My Personal Aldersgate

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I had probably just been chasing my sister, climbing our apple tree, shooting my BB gun or something else a 13-yr old boy would be doing on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Then I remembered about confirmation class in the morning.  I needed to do my lesson.   

“Uggghhh”, I thought. 

The class wasn’t boring as such, just required. So in 1978 I and every other 7th grader in our church were going through this lesson series with Reverend Wolcott, our minister.  

“Confirmation – what did that word really mean”? I wasn’t sure, but this class was what I was supposed to do.  Every fall you went to a new grade, got a new teacher, and started a new study.  This was it for my grade. 

The desk in my second story room overlooked our front yard and the timber beyond.  It was an inviting view and I’m sure I was tempted to keep playing or go exploring, but I sat down and started doing the homework.  

I’d been reviewing my workbook and Bible for awhile; filling in the blanks and answering the questions. Then “it” happened.  I came across a verse that stood out to me.  It was the classic verse in John which reads: 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) 

I wish I knew how to really describe what happened at that moment.  John Wesley said he had a “strange warming” of the heart at his Aldersgate experience.  Some people say a light comes on.  Others say they felt a wash of emotion. 

I read that verse and the accompanying explanation slowly.  Suddenly I knew it applied to me.  There wasn’t some fantastic theological epiphany.  I was only 13 after all.  However, I knew at that moment this verse described a truth I needed.  God loved me – He sent Jesus – I could believe in Him – Eternal Life was the result.  It just clicked.  And yes, there was a feeling with it.  However, it wasn’t a lightening bolt, burden lifted, or a feeling of being rescued. I would describe it as being warmly comfortable.  Something was now right that hadn’t been a few minutes earlier. 

Going to church had been a part of my life since I could remember.  But this was something new – a truth about God and Jesus that wasn’t confined to a church building or Sunday school.  In fact no church building could contain it.  This was real and a truth that I needed.  For some reason I had never grasped it before in all the church services I attended and Sunday school lessons I’d heard. 

I sat at my desk and distinctly remember an experience with God.  It was based on this encounter with just a few words from Jesus.  I crawled into bed that night and something was different – in a good, warm, comfortable way. 

Was I saved at that point?  Had I become justified before God? Shoot, I didn’t even know what those words meant.  I certainly had a lot more to learn.  In my later teens I did acquire the knowledge of sin, the atonement, the resurrection, the inerrancy of Scripture, hell, heaven, and girls. I also made additional commitments, committed various sins (regularly), was baptized, gained assurance of salvation, prayed much more, read the Bible a lot more, and went to retreats.  

Was I saved?  I couldn’t have told you.   If someone had asked me the next day, “are you sure you are going to heaven”?  I wouldn’t have known.  If they had asked me, “how do you get to heaven”?  I would have mumbled my way through some churchspeak. 

Yet, if they had asked me, “do you believe the verse you read last night – John 3:16”?  I would have said, “yes.”

So where was I at with God? At that point I couldn’t have verbalized it. However, I do think that if I had broke my neck and died the next day doing some dumb 13-year-old-boy-stunt, God would have pointed to that moment.  

I think He would have said, “That’s what I mean by childlike faith.  Remember that warm feeling?  It came from Me.”

(FYI…Aldersgate is the street in London where John Wesley claimed he was converted.)


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