He was riding on a bus. He had traveled to New York City to apply for admission to Columbia and was on his way home to Springfield, Massachusetts. He was twenty-one years old, and he had never heard the gospel—not even once.
In the kind and gracious plan of God, he found himself riding home with two young men from his own neighborhood, Ernie and Paul Lucia. They were the only young people he knew who attended church but didn’t go to a Catholic church.
When they inquired, he explained that he planned to attend Columbia and become a radio announcer.
“You ought to go to our college! We go to Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. We have a radio program; in fact, we have our own radio station.”
While he had never heard of Bob Jones University, the Lucia brothers impressed him. Their spirit, their speech, and their appearance all attracted his interest.
In January of 1949 he boarded another bus. He was totally unprepared for the life of a Christian university—he had to borrow a suit coat to wear to the opening revival service.
That night the fiery evangelist and founder of the university, Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., preached the gospel. When he heard it—for the very first time in his twenty-one years of life—the young man said, “That sounds like a good deal to me!”
He sat there, one of 3,000 people in the Rodeheaver Auditorium, and put faith in Jesus Christ and the gospel message he had just heard. Although he was taken to a side room and dealt with, and though he formalized his decision to trust Christ as his Savior with a prayer, he would say until his death seventy years later that he was saved sitting in his seat. He was saved the moment he decided to believe on Christ.
I’m glad the Lucia brothers were a good testimony that day. And I’m glad Bob Jones University was willing to accept a few unsaved students. And I’m really glad—eternally glad—that Dr. Bob preached the gospel that night, because that young man was my dad.
Dad served God for the rest of his life. He pastored four churches, starting his last pastorate at age 72. He traveled widely as an evangelist. He took a run-down debt-ridden rescue mission in Detroit and the Lord did an amazing work.
The very word stirs our soul, strengthens our spirit and sends thrills of joy up our spine. What a message! What glorious news! What a life-changing, sin-cleansing truth!
Don’t diminish it by making it the mere recitation of a prayer rather than trusting Jesus and Him alone for forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life.
Don’t add to it by demanding forsaking oneself for Christ not as a step of discipleship but as the “sine qua non of saving faith.”
And most of all, don’t keep it to yourself. There are a lot of other people out there just as open to the gospel as my dad was. But we don’t know who they are. That’s why we have to “preach the gospel to every creature.”