MY FIRST 33 YEARS AS A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST
From: Pastor Jim Mazzulla

Does this sound foreign to you? God wants you to know Him in this same personal way!

This year means a lot to me - 33 years. Just think, this was how long Jesus had on earth - 33 years from birth to Resurrection. Then He was finished! WOW! I feel like I've just begun!

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." II Cor. 5:17

Here's my salvation story:

BEFORE I became a Christian I was brought up in a Strong Catholic family. We went to church every week, on Saturday. I think we went on Saturdays to get it over with for the weekend. I was always bored, but it was all I knew of church. You could say that I was brought up in a very religious home, yet did not KNOW or LOVE Jesus.

Growing up as a child I was small, and because of that I was in a lot of fights (to this day I specifically remember fights in first and fourth grade). I also remember the terrible experience of my fifth grade teacher embarrassing me in front of EVERYONE because of my small, scrawny size.

It seemed overall I hated life more and more as the years went on.

I never really remember being happy as a child.

Then I hit my teens, and by age 15 (freshman in High School), I got drunk for the first time and was introduced to pot. I quickly became mentally addicted to alcohol and marijuana. By this time I was very suicidal (I was actually suicidal for years), and I had visually picked out the building where I planned to jump and end my miserable life.

I had come to hate most people.

Meanwhile, in this same time period, I ran away, hitchhiking from CT to NY, and was picked up by a college student. She said, "God told me ..." What! God told you?? I thought.

Long story short, the LORD intervened and my parents came to New York and picked me up. Then because of being reported to the police as missing, I was required to get school counseling. Soon the school counselor recommended I see an outside counselor. The outside counselor was used of the devil to help me want to die more than ever before ... That was the last time my mom made me go to that counselor.

With all this happening, my mom was emotional distraught to the point that it was noticeable to a cashier at the grocery store. When asked by the cashier about what was causing her distress, my Mom said to the cashier (a Christian), "It's my middle child - I can't take it anymore." She was almost to the point of tears in the grocery store. The cashier assured my mom that she would pray for her middle child (me) and she did!

About two weeks after the grocery store incident with the lady and my mom, my life was to be changed forever.

In June of 1975, my agnostic brother, Bill, somehow ended up at a prayer meeting at a Catholic church. He actually liked it, and the next week (on Saturday) my unsaved parents wanted me to go to this prayer meeting with my brother. They figured it seemed like a good experience for Bill, so maybe it would do me some good as well. I didn't think it would, but it turned out to be a life-changing encounter with God.

I went reluctantly to this Catholic prayer meeting on Main Street in Danbury, CT. The prayer meeting met in the school gymnasium, sitting in a large circle on folding metal chairs. There was this bunch of "Jesus Freaks" singing, clapping, jumping, shouting. Personally, my thoughts were they were all nuts and I didn't want to be there. I sat in a metal chair watching these people with my arms crossed, knowing this was not for me. THEN, it happened, the Holy Spirit came down upon me and God met me there with the abundance of His LOVE. I KNEW for the first time in my life that the God I had cursed and hated all my life, LOVED ME ("... we love Him because He first loved us" - 1 John 4:19).

I accepted Christ as my LORD and SAVIOR in that chair without anyone sharing Christ with me. My life was changed and I believe I was BORN AGAIN (John 3:3) that day on June 21, 1975. This amazing love that I knew was God was irresistible to me, and I couldn't help but CRY and SMILE.

Although not all people have the same level of intensity when they get saved (and intensity means little in that respect), when I got saved the grass really did seem greener and the sky bluer. Though previously I had wanted to die, I now had a reason to live!

(Read Isa. 38:17; John 3:16; Rom. 2:4; Rom. 5:8; 1 John 4:10; 1 John 4:19)

My life has so changed since getting saved that the once hateful Jim of man and God, no longer hated, but loved (Romans 5:5). The depressed and suicidal person I was, now wanted to live. For the first time in my life I had a reason to live! Also, the depression was much less than it used to be. Praise God my life now experienced peace and joy in a way beyond my comprehension (Phil. 4:7).

At first I really didn't understand exactly ALL that had theologically happen to me. I didn't even know the phrase "Born Again." What I did know was that I was going to live the rest of my life for Jesus.

Soon I realized that at this prayer meeting I wasn't learning anything, and after repeated returns to Catholic prayer meeting, the LORD led me to other Christians and before long I was in a Biblical Bible Study and was learning the Bible. During this time same time period my older brothers also got saved. PTL!

Our lives (my brothers and mine) were so obviously and dramatically changed, resulting in others in my family getting saved. First, my mom (who was a seeker ALL her life); followed by my aunt, dad, uncle, grandparents, cousins, and more uncles and aunts, and then some friends.

As a new Christian in 1975, I asked my parents to take me out of public high school and put me in a Catholic school, thinking that it would be the place for me. But in just one month, I felt that I really wanted to be back in public school with all my unsaved friends who were into drugs, alcohol, etc. I wanted no part of that lifestyle, but I just knew that was where I belonged. Because this was where God wanted me, my unsaved friends at public school never did pull me down into sin. If that were to have pulled me back down into sin, I believe God would have kept me out of that environment. I still spent some time with them, except when they did the drugs, alcohol, etc.; but most of my spare time was spent reading my Bible and praying.

By age 16, after reading "The Cross and the Swithblade" by David Wilkerson, I knew God was calling me to the ministry.

I would like to say that I lived happily ever after, but that wouldn't be totally true. I can't say my life has been trial free, free from disappointments or depression, but I can say my whole outlook on life has changed. I have purpose now - TO LIVE FOR JESUS CHRIST!

The bottom line is NO MATTER HOW ROUGH it gets at times, we should remember the words from John 6:68 that say: "But Simon Peter answered Him," "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." And in Psalm 84:10 - "For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness."

Remember your worst day in Christ is better than your best day as an unbeliever.

I cannot imagine life without Jesus Christ.

He gives meaning to my life ALL DAY, EVERYDAY. I know He is there with me, and I can fellowship with Him (God). How totally awesome! I love HIM, I serve HIM, and I TRUST Him with my life.

Everyday is an exciting new day to fellowship with the LORD and to see him use ME - to touch the lives of others WOW! Everywhere I go, I now know the Holy Spirit wants to use me to share Christ with others in word and by my actions (Psa. 37:23). I live everyday for JESUS and am so thankful for His undeserved love, and for His changing my life, not just with a one-time experience, but a DAILY walk with Him. What a great life I have with Christ living in me and His presence being with me everyday! I am a NEW CREATION (II Cor. 5:17) AMEN! AMEN!

I would like to close with a few things I've learned during my first 33 years as a Christian:

1. Live humbly before God.

2. Keep in mind that I don't know very much and thank God for what I do know.

3. Live today for Christ as if it is your LAST day! I've seen it become the last day for many people over the last 33 years.

4. Study and follow the Word of God and not experiences that may contradict the Bible. (II Timothy 2:15)

5. We can believe that in every circumstance, good or bad (and both will happen), God will ultimately prove to be in control of the situation! (Romans 8:28)

6. Respect godly leadership, but NEVER follow a man!

7. The importance of being part of a local body of believers. (Hebrews 10:25)

8. Be quick to forgive and quick to repent.

9. Do everything on God's timetable. Don't rush ahead of God, don't hesitate when He says GO.

10. Put Jesus first, others second, and yourself last, and THEN you will truly experience the J.O.Y. of the LORD. (J.O.Y. is an acronym for Jesus, Others, Yourself)

By accepting that you are a sinner in need of a savior, accepting the work of Christ dying in your place on the Cross, and repenting of your sins and turning your life over to Him, you can be saved!!!

I hope you will do that today - Don't delay - Now is the time to say Yes to the Lord Jesus Christ.

To hear Jim live click here, Ferd@2jesus:
http://sermon.net/c/biblefood/audio/99309_13400.mp3