|Jim Brown - Circle Pines, MN|
A Dark Man Brought into Marvelous Light
Jim Brown - Circle Pines, MN
I always seemed to know what was wrong with life, but rarely could find much positive. Even as a child, I gravitated toward criticism. I could find fault with the kindest people and the best of circumstances. But one troubling fact hung over my head. I was going to die some day. And on those occasions where I would point the accusing finger at myself rather than others for blatant wrongdoing, the thought would hit me: How will I face God? How can I get rid of this guilt? Without much in the way of proper Bible instruction, I still knew I would meet God at the end of my days. Instead of seeking God’s help for the answers, I learned how protect my conscience by twisting facts to justify my bad behavior, meanwhile fostering contempt for the people around me who I am sure were not convinced. I had a fair amount of talent in both music and athletics so pride also skewed self- monitoring tremendously. I was “confirmed” in a popular church but I confirmed nothing but an intense resolve to be removed from this meaningless, phony religion business as soon as possible. With an increasingly dark view of life, I took to alcohol and various drugs to escape some of the irritation and frustration felt by a self-righteous young man with little tolerance for “unpleasant” people, the status quo “establishment” so-called, and a strong belief that life should be better than it was. In retrospect, I am sure my complaints became quite wearisome to those who knew me.
As time progressed, I was emboldened as to how I would purposefully offend, and even took pleasure in sharing with others my blasphemously uncomfortable ideas about God. What patience God showed me during those many years! I still marvel that he did not strike me down as I wrote and recorded songs, the nature of which I would be too ashamed to describe. Anyone who ever heard those songs (or even just heard me talk in normal conversation) would have no trouble believing I was callously disrespectful and a hater of God. Moving through my 20’s and 30’s, I developed what I would consider an obnoxious self-confidence that eventually caught up to me. I became aware of its effect on other people and it started to bother me. Add to this an increased abuse of alcohol. It was told to me by more than one person that I was just plain no fun to be around. I had alienated even my family (my wife Mary Lou and three step daughters). So I drank alone, more and more. During this time, old childhood fears about meeting God began to crowd in with great pressure, especially now that I had much more evil to give account for.
In June of 1994, now nearly 38, after three years of trying to fulfill a lifelong ambition (that of playing professionally in a rock band) the band broke up and the wind had left my sail for the pursuit of anything else in life that would satisfy. The rock band sure didn’t! And alcohol didn’t either. I knew what was missing, but deliberated as to moving toward God, quite afraid He wouldn’t accept me anyway since (in my mind) I had offended too long and too hard. I thought I had outlived my day of grace and opportunity. The summer of 1994 was miserable as I contemplated what was ahead after death. I lay many nights paralyzed by dread, unable to sleep for months, convinced my doom was sealed. I had read about a French philosopher, Voltaire, who had died in horrible despair during the last month of his life as he realized repentance was out of reach. I began to understand how he felt because I was in the same boat, feeling helpless, as if carried along on a swift river to a roaring waterfall and I could do nothing to stop it.
An old friend of mine, Perry Bauer, whom I had played baseball with back in college had become a Christian in 1981, and I had intentionally lost contact with him because our lives were going in opposite directions. But now that these grave impressions were being made upon my soul, I finally sought him out. I told him of my fears and that I thought it was probably too late for me but he assured me there was still hope and offered to hold gospel meetings in his home for my family and I. As to those meetings, I knew what he meant because he and I had attended similar meetings for a couple years prior to his 1981 profession of faith in Christ. I agreed to come to meetings every Monday and Tuesday night at his house. Most meetings would have maybe 10 people or so, occasionally as many as 20. I wasn’t concerned about the surroundings. I just wanted peace with God if I could still have it. I sat under gospel preaching for a whole year, depressed, frightened, thinking it was futile. Yet, I could think of nothing else to do. Many truths from the Bible were presented to me in those meetings as well as after the meetings. I knew from the Bible that I was a lost sinner and needed to be saved (Matt. 18:3, Luke 19:10, John 3:3, 7, Romans 3:23, 5:6, Acts 4:12, etc.) and that only the Lord Jesus Christ could save me. Much, I had heard before, only this time, those truths were coming home to my understanding with fresh power. I was desperate for relief so I was listening for my life!
It was this same college friend who, one year later, on June 18, 1995 had stood up to pray in a little gospel hall in Hinckley, Minnesota, giving thanks for the cup of wine (“This do in remembrance of me” Luke 22:17-20). I remember him saying “We have nothing to present before God this morning except the precious blood of Christ”. Under my breath, I mumbled “Neither do I”. Hearing that very simple thought in my mind, I began to entertain it a bit deeper. What occurred to me was this: If the blood of Christ is all these Christians have to present to God, why would it be any different for me? On the cross, John says in John 19:34 that a spear was thrust in the Lord’s side bringing forth blood and water. In the next verse John says why he wrote that statement, “That ye might believe”. My sins needed to be forgiven by God and I knew from Hebrews 9:22 that there couldn’t be any forgiveness without the shedding of blood. As I mused upon these things, I glanced up at the clock, noticing it was about 10:45 A.M. Just below the clock was a 1 John 1:7 scripture text that reads: The blood of Jesus Christ, His (God’s) Son cleanseth us from all sin. It couldn’t have been any clearer to me. But, I thought, that was too easy! I spoke with an older man after the worship meeting. I wasn’t sure what had just taken place so I wanted the voice of experience involved. I told him about what I saw for the first time, that the blood required to purge my guilt had already been shed, presented, and accepted by God and that there was nothing left for me to do but give God credit for telling the truth about it. And so I did. I rested in what God says in the Bible (1 John 1:7) and disregarded my own wretched opinions and reasoning. (That’s not easy for a proud man to do, but by this time, that pride was gone). That older man, Rollie Ekstrand, asked me, “Well, Jim. Do you need or expect more than that?” I was very happy to say, “Nope. He’s all I need”. I knew right then that finally, this spiritually dead and darkened man had passed from death unto life (John 5:24). That night was my best night of sleep in nearly 39 years! Saved, forgiven, on my way to heaven with a song in my heart for a Great Savior. I’ll never regret meeting up with the Captain of my salvation and the Bishop of my soul. I’ll only regret not having met Him sooner.
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