By Wayne Reynolds, Pastor

I know some people think preachers are different from everybody else, but I want to say at the beginning that I am just like everybody else. I get up in the morning just like everybody else. I sometimes get sick, just like everybody else. I have to go to the doctor, the dentist, and some folks think I need to go to the "headshrinker!"

I also know that the circumstances of salvation are different for every person. While the circumstances are different, salvation is the same. Every person must come to Christ as a sinner, confess their sins before an Almighty holy God, and trust the finished work of Jesus Christ. Everybody is saved the same way Ė by the blood of Jesus Christ.

I was born in December 1943 in a hospital in Bauxite, Arkansas, a town that was created in a 99-year lease to Alcoa Aluminum Company. When I was young, ordinary things happened to me, just like they happen to everybody else. Sometimes I would be sick, and my parents would take me to the doctor and he would give me some castor oil. I can still taste that stuff! I had the normal run of childhood diseases, but didnít catch polio, which was going around at that time. I did take three polio vaccinations. I didnít like it at the time, but many things we do not like are good.

Once when I was about five or six years old, I was playing with matches behind my dadís Mobil service station. I was lighting the matches and watching them burn. Then I would put them out, and strike another. My parents had told me not to play with matches, but I disobeyed them because I had a real fascination with fire. One day, trying to find a place to hide the used matches, I located a tank. I didnít realize it was a gasoline tank my dad had removed from a car. I dropped the first match down the hole, and it exploded, catching me on fire, and rolling me down a hill. I got up and started screaming and running. Chris Lancaster, a man living behind the station, caught me, forced me to the ground and put me out with his bare hands. Mr. Lancaster missed work because of his burned hands, and I was in bed for many weeks, but learned a very valuable lesson: listen to your parents; what they tell you is good.

As I was growing up, I got into mischief and had to be spanked. In those days, parents werenít turned in to the child welfare people when they corrected or disciplined their children. I had no doubt my parents loved me and wanted me to do right because they told me many times, reinforcing their language with a keen little switch Ė a language I could readily understand.

I know now what my parents were trying to teach me about obedience and judgment. It is found in Proverbs 23:13-14, which states, "Withhold not correction from the child: of if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod and shalt deliver his soul from hell."

I must state my parents do not believe in beating children, and I did not get beat. I do not believe in beating my children, and did not beat them. My children do not believe in beating their children, and do not beat them. My parents spanked me, I spanked my children, and my children spank my grandchildren. The word for beat, in Proverbs 23, indicates a stern striking for the purpose of correction. Child abuse is wrong, but correction is not wrong.

I learned disobedience brought judgment and obedience brought blessings.

When I was about ten years old, my parents attended revival services at New Friendship Baptist Church in Shaw community, near Bauxite, Arkansas. I do not remember who the preacher was, but I remember he preached about sin and how God judges sin. He preached about the coming judgment of God with fire. Yes, fire, the very thing that had burned me and left me in bed for weeks. The church building had tall ceilings with tall, narrow windows. The services were at night, and as the preacher preached concerning the coming judgment of God upon this earth and how God was going to destroy this world by fire, I looked out the window, fully expecting to see flames coming down out of heaven to destroy this wicked place.

God did not burn the world that night, but the Holy Spirit of God impressed me with the Biblical fact that he was going to.

A year or so later, my parents begin attending a new Baptist church in Benton, Arkansas. The pastor was Brother Taylor, who lived in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He preached many messages, but the one I remember was taken from Matthew 7:13 which states, "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the way and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Brother Taylor had drawn a picture that illustrated these verses. There were three circles. One circle represented us living on this earth. Two other circles represented where people go when they die. One circle was heaven, painted white, where believers went, and the other circle was hell, painted red, where unbelievers went. The Holy Spirit of God used that drawing and the message that accompanied it to convince me that I was bound for eternal destruction in the fiery flames of an eternal hell.

Why was I going to hell? Because I hadnít been saved. That was clear to me. I was a sinner and had disobeyed God, and he was going to send me to hell. As clear as knowing that disobeying my parents brought swift and sure chastisement.

I struggled with the fact of my eternal destruction, trying hard to be saved, but I didnít "get saved." I tried to obey my parents, thinking God would accept me if my parents accepted me. I tried to do good works, but that didnít work either. My dad held many offices in Forest Hills Baptist Church: deacon, Sunday School Superintendent, Sunday school teacher, Church treasurer, church trustee, plus being the church handyman. I thought surely I could sneak into heaven because my dad was so active in church. But it didnít help. I was still lost and still on my way to an eternal hell.

The preacher preached that all lost people should believe in Christ, so I tried to believe. I strained to believe, but nothing happened. The heavens were silent to me. It seemed God didnít hear my prayers, but when the preacher preached, the Word of God burned in my heart and I knew it was the truth. I was lost, but how to find the straight and narrow way was beyond me. It was so straight and so narrow I could not find it. I knew it was there somewhere, because others spoke of being saved, but I could not find the way.

The preacher preached that lost people should believe in their heart the Lord Jesus and they would be saved. Now that was totally beyond me. I did believe all the particulars of the gospel; how Christ died on the cross and how he was in the grave three days and three nights, and how he had risen from the dead on the third day. I believed all that, but I didnít know how to believe it in my heart. I didnít even know where this "heart" was, much less how to get it to believe. Nothing was working, and I continued to get more and more desperate, anxiously listening to each word, yet dreading to hear those same condemning words.

The preacher preached that all lost people should confess their sins before God. So I tried that. But it didnít work. I tried confessing to God when I lied, or when I thought a bad thought, or when I disobeyed my parents. I confessed my wrong to God when my sister and I would fight, even if she started the fight! But it didnít work. Nothing worked. I had trouble remembering my sins, especially those of long ago. I knew if I missed one sin, failing to ask God to forgive me; that one sin would be enough to cause me to go to hell. I began to think I was doomed and would never be saved. Salvation would be for others; it would not be for me.

Once when the preacher was preaching, I heard something a little differently. He still preached that lost people should ask God to forgive them of their sins, but this time I heard him say we should ask God to forgive us of being a sinner: that we should ask God to forgive us, not of all the sins we have ever sinned, but because we are a sinner. He preached how Adam disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden and how Adamís disobedience was passed down to every generation, to every person, that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, that there is none good, no not one, Romans 3:10. I knew I was a sinner, but I was afraid to admit to God that I was a sinner. I was afraid to repent. I figured as long as I didnít tell God how bad I was, He wouldnít know. But I was wrong again. God knows everything. I didnít have to admit to God I was a sinner for Him to know it. I had to admit to God so I would know he knew.

I remember when Jesus Christ saved me Ė just like it was yesterday. It was on a Sunday morning, during the invitation. That Sunday morning, I came to a full realization that I was a sinner, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was going to hell and there was nothing I could do. A most holy God righteously condemned me, and I could do nothing. I was broken.

I did not pray a prayer in the conventional sense. I uttered not a word. In my heart, I spoke to God, confessing he was right, and I was wrong. I was the sinner. God was right to condemn me to an eternal hell.

It was as if I was standing on a bridge, which was suspended over the flames of eternal hell. In my mind, the bridge, which represented my life, was burning on both ends. There was nothing I could do, but stay where I was and wait for the bridge to burn up and drop me into the flames below. I reconciled myself to my just fate, confessed to God I was a sinner, and waited to be cast into the flames of an eternal hell.

It was at that instant Jesus Christ saved me. Suddenly the flames were gone, and I was standing upon a rock! (I discovered later the rock was the Rock of Ages!) I was not going to hell! I was SAVED!

Salvation was not like I thought it would be. I did not hear bells. I did not see lights. I did not get any sort of "chill", hot flashes, or any other bodily experience. There was absolutely nothing physical about salvation.

I did get a peace I had never known before. I knew I belonged to Jesus and he belonged to me. I knew I possessed eternal life. I knew I was going to heaven. I knew I had received the free gift of salvation.

I have been saved since the summer of 1955. I have not always done what I should have done, but Jesus continues to fulfill his promise of eternal life. I have been chastened by my heavenly Father and brought back to the fold.

If you are lost, I urge you to tell Jesus. Be honest with God; do not hide anything from him. God knows everything about you, doesnít he? Trust Jesus. You can never go wrong trusting Jesus.

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