I know the date, time, and place almost exactly.
Jan. 26, 1973, about 9 p.m., outside a room in a basement lecture hall at LSU in Baton Rouge.
I didn’t do the proverbial “ask Jesus into my heart as my personal savior.” It didn’t go quite that way. It was a silent prayer, but it went more like this: “I’m running into something here that I don’t understand, a standard that I can’t measure up to or even hope to measure up to. In comparison, everything I’ve known and wanted and desired is trash. I don’t know why you want me, but since you do, you’ve got me.”
I can’t explain this, but very quickly everything became brand new. I was not “madly in love with Jesus.” I had no mountain-top emotional experiences. But it was all brand new, and I was now seeing things with new eyes.
No one talked about worship wars, culture wars, politics, or the new building program. The church I started attending wasn’t a conventional church at all – it was a group of people who met on Sundays in a lecture hall in LSU’s law school.
I was introduced to a small Bible study group that met in a house off-campus on Saturday mornings. At my first meeting with them, the discussion was about the design of the tabernacle for the Hebrews during the 40 years in the wilderness.
I even went on what today would be called a short-term mission trip – a beach outreach during spring break at Destin, Florida. I remember having an hour-long conversation with a tourist from Germany.
I didn’t know it at the time, but those very early days of my new-found belief would shape my faith for the next 40 years – the way I thought about faith, the way I tried to live it, the way I understood it. It was never about institutions, denominations, or buildings. I encountered all of those things and more along the way, but I never confused them with the church or my faith.
Perhaps most significantly, I have never had doubts about Jesus, God, or my faith. I’ve had plenty of times, serious times, of asking “Why,” and not understanding, and getting angry. But I’ve never had a “crisis of faith,” although I know people who have. I’ve never gotten caught up in the evolution-versus-creationism debate.
In a very real sense, I have had the gift of faith. (If there is any of me in the main character of Michael Kent in my two novels, it is precisely this gift of faith.)
Last week, we followed David Platt as he jackhammered some of the concrete of American cultural Christianity. We’ve had some time to clear away the rubble and let the dust settle.
To the extent that it’s possible, in Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live, Platt has blasted away the “American cultural” part and is reaching to define what’s left – the “Christianity” part. He’s stripping away what we Americans understand about Jesus, and taking us to what looks like a very different place – the place where Jesus is.
What this is about, Platt says, is taking Jesus at his word. It’s not picking or choosing what we’re most comfortable with, but taking him at his word – his whole word.
And when we do that, we become part of a grand story. “So we go as disciples of Jesus who love his Word and trust his truth,” Platt says. “We got not simply as men and women who at some point decided to make Jesus our personal Lord and Savior, but ultimately as men and women who at every point are devoted to proclaiming Jesus as the universal Lord and Savior. We believe him as his disciples; therefore, we obey him and make disciples.”
That small group Bible study I joined right after finding faith? And that first study about the diagram of the tabernacle in the wilderness? What I remember most about it was the study leader showing how the lines intersected.
The lines took the form of a cross.
As soon as I saw it, I knew it was true. I knew it had always been true.
We’re discussing Follow Me over at The High Calling. Laura Boggess is leading the discussion, and various writers are posting each week. Today’s post is by Sheila LaGrand, and she’s covering chapters 4 and 5..
Here Come the Radicals. Christianity Today has something of a different take on David Platt, Francis Chan and other leading “radical” Christians.
David Platt Wants You to Get Serious about Following Christ. Christianity Today’s interview with Platt last month.
Last week’s discussion on the book at The High Calling.
Top photograph: the classroom in Lockett Hall, LSU, right outside of which I accepted my new faith in 1973.