It was my fourth…DUI. The officers cancelled my driver’s license on the spot and removed the license plates from my vehicle. I walked to a nearby motel and checked in. I was despondent beyond words. I could not believe what had just happened to me. It seemed I had no control over my urge to drink and would, without a thought, put myself and others at risk in the process of doing so. I could not stop even though I had been through treatment three or four times over the last 20 years.
I had grown up a Seventh-day Adventist. I knew the truth. I had an Adventist education and when I was in my late teens, I had surrendered my life to Christ and been baptized, but somehow through the years I had lost my hold on Jesus and drifted away. I had attempted to return to Him several times, but the devil always had a foothold in my life and sucked me back into his service. Now alcohol had become my “best friend” and master.
While sitting on the bed in the motel and looking at my hopeless and miserable life, I decided I had no reason to live. Death seemed like a welcome release from my pain. I overdosed on some of my medications hoping never to wake up and then made a noose with my belt and cinched it around my neck as hard as I could wondering how I could hang myself in the motel room. Needless to say, I eventually fell asleep and woke up the next morning. How I wished I hadn’t.
That morning I began pacing the room and wondering what to do. My mind was a buzz with dejected thoughts. I was filled with shame and guilt and misery and hopelessness. Finally, with nowhere to go and no one to turn to I half-heartedly asked God for help … not expecting an answer, given my life of sin in the face of knowing better.
Suddenly, somehow through my gloomy wretched thoughts, I heard the voice of God speaking to my heart. I knew it was Him. I had heard that voice before. He told me that He could and would help me, but I had to be willing to give up some things. What did He ask me to give up? Well, alcohol, of course, but also caffeine and nicotine. I also had to turn over my money to a trusted friend or relative along with my phone and the keys to my vehicle. I needed to move away from the town I was living in and move in with or by family that loved me and were faithful SDA’s.
Just a few moments after I heard God’s proposal, I went to my knees and emphatically and without reservation agreed to His requests and surrendered my life to Jesus. I held nothing back. Jesus was my only hope, and I knew it and I put my all on the altar.
This experience is described in Matthew 18:8, 9 where Jesus says, “Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.” I felt I was cutting off a hand and plucking out an eye, but I did so with the utmost determination. My present and future life depended on it.
In my surrender to Jesus, I began confessing my many sins and asking for His forgiveness. I had to have a new heart and a new life. “Therefore if any man (any man! including me!) be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things (All Things! all my “things” were as “filthy rags”) are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Here is another description of my experience found in Ezekiel 36:24–29, last part: “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be My people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses.”
To this day I can hardly believe the transformation that has taken place in my heart and life from that moment till now. I got up from my knees feeling I was a new man. My desire for drink and other chemicals left me. I had peace and hope and joy in my heart and felt a cleansing process had begun in my life. Jeremiah 4:14 says, “Wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved.” I continue that washing and cleansing daily now. I had a conversion, but I need that conversion experience daily yea, hour by hour. Now my greatest joy is Jesus and by the eye of faith I want to see Him standing over me as I drink in His word, discern His presence as I go about my day. I want His companionship more and more and to be like Him in every way. I still feel my sinfulness. I still bemoan the contrast of my life with the life of my Savior, but I am on His narrow way headed for a home in heaven.
“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). I am so happy I have a complete sin-pardoning Savior who can take away my sin. I don’t want to serve sin and the devil. I’ve done so long enough. Moses chose rather to “suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25) and I want to make that choice too. I am not interested in a gospel that does not take away my sin. I want complete victory, not a partial victory over my sins. “Ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin” (1 John 3:5). Oh how much I want to remain “in Him” and He in me.
How about you dear friend? Do you have a “sin which doth so easily beset” you (Hebrews 12:1)? Are your promises to “quit” like the proverbial “ropes of sand”? I’ve been there. I know what that is like. I have been in the miry pit with a sense of hopelessness crushing me. I stand with Paul feeling I am among the “chief” of sinners. But Paul says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). He saved me. He saved even me! He can do the same for you. You may feel like surrender is like cutting off an arm or plucking out an eye, but I tell you it is SO worth it! Heaven is cheap enough! Don’t delay. If you have not done so already, why not make that decision, the decision to place your all on the altar. Let Jesus take away your sin, all of your sin, and begin a new life with Him today! He loves you. He is waiting and longing to embrace you and cleanse and heal your heart and mind so you may “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
I am still leaving my money and phone and keys in the hands of someone I am with daily and trust. I can use them when I need to, of course, but I am with someone when I do. It may be that for me I will need this safeguard till Jesus comes. That is fine with me. These have been stumbling blocks to me. If I have Jesus, I am happy and content and need nothing more.
Timothy Rittenour is a retired ER Physician living in Minnesota. He is the father of five children, two of whom are missionaries in Africa.