BY PASTOR TONY REA | september 28, 2020
I Can (series)
Just recently, during a Sunday morning service at Community Christian Church (CCC), the church I’ve pastored for 28 years, I preached a sermon entitled, “End of Days.” This particular message included my personal testimony—the events surrounding my conversion and salvation. One of my blog readers, who also happened to hear my testimony for the first time, suggested I share it on my blog. I thought to myself, “Great idea. Why not?”
I began my 10-year police career with the DPD back in 1975 at the 13th Precinct—the Woodward and Hancock station. After being bumped around the city for a few months (that’s what happens when you’re a rookie—you do what you’re told) I landed on a uniformed patrol shift. I was assigned to a scout car working with a partner most everyone else refused to ride with, and the main reason this police officer wasn’t the most popular guy on the shift was because he was a “Holy Joe”—cop by day and preacher by night. This officer pastored his own church and was moonlighting on the weekends, preaching sermons, and getting people saved.
When I first started working with him, like most everyone else, it didn’t take me long to develop disdain for him because he just wouldn’t shut up about Jesus. It was “Jesus this” and “Jesus that.” He repeated a single statement so often I heard it in my sleep, “What the gun and badge can’t do, our Lord Jesus can!”
Keep in mind, at the time, I was not a believer. I was raised in a religious home, and I attended church on Sunday from the time I was a young boy, but I never knew what it meant to have a personal relationship with God. To me, religion was for Sundays only and just at church. I was not aware of the love or compassionate side of God, I generally thought God was there to punish me whenever I messed up—which was often.
I was arrogant, egotistical, and self-absorbed to put it mildly, and if you knew me back then, you would have undoubtedly concluded I was the kind of guy who would never get saved or become a Christian. I had a major bad attitude, a severe chip on my shoulder; and I’m embarrassed to admit, I gave this poor guy a really hard time. On several occasions I let him have it verbally, and I did not hold back on the bad language or F-bombs.
But God bless him; he refused to shy away or stop preaching the gospel message to me. The entire time we worked together, he had a little sermonette planned each day; and I have to give him credit, he did his homework. The downside (for me) was that I was forced to sit there in the car for eight hours a day and listen to him pontificate.
Well after completely tuning him out and refusing to engage him in any conversation about God or the Bible, he came to work one day and as soon as he got into the scout car, pulled out his little pocket-size New Testament. As we left the precinct lot, before we even had a chance to grab a cup of coffee or make our first radio run, he said to me, “Did you know the Bible tells us some people are not going to die? There are some people who will live and not experience a physical death.”
After he made that statement, even though I had promised myself I was not going to debate religion, I turned to him and said, “Now I know you’re crazy because if there’s one thing that is consistent in this world—it’s death. Everyone dies… period… no exceptions!”
That’s when he opened the Bible and read a passage from the New Testament book of I Corinthians 15:51, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed.”
I took the Bible from his hands and read the passage for myself. I must admit, it intrigued me. My partner flipped over to another passage in the Bible, 1 Thessalonians 4. He then started talking about the rapture of the church, something I had never heard about before; and believe it or not, he hooked me (like a fish).
Because of this police officer’s diligence, because he had the courage to push past my rudeness and rejection and continue to share the gospel message with me, the Lord gifted me with grace—grace to open my blind eyes and soften my hardened heart.
We continued to talk about these verses; and a few days later, my heart was wide open to the good news of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. The story of Jesus dying on the cross, the same story I had heard my whole life, became so much more than a tradition I rehearsed in church on Sunday. I embraced God’s forgiveness and was able to receive His unconditional love.
At that moment, I was spiritually transformed—something only God can do. After I said yes to Jesus and received the gift of salvation, my whole life was radically turned upside down. Within a relatively short period of time, I felt the call of God on my life and knew my police officer days were numbered. Nine years later, in the fall of 1984, I traded my badge for a Bible. I resigned from the Detroit Police Department and went into full-time ministry as a student pastor. Eight years after that, in February of 1992, my wife Terese and I planted CCC; and for the past 28 years we have been pointing people to Jesus.
What about you? Have you opened your heart to the gospel message of Jesus Christ? During these times of uncertainty and conflict, do you find yourself pondering life's purpose and meaning? Maybe even a little more conscious of spiritual matters than normal? Could it be that the Lord is attempting to get your attention just like He did for me 45 years ago?
If God is reaching out to you (and I’m confident He is), I encourage you to take a risk and make a move toward Him. Today is the perfect day to surrender your life to God… Just say this little prayer from your heart:
Dear God, I’m sorry for the times I rejected you. I repent of my sins and ask for Your forgiveness. I believe Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world (for my sins too), and after three days He was raised to life again. I turn from living life my own way and invite You to come into my heart. I want to trust and follow You as my Savior and Lord. Amen.
If you repeated that little prayer for the first time or have any questions about salvation, email me back. I’d love to talk with you about it.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.