Born Again - My Journey To Salvation
By Jonas Yoder
January 1, 2013
I grew up in an Old Order Amish setting where I still live, and I thought I had a fairly normal life. I am the oldest of eleven children, and I probably got more privileges because of that. Our family got along reasonably well, except for the fact that Dad struggled with controlling his temper. This resulted in much tension in the home. In spite of this, I took pride in the fact that I was able to handle it well. I was seldom irked or upset by anything, but I was never happy either even though it might have appeared like it to people around me because I did a lot of whistling.
I went through a rebellious stage where I didn't really care what I got into, yet deep down I wanted to do what was right. I joined the church when I was sixteen because I felt an emptiness in my heart and thought this would help fill it. Between the ages of seventeen and nineteen my life went downhill. I didn't want it to, but I didn't know what to do about it.
In the meantime, my next younger brother was struggling, but he got connected to a home for spiritually troubled men and boys. He was there for five or six months, and then he came back home. I noticed that he seemed to have something that I didn't have, and yet, it all seemed odd to me.
During this time, my life was far enough downhill that I decided to forget Christianity and go live a life of sin. (Even though this is what I decided to do, I never actually did it.) My brother and I seldom talked about the spiritual side of life. He approached me about the need for God in my life at about the time I decided to leave, without knowing what I had decided. In spite of everything, I prayed daily even though I thought my prayers were not heard. I prayed because it soothed my troubled conscience a little. I knew God wasn't in my life, but deep down I had a desire for Him. Yet, it seemed Satan had a tighter grip on my life.
My brother encouraged me to go to the home where he had been. I reluctantly agreed for him to call and see when the next opening would be, but he found out the next opening would not be for about five months. I was almost despondent as I knew in my heart that I would never hold out that long.
In my heart, I was crying out for help, so I found a secluded spot, and I prayed earnestly to God for the first time in a long time. I prayed, "God, you know I will never hold out another five months. If you want me to take this step in my life, then let something work out sooner than five months." I felt a sense of peace after committing this to God, and somehow I knew he had heard my prayer.
The next day my brother talked to the Administrator at the home, and when he got back, he said that there would be an opening for me the next week. I was amazed, to state it mildly. I knew God was speaking to me. I felt that God had a deep love and concern for me.
I later asked the Administrator at the home how it worked out that they had an opening all at once in spite of a long waiting list. His answer was, "I really don't know." Amazing! God almighty has a plan for every soul on this earth, and yet, that plan will never be fulfilled unless we seek for it.
There is a promise in the Bible that was brought to my attention about this time, and it gave me tremendous courage. Ask, and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Matthew 7:7).
I knew my life was still a mess, but I had a peace like I never had before, just knowing I was on the right track. I looked forward to the daily sessions with my counselor. One day he asked me if I had ever been born again. I said I really don't know, but I suppose so. I knew I tried real hard to do what was right, and I was baptized, yet in looking back, I had never been born again.
At this point in my life, I knew trying to be a good person on my own strength was a lost cause. My counselor encouraged me to pray to God, admit my helplessness, and welcome Him into my heart to change me completely and give me a new heart filled with His divine love. This was a new thought to me; nevertheless, this is what I did. Something happened in my life that had never happened before. It was not a huge change, but it was a very, very real change. A change that only God could make. Once I felt my need for change, I was willing. In looking back five years later, my life has never been the same since.
I would like to note a few things that changed after my conversion. One of the first things I noticed was in my feelings and emotions. As noted earlier, I was seldom irked by any situation, but on the other hand, I was seldom happy either. What happened was that in my younger years I had blocked out the pain that I felt rather than accepting it as my pain and dealing with it between God and me. By blocking this pain, I unknowingly blocked my emotions too. And now things were different. All of a sudden, I could be irritated over the oddest things that would have never irritated me before. But on the other hand, I could now also feel joy like I had never experienced before.
Because I let God change me, He could restore my emotions to the way they should be. Has life been rosy ever since? Certainly not! Don't take me wrong, I have been blessed more than I ever imagined, but God's children are not promised an easy road through this life. The big difference now is that in spite of struggles, there is a foundation to work from, whereas before, there was absolutely nothing to stand on.
The tremendous ability of God to restore a bad situation to the most beautiful reality is nothing short of amazing. God is still working in my situation, and I trust He will be as long as I live here on earth.
God is very interested in the lives of His children and potential children. Only as we yield our lives to Him can He work on the details of the beautiful plan he has for every one of us. We cannot yield to God without dying to our own selfish, carnal nature. Only as we die to our own selves can we rise to new and fulfilling lives in Christ.
Life, then, is not about us. Probably one of my biggest struggles has been to trust in the blood of Jesus for my salvation and realize that good works will not save me. It is faith alone in the grace of God that will save. Ephesians 2:8-10 makes it clear what faith does, and where works fit in. For by Grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; Not of works less any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. These verses have helped me to understand that we are saved by faith.
By faith God gives us a new heart with new desires and a totally new way of thinking. Because of this heart change, we begin to reflect the image of Christ. This new person that God has created out of us is uniquely created to have good works come forth. These works are very pleasing to God because He creates them in us. Can we then just stand back and not even try to do anything? For it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
As God works in us, He gives us a desire to do what He wants us to do, and He also gives us the strength to do it. Because of this, we do good works, not to be accepted as the children of God, but because we are accepted as His children. According to Romans 8:7-9, it is impossible to please God if we have not accepted Him as our Lord and Savior by faith.
John 15 talks about fruit coming forth out of a believer's life, which might actually be the more accurate term. According to James 2:17, if there is no fruit coming from a person's life, that person's faith is dead.
So dear reader, have you found a relationship with God that completely satisfies your soul? If you have not, where will you find this satisfying relationship? In the Amish church? In some Mennonite church or some other denomination? What does Jesus say in the matter? I am the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).
Peace with God will never be found in any certain denomination, but in God Himself. So whatever denomination we are in, God must be the Head of our church. Only by following the way and the truth will we find true and everlasting life. If we cannot find true peace where we are right now, we probably won't find it elsewhere either.
Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).
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