A. THE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST
It happened some time before midnight on a Sunday in January 1970. At that time we were living in a caravan on my uncle and aunt’s smallholding just outside Pretoria. During the afternoon, Martie and I had been visiting my parents in Roodepoort. We returned home before sunset, had supper and went to bed at about 10 pm. I just could not fall asleep. After a while I turned onto my knees, bowed with my head onto the pillow and started praying. As I came into the presence of God, I felt the Holy Spirit speaking within me, saying: “Ben, tonight is your very last opportunity to give your life to Me. If you fail to do so, you will have no further opportunity to put things right with Me.”
I cannot say that this came to me as a total surprise, for God had been working in my life for quite some time. For many months I had been aware of the fact that He was preparing me for this moment. I sort of knew that this was forthcoming. All through that time, I sensed that the moment would come that I would meet with God in a very definite way, but I also sensed that the time was not yet ripe to do so; that He was doing things within me to prepare me for this great moment.
During that period, I had endured a most terrible unhappiness within me, almost despondency. I would look around me and see the birds darting about, chirping, and calling out to one another. I had thought of them as “God’s happy creatures” for they seemed to enjoy life so much but, as for me, there was no joy in my life at all. I had a good job. I had recently been promoted over the heads of many of my colleagues. Both Martie and I were earning good salaries. I had married her not long before that but had very little joy in my marriage. It was not that we were in any way at loggerheads with one another; it was just that I had this terrible heaviness within my spirit. I blamed God for it; I said to Him: “Lord look at the birds and see how happy they are. We as human beings are supposed to be the crown of your creation, your kings and queens on this earth, but oh God, why, why am I so terribly unhappy”?
Furthermore, I had been engaged in all kinds of sin. My friends and I often got drunk. After such frolicking I would wake up the next morning, hating myself for what I had done and also fearing the effect it could have on my career, for I was a magistrate in the Department of Justice, and living such a life was not good for my image at all. Then also, the way I was living was upsetting Martie. After such parties she would speak to me the next morning, reprimanding me for getting drunk and for misbehaving. This made me angry and I would tell her to shut up for I was well able to control myself and would not let it happen again. But lo and behold, after two, three weeks, I would be into the same thing again.
I hated myself for behaving in this way; for telling dirty jokes; for living such a frivolous life. As I said, I was doing very well in my career, but I was not thinking well of myself. My self-esteem was very low and deep within there was a growing hunger for something better in life. Although I could not quite put it into words, there was this burning desire to sort of go up into the sky above and bow down at the feet of God. I desperately wanted to know Him. I longed to walk with Him, to trot at His heels like a little dog following his master, not really caring where this would lead, just wanting to be with Him.
Then also I had this tremendous desire to break with everything that was wrong in my life. I once saw a lizard that got into trouble and in the process lost its tail, yet it ran on seemingly not having been much affected by the loss. I had this picture in my mind. I often prayed along these lines. I might not have used these exact words, but had these thoughts in my mind, thoughts such as: “Oh God, I so wish I could part with these things in my life in the same way as the lizard lost its tail. I wish I could just get rid of that part of my life; just leave it behind; just part with it and be rid of it.”
Another issue that caused me to try and come into a right relationship with God, was that Martie and I had decided that the time had come for us to have a child, which meant that I would be taking on myself the responsibility of fatherhood. This I took very seriously. The thought that was churning around and around in my mind continuously was this: “How can you lead a child, a son, your son that you will be loving intensely, to heaven, when you yourself are on your way to hell? Just think of the terrible blame you will be saddled with for all eternity for leading bone of your bone, flesh of your flesh, a human being for whose life you have been instrumental, up the wrong track. Apart from suffering for your personal sin for all eternity, you would, in addition, be seeing him in that indescribable misery forever and ever, knowing: ‘That is of my doing’.” These were the thoughts that had been going through my mind for a long, long time and I believe that they were prompted by the Holy Spirit.
It was He that was preparing me for this very night, for this hour, for this moment. I was 29 years old and without my realising it, He had been busy in my life during all those years, wisely leading me step by step to this point of decision. Many a night, even when I got home drunk, I would read my Bible and pray before going to bed, because that was the way I was brought up. As a matter of fact, I believe that I had read right through the Bible by that time. Much of the Scripture was embedded in my mind. What was God’s reaction to this drunken young man’s handling of His Word and praying to Him with a breath reeking of smoke and alcohol? Did He turn His face away from me in disgust, or did He perhaps just smile, winking at the angels, saying: “Never mind, his day is coming.”
During the preceding months I had also been reading Christian books which I probably borrowed from my parents, for both of them knew the Lord. My mother, in fact, was a devout Christian. One of the books I read, was written by R.A. Torrey, titled: “The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit.” One of the chapters dealt with the new birth, showing conclusively from God’s Word that a person had to be born again to become a child of God. I knew very well that in spite of all my religiosity, I had never been born again. I knew that I was not a child of God; that there was a great distance between me and God, that I had no relationship with Him and that if I died at that moment, my spirit would not have ascended to heaven to be with Him, but would have been lost in hell forever.
So this was the state in which I was at that moment that the Holy Spirit spoke to me. My heart had been so well-prepared that I did not hesitate to reply, even for a moment. I was happy that my opportunity for meeting with the King of Kings had arrived and so I just yielded to Him. I did not pray the sinner’s prayer as I later saw it being done during church meetings. I just sort of said: “Okay God, it’s okay with me”. Very few words passed. It was just a definite, wholehearted, happy yielding of myself; a giving of myself to Him as a child flings himself into the outstretched arms of his father without words but, by that action, saying all that needs to be said.
Have you ever thought about this? Have you ever thought about how Abraham, Enoch and David came to God? Did they pray the sinner’s prayer? Definitely not. There might have been some admission of guilt. What was going through their minds at that moment might not so much have focused on sin, but might have been something more like the following: “Oh God, I believe that You are there. You are there for me. You are the Creator. You created me. You want me and here I am. I give myself to You”. The spirit of man often speaks more clearly to the Spirit of God by its attitude, than by its words. That is why even unlearned, simple people can meet with the Almighty One, by just humbly falling into His arms. That is what I did that night: just joyfully, positively, sincerely, rendering myself to Him; believing as a small child does, that He would accept me and that He actually loved to do so. I just took it for granted that He actually wanted to have me as his own, unconditionally.
The next moment I thought of my drinking and the parties I often had with my friends and I smiled and even laughed softly and said to the Lord: “I am a man of this world and I often party. I am the leader of the partying groups, as You very well know and, Lord, I would like to see how You are going to get me out of that. I’ve been living that life for a long time and I have doubts whether You are going to be able to lift me out of that and deliver me from it altogether. Lord I know You are God, but God You are not going to find it an easy thing to do”. You may say that that was a very disrespectful way of speaking to God, that I should have confessed it as a terrible sin. You may say that it was just God’s grace that He did not strike me by lightning, but let me tell you this: God saw the desire of my heart. He knew very well that I wanted to be delivered and that my amusement with the whole situation did not speak of irreverence but that it was rather like the story of the father that brought his child to the Lord Jesus saying: “Lord I believe that you can do it; please strengthen my faith.”
Now, that was about all that transpired between me and God that night. Within a minute or two, it was all over; the transaction had been done, the deal clinched. I was His and He was mine and may I say that at this present moment, which is 44 years later, nothing, nothing has changed: I still am His and He still is mine. I had neither a great sensation nor any sense of joy; no great revelation; I did not see an angel or whatever. There was just this brief exchange between me and the everlasting God, the eternal Father and then I stretched myself out on the bed and went to sleep.
However, when I woke up the next morning, opened the curtains of the caravan and looked through the window, while I was still sitting in bed, something was just totally different. I could not put it into words, but as I looked through that window, the whole world out there seemed to have totally changed. There was brilliance on everything. It was as if a light had been switched on. It was as if previously everything had been in semi-darkness as when you look at a landscape at night when the stars and the moon are shining and there is some light on it and you see vague outlines and something of the landscape. Then you close your eyes and when you open them up again, the sun has come up and suddenly the same things just look completely different. That is how it was with me. Suddenly there was brilliance in the world around me and at the same moment I realised that something had changed within me, something I could not put over into words. It was too great. It was something I had never experienced before. It was a spiritual thing which somehow could not be spoken of by using the words known to mankind. I knew for certain that I was a new creature, a new type of person. I knew I had changed forever. I knew that before I was like a worm, crawling around on a twig, then going into a cocoon and emerging with wings, spreading them out, leaving the twig and flying off into the blue skies above. I was the same person, yet also totally different just as the butterfly is totally different from the worm that it had been before. I just knew that I would, by virtue of this transformation that had taken place within me, forthwith live totally differently than before, not only because it was God’s will for me to do so, but because it was the way this new nature of mine wanted to live. The butterfly does not fly because it must, but because it wants to. It enjoys its newfound liberty. It enjoys using its wings and just sets off discovering new worlds and continents. The Lord had set me free from 29 years of slavery and I was eager to explore this new found liberty.
You may very well ask me whether I ever sinned again, whether I ever seared my wings, compromised my liberty in the Spirit? I will reply to that question at a later stage, but as for now, I just want to relish again that glorious moment in time when I entered the Kingdom of God and personally met the King.
WALKING ACCORDING TO THE TRUTH, SETS YOU FREE TO ENJOY LIFE
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