Religion Couldn’t Save Me
It’s not what you do but who you are — in Christ.
by Hart Smith as told to Muriel Larson
Lightning struck a tree outside the house as a dying Korean told me about Jesus Christ. Fear struck my heart: Where would I go if I died?
Even though I was a baptized Protestant and baptized Mormon priest, I felt black with the tar of sin that had filled my life: lust, a broken marriage, drug abuse, drinking, partying, brutality. All my religiosity couldn’t erase the fact from my mind that I was nothing but a dirty sinner who deserved hell.
As a young married man, I had worked as a policeman in a ghetto-type neighborhood, and I was just as tough as my customers. Later I passed the state real estate exam and became successful in that field.
“We ought to start taking the children to church,” my wife suggested when our second child was three. I agreed, and we began attending a nearby church. We joined and were baptized.
I tried to give up smoking, cussing, running around, lying, and entertaining evil thoughts. But since I wasn’t really a Christian, I couldn’t do it. After several months, I quit going to church.
I started my own real estate business and, before long, had fifteen salesmen and was prospering financially. I also stayed with the police force because I loved the excitement in the work: speeding down the road at a hundred miles an hour chasing a suspect, engaging in shoot-outs, investigating crimes. Working day and night, I took pills to stay awake.
“Honey, why don’t you take a day off to go someplace with us?” my wife pled.
“We can do that when I get older,” I answered.
What a fool I was! Besides neglecting my family, I committed all the sins a man could against his wife. Finally she divorced me, and I lost contact with my three children.
Remorse and remarriage
Remorse filled me. As I drank and partied more, my business began failing. One year later, I went bankrupt.
When I remarried, my new wife suggested we move to her hometown, where I got a job as a salesman. Joan talked me into going to see her pastor there. When I talked to him, I told him of my religious experiences. “But I think I am still lost in my sins,” I confessed.
“I believe you’re a Christian,” he said. At his suggestion I joined the church the following Sunday and became active in it. But the church seemed more like a social club to me. Something was still missing in my life.
The people who took care of our children while we worked seemed like good, moral people. “They don’t even smoke or drink,” I remarked to Joan. When we asked them about their religion, they gave us a book about Mormonism. Mormon missionaries began visiting us regularly. After we were baptized and became Latter Day Saints of Jesus Christ, I eventually became one of their priests.
But their songs and teachings didn’t sound right to me, and I continued drinking and smoking on the sly. Bored, miserable, and disgusted with religion, I decided to have nothing to do with it anymore.
Eventually we moved to another city. Two years later an acquaintance invited us to her church, where we heard a Korean man tell how Christ had saved him. I was impressed.
One day someone from that church called Joan on the phone and talked to her about Jesus Christ and salvation. When she hung up, she asked Jesus to forgive her of her sins.
After that, Joan quit smoking and started attending all the meetings at the church; she stopped losing her temper and cursing. She even brought home tapes for me to listen to. As I observed the changes in my wife, I felt convicted by her example.
I’m too great a sinner to be saved! I told myself. But when our Sunday school teacher told how Christ had changed his life, I decided maybe there was hope for me.
Burden of sin
Three months after we joined that church, the Korean man came back to speak again. He had cancer and was now down to about 85 pounds. I was amazed to hear him praise God for everything.
The burden of my sins became insupportably heavy, so one day I called my Bible class teacher. He invited me to his home. When I arrived, I saw that the Korean man was there. He began talking to me about the Lord at noon and continued until 3:30. Then the lightning struck the tree outside!
Quieting the storm
A few minutes later I bowed my head, repented of my sins, and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. I clearly saw that I was the sinner for whom He had shed His blood.
When I raised my head, everything looked as if it had a radiance about it — like halos! The terrible storm outside had ceased, and so had the raging storm in my heart. It was beautiful! What a burden of sin had been lifted!
I went home and told my wife, “Honey, I’ve just been saved!” She cried for joy and hugged me tight.
God changed my life that day. He took away my desire for the things that had enslaved me. In its place He gave me a hunger for the Bible and a genuine love for people I’d never had. Later I had another experience at a Christian retreat that gave me full assurance of my salvation.
Since then I have ardently served Jesus. I’ve found that the thrills the world offers cannot compare with the excitement of knowing my Lord Jesus Christ and living for Him!