My story begins in Northern Iraq where my family were part of a minority group known as Assyrian Christians. We were ‘nominal’ Christians – Christians in name only.
My family was faithful in attending church and adhering to church practices. However, those practices never gave me any peace within, nor did I have the assurance of Heaven or the forgiveness of my sins. I was not a ‘real’ Christian. I thought no one could know for sure that he would be in Heaven when he died. I believed that we would stand before God one day and He would then decide, according to our deeds, where we would spend eternity. That frightened me.
After I had been in the army for eight years during the Iraqi – Iranian war, my country decided to invade Kuwait and start another war. I had a six day leave before the war started. I took my wife and son to Northern Iraq and we stayed in a small village. I was stranded from my unit and ended up being branded as a deserter. This put me in danger of immediate execution, so I fled. The mayor of the village, in which I was hiding, announced that all deserters must immediately leave and return to their army base or face execution in front of their families.
Let me pause in my story and ask you: What would you do if you heard such an announcement – that tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. you would be executed in front of your family? Facing the death penalty is horrific beyond imagination, but leaving this world for an eternity without hope is far more horrifying.
During our sleepless night, my wife and I cried out to God and prayed for three things; an end to the bombing, a pardon for the deserters, and a discharge from the army. God answered all three requests. A radio newscaster announced that the United States President would call a cease-fire. The Iraqi President gave a pardon and a discharge to all deserters. I returned to Baghdad and I was released from the army without any charges. I thanked God for answering my prayer – even the prayer of a lost sinner.
Looking for a brighter future, we travelled to Jordan. When we arrived, I heard that there was a church service for Iraqi refugees. My wife and I went. I heard the clear message of salvation from God’s Holy Word, the Bible.
I had always believed that Jesus came to save ‘us’ but never thought that He came to save ‘me’. I believed in Him as ‘our’ Saviour but never as ‘my’ Saviour. I thought that if I repented and God erased my past sins, that I could then keep the rest of my life clean. I thought I needed Him to do His part, and then I would do mine.
I did not realize that a person could know for sure where he would be five minutes after he died. But when I heard the Word of God, it was so clear: “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12).
The Word of God said that I could have eternal life, not by my works, prayers, baptism, or anything else, but by having the Son of God. I asked myself, “How could I have the Son of God?” The answer was in the Word of God: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (Revelation 3:20). I understood that the Lord had been standing at my heart’s door for almost 32 years. All the things that happened were God’s efforts to come into my life – His voice speaking to me.
I read from Romans Chapter 5 verses 6 to 8, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly … But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. When I looked at these verses, I asked myself, “Is there anything else left for me to do in order to be saved?”
The Lord Jesus, on the cross, cried, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). I believed His Word and needed nothing more. I was no longer a nominal Christian or a mere professor of Christianity – I was a possessor of God’s wonderful salvation and eternal life. God saved me from the physical death penalty in Iraq when my wife and I cried to Him. God is at work in your life as well. God’s desire for me back then was to bring me to the full blessing of spiritual salvation from eternal death when He forgave my sins. That’s His desire for you too.
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