On August 3, 2004 I stepped foot onto campus at Murray State University with high hopes of a long football career and a party-filled four years. I had no idea what God had in store for me.
Growing up in south Alabama I was well acquainted with “going to church”. But it would not take long into my Middle School and High School careers to prove that my allegiance lay elsewhere. My true religion consisted of playing football and partying. My glory was the centerpiece of it all. By the world’s standards I was a sure bet to succeed. I graduated from high school with honors and was voted “Most Popular” by my peers. However, the façade of my stability and strength was about to be completely blown away by God’s sovereign, amazing grace.
It did not take long for God to start acting once I arrived at Murray. Almost immediately He did the most wonderful thing: He put a Jesus-loving, Bible-preaching, godly man in my life. His name was Mason Leaf. Right off the bat there were dueling feelings I had toward Mason. Part of me knew something was different about him, so I wanted to get to know him. The other part of me knew something was different about him, making me not want to get to know him. Whatever was to be the case on my end, Mason made sure of it that he would become my friend. Before I knew it he was sharing with me about Jesus, what it meant to be a follower of Jesus, and why I needed to be a follower of Jesus. There was nothing fancy involved in Mason’s approach to ministering the gospel to me. He just opened the Bible, read, and explained.
As the semester went along and Mason was sharing with me, God’s Spirit was opening my eyes to the futility of the life I was living. I became incredibly aware of my hostility towards God. I hated Him. I despised Him and His word. My guilt before God was crystal clear in my mind. I was convinced that if God had a shred of justice in Him that I would be easily condemned.
I did the only thing I knew to do: run. During that first semester I made plans to transfer to Auburn University. It was closer to home, and I knew I could join a fraternity there which would help suppress the reality of my guilt before God and my need for Jesus. And…it worked…for about a year.
In God’s mercy the seeds that Mason had sown stayed with me and in October of 2005 those seeds burst open flowering into faith and repentance toward Jesus. The imperishable seed of the gospel had given me new life in Jesus.
By God’s grace I have been a Christian for seven years now. In August of 2009 God gave me a beautiful, godly bride, Megan Coats. Over these years he has put other faithful men in my life to encourage me, teach me, and hold me accountable. Starting with the fraternity I was in, God has given me uncountable opportunities to speak the gospel into other people’s lives. My wife and I now are a part of a healthy church on the south end of Louisville, Kentucky, and I am preparing for pastoral ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
As I think about Mason’s role in me coming to Christ I am reminded of the Apostle Peter’s words written to some Christians in 1 Peter 1:23-25:
You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for [and then he quotes Isaiah 40] “All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the gospel that was preached to you.
I, like “all men”, was perishing, fading, and in need of the mercy of God. My glory, as it was bound to do, was coming to nothing. In comes Mason, and he faithfully, kindly pursues a relationship with me that he might plant the imperishable seed of the gospel in me. Then God in His great mercy gave life to that seed, and I was born again. ”Praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has caused us to be born again!” (1 Peter 1:3)
In light of sharing my story of how God redeemed me, I thought I would share the words from the hymn “All I Have is Christ”.
I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way.
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave.
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will.
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.
But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross.
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.
Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life
Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me.
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose.
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You.