That evening I was to attend the Holiness Youth Crusade rally at the Detroit Institute of Arts auditorium.
At the youth rally representatives of many participating churches were to take part in a Bible Quiz to determine the winner from all the churches. Participants had won the local quiz event for the local church youth group.
I had barely begun attending Thoburn Methodist Church in Detroit. I had been invited by a good neighbor who lived kitty-corner across the street to attend the Methodist Youth Fellowship. The church was only two blocks away.
I had begun reading the New Testament in earnest in August of 1953. Upon winning the quiz at the MYF meeting at Thoburn, I had two weeks to study the New Testament even more before the Holiness Youth Crusade rally.
I read my pocket New Testament with even more attention. On Saturday morning, November 7, 1953, I was delivering papers for my Detroit Shopping News route. I was thinking about what I had read in the New Testament. I realized I was a sinner. I realized I needed to receive Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. While stopping to fold the next paper for delivery on Lumpkin Street under a little oak tree, I realized that though I had gone to Sunday school since my parents could carry me there as an infant, I had never really understood salvation. But on November 7, 1953, I did come to understand that I was unsaved, and I prayed for forgiveness, and for Christ to enter my heart and life. He has been there with me ever since.
I was not in church when I accepted Christ. I was out delivering papers. But I remember whistling the tune to a Gospel song I had sung in Sunday school, “Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me, not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.”
I did not win the final contest that evening. But that morning I received something far greater than the Bulova watch grand prize. I received eternal life and a permanent personal relationship with my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I have continued to read and study the Bible these now 59 years since that day. I encourage every reader to get out that Bible or New Testament and read it daily if you can. Most people ought to be able to squeeze at least twenty minutes a day to read the Bible for themselves. It will change your life if you do.
You cannot grow spiritually without regularly reading and studying the Bible for itself by yourself for yourself.
I learned just a day or two ago that today, November 7, is Reverend Billy Graham’s birthday. I think it is his 94th birthday. I attended the Billy Graham Crusade in October, 1953, with the Methodist Youth Fellowship in Detroit. I did not even realize then that I had not received Christ. But less than a month later I received Christ.
Times were different and from a spiritual standpoint far better in 1953 than they seem to be now. There was a strong emphasis back then on Bible study. Churches reached out to the surrounding community to win souls to Christ. People carried their own Bible to church. People talked about spiritual things after church. Pastors taught the Bible from the pulpit. Some pastors did what was known as expository preaching. I remember sitting under the Bible teaching ministry of Dr. Lehman Strauss. He preached through a number of Bible books while he was the pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church. There were well-stocked independent Bible bookstores. They were not filled with spiritual pablum, but with solid works of Bible study and Bible study tools.
The culture has changed since then. But no matter how much change we see for the worse, it surely is not as bad as the culture faced by the first Christians depicted in the book of Acts. Without modern media, radio and television, or the Internet, the disciples then “turned the world upside down.” They did not have electricity or automobiles. They did have and make use of the Roman roads to travel about the Roman empire with the message of the Gospel. If they could do that without the benefit of the printing press, and they did, they surely put us to shame.
If we want to see a positive change in our culture and community, we must pray, and get the Gospel message to the lost around us. It does not take church hierarchy to do it. It takes obedience to the commands of Christ to preach the Gospel to every creature.
I suspect we need less preaching and far more teaching. We need for believers today to be well-taught in the Bible so they can resist the snare of false doctrine promulgated by false cults claiming to teach a more enlightened understanding of the Bible. Every now and again I hear the plea on Christian radio for Christian unity, for the elimination of divisiveness, and on the part of some, the appeal to drop all discussion of Bible doctrine. It is Bible doctrine, accurately studied out of the Bible itself, that is the real need today. We need changed lives that attract people to the Gospel. The people in the pew are the ones responsible to get the Gospel message out to the unsaved. Too many Christians act and live out of the misguided notion that witnessing to the unsaved and winning them to Christ is the task of the paid professionals in the Church. God wants all His blood-bought children to be available to help reach others with whom they are in contact with the Gospel.
If you make a daily habit of reading God’s Word, you will find it easy and almost automatic to be able to share your faith in Christ with others when they ask you about the reason of the hope they see you have in Christ.