Just about every minister I have ever heard has preached on salvation. Each has had his, or her own way of presenting it. But, in general they have fallen in to one of two categories. 1) “fire and brimstone” – the basis of which seems to be to scare you to salvation, and 2) (the lesser known) “love of God” – that God loves us so much He sent His Son to die for us.
Of course, some have also combined the two points of view. Both are absolutely correct. But, for some reason this type of sermon never had the impact (on me) as one, or the other of the other two did.
For most of my childhood and teenage years just about all I heard on the subject of salvation was of the fire and brimstone kind. And - in truth- I feel they accomplished the job very well. I realized without a doubt that I had to get saved. But, no matter how many of these sermons I heard I was never compelled to take that walk to the altar and kneel before God… accepting His all important gift. I wanted to, I simply couldn’t. Not until the other message of salvation reached my ears did I finally accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior…
It was early in the fall of 1991. My Grandmother and I went to a revival service at a small Methodist church in the local parish. It was so hot and humid that evening, and the church had no air conditioning. We sat near the back, close to one of the open windows in the hope of catching a rare, cool evening breeze.
At first, it seemed like an average church service… the usual crowd, the usual hymns, the usual routine. But, not long after the service began something changed. I can remember the atmosphere of that sanctuary that evening. It was sweet… so overwhelmingly sweet with the presence of the Holy Spirit I thought I was breathing the air of Heaven. The music was all music I had heard a million times before. But, on this particular evening it melted my heart and caused my defenses to crumble.
By the time the pastor began his sermon, I was almost “intoxicated” on God’s presence. That’s not a word I wanted to use to describe the state I was in. But, it’s about the only one that can come close to describing the sensation, only it was so much more than that. It was all consuming, wonderful, warm and completely filled with a love that I could feel reaching every point of my spirit… I was finally ready.
As the pastor began to speak I could feel the church “filling up”. Although the sanctuary was barely half full, I had the sense that there were many more filling the pews and standing in the isles… angels? I was not prepared for this. I never imagined this was how good and real it could be.
I started thinking that if it was possible to be this good on earth, how much better it would be in heaven. At that instant, it was as if God heard my thoughts as the preacher began talking about the mansions God had built for His children in heaven, the atmosphere of heaven, and of God’s love. At this point, I was completely obliterated by the power of the love I was experiencing. All I needed to hear were those words… the invitation to the altar… I was going, and nothing would stop me this time.
The sermon began to draw to a close, and the pastor finally gave the invitation to come and accept the gift of salvation. The organist began to play the final hymn while the pastor waited at the front of the church. I tried to stand, but I couldn’t. I felt like I was cemented to my seat. My heart began to ache as the congregation sung the last lines of the hymn. I bowed my head and cried out in my spirit “Please God…Help me!” At that instant, the pastor looked over the people in the church and requested to sing the hymn one more time. I was finally able to stand, even though my arms and legs felt as if they weighed thousands of pounds. I don’t know how I was able to take that first step. Let alone make it the whole way to the altar. Each movement seemed to take tremendous effort. I imagined it was Satan and his legions trying to pull me back as I fought my way to the front of the church. But, as soon as I took that last step I felt the Lord’s presence on me as I fell to my knees. The chains were broken and I was free! I could almost see and hear the Lord as He commanded the devil to release me… “This one is Mine now!” I could hear Him say. I was finally and forever saved!
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