John Jonelis

Lone Traveler

 

MY PERSONAL TESTIMONY  

 

I am blessed and cursed with an analytical frame of mind.  I was a serious child, and grew up believing in a critical God, a judgmental and angry God who demanded perfection—and I was afraid.  Even as a child, I took it for granted that I’d go to Hell. I prayed for some kind of pardon, but knew better than to expect any.  My behavior didn’t warrant it.  I’d make many deals with God, and then fail to keep them. 
 

As I reached adulthood, I found recourse in logic.  I rejected organized religion and built a spiritual structure that made sense to me.  I didn’t test my notions against history or Scripture.  For example, I decided that Hell didn’t exist.  Not that I really believed that, but the notion fit my model nicely and was a comforting thought.  Deep down, I knew it was a lie.  Given my spiritual views, I marched through life an angry man.  I was like a lone traveler at a major airport in a strange city—lost, late, unwilling to ask directions, headed down the wrong concourse and carrying a heavy bag. 
 

I’d been married for a number of years when my wife suddenly dragged me off to a church.  I went along to humor her.  One day, the pastor asked if I was going to Heaven.  How could I know a thing like that?  No way I’d get there on my own steam, no way I’d ever deserve it.  But he went on to explain that a person could know.  Then he talked of unconditional love.  I’d never conceived of such a thing.  He told me I could trust Christ, that all I had to do was accept God’s free gift—a gift of love—payment-in-full for all the things I’d ever done or ever would do. 
 

These ideas didn’t fit my spiritual model.  I rejected them immediately.  “If God was handing out free tickets to Heaven,” I reasoned, “Why bother to do right?  Where was the motivation to improve?” 
 

That pastor approached me most every Sunday.  He said that God loved me.  But that seemed unlikely to me.  He said that God accepted me when I was unacceptable.  That seemed impossible.  He said that Jesus went to the cross to personally pay for my sins.  That didn’t seem logical.  “After all,” I said, “If I were God, I wouldn’t do it that way.”  After about two years or so, that pastor finally gave up.
 

In 1995, looking around after church services, I’d notice other people that seemed at peace.  They weren’t angry, depressed, or afraid.  They came from all backgrounds, and many were clearly my intellectual superiors.  These people really knew where they were going.  Gradually it dawned on me that certain matters were beyond my understanding and many things didn’t fit my personal spiritual model.  I came to recognize that I might be wrong.  I became aware of a huge void in my life.  I felt like a stranger sitting at an airport.  The plane was boarding.  Somebody handed me a ticket, but I just sat at the gate—I wasn’t getting aboard. 

Why wasn’t I using that ticket? 

Ironically, I came to my conclusion in an analytical manner.  I accepted my inability to understand.  I embraced what I could not grasp.  I decided—and I did this on purpose—to take God on faith.  It was an unconditional surrender.  You might say that I stepped on board the plane.  When I prayed that day I knew for the first time in my life exactly where I was going.  I wrote my committment to Christ in my Bible and showed it to a friend.  Suddenly there was a commotion—excited people gathered around, all enthusiastic and happy. 
 

Over time I’ve discovered a wealth of logic in the Gospels.  Since this journey begins with faith, I’ll only give a brief illustration–  You don’t possess a gift until you accept it.  For years I refused it.  When I finally took it, I put it on a shelf.  Years passed before I unwrapped it, and inside was my ticket, paid in full—and on it the words, Acceptable before God. 

 

Am I perfect?  Ridiculous!  Does my Father love me?  Yes—no matter what.  What can be my response be but gratitude and love?  Does this motivate me to evil?  Of course not!  Do I want to do His will?  Naturally!  To feel otherwise would be absurd.

 

Yours in Christ,
John Jonelis

 

JOHN JONELIS – Saved in 1995

I BELIEVE WHAT I BELIEVE MAKES ME WHAT I AM”  – quote from Rich Mullins 

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