Testimony Monday – Tim Donahue, USA
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 contributor is Tim Donahue, who was born in Chicago and now lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his wife, Anna. They have three grown sons and eight grandchildren. Tim is retired, but is very active at Northwest Gospel Hall, where he is in fellowship.
I’m here to testify that, like Nicodemus of old, it is entirely possible to have all kinds of religion without having God’s salvation.
I was born on a cold January night in 1956 on the South side of Chicago. My parents were very religious and made sure that all nine of us kids attended church services and were educated in private religious schools. This formed a rock-solid foundation for believing in a triune God and the Bible as the source of truth.
Unfortunately, this religious system also led me to believe that because of my religious activities I would eventually end up in Paradise. Many of my friends and loved ones are still under this false assumption.
As I grew up in this system, I had a growing awareness that my sinful tendencies were not keeping pace with my firmly held beliefs about the afterlife. I wanted to do good, but my sinful practices glared at me and showed me that I was nothing more than a religious hypocrite. I said one thing, but my life said quite the opposite.
As I grew into my teen years, it became more and more apparent that, at some point, I would be forced to choose one lifestyle or the other. Either I would devote my life to serving God and seeking to please Him or else I would continue in my bad habits of smoking, drinking, and swearing. Without God’s intervention, it was a losing battle.
After graduating from high school, a friend of mine had pointed out to me that by all our bad habits we were in effect destroying ourselves. He developed a ‘Herb’s Get Back in Shape’ plan. By sheer force of will I stopped smoking and drinking in the hopes of reforming a depraved life. Still, after this one-month turnaround, I was without purpose and in need of Divine intervention.
Toward the end of that summer of 1974, a friend of mine suggested that I come with him to a religious service not far from my home. I had rarely attended this type of service because it was not in keeping with my religious upbringing.
I asked my friend, Ron, as we were walking up the hill toward the church, what these people were like. He told me that as far as he knew they were sincere in their beliefs and not ‘Sunday-Morning-Only Christians.’
We entered the church from the lower level and were invited into a prayer room. Here were five or six men on their knees on the cement floor crying out to God for a soul to be brought to Christ. Ron and I had nothing to say when it came to our turn and so we were greeted with handshakes and smiles and brought upstairs to the main auditorium. They sang some songs that I was not familiar with, but they were upbeat, and the people sang with enthusiasm.
When it came time for the sermon, some young men sitting in front of us offered us the use of their Bibles. I was not at all prepared for what followed. The man in front spoke of sin and God’s fierce anger against our sin. He told of God’s speaking and people not listening. He spoke of Hell and the certainty of death. I was left under a deep sense of conviction without really knowing how I could make amends with such a holy God.
After the service was over, I asked the preacher some religious questions, thinking I could argue my way out of my spiritual dilemma. The only problem was that my flimsy defence could not hold up to the infallible Word of God. I asked a question about being good in exchange for entrance into heaven. The preacher, Mr. Phillips, opened his Bible to Ephesians Chapter 2 and asked me to read verses 8 and 9:
For by grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…Ephesians 2:8
I asked questions about other subjects, hoping to find a loophole for a poor sinner like myself. Finally, I asked about being baptized as an infant. He replied, “If you hold to that as your ticket into heaven then you are headed to the Lake of Fire for sure!”
God used those words mightily to assure me that I was lost, and I needed a Saviour.
Mr. Phillips told me that these questions were fine by themselves, but what I really needed was to take the Lord Jesus as my personal Saviour. He invited me to kneel down with him there in the back of the church and to talk to God about these things. All my religion and arguments could in no way gain me peace with God. My acceptance of His free gift of His Son was the only way that I could be assured of my salvation.
Right there and then I told the Lord that I messed up my life and asked for forgiveness. The joy that entered my soul was indescribable. I walked home that night knowing that God through His precious Word had reached down and offered forgiveness to a poor helpless sinner in need of a Saviour.
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