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Converted to Christ by an Atheist July 19, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Atheism, Easter, Faith, Gospel, Repentance, Terrible Parables, Testimony.
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Testimony Of Tom Dutton As Given on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2007  

I’d like to take a few minutes, this morning, and tell you how I came to know Jesus Christ as Savior.   

My early life was one that I would best describe as running from God, but at the same time trying to find Him.  I remember trying to live up to the Ten Commandments that I had memorized in Bible School, but, at best, could only do so in short spurts.  I recall thinking that God must think of me as an absolute failure.  (If you have read the latest Terrible Parable on the Church web site this week, THE DEFECTIVE AFGHAN, you could add another person to that list!)   

When I looked at others, I saw there were some who seemed to be able to live a righteous life, at least more righteous than mine.  So I then developed a desire to meet those standards, but knew in my very being that I couldn’t do it.  But why?  If God gave us standards to live by, why wasn’t it reasonable to expect that his creatures would be able to obey them?  It only made sense that I should be able to do so, but I couldn’t!  So instead of running toward God, I ran away from Him. 

I recall reading Francis Thompson’s poem, “The Hound of Heaven” which is an examination of the way God brought him to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  It also portrays, how God dealt with me in my earlier years.  I too, was seeking knowledge that would reveal God to me.  I too was trying to find God on my terms, in my way.  When I read the Bible, it made no sense, as I was trying to find a god (little ‘g’) that would fit my definition.  Thompson’s poem, “The Hound of Heaven”, begins: 

“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;

I fled Him, down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears

I hid from Him, and under running laughter.

Up vistaed hopes I sped;

And shot, precipitated,

A down Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears.” 

This poem could well have been a commentary on my own life; as I desired to know What God was, but didn’t want to know Who He was.  Or if I did, I wanted it on my own terms.  It was a roller coaster ride of the worst kind. 

During my mid twenties, I began to read the Bible again, this time with the teaching of a Biblical Pastor David and a couple of Christian friends Bill and Nelson.  I read passages like “there is none righteous, no not one”;  and “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”;  And, of course,  Paul’s own self examination was an echo of my own life,  

Romans 7

9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.

11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 
 

Then a little further on in the same chapter, Paul continues:
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not.
19 For the good that I would, I do not: but the evil, which I would not, that I do.

It was at this point that I began to realize that if the great Apostle Paul was in the same dilemma as I, then maybe I needed to listen a little more closely to what God was really saying in the Bible.  How did Paul get out of this quandary?  Paul goes on: 

22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
24 O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.    [So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.]

But as earlier in life, I tried to intellectualize this; How could I resolve this, How could I solve this seemingly impossible riddle?  I recall having many discussions with Nelson over this and other issues.  How big is God and where is He?  Can we really know Him if we don’t meet His standards?  How could Jesus be crucified and come back to life again?  How can I know if he died for me?  What. How, Why??? 

Then one day, In the late ‘60s, I was having lunch in a restaurant in Concord NH with a fellow worker from Dartmouth College.  He knew I went to church, as I had mentioned this to him before.  He was an atheist and made sure everyone knew it, so when he asked the question, “Tom, are you really a Christian?” I knew he was looking for more than just a yes or no, churchgoer response.   

“What do you mean by ‘a Christian’?” I asked, slowly, perhaps trying to delay my response as much as possible. 

“Do you believe that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior?” was his response. 

Uh, oh!  There it was; My life’s defining moment.  Now it isn’t every day that an atheist is the one that moves someone into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, but I’m here to tell you that it happens!  Perhaps atheists know better than most that confession is the dividing line between faith and unbelief and Bob knew that if he could get me to deny Jesus, I would be in his camp.  But I also knew that Jesus said “If you will confess me before men, I will confess you before my Father who is in heaven.”  This was it!  How would I respond to life’s most important question? 

It came immediately, “Why, yes, Bob, He is my Lord and Savior.” 

From that moment, I recall, all doubt that I had harbored, immediately fled from me.  I also recall that Bob instantly changed the subject.  He had asked the wrong person the right question!  I had spent my whole life running from God and He spent it running after me, like the Hound of Heaven in Francis Thompson’s poem.  He finally cornered me and I had no way escaping Him.  I was His!  And He was mine! 

The “Hound of Heaven” poem ends with God’s voice: 

“Rise, clasp My hand, and come !”

Halts by me that footfall :

Is my gloom, after all,

Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly ?  

Then God’s voice again: 

“Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,

I am He Whom thou seekest !

Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.” 

(You drove love away from yourself, when you repelled Me.)

[dravest: v. to repel or push away]  

John Newton described his salvation:“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see!” 

Galatians 2:16   “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”  

There are many verses in the Bible that are very meaningful to me, but Phil 3:7 – 10 are my favorites: 

7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
  

As you know, music is a big part of my life.  Music is an expression of the soul that cannot be expressed in any other way.  It’s not surprising then, that in the few glimpses we see of heaven in the Bible, that the saints are singing praises to the Risen Lamb.   

Although my musical talents are limited to strumming a guitar and singing, I began then to dedicate them to God; to use them in whatever way I could to give back to Him, a small part of the great love He has for me in giving His son Jesus Christ, who died for me.  And to express that love I have for Him, which is inexpressible in no other way than singing. 

I love to sing when I’m alone in the car; people who see or hear me as I drive by must wonder at my sanity!  The chorus, “I Love You, Lord” is a favorite of mine, one of many that I like to sing when I’m driving. 

Please join me in singing it.

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Comments»

1. Brendan Burnett - September 14, 2007

Well, this is certainly a suprising story! An Atheist had asked you about Jesus Christ? Bizzare! Yet, wonderful. This is simply another example of God’s amazing love and power, for He has taken a bad thing and made it into something anew in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Hallelujah.

God Bless You. Never lose faith! 😉

2. Rosalino MARTIN - June 29, 2008

I am glad to be able to come read this. There are many …. so many in fact … who are now in terrib le confusion like the writer’s experience. We have a tendence which is quite strong in our late teens and early 20’s to think this way, but then we find out that no convincing answer comes.. They just do not suffice to the reasons that we try to look for why we exist. Till you meet people who ar e open and sincere believers whose righteousness is extraordinary. You meet God and becomes overwhelmed with an inner happinesswhich so indescribab ly uplifts and overwhelkms you. I think I was the same some 50 years ago. Now I am with God and know there is meaning to why I am here.

I hope we’ll send this article to many of our friends. I am sure God will lead us to them. Thanks and May God bless us all. In the meantime, we unite together in our prayers.

Mart


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