By Keith Johnson
Published December 22, 2007
I can remember asking myself, “Why do you do this to yourself?”
My best buddy and I had just finished sucking down enough Rumple Mints 100 proof between both of us to kill a man. Somehow that night we made it to a party in a cellar. The stairs were a snap going down, but as the party ended and it was time to go, I suddenly realized I couldn’t even climb back up. I was trapped. I had gone too far and lost control again. It made me sick.
“Why do you do this to yourself,” I asked … “You’re a fool.”
The first time I got drunk I was fifteen. Some older friends I knew bought for me and a couple of friends. We drank vodka and O.J. and got foolish under a street light until we got sick and went home. I really didn’t think I would do it again, but I did.
By the time I was 17, I had learned how to party. Getting high and drinking was the thing to do. Sports were the only thing that were keeping me from being a total burn out. Everyone knew me in high school. I did have a few things going for me. Academically, I was the pits, but get me in the art room and I was alright. Weekends would come and it was time to party!
My senior year rolled around and the time came to go for it. I thought of bizarre things to do that people would remember me by. I went wild! I got crazy! Friday night came and I would get smashed. My friends used to say, “If you want a good time, if you really want to party … call the Animal!”
I loved to get crazy, I loved my booze and dope. Every time I partied, I would try to top myself. I was always searching for that ultimate buzz. I would drink more and more, smoke dope more and more, and do more and more crazy things for kicks. I got more and more out of control every time, “Hey, look at me everybody!”
But each time came that sick feeling of going too far, of losing control of myself. A couple of times, I even prayed to God when I was in deep trouble.
My senior year was half over and I started wearing a silk screened animal on my shirt. My friends liked them so I made them all “Animal” T-shirts. I started a club for animals. We went to all the football games together and partied together.
Then one Friday night my friends gave me some pills and I blacked out. Some of my friends thought it would be a good idea to throw me into a lake to revive me. I’m just lucky to be alive today. I started thinking about my life after that and I really didn’t like what I saw.
But the “Animal” wouldn’t give up that easy. I continued partying, but something was different. I would feel guilty more and more and started to get angry. A friend’s mother told me about Jesus one day. I knew He was real and out there somewhere but I liked being an animal for now.
Shortly after graduation my parents moved and I reluctantly followed. I was an hour and a half away from my friends now. I started drinking regularly at clubs on weekends. Five drinks, then seven, then nine, then ten mixed drinks.
One Friday night I came into my favorite club and walked up to the bar without asking for a drink. A new bartender, whom I had never seen, said, “Hey, you’re the Black Russian Kid.” I had developed such a reputation for drinking close to a dozen Black Russians a night that this guy already knew about me!
Well I laughed it off at the time, but later that night as I lay in bed thinking about it, I got mad at myself. I felt like a jerk. I didn’t want to be a drunk hanging around a meat joint! That Friday night I decided not to drink poison so I just cruised around the city ending up by Boston University’s Nickerson Field. I saw hundreds of buses and all kinds of people going in. I didn’t think anything of it at the time.
Then Saturday morning I was reading the paper and saw an ad for the Billy Graham Crusade at Boston University that Saturday night. I thought, “What the heck, why not go?” So I called a friend and asked him if he would go with me. To my surprise, he said yes, so we went.
As we sat there, way up in the bleachers, I felt a little uneasy. Deep down, I was tired of life, sick of drinking and empty inside. To be honest I was scared. The future didn’t look too good to me and nobody knew it but God and myself.
It was time to hear Graham speak and I was all ears. His message was especially for young people that night. I don’t remember the message word for word, but I do remember a few things he said. He started by talking about the great opportunity young people have in America – how they are free to decide who they want to be.
On the surface, everything was alright, but wait a minute! “Why is it,” he asked, “that the problem of suicide has reached epidemic proportions among young people. Why have over 3 million teens been treated for alcoholism? Why have so many violent crimes been committed by young people? Why are there so many that are angry, bitter and unfulfilled?”
“There is no question something is wrong with our American society,” he went on to say. “I would like to believe that everything is O.K. but the statistics don’t lie.” He was talking about the various problems our nation faces, especially among the youth. He said that society will have to pay the price for its sinful lifestyle.
Then he read from this portion of the Bible, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
I took a good honest look at myself and my life and I knew I would eventually have to pay the price for my sins. Eventually I would either get killed driving while drunk or become an alcoholic. Furthermore, the penalty for a sinful lifestyle must be paid when we die. We all have to stand before Jesus Christ the Son of God to face judgment.
But there is hope for you! Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, loves you and died for you on a cross and He did it for all sinners. Graham asked, “O.K. You say, ‘What do I have to do to be ready to stand before God?’” Then he read this from the Bible, “Repent then and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out” (Acts 3:19).
I didn’t know what it meant to repent until he explained it. He said it this way: “To repent means to change your mind and opinion concerning sin as it is seen in its true perspective – that is through God’s eyes. To repent then, means to turn away from sin and turn to God with your whole heart.”
So, to sum it up, the first thing that God’s Word says you must do is to repent. Secondly, you must receive Christ into your heart by faith.
As I sat there listening, I started understanding for the first time what it meant to be saved. I knew that night that Jesus loved me and that I could trust Him. He was one friend who would never let me down. I knew He died for me to free me from the power of sin.
I didn’t have to be an animal anymore. Never was I challenged like this before. I had been living in sin my whole life and it was easy – but now to give my heart to Jesus Christ and repent and turn away from my sins – that took some guts!
I can remember the last thing Graham read from the Word of God was this, “I tell you NOW is the time of God’s favor, NOW is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). I had heard enough. It was time to decide!
God made mankind with a free will. The Bible says, “You were made in the image of God.” He didn’t make zombies or robots with a pre-programmed mind to accept Him. No, He never forces you to accept Him. He only loves you and offers you eternal life. But God is holy and with Him there can be no sin so we must repent and turn from sin and give our hearts to Him.
I gave my heart to Him that night and today I’m a new man. He took away hate and violence and gave me love and peace. I have hope now. I have a new type of excitement about life – my life! And I want to introduce people to Jesus. If he could save the “Animal” He can save anyone.
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