It is such a privilege to take the message of Jesus Christ around the world through the Monthly View. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Gentiles. For in the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.'"1
Last month's letters drew a wonderful response. Here is another one that came my way:
Green Bay, WI - Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I felt moved by the Holy Spirit to write this letter in hopes that it will lift your spirits to know that you have lifted mine! I was reading your story on the internet, out of idle historical curiosity, when I came across the part where it said that you had a conversion to Christ many years ago, and have taken up your Cross to follow Him as a fellow minister of the Gospel. This brought me great joy!
I did some terible things as a young man and felt that I was beyond the reach of even Jesus. I was Peter in my denial, Pilate in my indifference, and Judas in my betrayal. It was only in the realization of the Holy Spirit at a retreat center that I was able to comprehend the fact that Jesus died for these very sins, not in spite of them, but because of them.
My mom, dad, brothers, and I did prison ministry at Marquette State Prison in Michigan for over thirty years. On a Kyros retreat, my brother Dave witnessed something that changed his life forever. The leader of the Aryan gang, as well as the leader of a Hispanic gang were part of the group. It was known that the Hispanic leader had a contract out on the life of the Aryan leader. Towards the end of the four-day retreat, my brother was on the back porch where the men were allowed smoke breaks. The two men happened to be on the porch at the same time, when the Aryan leader said, "You know who I am, don't you?" the Hispanic leader replied, "Yes, I do, but that doesn't matter anymore because we are now brothers in Christ." They hugged each other.
The power of Christ is here and now, and I thank God for your witness, Charles. I pray God's blessings on you and your family. Keep the faith! - Pastor Paul.
Since Pastor Paul shared that testimony, I'd like to share another one. This testimony can be read in detail from my book "Will You Die For Me?" (Chapter 13), but not the whole story. That continued to unfold after the '78 publication.
In July 1969, I ripped off a major drug dealer named "Lots-a-Pappa" for $2750, as told in my book. As a result, he threatened to hurt the Manson family, so Manson went into town and shot him in the stomach. I wasn't present. We thought he had died because of news reports on television the next morning concerning a black panther's body being found on the UCLA campus. He later showed up to testify at the Manson trial (my trial was separate), so we knew he was still alive.
Here's the rest of the testimony, not in my book: Around 12 years later, Chaplain Ray, the co-author of my book, told me that he had met "Lots-a-Pappa" in another California prison, and that he was not only saved, but still had Manson's bullet in him, which was his claim to fame.
Of course, we rejoiced, but lo and behold, he showed up at the prison where I was housed, walked into the chapel where I worked, and said, "Hi, Tex." I no longer went by "Tex," but I wasn't going to argue. He was a 6'5", 380 pound, black man. I said, "Lots-a-Pappa," I heard you got saved?" He said, "Yeah," and began telling me about his life since we first met that hot July night. As we shared, I sensed the miracle of salvation taking place in our midst. Needless to say, I was relieved that he was born-again.
We shared communion together the following Sunday. It was a special moment as the Holy Spirit moved upon us as we shared the body and blood of Christ, and celebrated our brotherhood as believers.
For a year, we walked the prison yard together. I believe he had a true conversion experience and, like myself, he was a new man in Christ. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."2
The Testimony of Jesus
Through the years, I've been told that I have a great testimony. I respond by quickly saying, "It's the testimony of Jesus, not mine." My testimony isn't great, because it's all about death. "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."3
The gift of God is eternal life, for "...the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."4 Jesus is the One, Who "...came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God."5 He preached the testimony of God, that our heavenly Father "...delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: In Whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sin..."6 Jesus provided forgiveness for our sin, paying the penalty through His death on the cross; but, He didn't take responsibility for our sin. Our sin is responsible for putting Him on the cross, and the punishment that brought us peace was placed upon Him.7
I read an opinion from a chat room sent to me this week, saying, "...that those of us who receive Jesus don't take responsibility for their crimes." To the contrary, the first step of recovery is to acknowledge that our life has become unmanageable, and that we are powerless to do anything about it. Next, we came to believe that a power greater than ourselves can deliver us from insanity. Then, we turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God for salvation. Whereas, those who don't receive Christ, will not only be responsible for their sin, but also for the penalty of their sin, because they reject the cross of Christ.
What's your testimony?
Webster's dictionary says a testimony is a "statement given as evidence in court." One day, everyone of us will be judged by God in the court of heaven. Jesus says, "...that you must give an account on judgment day of every idle word you speak. The words you say now reflect your fate then; either you will be justified by them or you will be condemned."8
This means that your opinions about those who believe in Jesus will one day testify against you. In the end, those who you judge will have a better fate than yours. The Apostle Paul said: "I know very well how foolish the message of the cross sounds to those who are on the road to destruction. But we who are being saved recognize this message as the very power of God. As the Scriptures say, 'I will destroy human wisdom and discard their most brilliant ideas.'"9
My book "Christianity For Fools" explains how "God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important, so that no one can ever boast in the presence of God."10
My desire is for you to know that God loves you! "He alone made it possible for you to be redeemed by Christ Jesus. For our benefit, God made Christ to be wisdom itself. He is the one who made us acceptable to God. He made us pure and Holy, and He gave Himself to purchase our freedom. As the Scriptures say, 'The person who wishes to boast should boast only of what the Lord has done.'"11
A Prayer For You ...
Our Father in Heaven, You are life for us, and You gave us the payment for sin so we may live with You forever. Your Son, Jesus, makes us one with You and becomes wisdom for us. We once were blind, but now we see. Light has come into our lives and light drives out darkness. May we have a witness to that light, and may our righteousness, obtained through Jesus alone, shine as a testimony to all You have done for us. In Jesus' precious name. Amen.
1 Rom. 1:16, 17
2 2 Cor. 5:17
3 Rom. 6:23
4 Rev. 19:10
5 Mk. 1:14
6 Col. 1:13, 14
7 Isa. 53:5
8 Matt. 12:36, 37
9 1 Cor. 1:18, 19
10 1 Cor. 1:27-29
11 1 Cor. 1:30, 31
Acknowledgement: A special thanks to Sherry for transcribing this months view!