Pastor Tom Kline, Castlegar Baptist Church
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” – I Corinthians 15:3
When I was eighteen I made a decision that completely changed the rest of my life. I would not be the person I am today had I not made that decision. I would not be married to the wonderful woman I have spent the past thirty-two years with, I would not have had the joy of being the father of our four wonderful children and I would not have the job I have today if I had not made that decision in the middle of a hot July night.
I went to high school in a US town about the size of Castlegar. It also had a rich history going back to the very early days of the oil industry. In fact, Titusville, Pennsylvania, my high school town, boasted of drilling the first oil well in the world in 1859. It was my senior year and the Air Force recruiter paid a visit to my school. Up to that point, I had no idea what was next, no career goal, no desire to go to university, so when my best friend said, “Let’s join the Air Force,” I said, “Sure.” So less than three weeks after graduation, I boarded a plan for Texas and began my basic training. The hasty decision to join the Air Force was not the life-changing decision I mentioned earlier, although, I suppose it did play a role.
Another thing that played a role in this decision was the influence of my mother. Both of my parents were church goers and my entire family could be found occupying the same pew of the Hydetown United Methodist Church every Sunday with extremely few exceptions. Hydetown, an even smaller town was three miles north of Titusville and the Methodist church shared their minister with another small community church.
When her children reached school age, my mother asked the pastor if she could stay after church and teach a Sunday school class for the children of the church. He agreed and for virtually my entire childhood, my mom was my Sunday school teacher. Although my dad attended church faithfully, it was my mom who was the spiritual light in our home. To this day my mother has a strong faith and a true relationship with Jesus Christ. Her walk with God and the years of teaching us the Bible would play a big role in my decision — but not until my teen years, spent in sin, were almost over. I lived my teen years getting into all of the sins that small-town teenagers get into and I joined the military expecting to continue those vices unfettered by parental restraint.
But then came that sleepless summer night in Texas. Basic training was much like you would expect, calisthenics, marching, shouting sergeants, etc. — all of which I was handling relatively well. However, there was a growing sense of despair in my life. Away from my childhood peers, facing life on my own, God began to really challenge my heart. I had always believed in God but I knew that I was not right with Him. I had been living a life of sin and selfishness and I knew that if I were to die, I had no hope of heaven. As I laid awake in my bunk, the words my mom had instilled in my heart keep running through my mind. “Tom, Christ died for our sins”.
The power and meaning of that statement had escaped me until that night. I finally realized that when Jesus Christ died on the cross, He was dying for me. He was paying the price for my sins. I could not make up for the sins I had committed but He took the penalty for me and if I asked in humble faith, He would forgive all of my sin and save my unworthy soul. So, in the dark, I crawled out of my bunk and on my knees, with about 30 men asleep in the room, I cried out to Jesus with a repentant heart to forgive me and trusted Him to save me from sin, death and hell.
That night, a peace came over my heart that has remained from that day to this, 36 years later. My life took a completely new direction that night and I am most grateful to God that it did. Looking back, I can see the hand of God that led to that night and the wonderful way He has worked in my life since. I love to visit that night in my mind and remember when I became a true believer. Friend, do you have day you can look back on and say, “That was the day I repented of my sins, called upon the Lord Jesus Christ and was saved and life has never been the same since.” If not, perhaps, today can be that day.