Day 17-Daniel Petterson: Personal Testimony
“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost. (John 19:30, KJV)
It was a Saturday night, May 16, 1987. It was about 9:45pm, and I was lying on the top of the bunk bed I shared with my brother. With my hands resting behind my head and with a goofy grin on my face, I looked at the ceiling with this understanding—I am saved! My life and my eternity would never be the same.
It took me 11 years to get there, years filled with God’s patience because I had rejected His salvation all those years. From the time I can remember I was taken to church. I sat there listening to men preach, telling me I needed God’s salvation. I was told, from the Bible, about my sin, Hell, Heaven, Jesus, and the cross. My parents, siblings, and other relatives told me about it as well. I knew I had a great problem, and I was given the solution, but I did nothing about it.
If anything, the idea of salvation made me jealous. When I was five, my brother David trusted in Jesus and was saved. When I saw how much attention and happiness this brought, I “got saved” pretty much every week, trying to get attention. When I was seven, I took it a step further and told everyone I was a Christian. I had heard enough stories of salvation to make it sound real, so I rolled with it. I told that story for years, and for the most part, people believed it. I was a hyperactive, shenanigan-prone kid, but it’s not like I was peddling heroin in back alleys. Most people thought, Sure, I believe him. But not everyone did.
My grandfather didn’t believe me, and he was an evangelist! I sat with him during one of his visits from Maryland, and he asked me to tell him how I was saved. As I went over the story again, he simply shook his head and, in his Scottish accent, stopped me cold: “No, Daniel. You’re going down to the pit.” In other words, I’m not fooled, and you’re still on your way to Hell. It made me mad—how dare he! But of course he was right.
I was probably nine or ten when that happened, and I let it pass. But what I couldn’t let pass was the anxious feeling of dread that hung over me. Everyone else in my house was a Christian. And even if everybody else but my grandfather thought I was saved, I knew I wasn’t. I was haunted by it, often thinking, “What happens if Jesus returns and I’m left behind?” You know—the Rapture. At any moment, Jesus could return, and I was terrified to be left alone. I calmed myself by coming up with a stupid plan. If He returned and I was left alone, I would go to my grandmother’s house (who, sadly, wasn’t a believer). I figured she would take care of me. I’m sure she would have, but what good would that have done? There was still the matter of eternal punishment that awaited! But it got my mind off of it—until the news came that she was moving back to Pennsylvania. Just great! Now what would I do?
I was stuck—until May 16, 1987. I was sitting in bed, thinking about the fact that we had exactly one month until the last day of school. But as I listened to my dad and brother playing ping-pong in the other room, thoughts began bouncing around in my mind, just like that ball, thoughts of the return of the Lord Jesus. I decided that night that I was going to get this settled. Instead of being worried about it, why not take care of it? So I quoted all the verses I thought I should quote as I tried to be saved. I thought about famous verses—John 3:16, Acts 16:31, John 3:36, Romans 6:23, and so on. Isn’t this what I was supposed to do?
Nothing was working as I had planned, and I clearly remember saying out loud in my 11-year-old childish voice, “Oh God, I don’t want to be in Hell!” Just in that moment, I remembered a verse I had heard probably a hundred times—John 19:30. Still talking out loud, I said, “Wait a minute! I don’t have to!” I understood what Jesus meant when He said, “It is finished.” While I had been trying to do something to get salvation, Jesus had already finished everything. Jesus died for my sins and paid my debt. It’s all I needed then—and it’s all I need now. I would never be in Hell, but would forever be in Heaven. And that’s why I lay back on my pillow with that goofy grin. A flood of joy and relief washed over me—I was saved!
I am simply trusting Jesus to tell the truth. He said those words, “It is finished,” just before He died. I believe Him and trust Him; He knows better than I do! He knew what was needed to satisfy God as payment for my sins. So, if it was good enough for Him and for His Father, it was good enough for me. Is it good enough for you? Whether you believe it or not, it is. He can give you salvation—a free gift—if you believe those precious words and trust in the finished work of Jesus at Calvary.