Bob Vinson - McKeesport, Pennsylvania

 Bob Vinson - McKeesport, Pennsylvania

The Gift of God is Eternal Life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6:23

Hello. My name is Bob Vinson and I would like to encourage you to read this short story about the most important event in my life. It took place over thirty years ago, but the end result is eternal.

I was born in Pittsburgh, PA, on August 2, 1941. I grew up in Etna and Shaler Township (a northern suburb of Pgh.). I was raised in traditional family by responsible and loving parents along with an older brother and younger sister. I was brought up in the religious denomination of our parents. We were taught many of the historical truths concerning Jesus Christ, such as: He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was crucified on a cross and rose from the dead on the third day, and ascended into heaven. However, along with these historic truths was also added a huge and complicated system of religious teaching of rituals that had developed over the centuries. As a young boy and into my teens, I recall making sincere efforts trying to live up to the precepts of what I had been taught. I knew God hated sin so I would make sincere efforts not to sin. Needless to say, these efforts always failed. As I look back on those days, it seemed I would go through this religious cycle of trying by my own efforts to live what I understood to be the Christian life and then from my view point, fail. I was ignorant of the fact that God says we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and there is nothing we can do that will make us fit for God's presence and heaven.

After high school, I attended Penn State, New Kensington, and graduated with an associate degree. I worked for a few months and in 1964, I was drafted into the army. It was during this period that I developed what I considered my own theology, that as long as we are sincere and honest about what we believe, God will allow us into heaven. Over the years, I have learned that what I thought was my own idea, is the most common but wrong view people have concerning our relationship with God.

After being discharged from the army, I worked for about a year and then want back to school. I attended California State Collage (now a university) in California, PA. While attending class, I became friends with Gene. I soon found out that Gene believed that the Bible was the word of God. This surprised me, because at this time, I assumed everyone viewed the Bible as just a book of ancient writings. When I told him what I thought about the Bible, he asked me if I ever read it! He was right. I never read the Bible.

Over the next several weeks, Gene and I had several conversations about the Bible and Christianity. I learned that Gene believed that we can know in this life that we are going to heaven. At first, I was surprised at such a statement. No one, I thought, can know that until they die.

I eventually moved off campus and rented a room in the second floor of a privately owned home. Another student, Joe, was renting there also. Joe came to me one day and told me how he got "saved" over the previous weekend. He went on to explain that as a helpless sinner, he came to and trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ who forgave him and saved his soul for all eternity. In other words, he now knew he was going to be in heaven!

As I look back on these events, I now see how a loving and gracious God was, making me realize that I was also a helpless sinner in need of God's salvation.

On a spring day in 1970, Joe told me that in the evening some Christians were going to be preaching the gospel on a street corner in the small town of California, PA. I went to town that evening and listened to the preaching and met some of the Christians who were preaching. They were from two Christian assemblies in Donora and McKeesport, PA.

I was soon invited to hear the gospel preached at Donora. I attended the meeting and heard a clear gospel how that Christ died for our sins was buried and rose again the third day. I'll never forget the verse on the wall, directly behind the preacher; it was John 3:16

"For God so love the world

that He gave His only begotten Son,

that whosoever believeth in Him

should not perish, but have everlasting life."

A few weeks later, I attended a similar gospel meeting in McKeesport. Over the next few weeks, I attended gospel meetings at both Donora and McKeesport. By this time, the Christians had given me a bible and several pamphlets that described and explained God's way of salvation. It was now the summer of 1970 and I was attending school full time to complete my last semester. I decided that with the gospel papers and the Bible, I would learn how to get saved on my own. But the harder I tried to get saved, the more impossible it seemed. As I look back on that summer, I now realize that God was teaching me that salvation is God's work and my efforts, no matter how sincere, could never take away my sin and make me fit for God's presence. Hidden behind these self efforts was my pride that I could do it on my own. How wrong I was. At the end of that summer, I got in touch with the Christians at Donora and McKeesport and began attending gospel meetings at both assemblies. As I listened to the gospel, I began to realize that God's salvation is not religious efforts or personal works, but a person. That person is God's beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. On the evening of Oct. 13, 1970, as a lost soul in need of salvation, I trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as my savior.

The next morning, I was reading in the book of Proverbs and when I read Proverbs 3:5

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding."

God gave me the assurance that my sins were forgiven because I trusted in Christ. It was not my understanding or self efforts, but the finished work of Christ