I was raised in a religious home. Not a Christian home, but a religious home nevertheless. I was always required to go to church. I had a grandfather who was a preacher in a Brethren Church who had a born again testimony (Note: "born again" is a biblical term referring to the act of inviting the Lord into your heart, asking Him to forgive your sins and to begin your life anew as a Christian. Hence, born again) I heard the gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time at seven years of age when I had an opportunity to attend a Monday night service every other week called "Kiddies Treat". It was held at the home of Mrs. Gertrude Frey. Her whole family was involved in an outreach program for the kids in the neighborhood.
I left that program when I was nine years old. Even though she and my grandfather were good friends, I didn't see her again for nearly three decades. But, you'll hear more about her later.
When I was 11 my folks went through a divorce and I became a latchkey child. I didn't have any rules or regulations, or restrictions on my life. I started working almost full time when I was fifteen for some of the luxuries of life and to help my mom put food on the table. I didn't see much of my father because I was angry at him for what he had done to our family.
At 17, I packed up and left for the Air Force. I had already spent a night in jail for drinking, and I was involved in a of lot things that pulled me down as a teenager. Things like rotten music, alcohol, fighting. I went into the Air Force so I wouldn't have to go to school any more and I could get away from all the rules and regulations being put on me at home that I found restrictive. So I became a ward of Uncle Sam, who taught me how to drink and fight and cuss even more. I spent three years in Germany, I married a girl there and brought her back to the U.S. Our daughter, Tanja, was born after we returned from Germany That marriage didn't last long, though, because my life was under the power of alcohol.
I stayed single for five years and married again. Well, that marriage didn't last too long either, for the same reasons that the first one failed. By this time I had another daughter, Kristen, with my second wife. Despite all the vows I had made to myself about never putting my kids through the heartache of a broken home that I had experienced, here I was with two kids and two broken homes.
By this time I was about 36 years old . About four years earlier my brother Bill had been saved. (Note:"Saved" is a biblical term referring to the forgiveness of sins by God and the rescue of a person from the power and penalty of that sin. This is God's requirement for everlasting life and being saved is another way of saying a person has been born again). I hadn't seen Bill for about five years. I hadn't seen my dad much to speak of for probably 16 years. There was just a wide gulf between us. Anyway, when Bill was saved and became a Christian he started to send me literature, hoping to draw me to the Lord.
I took them, and laughed at them, because I just figured he'd gotten religion. I had no idea what it all meant. I had pretty much given up trying to figure life out and I was just cruising along on autopilot in the rut I had made for myself.
One night in 1983, there was a knock on the door and it was my brother, who had made a special trip to invite me to go to the Lehigh Valley Baptist Church that night. I argued with him about why people never go to church on Friday night. Since I didn't have any friends and it was so nice to see my brother, I told him if he'd just stop talking about it I'd go to church with him and his wife. Although I didn't know it at the time, his wife got on the phone and had a prayer chain going that turned into about 400 people praying for my salvation.
Well, I walked into church with blue jeans, a flannel shirt, long hair, a bad attitude, a pack of Marlboros and the idea of getting a Budweiser right after the service...Then the Lord got hold of my heart.
The message that night was preached by Gary Gilmore, a visiting evangelist. He was preaching about the importance of being born again as shown in the New Testament, in the book of John, chapter three. At first I had no idea what he was talking about, but I listened and it seemed the whole message was directed at me alone. I came to the realization that if I didn't do something that night to get right with God I would probably spend my eternity in hell because of my sinful nature.
The preacher asked everyone to bow their heads and close their eyes. He then invited those who wanted to know Christ personally to come forward. My brother cheated and opened his eyes to look at me. He saw I was having a lot of trouble. I was weeping and fidgeting and he leaned over and simply said to me, "What will you do with Jesus Christ?" I turned to him and told him that if I could get down to the front of the aisle, after the mess I had made of my life, I think I could really get some answers from God that could help me. Well, I did get to the front of the church and one of the men took me into a side room and shared several passages of scripture with me. I bowed my head and asked Jesus Christ to come into my life, to save my lost and dying soul. And He did. That was March 18, 1983, on a Friday night. I knew that night what it meant to be born into the family of God.
God began to work in my life. I went to see my dad to share with him what had happened to me, and I asked him if he was saved. He said yes and gave me a convincing testimony of his salvation. He also told me he knew he had made many mistakes along the way and asked me to forgive him for his sinfulness. Through that, the Lord restored the years that we had been apart. He died a few months later.
I also went to see Gertrude Frey, my old Monday night Bible class teacher, to tell her of my salvation. She wasn't surprised though. She told me she had been praying for my salvation for the last 29 years. She never lost faith that one day the Lord would claim me as His own.
Twelve years have passed and while God has given me a lot of challenges, He has also given me the strength to meet them. I've been fortunate to be able to serve for many years at the Allentown Rescue Mission, bringing the word of God, and my personal testimony, to many men who have traveled the path I was on for so many years. The Lord also brought me a wonderful Christian wife and a family to share my new life with.
I'd like to leave you with one final thought. As a young man starting out, I thought that I could pretty much do whatever I wanted to do and get away with it. But God has a way of getting to you...because He loves you. He sent his Son to die on the cross for my sins, and your sins, and for the sins of the whole world. My advice to anyone is to get into the Word of God and judge ourself by the standards in God's Word....so that we won't be found lacking when we face God in eternity.
Scott Wilson lives in Boyertown, Pa. and he'd be happy to share more about the Savior that changed his life. Write him at the address below. You are also welcome to attend services at theLehigh Valley Baptist Church
Or call us at (610) 965 4700 or 1-800-893-9586.