Recently I have been asked to reflect upon my conversion to Christ. I was a resident in a Christian drug rehab located in a homeless shelter. The date was January of 1994. The rehab director was a Baptist pastor who was between churches. We were forced to attend Bible Class for three hours a day. This particular day he was teaching on the “great exchange at Calvary.” How our sins were imputed to Christ. How he bore our shame and guilt. How He gives us His own righteousness. My eyes were opened. I believed and was saved. The change that followed was wonderful. I spent the next nine months reading my Bible and writing sermons (thankfully, most were never preached!). A controversy arose among the other residents. They were asking, “What happened to Mike?” We had an open discussion among the 20 or so men who professed to be Christians. I remember one man suggesting that I had accepted Jesus as Lord while the others had only accepted Him as Savior. Sadly, most of these men would return to prison, other drug rehabs, or repeat the program several more times.
After completion of the program, I was hired by the mission and given a weekly stipend of 25 dollars each week. In addition to that stipend I was given free housing, food, and clothing. I had the southeast corner of a small room shared with five other men. What a joy! My own place! I decorated it with paintings donated to the mission and I hung a small bookshelf on the southern wall. The director had introduced me to Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spurgeon, and MacArthur, through whom I found the puritans. Every Wednesday (my day off), I walked to Baker Bookstore to purchase a puritan reprint (they had a small ‘puritan theology’ section). These men opened my eyes to a world I never knew existed. Their vocabulary, manner of expressions, and passionate style of writing intoxicated me. Their deep thinking, mingled with devotion and practice, humbled and stretched me. Men such as Charnock, Edwards, Owen, Watson, Bunyan, and Flavel, soon became my closest friends.
Soon after this, I came across an old Chapel Library Tape Catalog. I randomly chose a preacher named A.N. Martin (I liked the sound of his name). I called and ordered 11 tapes. A week later the tapes came. I was so excited. The first sermon I played was, What’s Wrong with Preaching Today? Wow! This man preached like the puritans wrote! Every week I ordered 10 more tapes, waiting every Wednesday afternoon for the mailman to come. The sight of him unsettled me. Would he have my yellow package of treasure? If so, I would rush my bundle to my corner of the room, and there pour its contents on my bed. I would handle each tape, reading and rereading its title. I have often reflected on this strange scene—an ex-drug addict, living in a corner of a room, with no possessions but a few tapes and books. How odd I must have looked. In the eyes of many (including my roommates), I had nothing. However, to me I had everything.
This was the first year of my Christian life, the puritans, and A.N. Martin! This was what I needed. Not theology with a slang. Not theology for drug addicts. Not theology for the homeless—but theology for Christians. This was 16 years ago. A lot has changed. I now have more puritan books and Pastor Martin tapes. Yet in another sense, little has changed—outside my Bible (not denying the benefit I continue to receive from many contemporary authors), I need little more. What more would you expect from an ex drug addict who met the puritans!Mike Waters, Pastor Heritage Reformed Baptist Church North Canton, OH