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I remember passing a big sign in front of a booth at the 1971 Bradley University Fair following registration for fall classes. It read: "One Way" and pictured a huge fist with the index finger pointing upward. A pretty blonde standing there called out, "Say, won't you stop a minute?" As we talked I learned that her name was Muriel and that she was a Campus Crusade for Christ staff member. Instead of taking my phone number, she gave me hers, and she asked me to call any time. I remember saying as I went on my way, "Wouldn't it be funny if I did?"
I said that kiddingly, because as a sophomore in college I was certain that I was a Christian and that I had been for years. After all, I went to church often and usually came home feeling uplifted after the reverend preached a good sermon. And good deeds? Why, I was as good as they come (according to me) and everybody liked me because I had such an outgoing personality. When my college friends started to smoke dope and drink, and my roommates lost their virginity, I became even more self-righteous and smug because I didn't indulge in any of those things.
The following spring, though, I got a much more accurate perspective on myself and what it meant to be a Christian. It all started when a close friend named Tom tried to be really secretive with me about something that was obviously bothering him. Three days later, when he'd finally come to the solution himself, he opened up with me. "I've decided to make the biggest decision of my life," Tom explained. "I've decided to become a Christian." Greatly relieved, I assured him, "That's great!" and began thinking to myself, "Now maybe he'll quit smoking cigarettes and stay away from those awful friends of his."
I was so caught up in how Tom (hopefully) would change that I didn't consider that my life needed changing, too. But then he handed me his paperback edition of The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey, and said, "Ever read this?" Tom hinted that it had something to do with his decision, and so I started reading it that night. The book grabbed me in a way that no other book had, and it explained prophecy and world situations in a way that made me feel concerned and aware. But the question that really leaped out at me was on page 186 (Tom even had it marked): "Have YOU personally received Jesus Christ as your Savior?"
I'm not sure what caused me to finally make a decision for Christ at that time. I just know that in the quiet of my dorm room, I asked Jesus to come into my heartjust as He has promisedto forgive my sins, and to fill me with His Holy Spirit.
With my exuberant, sanguine personality and the immediate sense of forgiveness and new life that I felt, my dorm room wasn't quiet for long. I raced to tell Tom the good news. Then I called Murielsomething I never thought I'd doand she quickly became my dearest friend and greatest help in growing in the Christian life.
Now I understand that all my going to church and doing good didn't make me any closer to heaven than a person who's never heard of God. In fact, I think that self-righteous people like me may have a harder time admitting that they are separated from God. My sins may not have been evident to the outside world, but I know now that the little inner jealousies, pettiness and animosity were seen by God. And in Christ He's forgiven them all!
Now that I'm assured of my salvation, I want to help others know how they can be sure, too. To do this, I'm asking God how He would have me use my training in writing and speaking to glorify Him.
Barbara Charles, 1976
The preceding testimony was printed in Worldwide Challenge magazine in March 1976.