NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, April 9th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
WORLD founder Joel Belz now with the story of how he became a believer in Jesus.
JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: “Don’t you think,” a long-time friend asked me recently, “that your WORLD readers would be interested in having you tell them how you first became a believer?”
My friend’s suggestion reminded me of a Saturday night some 70 years ago. I was just 10 years old (or so), when Dad loaded half a dozen of the kids from our church into our ’48 Ford to go to a Youth for Christ rally. The speaker was a convicted—but then converted—bank embezzler. On the ride home, Dad told us how glad he was that we could all hear this man’s story about God’s power to straighten out a crooked life. But Dad also hoped none of us would think we had to do something as bad as robbing a bank before we would think we had a story about God’s mercy good enough to share with others.
Dad told us that night, and many other times as well, that everything we did that was wrong—even the little stuff—needed to be confessed to God. At first, that scared me. It reminded me of the toy I had stolen from my best friend Wendell. It made me think of the lie I had told my teacher about my homework. I thought of the smart-aleck insult I had directed at my mother just the week before. How could I possibly remember all the wrong things I had done?
“But if you confess your sins,” Dad told us, “God will forgive your sins.”
I was blessed, beyond measure, to grow up in a home where such a worldview was persistently, consistently, and attractively taught. So God’s plan of salvation made sense to me, even as a youngster. But God’s goodness to me went even further. He put me also in a tiny church and in a tiny school where the things I was being taught at home were reinforced and fortified.
That integration didn’t come through some artificial curriculum, but through the powerful impact of three truth-telling agents.
The first was the Bible itself. Daily reading and Bible classes were assumed. We took notes on the sermons we heard. And we memorized Scripture—so that all these years later, 20 or more entire Psalms are still stashed away in my increasingly Parkinsons-wobbly memory.
The second potent influences were the historic confessions of the church. Weekly memorization of the Westminster Shorter Catechism gave me an organized cabinet for stashing away the Biblical truth I was also learning.
The third truth-enforcer is a late-in-life surprise. It is my trusty hymnbook, which my wife Carol Esther and I keep right next to our kitchen table. Here you will sing the glories of God’s creation, confess the terror of mankind’s fall, begin to explore the redemption of his people, trace the wandering of God’s fickle sojourners, remind yourself of the marvel of Jesus’s incarnation, his death, and his resurrection. And because you’re singing and not merely reciting it, you’re memorizing long stretches of unforgettably basic biblical truth. There’s no better teaching tool.
So that’s how I became a believer in Jesus. Just as it is for every sinner, mine is a story of what God has done for me—not what I have done for him.
I’m Joel Belz.