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Tag Archives: Christian Testimony

How Dr. R.C. Sproul Met Jesus Personally

*R.C. Sproul’s Christian Testimony: A Personal Pilgrimage

The quest for the meaning of life was a troublesome problem for me from an early age. The “why” questions were the ones that gripped my mind—not so much physical questions but metaphysical questions. Many children are fascinated by “how” things work. They may even pester their parents with questions like, What makes a car run? How does a clock work? How does a seed turn into a flower? I had childhood friends like that, forever tinkering with cars and lawnmowers and skeletons. Some became engineers, some doctors, one a geologist and one a physicist. But I was bored with those questions. I knew they were very important questions, but they simply were not the ones on my mind.

As a youth I had two consuming passions. One was sports and the other the “why” questions. I saw no relationship between them at the time but in present reflection I think I can see how they fit together in my own circumstances.

I was a wartime child. The earliest question that plagued me was the question of war. I wanted to know why there were wars. They seemed pretty silly to me at the age of four. I couldn’t sit at a table and resolve their differences without using tanks and bombs and ships. Of course I had a personal vested interest in the question. What the war meant to me personally was the absence of my father. From the age of two to age six my father was a picture of a man in uniform. He was the one who wrote air letters to us. He was the one my mother talked about and typed letters to every night. She let me punch the X and O keys at the end of every letter. For some strange reason none of my childhood friends’ fathers were away at war. I kept wondering, “Why does everyone else have a dad at home and I don’t?

The plaguing question of war evaporated for me with a happy ending. Playing stickball on the streets of Chicago I was startled by a sound of people screaming and beating on pots and pans. I watched them hug each other and behave in a strange manner. I was upset that their antics interrupted the stickball game until I understood what it was all about—V.J. Day, 1945.

The full implications of their jubilation did not hit me until I stood in a railroad terminal that looked as if it was filled with a million men in uniform and a lot of weeping women. Then the troop trains came in. In the midst of a multitude of soldiers who all looked the same, one of them caught my eye. Fifty feet away he dropped his duffle bag, dropped to his knees and threw open his arms with a flashing grin on his face. I broke from my mother’s hand and covered fifty feet in Guinness record time. Dodging servicemen and running around duffle bags I flew into the arms of my father. The war didn’t matter anymore.

Then came school. From day one I didn’t like school. It is still something of a mystery to me how I ever ended up in an academic vocation. I remember walking to school on Mondays dreaming about Fridays. The thought that plagued me was why do I have to go to school five days a week and get to play only two? It didn’t make sense to me. My father’s schedule looked even worse. It seemed like he was always working. I wondered what life was all about when you had to spend so much time doing what you don’t like so you could spend so little time doing what you do like.

I was a good student but my heart wasn’t in it. Sports were my passion. Sports made sense to me. I took a sensuous and intellectual pleasure in them. I liked the feel of my body responding to action moves: dodging a would-be tackler, driving through the key for an “unmakeable” lay-up; skirting across the bag at second and firing to first for a double play. I was consumed by sports. I read every book in the town library on sports. I was a walking encyclopedia of sports “trivia.” My hero was the fictional Chip Hilton. He excelled at everything; he was a pristine model of fair play; he was a champion.

Practice for sports was never work. I was never so tired that I wanted practice to end. I loved every second of it. There was a reason for practice. The game. Victory. The game had a starting point, a goal, and an end point. Victory was a real possibility; defeat never entered my mind. When we were behind my thoughts were never “What if we lose?” but rather, “How can we win?” Like Vince Lombardi, I never lost a game but just ran our of time on a few occasions. My coaches were my real life idols because they always pointed ways to victory. We would be willing to die for them on the field as a matter of obvious course.

But something happened that changed all that and changed me so radically that I’m not over it yet. I was 16 years old when my mother came to me and said, “Son, your father has an incurable disease. There is nothing the doctors can do for him. You can still play some sports but you’ll have to cut back and get a part time job. Dad is dying and you have to be the man of the house.” I took the message outwardly with stoic heroism. Inwardly I was enraged. I could not believe there was something as an unsolvable problem. We won the war, didn’t we? We always found a way to win ball games. Why can’t we beat this? There must be a cure. The doctors are wrong. But there was no cure. The doctors were right. Dad didn’t die right away. He died a day at a time. Every night I fireman-dragged his emaciated body to the dinner table.

I still played sports for a while but it was different. They were foolishness. The coach said, “Sproul, I want you to take this football and carry it with you everywhere you go. I want you to take it to dinner ad sleep with it. You have to eat, drink, and sleep football.”

Two weeks earlier if had said that to me I would have loved him for it. Now I wanted to scream at him, “You idiot!” Don’t you know this stuff doesn’t matter at all!” Practice was misery. The games became a nightmare. Sports, like life, were an exercise in futility. Chip Hilton was a myth and life a bitter joke. When the referee blew his whistle and called a foul I pushed his whistle in his mouth. When the umpire called me out I took a swing at him. Bitter, frustrated, confused, I knew only defeat. Now there was no way to win. I quit.

The last time my father fell I picked him up and carried him to bed, unconscious. Twenty hours later he was dead. No tears from me—no emotion. I “quarter-backed” the funeral arrangements. When we put him in the ground my soul went under with him. The next year was a year of unrestrained degeneracy. (Anger can do a lot of things to a young man.) I became the paradigm of the angry young man. In junior high I graduated second in my class, legitimately; from senior high I was one hundred fifty-seventh by every crooked means available.

Sandlot football won me a scholarship to college. Then came radicalizing number two. One week on campus and my life was turned upside down again. The star of the football team called me aside and told me about Jesus. I couldn’t believe this guy. In my eyes ministers were “pansies,” and “Christian” was a synonym for “sissy.” I don’t remember what he said to me; but it drove me to the New Testament. Truth breathed from every page. It was my virgin experience with the Bible. It was a spiritual experience of revolution. I always knew there was a God but I hated Him. In this week my anger and bitterness dissolved into repentance. The result was forgiveness and life.

It would perhaps be appropriate to relate a story of coming to Christ via the route of intellectual inquiry. But that’s not how it happened with me. The intellectual drive came later. For one year I had a consummate passion to learn the Scriptures. I couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t believe them. Most of my professors were skeptics. The campus atmosphere was mostly secular. I was quickly faced with every conceivable objection to Christianity. I was most vulnerable, in light of my past history, to the charge that my faith grew out of my emotional trauma and psychological need for Jesus to be my “Father” and to give me hope in my despair and bitterness.

I wasn’t a Christian long until I had to face the question squarely: Was my conversion rooted in objective reality or was it merely an expression of my own subjective needs? I began to experience what Saint Augustine called, “Faith seeking understanding.” Thus I turned my attention to the study of philosophy as my major academic pursuit.

The study of the history of philosophy exposed me to virtually every serious alternative to Christianity the world has brought forth. I began to see the bankruptcy of secular world views. I found valuable insights in Spinoza, Kant, Sartre, and others. But no one seemed to have a consistent and coherent life and world view. The philosophers themselves were their own best critics. Hume critiqued Locke; Kant critiqued Hume; Hegel critiqued Kant, and so on it went. There emerged no “sure results” of speculative thought. The study of philosophy did provide very important tools for critical analysis which proved very helpful for my own pilgrimage. The more I studied philosophy the more intellectually credible and satisfying Christianity became.

After college came seminary. Naively I expected seminary to be a citadel of scholarly interpretation and defense of Christianity. Instead I found it to be a fortress of skepticism and unbelief. A negative posture toward classical Christianity prevailed which exposed me to a wide variety of contemporary critical theories that rejected orthodox Christianity. Thus seminary exposed me to a wide variety of scholarly criticisms of the Bible. This forced me to face the question of the trustworthiness of Scripture. Fortunately I was blessed with two crucial support systems. On the one hand I was well enough equipped with the tools of analytical philosophy to spot the philosophical assumptions that the negative critics were using. Through philosophical tools I was able, to some degree, to critique the critics. I was intellectually unimpressed by the weak philosophical assumptions of the “liberal” professors. On the other hand I was fortunate to study under one professor who did affirm classical Christianity. He was our toughest professor and most academically demanding. His “bear-trap” mind and singular ability for “close” and “tight” reasoning impressed me. He seemed to tower over the rest of the professors both in knowledge and analytical brilliance.

From seminary I went on to a doctoral program in Europe. It was a difficult and exhilarating experience. Almost al of my work had to be done in foreign languages which required a new kind of intellectual discipline for me. Studying under G. C. Berkouwer of the Free University of Amsterdam exposed me to all the latest theories of theology and biblical studies. The European system exposed me to the method of approaching theology and biblical studies as a technical science. Studying the primary sources in original languages such as Dutch, German and Latin gave new tools for scholarship.

From Europe I returned to America and began my teaching career. Teaching in both college and seminary I had an unusual pattern of teaching assignments. At one college I taught almost exclusively in the field of philosophy. In another college I was responsible to teach theology and biblical studies. My first seminary appointment had me teaching philosophical theology which combined both philosophy and theology. Oddly enough I was also asked to teach New Testament theology. In an age of specialization I was forced into being a “generalist,” working in several different but related fields.

The science of apologetics which offers intellectual defense of the credibility of Christianity finally became my point of “specialty.” That is usually what happens to generalists.

My training was not in a conservative “hothouse.” I have been through the gamut of liberal scholarship. I am a first-generation conservative—by conviction, not heritage or training.

The teaching arena has been the crucible of my thinking. The more I study and the more I teach and engage in dialogue with unbelievers and critics the more confident I have become in the rock-solid intellectual integrity and truth of Christianity. In fact, I am overwhelmed by the profundity, coherency, and intricate internal consistency of Christianity. I am awed by the majesty and brilliance, not to mention the power, of the Scriptures. Take away the Scriptures and you take away Christ. Take away the Christ and you take away life. My conviction is one with that of Luther: Spiritus Sanctus non scepticus: “The Holy Spirit is not a skeptic and the assertions He has given us are surer and more certain than sense and life itself.”

*This article was published in the Introduction to the book Reason To Believe (originally published in 1978 as Objections Answered) by R. C. Sproul, pp. 11-18.

Dr. R.C. Sproul is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education ministry located near Orlando, Florida. His teaching can be heard on the program Renewing Your Mind, which is broadcast on hundreds of radio outlets in the United States and in 40 countries worldwide. He is the executive editor of Tabletalk magazine and general editor of The Reformation Study Bible, and the author of more than seventy books (including some of my all time favorites: THE HOLINESS OF GOD; CHOSEN BY GOD; KNOWING SCRIPTURE; REASON TO BELIEVE; and PLEASING GOD) and scores of articles for national evangelical publications. Dr. Sproul also serves as president of Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and Reformation Bible College. He currently serves as senior minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew’s in Sanford, FL. (The picture to the left was taken approximately around the time of Sproul’s conversion as a College student).

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The Power of the Gospel in Kirsten Powers Life

Kirsten Powers

She is a political analyst, blogger, columnist and commentator. She is a Democrat who regularly contributes to USA Today, Newsweek, The Daily Beast, Fox News and the Wall Street Journal among other publications. She formerly served under the Clinton administration from 1993-1998 and was appointed Deputy Assistant U.S Trade Representative for Public Affairs.

In an interview with Focus on the Family, she shares how she converted from atheism to Christianity. She said: “I was not looking to be a Christian. The last thing in the world I wanted to be was a Christian. I had grown up as an Episcopalian, but not evangelical, born again, or any of those kinds of things. It was very high church, kind of mainline, protestant, episcopalian. I did believe in God, but it wasn’t anywhere near what would come to happen to me later in life.

“When I went away to college, whatever little faith I had, I lost. I ended up graduating from college. I worked in the Clinton administration. All my friends were secular liberals. At this point, I really got even more deeply into an incredibly secular world because now, all my friends were basically atheists, or if they had any kind of spirituality, they were very hostile towards religion, Christianity in particular. So, I really didn’t have any interest in it.

“I started dating someone who went to Tim Keller’s church, Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City. Out of curiosity, I went with him. But I told him upfront that I would never become a Christian; that it’s never going to happen. After about six or seven months, I began to think that the weight of history is more on the side of what [I was hearing at this church] than not. Tim Keller had made such a strong case, that I began to think it’s not even smart to reject this. It just doesn’t seem like a good intellectual decision.

“Really, it was like God sort of invaded my life. It was very unwelcome. I didn’t like it. Obviously, I started having a lot of different experiences where I felt God was doing a lot of things in my life. It’s kind of hard to describe, but I did have this moment where the scales just fell off of my eyes, where I was saying, ‘this is just totally true, I don’t even have any doubt.’ …I don’t really feel like I had any courage when I became a Christian, I just gave in. I wasn’t courageous; I didn’t have any choice. I kept trying to not believe but I just couldn’t avoid [accepting Christ]. If I could have avoided it, I would have. There is nothing convenient about it in my life or in the world I live in. It’s not like living in the South where everybody is a Christian. I live in a world where nobody is a believer. But God pursued me.” Her name is Kirsten Powers.

Article adapted from: Kirsten Powers: How a Liberal Democrat and Former Atheist Came to Know Jesus Christ as her Savior – Gospel Light Minute ^ | 2 June 2013 – Posted on July 14, 2013 5:59:59 AM PDT by Gamecock

 

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World Renowned Classical Guitarist Shares How Christ Changed His Life

Christopher Parkening: Life Story and Christian Testimony  


For over a quarter century, I have been known in the classical music world as a concert guitarist, following the tradition of the great Spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia. However, there was a time in my life when I stopped concertizing and recording, and even gave up practicing the instrument. Apart from a small amount of teaching at Montana State University, I quit the guitar completely. This is the story of why I decided to perform once again.

Growing Up in Los Angeles

I grew up in Los Angeles and started playing the guitar at the age of 11, inspired by my cousin, Jack Marshall, who was staff guitarist at MGM Studios. I loved the way he played the guitar, and I asked him about studying the instrument. He recommended that I learn classical technique first to establish solid technical skills. He also suggested I purchase the recordings of Andrés Segovia, the greatest guitarist in the world. I was so impressed with Segovia’s playing that I started classical, loved it, and stayed with it.

Even before I began playing the guitar, I had a great love of the outdoors, in particular, fly-fishing for trout. My dad taught me the art of dry fly-fishing when I was six years old. The most enjoyable times of my life were spent on a trout stream in the High Sierras of Northern California. My goal in life was to some day own my own ranch with my own private trout stream.

As I grew up, I became convinced that my aim should be to make a lot of money, retire early and enjoy the good life. Since my father had retired at 47, I decided that 30 would be a good retirement age for me. And as I became more proficient with the guitar, I wondered if my musical ability might somehow help me achieve that goal.

Working Toward Early Retirement

I grew up in a home that taught me the value of hard work and discipline. With my father’s encouragement, I would get up at 5:00 a.m. and practice for an hour and a half before school and again in the afternoon. You can imagine what a conflict that created for a young man with a keen interest in sports.

However, with the support of my parents, the hard work began to pay off. Four years later, at age 15, I was invited to attend Andrés Segovia’s first United States master class held at the University of California at Berkeley. It was a great honor to play for the man who had inspired me for so many years. He told me I had the potential for a wonderful career with the classical guitar and encouraged me to work “very hard.” It was my good fortune to continue private study with Segovia and later, when I attended the University of Southern California, to study musical interpretation with the world renowned cellist Gregor Piatigorsky.

At age 19, I signed with Capitol Records for a series of six albums, and was asked to start a guitar department at the University of Southern California. The following year I signed with Columbia Artists Management for a rigorous concert schedule touring the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia, eventually performing over 90 concerts a year!

Needless to say, as I added a grueling concert schedule to my teaching and recording obligations, my life became ever more stressful. Frankly, I was miserable on tour. I hated the hotel rooms, the airplanes, the monotony of one concert after the next. But, I thought, There will come a day when I will be happy. I’ll have my own ranch with my own trout stream and I can retire. I can do what I want to do, go where I want to go, and be content. And that was the goal I pursued.

At 30, I achieved my goal. I stopped playing the guitar, I found a ranch with a beautiful trout stream in Montana, and I moved there from Southern California. I called Capitol Records, USC, and Columbia Artists Management to thank them, and to let them know that I wouldn’t be playing the guitar anymore. I had achieved my life’s dream.

For the next four years I was doing everything I wanted to do. I was fishing to my heart’s content, learning every trout stream in the area, and going back to Southern California in the winter to escape the snow and cold weather. I was living the good life—or so I thought.

 

Searching for Truth

There’s an old proverb: “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.” Well, that was the case with me. Soon after retirement, I became bored with my life and began to feel empty inside. It was like Solomon said in the Bible, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:1). My “ideal” life was turning out to be not so ideal after all. I needed something more, something to provide the fulfillment my success wasn’t giving me.

During one of my winter visits to Southern California a neighbor leaned over the backyard fence and invited me to Grace Community Church. I decided to go. John MacArthur preached a sermon entitled “Examine Yourself Whether You Be in the Faith,” and he read this passage from the Bible:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23).

Now, when I was a young child my parents took me to Sunday school every week and even had me baptized. I had read the Bible occasionally during my boyhood and had been lead to believe I was a Christian. I was convinced that because I knew the “facts” about Jesus Christ, I would get into heaven one day. But, as I listened to the words that Pastor MacArthur was reading I felt something cutting deep into my heart. “That’s me!” I thought, “I would be one of those who would say, ‘Lord, Lord, I believe who You are. I went to Sunday school. My parents even had me baptized!’” In my heart I knew that Jesus would answer me, “You never cared to glorify Me with your life or with your music. All you cared about were your ranches and your trout streams. Depart from Me, I never knew you!” It was in that sudden, terrible moment I realized that I was not a Christian. I thought I had faith and yet my lifestyle had been characterized by total selfishness and disobedience. (I supposed I had wanted a Savior to save me from hell, but I had never wanted a Lord of my life whom I should follow, trust, and obey.)

That night I lay awake, broken over my sins. I realized that my life was a total washout. I had lived very selfishly and it had not made me happy. Knowing I was a sinner before God, I prayed and asked Him to forgive me. It was then that I asked Jesus Christ to come into my life, to be my Lord and Savior. For the first time, I remember telling Him, “Whatever You want me to do with my life, Lord, I’ll do it.”

 

Performing for God’s Glory

My new commitment to Christ gave me a great desire to read the Bible and learn more about the Word of God. One day I read a passage from 1 Corinthians which said, “Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Well, there were only two things I knew how to do: one was fly-fishing for trout, and the other was playing the guitar. The latter seemed the better option to pursue. The great composer J.S. Bach said, “The aim and final reason of all music is none else but the glory of God.” Bach signed many of his compositions with the initials S.D.G., which stands for Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone the glory). I thought, If Bach could use his great ability for that purpose, that would be the least I could do with whatever ability or talent the Lord had given me. It became evident that the Lord wanted me to return to playing the guitar again, but this time with a different purpose—to honor and glorify my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Shortly after making my decision to return to playing, I sold my ranch in Montana and returned to California. Initially, I had a rude awakening when I contacted my former manager in New York. He told me flatly that I had thrown away a very valuable career and that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to return to the concert stage after a four year absence. I knew that all things are according to God’s will and that it would be only by His grace that I would be able to return to a professional music career. The Lord has been gracious! Since my return to the music world I have played with every major orchestra in the nation, traveled the world on countless concert tours and have even played for the President of the United States at the White House!

Andrés Segovia was my musical inspiration growing up, and I still desire to follow with excellence the musical tradition he left us. However, my true goal in life now is to be a good and faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. My career is only a means to an end, and that end is to glorify the Lord with my life and with the music that I play. Pursuing that goal gives me great joy and contentment; the fulfillment which eluded me so many years ago has at last been found and the emptiness I once felt has gone forever.

 

Sharing the Good News

One day I had the opportunity to share with my 11-year-old niece, Christi, what it means to be a Christian. I said, “Christi, if you were to die tonight and stand before God and He were to say to you, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?’ what would you say?”

“Well,” she replied, “I would say ‘Because I’ve been a good girl.’”

“How good have you been?,” I asked, “Have you been perfect?”

“No,” she admitted, “I haven’t been perfect.”

“That’s true,” I said, “No, no one is perfect. In fact, the Bible says, ‘For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).’ But God requires us to be perfect (James 2:10), and who can be perfect? Nobody, right? Nobody can be perfect.”

I told her that salvation is a free gift received by faith. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” I said, “You’re not saved by your good deeds; you are saved by grace, and grace means God is freely giving you something you don’t deserve.”

I also told her the Bible says that God is holy and just. Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” And Exodus 34:7 says that God “will by no means clear the guilty.” Since God is just, He will judge those who sin. 1 Peter 1:16 says, “Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

I went on to say that God is also a loving God. That famous Bible verse, John 3:16, says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God judges those who sin, but in love He gave His Son to die on a cross to bear our sin and judgment.

How can God judge sinners and yet love them? To illustrate the answer, I told her a story about a king who was a wise and just ruler of his people:

Someone was embezzling from the king’s treasury, so the king issued an edict throughout all the land, saying, “Whoever is guilty, come forward and receive a just punishment of 10 public lashings.” But no one came forward.

The second week someone was continuing to steal from the king’s treasury, so the king set the punishment at 20 public lashings. But still no one came forward.

The third and fourth weeks went by and the thievery continued. On the fifth week the king set the punishment at 50 public lashings.

Finally, the guilty person was discovered. The one embezzling from the king’s treasury turned out to be the king’s own mother! The whole kingdom turned out to see what the king was going to do because they knew he was in a real dilemma: On the one hand he loved his mother, yet he knew that 50 lashes would very likely kill her. On the other hand he had a reputation for being a just king who would certainly punish the crime.

On the day for sentencing to be carried out, his mother was tied to a stake and a big man was ready to flog her with a whip. Then the king gave his order: “Render the punishment!” Just as he spoke, he took off his own robe, baring his own back, and putting his arms around his mother, he then took the lashes that she deserved, thereby satisfying the demand for justice.

The Bible says:

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:5-6). Who his own self bare the sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed (1 Peter 2:24).

As I told little Christi, that’s exactly what Jesus Christ did for us. Jesus Christ, by His death and physical resurrection, paid for our sins and purchased a place in heaven for us, which He offers as a gift that may be received by faith. I told her, “You have a choice in this life: You can stand before God when you die and say, ‘I’ve been a good girl,’ but you will fall short. You could say, ‘The good I’ve done outweighs the bad,’ but you will still fall short. You can even invent your own standard for heaven and achieve that, but God’s standard is perfect righteousness! Or, you can humble yourself and receive the gift that God has described in the Bible: ‘Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’ (John 14:6).

“Apart from the death of Christ on the cross for your sins, no one has access to the Father, no one has access to heaven. That’s what the Bible says. True saving faith, then, is trusting in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation—and the response to true faith will be an overwhelming desire to be obedient to the Lord. Jesus said in Luke 6:46, ‘And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?’ That’s what it means to make Him ‘Lord and Savior.’”

In conclusion, I’m very thankful I had the opportunity that day to share with Christi what the Bible says about true salvation. But what about you? Are you willing to humble yourself before God and confess to Him that you are a sinner? Are you willing to repent, turn from your sins and receive Christ as your Savior and Lord? If so, you might wish to pray the following prayer from your heart:

Lord Jesus, I know that I’m a sinner. I’ve been trusting in my own good deeds to save me, but now I’m putting my trust in You. I accept You as my personal Savior. I believe You died for me. I receive You as Lord and Master over my life. Help me to turn from my sins and follow You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

I hope that you will make this prayer your own so that you can join with me in living life for God’s glory. If you have any questions, I hope you will contact a Bible teaching church in your area or write to me at:

Christopher Parkening

PO Box 2067, Malibu, CA 90265-7067

Website: http://www.parkening.com/

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Christian Testimonies

 

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How Jesus Transformed An Intellectual Philosophy Major Named R.C. Sproul

*R.C. Sproul’s Christian Testimony: A Personal Pilgrimage

The quest for the meaning of life was a troublesome problem for me from an early age. The “why” questions were the ones that gripped my mind—not so much physical questions but metaphysical questions. Many children are fascinated by “how” things work. They may even pester their parents with questions like, What makes a car run? How does a clock work? How does a seed turn into a flower? I had childhood friends like that, forever tinkering with cars and lawnmowers and skeletons. Some became engineers, some doctors, one a geologist and one a physicist. But I was bored with those questions. I knew they were very important questions, but they simply were not the ones on my mind.

As a youth I had two consuming passions. One was sports and the other the “why” questions. I saw no relationship between them at the time but in present reflection I think I can see how they fit together in my own circumstances.

I was a wartime child. The earliest question that plagued me was the question of war. I wanted to know why there were wars. They seemed pretty silly to me at the age of four. I couldn’t sit at a table and resolve their differences without using tanks and bombs and ships. Of course I had a personal vested interest in the question. What the war meant to me personally was the absence of my father. From the age of two to age six my father was a picture of a man in uniform. He was the one who wrote air letters to us. He was the one my mother talked about and typed letters to every night. She let me punch the X and O keys at the end of every letter. For some strange reason none of my childhood friends’ fathers were away at war. I kept wondering, “Why does everyone else have a dad at home and I don’t?

The plaguing question of war evaporated for me with a happy ending. Playing stickball on the streets of Chicago I was startled by a sound of people screaming and beating on pots and pans. I watched them hug each other and behave in a strange manner. I was upset that their antics interrupted the stickball game until I understood what it was all about—V.J. Day, 1945.

The full implications of their jubilation did not hit me until I stood in a railroad terminal that looked as if it was filled with a million men in uniform and a lot of weeping women. Then the troop trains came in. In the midst of a multitude of soldiers who all looked the same, one of them caught my eye. Fifty feet away he dropped his duffle bag, dropped to his knees and threw open his arms with a flashing grin on his face. I broke from my mother’s hand and covered fifty feet in Guinness record time. Dodging servicemen and running around duffle bags I flew into the arms of my father. The war didn’t matter anymore.

Then came school. From day one I didn’t like school. It is still something of a mystery to me how I ever ended up in an academic vocation. I remember walking to school on Mondays dreaming about Fridays. The thought that plagued me was why do I have to go to school five days a week and get to play only two? It didn’t make sense to me. My father’s schedule looked even worse. It seemed like he was always working. I wondered what life was all about when you had to spend so much time doing what you don’t like so you could spend so little time doing what you do like.

I was a good student but my heart wasn’t in it. Sports were my passion. Sports made sense to me. I took a sensuous and intellectual pleasure in them. I liked the feel of my body responding to action moves: dodging a would-be tackler, driving through the key for an “unmakeable” lay-up; skirting across the bag at second and firing to first for a double play. I was consumed by sports. I read every book in the town library on sports. I was a walking encyclopedia of sports “trivia.” My hero was the fictional Chip Hilton. He excelled at everything; he was a pristine model of fair play; he was a champion.

Practice for sports was never work. I was never so tired that I wanted practice to end. I loved every second of it. There was a reason for practice. The game. Victory. The game had a starting point, a goal, and an end point. Victory was a real possibility; defeat never entered my mind. When we were behind my thoughts were never “What if we lose?” but rather, “How can we win?” Like Vince Lombardi, I never lost a game but just ran our of time on a few occasions. My coaches were my real life idols because they always pointed ways to victory. We would be willing to die for them on the field as a matter of obvious course.

But something happened that changed all that and changed me so radically that I’m not over it yet. I was 16 years old when my mother came to me and said, “Son, your father has an incurable disease. There is nothing the doctors can do for him. You can still play some sports but you’ll have to cut back and get a part time job. Dad is dying and you have to be the man of the house.” I took the message outwardly with stoic heroism. Inwardly I was enraged. I could not believe there was something as an unsolvable problem. We won the war, didn’t we? We always found a way to win ball games. Why can’t we beat this? There must be a cure. The doctors are wrong. But there was no cure. The doctors were right. Dad didn’t die right away. He died a day at a time. Every night I fireman-dragged his emaciated body to the dinner table.

I still played sports for a while but it was different. They were foolishness. The coach said, “Sproul, I want you to take this football and carry it with you everywhere you go. I want you to take it to dinner ad sleep with it. You have to eat, drink, and sleep football.”

Two weeks earlier if had said that to me I would have loved him for it. Now I wanted to scream at him, “You idiot!” Don’t you know this stuff doesn’t matter at all!” Practice was misery. The games became a nightmare. Sports, like life, were an exercise in futility. Chip Hilton was a myth and life a bitter joke. When the referee blew his whistle and called a foul I pushed his whistle in his mouth. When the umpire called me out I took a swing at him. Bitter, frustrated, confused, I knew only defeat. Now there was no way to win. I quit.

The last time my father fell I picked him up and carried him to bed, unconscious. Twenty hours later he was dead. No tears from me—no emotion. I “quarter-backed” the funeral arrangements. When we put him in the ground my soul went under with him. The next year was a year of unrestrained degeneracy. (Anger can do a lot of things to a young man.) I became the paradigm of the angry young man. In junior high I graduated second in my class, legitimately; from senior high I was one hundred fifty-seventh by every crooked means available.

Sandlot football won me a scholarship to college. Then came radicalizing number two. One week on campus and my life was turned upside down again. The star of the football team called me aside and told me about Jesus. I couldn’t believe this guy. In my eyes ministers were “pansies,” and “Christian” was a synonym for “sissy.” I don’t remember what he said to me; but it drove me to the New Testament. Truth breathed from every page. It was my virgin experience with the Bible. It was a spiritual experience of revolution. I always knew there was a God but I hated Him. In this week my anger and bitterness dissolved into repentance. The result was forgiveness and life.

It would perhaps be appropriate to relate a story of coming to Christ via the route of intellectual inquiry. But that’s not how it happened with me. The intellectual drive came later. For one year I had a consummate passion to learn the Scriptures. I couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t believe them. Most of my professors were skeptics. The campus atmosphere was mostly secular. I was quickly faced with every conceivable objection to Christianity. I was most vulnerable, in light of my past history, to the charge that my faith grew out of my emotional trauma and psychological need for Jesus to be my “Father” and to give me hope in my despair and bitterness.

I wasn’t a Christian long until I had to face the question squarely: Was my conversion rooted in objective reality or was it merely an expression of my own subjective needs? I began to experience what Saint Augustine called, “Faith seeking understanding.” Thus I turned my attention to the study of philosophy as my major academic pursuit.

The study of the history of philosophy exposed me to virtually every serious alternative to Christianity the world has brought forth. I began to see the bankruptcy of secular world views. I found valuable insights in Spinoza, Kant, Sartre, and others. But no one seemed to have a consistent and coherent life and world view. The philosophers themselves were their own best critics. Hume critiqued Locke; Kant critiqued Hume; Hegel critiqued Kant, and so on it went. There emerged no “sure results” of speculative thought. The study of philosophy did provide very important tools for critical analysis which proved very helpful for my own pilgrimage. The more I studied philosophy the more intellectually credible and satisfying Christianity became.

After college came seminary. Naively I expected seminary to be a citadel of scholarly interpretation and defense of Christianity. Instead I found it to be a fortress of skepticism and unbelief. A negative posture toward classical Christianity prevailed which exposed me to a wide variety of contemporary critical theories that rejected orthodox Christianity. Thus seminary exposed me to a wide variety of scholarly criticisms of the Bible. This forced me to face the question of the trustworthiness of Scripture. Fortunately I was blessed with two crucial support systems. On the one hand I was well enough equipped with the tools of analytical philosophy to spot the philosophical assumptions that the negative critics were using. Through philosophical tools I was able, to some degree, to critique the critics. I was intellectually unimpressed by the weak philosophical assumptions of the “liberal” professors. On the other hand I was fortunate to study under one professor who did affirm classical Christianity. He was our toughest professor and most academically demanding. His “bear-trap” mind and singular ability for “close” and “tight” reasoning impressed me. He seemed to tower over the rest of the professors both in knowledge and analytical brilliance.

From seminary I went on to a doctoral program in Europe. It was a difficult and exhilarating experience. Almost al of my work had to be done in foreign languages which required a new kind of intellectual discipline for me. Studying under G. C. Berkouwer of the Free University of Amsterdam exposed me to all the latest theories of theology and biblical studies. The European system exposed me to the method of approaching theology and biblical studies as a technical science. Studying the primary sources in original languages such as Dutch, German and Latin gave new tools for scholarship.

From Europe I returned to America and began my teaching career. Teaching in both college and seminary I had an unusual pattern of teaching assignments. At one college I taught almost exclusively in the field of philosophy. In another college I was responsible to teach theology and biblical studies. My first seminary appointment had me teaching philosophical theology which combined both philosophy and theology. Oddly enough I was also asked to teach New Testament theology. In an age of specialization I was forced into being a “generalist,” working in several different but related fields.

The science of apologetics which offers intellectual defense of the credibility of Christianity finally became my point of “specialty.” That is usually what happens to generalists.

My training was not in a conservative “hothouse.” I have been through the gamut of liberal scholarship. I am a first-generation conservative—by conviction, not heritage or training.

The teaching arena has been the crucible of my thinking. The more I study and the more I teach and engage in dialogue with unbelievers and critics the more confident I have become in the rock-solid intellectual integrity and truth of Christianity. In fact, I am overwhelmed by the profundity, coherency, and intricate internal consistency of Christianity. I am awed by the majesty and brilliance, not to mention the power, of the Scriptures. Take away the Scriptures and you take away Christ. Take away the Christ and you take away life. My conviction is one with that of Luther: Spiritus Sanctus non scepticus: “The Holy Spirit is not a skeptic and the assertions He has given us are surer and more certain than sense and life itself.”

*This article was published in the Introduction to the book Reason To Believe (originally published in 1978 as Objections Answered) by R. C. Sproul, pp. 11-18.

Dr. R.C. Sproul is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education ministry located near Orlando, Florida. His teaching can be heard on the program Renewing Your Mind, which is broadcast on hundreds of radio outlets in the United States and in 40 countries worldwide. He is the executive editor of Tabletalk magazine and general editor of The Reformation Study Bible, and the author of more than seventy books (including some of my all time favorites: THE HOLINESS OF GOD; CHOSEN BY GOD; KNOWING SCRIPTURE; REASON TO BELIEVE; and PLEASING GOD) and scores of articles for national evangelical publications. Dr. Sproul also serves as president of Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and Reformation Bible College. He currently serves as senior minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew’s in Sanford, FL. (The picture to the left was taken approximately around the time of Sproul’s conversion as a College student).

 

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