I was an all or nothing kind of guy. But I was wrong about what I needed and what I really wanted.
As a child, I was raised in a nominal Christian home, but didn’t talk much about Jesus. Around middle school, I became a Jesus Freak. I told everyone about Christ. I thought that was the only way to live.
At age 16 though, I wanted to mix both worlds: church with sports, and sexual immorality with alcohol and drugs.
For about 6 years, I pursued whatever I thought would make me happy and sought as much of it as I could possibly get.
After graduating high school, I went to Indiana University and joined a fraternity. I looked for the largest one I could find so I could get more of what I thought I needed— the party life. I was living it up with about 180 guys.
There were a few guys in my fraternity who I used to always talk with. They used to live their lives seeking to follow Christ, like I had in middle school, and our conversation always somehow turned to God. We would say that we missed God and that connection we had.
A friend of ours said he knew a guy with Cru named Eric Steffen who would come and start a Bible study with our fraternity. Because we were spiritually curious and couldn’t figure out where to go to church, we said “Ok, sure. Yeah.”
We wanted to see how this Cru guy would handle cracking open a Bible in our surroundings. I don’t think Eric had ever been part of a fraternity, so I wondered how he was going to fit in. I wanted to see how he would react and how other people would react.
But something impressed me about Eric: he was really at peace. He genuinely cared about us. He cared about what he was talking about when he was reading the Scriptures with us.
We really liked the Bible study and kept doing it week after week. Guys would come in with beer or on some illegal substance, sometimes yelling obscenities, but Eric never flinched. He never commented on it either. He continued to stay committed to the material we were covering.
Before my junior year, I had decided to go to Australia to study overseas. One day before I left, Eric took me out to lunch. While we were eating, I told him I was having a hard time connecting with God. I knew, though, that I was being selfish; there were certain things in my life I wasn’t willing to change.
Eric told me I would become a Christ-follower in Australia and my life would change. But I wasn’t going to Australia to follow God, I was going as part of the curriculum I was studying. I had decided that I was going to have a good time and wanted nothing to do with God, that was that.
Once I got to Australia though, there was a series of events that happened in my life that made me realize I needed Christ. I suddenly had a different perspective on life. I realized that I’m a tiny speck on the planet, and it seemed like my life didn’t have much purpose. And if I kept doing the things I was doing, I would never find the purpose I was seeking.
One night at a church service, I still wasn’t all in— I was fighting with God, not wanting to give up certain aspects of my life. I was using illegal substances and was sexually immoral. But I heard the pastor speaking from Revelation and the message outlined my life.
I heard a word from God: He was going to spit me out of his mouth— I was neither hot nor cold (Rev. 3:16).
The weight of that fear tipped me over the edge. I felt God saying, Look how much happier you were before you went down this path... look how much happier you were when you were with Me.
It all clicked. I thought, Wow. That’s it.
I remember saying in my heart, “God, I’ll stop doing whatever you want me to stop doing and I’ll start doing whatever you want me to start doing.”
I never used another illegal substance again. The alcohol use wore off and the sexual sin took a few months to let go of.
What started changing was that I cared. I never had many emotions for people or for the world. That was never really on my heart or mind too much, but after I surrendered my life to God concern began consuming me.
I wanted to help people and hear their stories. I found myself disliking the life of money, success and law school.
I wanted to make my whole life about following Jesus.
When I came back for my senior year, those 4 guys had all become Christ-followers. We decided to start a Bible study again in our fraternity. We went with the same format Eric had taught us and had 12-15 guys in a Bible study that year.
I got to watch guys give up things similar to what I had given up. But they weren’t just giving it up, they were becoming passionate about following Jesus Christ.
Seeing transformation in other peoples’ lives was foundational to committing my life to Christ. I am so thankful to Eric for being willing to step into our messy fraternity house so that God could transform our lives. Eric passed away before I could thank him, but his impact on lives on in eternity.
“... instead of having [people] accept me for who I was, I tried to change into the person I thought they wanted me to be.”
When we put words to the hard parts of our stories, we can give those around us a new picture of who Jesus is.
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