Ours was a typical Amish family. When I was 16 years old I started what the Amish call, â€œRumschpringah.â€
Usually this consists of spending time with a group of your peers and being involved in their activities. My friends and I did many things against the church rules and against our parentsâ€™ wishes.
Later, I made a commitment to God and the church to give up my sinful life and to live within the ordinances of the church. It is a solemn occasion when young men and women join an instruction class mandatory for church membership. They are expected to conform to the rules of the church and to shun the ways of the world in dress and manner of life. Because of the turmoil and conflict involved in doing this, many think that when they are finally baptized, this means they are now born again.
After three months of instruction, everyone in our class was baptized. We were told that we were clean and new, ready for Heaven. I remember having expectations of being happy and sinless, of being filled with joy. All I felt was emptiness!
At an Amish wedding, I met Mary Delagrange. We later married. A few short years later found me the father of a growing line of boys. We looked for a midwife and found Barbara Hawley, a kind and gentle lady who liked to talk about spiritual matters, and about the Lord Jesus Christ. This made me uncomfortable for several reasons. I was afraid she would ask me what we believed, and why. I was not sure of either.
As I got to know the Hawley family better, I recognized they had something I did not possess â€“ peace with God. They would talk to me about Jesus, and how we needed to be saved. As Amish, we did not believe a person could know they were saved, we could only hope to make it into Heaven.
Barbara gave me a New Testament. Reading my new Bible was a real eyeÂ opener for me. A light bulb went on when I read Romans 9:31-33. It was easy to make the comparison between Israel and the Amish. It was made clear to me why I had no peace with God by keeping the church rules. My condemnation before a Holy God was made obvious. â€œFor the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lordâ€ (Romans 6:23). I knew, without a doubt, what my wages were – because of my sins, I would not be in Heaven, but I was going to be in Hell forever. However, the last part of the verse eluded me. I still thought that somehow, I had to pay God for my sins.
Those were dark, awful days, but I thank my God for them. He was bringing me to true repentance and to the provision of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Barbara asked me what I thought would get me to Heaven and I answered as I had always believed: that you have to confess all your sins or God will not let you into Heaven. This prompted her to ask me, â€œJohn, if you committed a sin and before you could ask forgiveness Christ came back, would you go to Hell?â€
I felt a peace with my Creator. I was saved. My simple trust in what Jesus had done changed my life forever.All those months of struggling, of pleading with God, of knowing I was condemned, and those Bible verses which told of righteousness through faith in Christ Jesus came back to me. Immediately I knew something had changed. Almost without thinking I said, â€œNo! I would go to Heaven!â€
I felt something different; something new that I had never experienced before. I felt a peace with my Creator. I was saved. My simple trust in what Jesus had done changed my life forever. I no longer felt condemned before God.
It was not long before I was telling others among the Amish that we couldÂ be sure of being in Heaven because it is not what we do, but what Jesus did for us.
Looking back, I marvel once again at Godâ€™s amazing grace and mercy. I was 37 years old when He reached down into my darkened world and set me free. The peace that I now have with God through my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is worth more to me than anything the world or any religion has to offer. To know that I shall be in Heaven because God â€œso loved the world that He gave His only begotten Sonâ€ (John 3:16) to die on the cross for sinful, undeserving mankind (me), still moves me to tears.
Make things right with your Creator now. Jesus said, â€œI am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Meâ€ (John 14:6). Trust Jesus for your salvation and you too, will be sure of spending eternity in Heaven.
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