Chester and the True Gospel of Christ
Chester tried and tried to change his ways, but he always failed. His life included drugs, alcohol, immorality, broken relationships, gambling, lying, and other evils. He had divorced his wife to pursue another woman. When that relationship failed, he moved back in with his ex-wife but didn’t marry her. He was often estranged from his children, his siblings, and even his widowed mother. His language was abusive and filled with obscenities. He lost jobs because of his temper and money because of his indulgences. His life was a wreck, and he knew it.
He tried to change. He read self-help books. He joined support groups. He talked to professionals and those who had overcome destructive life-styles. He even joined a Bible study that turned out to be a scam and a disappointment. Still, he tried to change. Finally his ex-wife, children, family, and acquaintances began to doubt he would ever be any different.
Unfortunately, millions of people are like Chester. Their lives are wracked with brokenness and despair; and though they reach out for help, they never get what they need: the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the true way to salvation.
Gospel comes from a Greek word meaning “good news.” The gospel is the good news of what Jesus accomplished for humanity by His life, death, and resurrection. Scripture teaches the perfect, sinless Son of God became the final atonement for mankind’s sins. Faith in Him alone—not in good deeds or self-effort—provides forgiveness of sin and everlasting life.
It also provides something more that Chester desperately needed: the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who guides us away from evil and enables us to walk with God.
At the end of his rope physically and emotionally, one of Chester’s few remaining friends invited him to a country western concert. He went, hoping to take his mind off his problems. In reality, it was a Christian concert. Chester enjoyed the music and was impressed with the musicians. Midway through the evening, one of the band members spoke of his own past struggles. Chester found them amazingly similar to his own. He eagerly listened to every word, anxiously awaiting the solution this man had discovered. The musician explained how he came to understand the gospel and to receive Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and Lord. He used words like saved and born again to describe this life-changing experience.
It was as though a light turned on for Chester. This is what he was looking for! He needed God’s help as offered by Jesus Christ. The musician told the crowd anyone can pray and invite Jesus into his or her heart and life and be born again—experience a spiritual birth. That night Chester admitted his sins and evil ways and asked God to forgive him. In genuine repentance, he bowed his head, prayed, and asked Christ to become his personal Savior. God forgave Chester, and that night Chester was born again.
Immediately he began to change. He stopped drinking, smoking, gambling, and chasing women. He apologized to his mother and his employer. He spent time with his children (now grown) and his grandchildren, went to work on time, and did not cheat the boss. He proposed to his ex-wife, and they were remarried in the church they were attending.
He also put himself under the teaching of a local pastor. Eventually he quit his job and attended a Bible institute in the Midwest. After both he and his wife graduated, they returned home to work in Christian ministry. They also tried to rebuild relationships he had broken. Before his death more than 30 years later, he saw relationships with his mother, siblings, children, and former friends all restored. Before he was placed in a nursing home due to declining health, he had served in several local churches and at a Christian retreat center. He also helped to plant a church.
Chester gave up trying to change himself, and he let God do it through Jesus Christ.
A vital part of the gospel is repentance, and repentance is change. Change occurs when people genuinely embrace and accept the truth of who Christ is and what He did for them. Old habits, attitudes, behaviors, and even vocabulary can change as a result of hearing the gospel and embracing it. The apostle Paul said, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Many churches today not only fail to preach repentance, but they have abdicated their responsibility to preach the true gospel. So millions of Chesters wander aimlessly through life, desperately trying to change themselves but never hearing how Christ can change them.
My own mother responded to the gospel on a Sunday night in the early 1950s in an evangelistic meeting in Ocean City, New Jersey. She was never the same after that night. The marvelous changes in her remained for the rest of her life. Soon after she accepted Christ as her Savior, she began to pray earnestly that others would do the same.
One warm Sunday evening in the 1970s, as I sat on the front porch with my parents, the phone rang. I answered it. “Hello. Oh, hi, Uncle Chester. How are you? Fine, thank you. Sure, my mom is here. I’ll get her.”
When she returned to the porch and sat down, she simply said, “Well, your Uncle Chester accepted the Lord last night. He’s saved.”
She told us how her brother Chester, for whom she had prayed for so many years, had gone to a Christian concert and accepted the Lord. Then she sat quietly and stared into the distance with tears in her eyes. I think she was silently thanking the Lord for saving her brother and providing for him an eternal home in heaven.
In the years to come, Mom would see many more of her family and friends come to know the Lord, including her three children, siblings, nieces, and nephews. In 2005 I conducted her funeral with many of those people in attendance. Each one had been genuinely changed after hearing the true Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.