgment.
Joe wasn’t overbearing with the gospel but he never missed an opportunity to tell me and others about the Savior. I distinctly recall having one conversation with him where he said, “I’m concerned about you, Paul, and want you to know that God loves you.”
I replied, in no uncertain terms, “Joe, don’t worry about me. I’m fine. I’ve got everything under control.”
He said, “Someday God is going to show you that you’re not in control of everything in your life.” Little did I realize that He was going to teach me that lesson sooner than later.
A few weeks after this conversation, Joe approached me at the beginning of our shift and asked if I could give him a ride home after work. I reluctantly agreed (my third mistake), knowing full well that he was going to deliver a major discourse the entire way to his house. To make matters worse, this was the middle of winter, it was snowing outside, and Joe lived in a remote location out in the country, which meant this was going to be a long, slow ride home. If you have ever traveled through Pennsylvania, you are well aware that the back roads are narrow and have curves that leave you with the feeling that you’re coming around to meet yourself. This is the state where the famous “Horseshoe Curve” is located. But there is one more characteristic that’s also notable: steep grades which normally aren’t protected by guardrails. Most times they put a little cross at the side of the road if you go over the edge.
Well, as I expected, two minutes after we got into the car, Joe started down a new section of the Romans road. I began to wonder how long this road was. He quoted Romans 5:8 & 9 from memory—”But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” Joe went on to say, “Paul, Christ died for you. He shed His blood for you! You see, it is not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy He saves us from the judgment to come. But you have to believe that Christ died for your sins and rose again.” He concluded with, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13). Finally, we arrived at his house. As he was getting out of the car, he said, “I am going to pray for you that God will somehow get your attention so you will see that your eternal destiny is at stake.”
When he closed the door I said to myself, “Hallelujah! Now I can finally have a quiet ride home”—or so I thought.
God Has Unique Ways of Getting Our Attention!
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isa. 55:8).
It was still snowing lightly and the roads were absolutely treacherous. As I was making my way home, I came to a blind curve in the road. When I entered the curve, which was on a downward grade, I could see the reflection of emergency lights on the trees, but was unable to see what was up ahead. As I slowly came around the bend, I could see a car had spun out on the right side and was teetering on the edge of the cliff. On the other side of the road was a State Trooper’s car and a tow truck behind it, with a cluster of lights shining on the scene.
Since the road was glare ice, I immediately began pumping the brakes to slow down and try to stop. However, instead of slowing down, the tires lost traction on the ice and the car started to slide sideways, while at the same time picking up momentum on the downward slope. If I continued at the angle I was sliding, I would push the car over that was dangling off the edge of the road, with the driver still in it, and also take out the State Trooper’s car.
When the State Trooper and tow truck driver saw what was about to happen, they both started running. Everything I did to try to bring the car out of that spin only made things worse. To complicate matters even more, the car seemed to be picking up speed like a sled going down a hill. Just before impact I took my hands off the steering wheel, threw them in the air, and yelled, “God, help me!!” To this day I cannot say exactly what happened, but this I do know: Just before impact, it was as if the finger of God pushed the front end of the car straight, allowing me to slide between the two vehicles without hitting either one.
Stunned, with my hands still off the steering wheel, I was facing a new problem. Now I was the one heading for the cliff. I believe it was Albert Einstein who said that he believed the fastest thing in the universe was the “speed of thought,” and I’m inclined to agree with him. After a split second, I came to my senses and decided that, just before I felt the right front tire hit the berm, under the snow, I would cut the tires to the left and slam on the brakes. Thankfully, it worked. The car abruptly stopped and the back end slid around, leaving me pointed straight down the hill again. I never did get out to see how close I came to the edge, but it couldn’t have been more than a foot or two.
I sat there staring straight ahead, literally shaken to the core. The question that kept racing across my mind was, “Why did I call on God? Maybe I do need Him!” Mark these words and mark them well, He got my undivided attention that snowy night!
The next thing I remember was the State Trooper pounding on the window. I rolled down the window and the Trooper, who was holding onto the door handle to keep from falling on the ice, asked me if I was okay. I’ll never forget the next thing he said: “That was some piece of driving son. It is nothing short of a miracle that you made it between us without hitting one of us!”
I said, “Thanks,” but as I was rolling up the window I remember saying to myself, “It wasn’t me!”
The Hour of Decision
“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Rom. 4:5).
For the next three or four weeks after the Lord got my attention, I listened carefully to everything Joe had to say from the Scriptures without letting on that I was paying attention. It was during this time I came under deep conviction that I wasn’t right with the Lord. Many of the things I had learned back in Sunday school served to confirm what Joe was saying from the Scriptures, which caused me to ponder whether perhaps all this was true.
I pause here for a moment to say that, if you are a Sunday school teacher, always remember that your labor of love is not in vain in the Lord. In many cases, only eternity will bear out the fruit of your labor. I know, for example, two of my Sunday school teachers passed away before my conversion, so they never knew what a profound impact they had on my life, and I am sure Vicki would say the same.
God had brought me to a point in my life where I knew I needed Him. But how was I going to break this news to Vicki? I was sure she was going to think her husband had lost it! Up to that point, we had never talked about spiritual things, prayed together, or even gone to church. Unable to bear up any longer under the weight of my sin, I decided one evening that when I got home, I would tell her what was happening in my life.
It was about one o’clock in the morning when I opened the front door to find her sitting on the living room sofa crying. I sat down beside her, put my arm around her, and asked, “What’s wrong?!” Although I had seen her cry before when she wasn’t feeling well, this was different.
Her reply took me completely by surprise. She said, “We’re not right with the Lord. I’m so afraid He is going to return in judgment, and then what’s going to happen to Jodi [our baby girl]?” She too remembered what she had been taught in Sunday school, which the Lord used to bring her under conviction. After I shared with her what was on my heart, we both sat there crying together. While I had worked myself into a frenzy as to how to break the news to her, the Lord had already gone before me to prepare the way.
We went to bed that night determined that in the morning we were going to seek out someone to explain to us how to be saved. We agreed the next day that we would go see Pastor Weldon Causseaux, the Baptist pastor who had married us. Both Vicki and I held him in high regard because he had always taken a personal interest in us. He had also shared the gospel with us during our marriage counseling sessions, but at the time it fell on deaf ears. He vividly told us about all that Christ had accomplished for us on the Cross. Since the work was already finished on our behalf, all we needed to do was believe that Christ personally died for our sins, was buried, and rose again (I Cor. 15:3,4 cf. I Thes. 4:14). He shared how our sins were put to Christ’s account and how His righteousness would be put to our account the moment we believed.
After Vicki and I trusted Christ, Pastor Causseaux had us pray to thank God for the eternal salvation we now enjoyed in Christ. In that moment of time, the burden of my sins was lifted and I felt like a new man. Indeed I was a new creature, in Christ. Weldon shared with us that, in all his years of ministry, he had led many a lost soul to Christ, but this was the first time he led a couple to the Lord on the same day. “Apparently,” he said, “the Lord has something very special for you two in His service.” And Joe, of course, was like a kid in a candy shop when he learned of our conversion to Christ!
If you are yet in unbelief or if you’re trusting in religious works to get you to heaven, it is our sincere prayer that this personal testimony will bring you to Christ. In Him is life, and life more abundantly!