Testimony Monday – Brazil (2)
Each Monday, for a number of weeks, someone from around the world shares the story of how they heard the gospel and trusted the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. This week’s testimony was written by a gentleman from Brazil, who is now in heaven.
When I was a boy, I often accompanied my father to the cemetery where he worked and helped him to prepare the graves. There were always so many graves to dig. We dug them for the old and for the young, for the rich and for the poor. On occasions, we even had to prepare them for our friends. I remember the day I turned twelve (1975), there was an accident and I dug three graves that day. I knew that one day I too would have to face the awful reality of death.
At the entrance to the cemetery, there was an inscription in German, ‘Save your Soul’. I remember asking my father what that meant. He could not tell me! He knew nothing other than the doctrines of the only religion that mattered, Catholicism! That was our religion, of course. In it, we were taught that the souls of those who died went to purgatory, and that we, the living, needed to hold many masses in favour of these souls, in the hope that they would, someday, get out of that terrible place and be taken to heaven.
Ours was a very religious family. We lived close to the church and the seminary and were very much involved in all the ceremonies. From early days, I fulfilled all the catholic ordinances – baptism, confirmation, first communion, etc. For many years, my ambition was to become a priest! I loved being close to the priest, loved wearing the helper’s robes, loved serving the congregation and distributing the wine.
At the age of twenty, I started reading the New Testament, and became increasingly curious about other religions and what they believed. I asked many people about many subjects and always checked what they said with my New Testament.
One day, in the factory where I worked, I asked a man about his religion. With real conviction, he replied that he was “saved by the grace of God!” I was amazed! “How can you say that you are ‘saved’?” I mocked. “You must be crazy!” Calmly, he replied, “I am not crazy, I am saved! And you need to be saved too!”
After that, as we talked, he noted down a reference, 1 Corinthians 1:18, and gave it to me. When I got home, I hurried to my Bible and found the verse he had given me:
The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.1 Corinthians 1:18
I could not get those words out of my head!
The next day, upon arriving at the factory, I hurried to find the man again. “It’s true, after all!” I said. “You’re not crazy! It’s me that’s the crazy one! Help me, though; I simply don’t understand what the verse is saying!” That day I heard the story of the cross for the first time! I heard how that I was a lost sinner before God. My friend opened up the Scriptures to me. He read to me Romans 3:23 – ‘For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’; 1 Timothy 2:3,4 – ‘… God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved…’; 1 Corinthians 15:3 – ‘… Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures…’ and Galatians 2:20 – ‘…the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me’. He explained to me the eternal realities of heaven, hell and God’s judgment. He did not speak to me about a religion, nor about purgatory. He never even mentioned a single ceremony, but rather, using the Holy Scriptures, he spoke of the one and only, all-sufficient Saviour, quoting Acts 4:12 and Acts 16:30,31.
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.Acts 4:12
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…Acts 16:31
He also told me that he met to remember the Lord Jesus Christ with other saved people each Lord’s Day morning and attended various meetings in the same place during the week (Matthew 18 :20). He invited me along and I went. That was early 1985 and it was there that I heard the truth of the gospel preached and observed the scriptural pattern for gathering, as taught in the Bible.
Seven months passed during which I understood increasingly my lost condition as a hell-deserving sinner and my great need of God’s salvation! Those were days of great distress! I lived in constant dread lest I should die in my sins and be in hell forever. On the 2nd November, at my wit’s end, I asked a saved friend of mine for help. The truth of the death of Christ was brought before me and how God was satisfied with that sacrifice on account of my sin. I continued to struggle with the subject over the next three days until the night of the 5th, when, by the mercy of God, as I contemplated that middle cross, I understood, for the first time, that when the Lord Jesus had cried, “It is finished,” the sacrifice was complete, and God was satisfied (John 19:30). There and then, I trusted that One who had died for me, and I was saved for time and for eternity!
More than twenty-one years have passed since that day and the joy of salvation continues to fill my soul. I thank God continually that I am no longer asking what the inscription above the cemetery gate means. I can now say of a truth, “My soul is saved.”
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