First you got saved, your sins are forgiven, and you love God. But now it’s time to make your serious commitment. Will you be one of those Christians who plays it safe, or are you going to get crazy for Jesus, and devoting all your life to Him?
Last week I was reminded that such challenges are not nearly so new as they sound. They’ve been around for many, many decades, and in forms and with language that sounds much the same each time. And Dr. Monte E. White, in a 1999 column printed in Reformation & Revival Journal, knows full well how it goes — because for many years he went along with it himself.
Thanks much to him for allowing his article to be reprinted here from the original article.1 All divisions are my own — for what will turn out to be a seven-part series on this site — and no change has been made while converting the PDF to straight text.
Green Berets for Jesus
It was late one evening when a friend came to my dorm room at Samford University. I had been practicing piano for hours and was just getting to my room for some dreaded work on a Western Civilization assignment. The friend excitedly told me of a revival at one of the Baptist churches there in Birmingham, Alabama. Apparently, he had “never seen or heard of anything like what was going on there.” Being the son of a Southern Baptist pastor, I seriously doubted if there was anything I had not already seen or heard. However, since I was weary of being secluded in a windowless room for three hours of piano practice, I “felt led” to go to church that night.
We arrived forty-five minutes early and there were no more seats available in an auditorium that seated 750 or more people. Rather than standing outside with all the latecomers and listening to the service via loudspeakers, I led my friend around the back where we sneaked in through some closets, crawled through the choir loft and sat down on the floor directly in front of the pulpit.
After some rousing music, the janitor came out to do something with the pulpit. I knew he was the janitor because he had longhair, was wearing faded blue jeans, a pullover and sandals. To my surprise, however, the “janitor” turned out to be the speaker—Arthur Blessit [sic], the “father” of the Jesus Movement. For forty-five minutes, Arthur exhorted the crowd of young people to give their lives to Jesus Christ. The man’s very pores exuded the love of Christ. I was mesmerized by his passion for the lost and his obvious devotion to reach those whom the church had ignored.
When the sermon was over, an invitation was given for people to come forward to give themselves to Jesus. Scores came down the aisle and emptied their pockets of drugs and related paraphernalia. While Arthur was working his way through the crowd, I could see that he was moving in my direction. As I tried to back up and give the pagans room to talk with the man, I could see that he was focused on reaching me. When he took my hand, before I could say— “I am a Baptist who hasn’t missed Sunday School in fourteen years and my dad is a leading pastor in the denomination so don’t confuse me with the riffraff” —he told me to sit in a pew and not leave until he had spoken with me. His tone was stem, his demeanor was commanding.
While I had the urge to run, I waited for Arthur to return. “No one talks to me in that tone. What happened to the love that was dripping from his every word? Why did he look so angry with me? Does he think I am one of those pagans?” Before I could let him know that he had made a mistake, he sat down beside me and told me that I was obviously running from God’s call on my life. “What call is that?” I asked. “The call to the ministry,” he shot back.
Now I had already explained to God a year before that I would serve Him, but not in any pulpit. I loved my dad; I thought he was an incredible man of God. However, the vocation seemed quite stressful, laden with poverty and filled with men who needed some lessons in savoir faire. Not a lifestyle I was attracted to. So, as a compromise with the Almighty, I offered my services in the world of music. Obviously, Arthur had not been made privy to this agreement. However, before I could explain my case to this misguided evangelist, he told me that we—as in, the two of us—were going to go out and “witness to people for the Lord.”
When we pulled up in front of the Boom-Boom Room, I knew I was in trouble. I had frequently patronized this establishment but had not “felt led” to speak to anyone there about his spiritual condition. While I had never been carded there before, this time I begged God to see to it that the gentleman at the door noticed I was under age. He did not.
While Arthur began cheerfully speaking to individuals about the gospel I did my best to disappear into the shadows and hoped that no one recognized me. But then 1 heard a man ask me if I was “with that long-haired guy over there.” I nodded yes, eyes staring forward. He then asked me if I believed the same things that Arthur was telling people over at the bar. I affirmed my agreement with another nod, and still would not look at the gentleman who was speaking to me.
“Do you mean to tell me that Jesus will forgive me all of my sins, if I ask Him to?” His voice was filled with amazement.
“Yes,” I answered, with a voice filled with a not-so-subtle tone that said, “Go Away, You Bother Me!”
“Do you mean that I could pray right here and give my life to Jesus Christ and He would wipe my sins away?” His voice was growing louder.
“Yes.” My answers were more quiet than the still small voice heard by Elijah.
“I can repent … and He will forgive anything and everything I have done wrong?”
I sighed a “Yes” in his general direction.
“Okay. Let’s pray. I want to give my life to Jesus!”
I couldn’t believe it. I looked over at the elderly gentleman whose cheeks were bathed in tears and … drew a blank. What was I supposed to say? Finally I remembered that I should lead him in prayer, and so offered my hand and bowed my head. With the gusto of a Pentecostal, the man yelled out, “No, I want to kneel like those people over there are doing with your friend!” And before I could explain that we were not saved by such works, he had yanked me to the floor to kneel beside him and began repenting of every sin he had ever committed, his anguish filling every syllable. Before I had time to cover myself by acting as if I had dropped my contact lenses, I was awash in tears of humiliation over my arrogance and fear of man. Here was an unbeliever who, without hesitation, was willing to humble himself before God and man while I, a longtime believer, refused to do anything that would take me out of my ego’s comfort zone.
(Tomorrow: do all Christians have the same calling as “Green Berets” like David Livingstone?)