The Tesimony of a Changed Life
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Here is My Story It May Be Long But It Is Real
In this letter I am not going to tell you who I am for you already know that, but I am going to tell how I came to be where I am in life. I may or may not have hinted at my story before you read this but especially if I haven't, I want you to know the "why" behind the "what" I am doing in life today. I am truly sorry for not having a better line of communication open between us and not sharing what was on my heart sooner. So here goes.
I grew up in a family that was Roman Catholic. I remember attending St. James Catholic Church shortly after moving to Medford. Then in the summer of 1988 a summertime youth program that ran about a week that was based on the Bible called Neighborhood Bible Time (NBT) came along and some representatives knocked on my door and invited me to come. This was a program that was hosted by a Baptist church but I had never been to a Baptist church before that because being Catholic was all I knew up to that point. So I went because at that age there wasn't really anything to do in the summer. At the end of the week of Bible Time and after all the games, prizes, food, fun and stories from the Bible the two evangelists as they were called who supervised the program had an altar call. They asked if any one wanted to learn from the Bible how one could have all their sins forgiven and have a guaranteed home in Heaven. I raised my hand and moments later I prayed (with someone leading me, because I had no idea how to pray to God myself) and I repented of my sin and accepted Jesus into my life. At that point that's what I thought I did but fast forward to my high school years. Looking back it was apparent that the prayer I said to accept Jesus into my heart and life wasn't genuine and if it had been then my life wasn't showing the evidence proving that was the case. Yes my mom hounded me and got on my case about going to that church (the Baptist church that hosted the Bible Time program that I attended). My mom made me go to church even though I would purposely come home late on Saturday night and try to use the excuse that I would be too tired and wouldn't be able to get up for church. That tactic didn't fly with my mom and I had to go regardless. Looking back, I'm glad she made me go because it was exactly what I needed, but of course I wouldn't find that fact out until later in life. So week in and week out I'd go to church and though I was hearing a man preach a sermon from the Word of God I wasn't really listening and therefore the power of God's Word wasn't penetrating my proud, stubborn thick-headed heart. So even though I made an appearance in church every Sunday that's all it was, an appearance. Although I said I accepted Jesus into my life there was a but and the "but" was the fact that I didn't want to allow Jesus to change my life from the inside out. And that's the thing, looking back I know you can't have a "but" when it comes to accepting Jesus into your heart and life. When you truly accept Jesus in your heart, He takes the driver seat, you move over, and give Him control of your life. I didn't do that. I instead like I said made an appearance in church every Sunday mainly because my mom forced me into it and promised to ground me and things like that if I didn't. I put my trust in myself and to what I thought I could accomplish on my own without Jesus Christ. I also put my trust in my friends or those who I thought were my friends back then, and rather than seek God I sought money, popularity, and thrills. I took drugs, sold drugs, so I could get popular, and get the crowd's approval so I could make a name for myself. I mainly sought these things because I didn't have any inner peace and I was so empty inside. I was running from the One Person who could give me what my heart always desired but could never find in the sinful pleasures and materialism of this world. I was chasing after the gifts of this world rather than the Giver of those gifts. Sure God allows people to have nice things not so that they'll pay more attention to those "things" but so that these things could point them to Him and His generosity.
See what I realize now with the beauty of hindsight is that it is the Giver of the gifts and not the gifts that truly satisfies the soul's longing for peace and security. God made us with a God shaped vacuum in our hearts that only He could fill and that's the point. From the beginning He wanted His creatures (mankind) to seek after Him and He still does to this day. After experiencing some near death experiences and after realizing that all the material things that I had would never bring me the peace my soul was looking for. And after being abandoned by every person or thing I put my trust in I surrendered. I stopped running from the truth that the peace I was searching for in popularity, in dating women, in thrills and in material things wasn't in any of those things but was freely available in Christ Jesus. After I lost everything that I just named above that I put my trust in and almost lost my life I found myself in my room on my knees weeping. I was around 19 or 20yrs old and I felt abandoned because in fact I was but that's wasn't God's fault it was mine. Someone said, "if you feel far from God guess who moved?" Now I didn't even have an open Bible in front of me I just had a wet floor because of the tears that were falling from my face. I didn't have an open Bible with me nor had I been reading the Bible before this. But all of a sudden I knew that was God speaking to my heart and within my heart I heard Him say, "I have never abandoned you I was here all along". Then the Bible verse Hebrews 13:5 came to me which says, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." I heard Jesus say that to my heart and you thought I was weeping before but I really began crying now. Jesus was right He had never left me, in fact He was the reason why I was still alive and that my sins hadn't caught up with me to either land me in prison or dead. I then repented of my sin, which means I acknowledged that I was a sinner, that I had broken God's law (the Ten Commandments) and I knew I was guilty before Him. I broke God's law but Jesus stepped in right before the law was about to take its course and paid the penalty for me. So rather than continue to run from Jesus I turned to Him right there on my knees with a face full of tears and asked Him to forgive me. I received Him into my heart as my Saviour as the One who died on the cross and rose again for my sins. Then just like the Bible describes in the book of Philippians 4:7 this peace from God "which passeth all understanding" came over me. I knew right then and there that this was the peace I had been searching for all along, but was looking for in all the wrong places.
I experienced something I could not find in religion but only in a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. I realized I couldn't find this peace before because my sin, like a brick wall, was standing in the way of the relationship with God that He created me to have with Him. So once I repented to God directly and received Jesus Christ believing with my heart that He loved me enough to endure the cross for me then that wall of sin that had been separating me and God came crashing down. God came into my heart and filled the God shaped vacuum I had. Once I received Christ and knew Him not just as the world's Saviour but as my Saviour I was saved. To truly receive Christ is to be what the Bible calls "saved" because it is then that you are saved from God's coming judgment on sin. Since Christ took God's judgment of sin for me on the cross and I received Christ as my own Saviour, I no longer have to fear facing a Holy God and answering for my sin.
I have tremendous peace because there is nothing in the world like knowing for sure that the penalty for your sins has been taken away and that you have a home in heaven waiting for you once you leave this earth. I used to take drugs, follow the crowd etc because in reality I was trying to put out of my mind the fact that I did not know for sure what would happen to me upon leaving this earth at natural death. Rather than turn to God I stubbornly tried to ignore it and get it out of my mind by doing drugs, hang with friends and anything else that would keep my attention from my real need of salvation.
Since I got saved I've been growing in my faith because getting saved (born again) is being born into God's family, the family of those redeemed by Jesus Christ. But just like physical birth you need to grow. I was a baby in God's family and needed to grow by getting spiritual nourishment from reading the Word of God and hearing the Word preached and taught. Now at my 21st birthday I received a camcorder and around a year later or so I started Flipside, a documentary style discussion show which is just another way to get the truth of the Word of God out to the public. I plan to further my education in Theology concentrating somewhat on Biblical Apologetics. For those who don't know the term "Apologetics" it means to defend the truth of the Bible against the counterfeits out there and believe me there are plenty of them out there and their numbers are growing every year. I also teach Sunday school to the adult men and women, people older than me, if you can imagine that. I'm not perfect nor do I have a holier than thou attitude as I'm still maturing in my faith. But I love the Lord and I want to serve Him and live in a way that shows Him I'm grateful for what He's done for me. Now when I attend church I'm there because I want to be there and because I know I need to be there to hear something from the Word of God so that my faith in the Lord will grow. To this day I'm still attending the Baptist Church that hosted the Bible Time program I went to in the summer of ‘88. You may be wondering why I'm no longer in the Catholic faith I grew up in. Well because back then like I said, being Catholic was what I was raised up in, and all I knew, so I didn't bother to ask what Catholicism was all about. But looking back, now that I'm saved I realize that the Catholic Church does not teach truth of God's Word. They mix their own man made opinions and traditions with God's Word but God tells us to take His Word alone apart from man-made traditions no matter what "Christian" terminology a religion may use. Traditions change but the Word of God stays the same and is our guide to go by so that we can know if a teaching is false and whether it's trying to lead us astray or not. Though a religion or church may claim to follow Jesus if they do not follow His Word (the Bible) then in reality they are not following the true Jesus but a false Jesus who cannot save, a Jesus of their own making and therefore they are not teaching the truth. The church I now attend just teaches the gospel plan of salvation from the simple Word of God nothing more nothing less. The Catholic Church also never told me how to get saved they just told me to follow a bunch of "sacred" rituals and sacraments and "hope" I get to heaven. Please realize this is not a slam against sincere individual Catholics who may not know any better like I used to be. But if a person dies without getting saved first, they will never go to heaven and I think telling people from the Word of God how they can be sure of Heaven is the most important thing in the world. Jesus said in Mark 8:36 "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" A person can make all the money in the world and do all the rituals that is set forth by some religion but if they lose their soul by not getting saved then all is lost. The Catholic religion just like all other religions teach basically that man has to earn his place in heaven, which is a lie. God's Word says that a guaranteed home in heaven is a gift to be received through the Person of Jesus not something to be earned through some childhood religion that may or may not use His name. Coming to Christ is not a new experience in life, IT IS LIFE ITSELF.
In conclusion I just want to encourage you to acknowledge that you've broken God's law, repent to God directly by talking to Him in prayer about your sin, open your heart and life and receive Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour. When you do that you will be forgiven and will be guaranteed of eternal life in Heaven as God's Word says. Take it from me, you will not regret making the most important decision in your life, the decision to accept Christ Jesus as your personal Saviour. Like I said before I've finally experienced the peace of God that I was searching for in the world that is only available in the Lord Jesus. It doesn't matter how close or far away from God you may be; I assure you He loves you more than you can possibly imagine. This peace from God of knowing that you've been forever cured of the fatal disease called sin, and that nothing stands in your way of being with the Lord in Heaven some day can be yours today, just ask Him for it. Jesus said to humbly "...ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive" (Matthew 21:22). I have written what was on my heart and I'll be praying for you to consider what I shared with you in this letter. I wrote this in part because the thought of you having to miss heaven and go to hell separated from the Lord Jesus for all eternity as the judgment for your sin is extremely painful. I will not press the issue because the decision to accept the Lord Jesus Christ into your heart and life is yours and yours alone. God doesn't decide who goes to Heaven, He leaves that decision up to the individual. But as someone said, "What will you do with Jesus? Neutral you can not be one day you're soul will be asking, "what will He do with me?" So I just want you to know that I love you whether you're a close relative or a friend and I pray that you'll want to go to heaven with me. Someone else once said, "you do make time for what's important to you" and I've taken the time to pour my heart out in this letter because I care about you. It's very important to me where you spend eternity. Please write me back or call me so we can keep an open line of communication between us. I'll be praying for your salvation. I love you and remember Jesus will come in to your life and wash you clean of every sin you've ever committed but only if you are truly willing to open the door of your heart and let Him in. Please forgive me for not sharing what was on my heart with you sooner.
If you are ready to ask the Lord to save you right now, but you're not used to praying directly to God and are not sure where to begin. Trust me I used to feel the same way. But God knows your heart and if you say something like this to God in prayer with a sincere heart He will hear you:
"Dear God I have sinned against you. I'm sorry for my sin. I believe you sent Jesus Christ your Son to die on the cross and rise again from the grave for my sins. I accept your forgiveness and receive Jesus as my personal Saviour. Dear Lord, wash me clean of my sin. Take me to heaven when I die but until then help me to make you Lord over every area of my life. Thank you God for saving me today in Jesus name Amen"
Let me know if I can be a blessing to you in any way, take care.
- Jay Ricci
**If you would like to contact Jay (ThinkAboutIt77) you can:
New England Baptist Church
C/O ThinkAboutIt - Hubpage Articles
30 Salem St, Medford, MA 02155
Or Email Jay: Flipsidetv@yahoo.com