When the Cross of Christ Starts to Make Sense
By Patricia Manucy
A Nod Toward Believing
Though I was not raised in a Christian family that went to church, I did not doubt that God existed. I believed that all people were headed to either heaven or hell. As a preteen, due to a friend’s insistence, I attended her church and went to youth meetings. But I dreaded those times. I had a real sense of fear while I was there.
My friend’s church held altar calls at the end of Sunday services. Becoming weary of my friend’s urgings, I went forward to pray with a church leader. I mumbled a prayer that included asking God to “make me good,” but most of all, I just wanted to go home. The deacon with whom I prayed must have discerned that there was something lacking in my intentions, and he pulled me aside after the service to share some Bible verses with me. I nodded in assent to everything he said, but I really did not understand. He sent me home with some verses to meditate on.
The next Sunday, my emotions were overwhelmed with a sense of dread, combined with anger at my friend who kept urging me to make a public profession of faith. During the altar call, I again went forward and prayed in tears. I was afraid of hell and was concerned about the souls of my parents, who did not go to church. My tearful prayer must have sounded convincing because the church leaders presented me before the church with others who had come forward, and I was baptized shortly thereafter.
Though I believed myself to be a Christian, was accepted into membership at my friend’s church, and had been baptized, I still had little desire for the things of God. Before long, I stopped going to church, and our family moved to another state. After my parents divorced, when I was 17, I lived my young adult years in ungodliness. At irregular times I would read the Bible, but there was no desire for holiness. On the contrary, I spent time in bars with people who were living as homosexuals, became a loud proponent of abortion, and was depressed much of the time to the point that I often considered suicide.
When my mother became a Christian in her fifties, she would attempt to witness of the grace of God in Christ to me. But I clung to my sinfulness. I was married at the time but was mostly unhappy. I truly felt that if my circumstances were better, then I would be better. I blamed everyone else for my problems and even turned my anger towards God. In 1997, when the consequences of my sin became unbearable, I attempted suicide. After the attempt—to try to heal emotionally—I moved in with my mom and stepdad. I attended church with them and found the church members to be friendly. They all seemed to be living orderly, comfortable lives, and I wanted what they all seemed to have! So, I made another public profession of faith in Christ, and, for a few months was joyfully active in the church. But in less than a year, I was back walking in my old sinful ways. My profession of faith hadn’t resulted in what I considered to be a better life. My circumstances hadn’t greatly improved. I had gotten a job that I didn’t like, and my marriage had ended in divorce. So, involvement in the church soon ceased.
The Power of the Word
A few years later, I was on my second marriage and living in Central Florida. The members of a nearby church were going door to door in the neighborhood, and they invited us to church. When they found we were not attending any church, they asked if I had a relationship with God. I told them confidently that I was a Christian, truly believing that I was. They expressed joy and gave me information about church services. All this time, while still harboring anger in my heart towards God, I had a nagging idea that I should be in church and actively living for God. I began questioning if I really was a Christian. Several months after that invite, I began attending this church, became a member, and grew more convicted about the time I had spent apart from God.
This church, Calvary Baptist of Winter Garden, was different from others that I had attended. To be presented for membership, one had to give a testimony to the church deacons. I told them how I had not been in church for a long time and wanted to make things right. I admitted that I had not been living for God but that I had made a public profession of faith years ago. One of the deacons, in asking for clarification, gently said “So, you came to the point where you realized that you are a sinner deserving hell and that Christ died for you?” The words “deserving hell” alarmed me, but I nodded in assent. They allowed me to join the church, but I was offended by the thought of “deserving hell.” I thought to myself, “I’m not that bad!”
But those words haunted me. I kept thinking of my inconsistent walk with God. I was troubled by the parable of the soils where Jesus likened the seed that fell on stony ground to “the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away” (Matthew 13:20–21, ESV). And I trembled at the verses in Matthew 7:21–23 about those who proclaim Jesus as Lord and yet fail to enter heaven.
During my time at this church, someone introduced me to Ray Comfort’s evangelical ministry (Living Waters/Way of the Master). Watching one of the evangelical videos produced by that ministry, I began to feel convicted of sin in a way I never had before. Both my church and Ray Comfort’s ministry faithfully used the law of God (as Jesus and the Apostle Paul did) to bring about the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20) and to bring sinners to Christ (Galatians 3:34). For example, in the videos, Ray would interview people on the street, asking them about the ten commandments. If someone insisted that they hadn’t murdered anyone, Ray would remind them that Jesus likened unrighteous anger towards a brother with murder (Matthew 5:22). If someone admitted to lying and tried to justify themself by saying “Everyone does it,” Ray would remind them that God’s standard is the one by which we will be judged, and God proclaims that all liars have their part in a lake of fire (Revelation 21:8). I began to realize that I was a murderer at heart and that I would stand before God a condemned criminal! The cross of Christ started to make sense to me! Christ died in my place, taking the punishment that I justly deserved for breaking God’s holy law, and Christ rose again for my justification.
When I considered my guilt before God, the circumstances of life seemed to grow pale in comparison with enduring an eternal hell apart from the gracious Lord and Savior who gave His life for me! While I still had some unanswered questions about the things of God, my thought had become “I am not going to wait until I understand or agree with it all—I need God’s mercy now before it is too late!” I prayed for God to forgive my sins and to grant me understanding in His good time. It was then, around the year 2012, that I became a true Christian.
Not too long after being born again, the circumstances of this present life actually grew worse. My second husband moved out and filed for divorce, and a year later, my elderly dad who had been helping me with expenses, died. Yet, through all these troubles, I would not leave my Savior! He had granted to me eternal life, and I understood that there was life in no other name (John 6:68; Acts 4:12). God had been very gracious to me, showing great patience with me all these years!
A Relationship That’s Eternal
My church family was a great help to me during these trying times. I eventually moved back to North Florida, living with my mom again briefly before the Lord provided me a job and rental housing in the Saint Augustine area, and united me with a new church where I could serve. At this church, I met a man who is now my husband, with whom I worship my God and Savior Jesus Christ. There are still trials in my life. My life is not perfect. However, now that I have an eternal relationship with the Creator of the Universe, I can trust His wisdom and receive His strength to face whatever the rest of my days may bring. This present life is a vapor (James 4:14), but life in Christ is eternal. The sins of this world seem to be ever multiplying, but take courage, fellow Christian soldiers! Remember this fact: Our God is a saving God! If He was willing to save me, He can save anyone. To Him be the glory forever and ever!