The Testimony of Shane Johnson
My salvation story begins in a library and ends in a funeral home, although I now know it started much earlier than that. But from what I remember that day in the library was the first step that guided my feet to the gospel of God.
I was not raised by Christian parents. My father died from cancer when I was very young, so my mother struggled to raise my brother and I. We never went to church a day in my life, but I was quite proud to tell anyone who asked, “I’m Anglican!” Whatever that was, I had no idea.
Fast forward ten years. My mother remarried, and I fell into the wrong crowd. From grade 8 to grade 12 I tried on several identities in an effort to find out who I was – a rapper, a jock, a rock star – but none of them fit, none of them satisfied.
Then in my last year of high school, I started to become a little sick of sin, although I did not know it was called “sin” at the time. I was disappointed with myself, and at times, even a little disgusted. My choices, the way I had treated other people, and the person I had become had severed some relationships and almost broke my mother’s heart. I looked around and was sick of the way my peers were behaving too. But there was a man sent from God whose name was Dave…
Dave was a little different than all the others. He was a Christian, a Bible “thumper,” as many of us called him. He didn’t drink, he didn’t swear, and he wasn’t desperate to be “cool.” In short, he was a nice guy. Since I had turned a new leaf in my final year of high school, choosing to take my studies more seriously, and because Dave was a serious-minded student as well, we quickly became friends. He did not share Christ with me right away, but from time to time he broached the subject and gradually it became one of the issues we discussed.
Now for the library. One time I remember discussing evolution vs. creation with him in the library. He gave me an illustration: “suppose we shut all the doors in this library and sealed it airtight for millions of years, would life spontaneously begin from within?” No, I said, “because it made no sense.” “So why do you think the universe started that way?” he asked. I had no answer. From that day forward, I made a shift in my thinking. There was a God…but now who was He?
Fast forward again a few months. Dave and I had moved to McMaster University together as roommates. I met his family a few times; they bought me a Bible; and I had eaten at their table. When they prayed, I remember, it was quite personal and seemed as if God were seated right next to them. It was nothing like the prayers I had heard as a kid, which were “God is good, God is great, thank you for this food, let’s eat.” Their prayers impressed me as genuine and real.
At the same time something else was happening. My aunt and uncle had become Christians, and they were extremely exuberant about it. They told us about Jesus every time we saw them at family reunions. They invited us to their baptisms. They gave us various pamphlets and books. I did not know it at the time but they were becoming more and more “Pentecostal” and would eventually become ministers in the Vineyard Movement years later. But in the beginning their conversion was contagious and it got my attention. The rest of my family may have cringed to hear about Jesus and the cross, but I had ears to hear and measured what they were saying against my disappointment in life up to that point.
Then my grandmother fell sick around Christmas, and she was pretty close to me. As she was nearing death it was the first time, I had come face to face with the question of my own mortality. I remember thinking, “Where will Grandma go when she dies? Where will I go when I die?” Jesus spoke about heaven and hell. I knew I had done things that were not right so if there was a place called hell, I was pretty sure I would be going there.
Eventually my grandmother died. The last time I saw her was at Christmas during my first year of university. I attended the funeral. My aunt and uncle were there. They were talking about Jesus again, which was typical. The minister was blathering on about Grandma being a good person, about Grandma being in heaven, about Grandma looking down on us from above, blah, blah, blah.
I remember thinking: if this minister is right then the Bible is wrong, because the Bible says we are sinners and that we are not good, and that is why Jesus needed to die for us, to forgive our sins since we cannot wash them away on our own, with good deeds, or charity or penance, etc. The minister, however, was suggesting my grandmother was in heaven because she was a good person.
Silently, thoughtfully, sitting right there in the pew, I disagreed with the Anglican minister and agreed with the Great Shepherd of the Sheep, the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for my sins. I prayed in my heart and for the first time believed. I immediately “felt” unburdened of my fear of judgement and Hell. I finally felt at peace with God and knew my sins were forgiven. I also immediately felt a new kinship with my aunt and uncle at the same time feeling a “distance” from the rest of my family. Although I didn’t have the language to express it yet, I later found out that I had become born again. I had passed from death to life. I had received a new nature and received the Holy Spirit. The Bible became alive to me.
Looking back over the years I have drawn a few lessons about sharing our faith in a world blinded by the devil. Number one is that my friend Dave used to think his “light” shone so dimly because of some of the bad choices he was making during high school. I’ll admit he wasn’t perfect, but he was so different from the others that his “dim” light shone like a floodlight in the darkness of my high school years. Therefore, take heart and know that your Christian witness may have more of an impact than you think.
Number two is that some people come to Christ gradually. Conversion happens in a moment but persuasion may take a lifetime. I began believing in God in a library at my high school. A year and a half later I put my faith in Christ while listening to a false minister at a funeral. A conversation here, a shared meal there, a good friendship, and a life observed all convinced me that if Christ was real, then He was certainly able to make a person strong and whole. Dave was living proof.
Number three is that God may use two or three witnesses to establish His word. Not only was I subtly learning about Jesus through my friendship with Dave, through his character, choices, and family life, but I was also learning about Jesus overtly through the continuous onslaught of Jesus talk from my aunt and uncle. They may have pushed a lot of people away through their brash witnessing, true, but they did get through to me, or rather God got through to me in spite of them. Therefore, take heart that you do not bear the yoke alone. God has others He is using in tandem with your witness and in time, it will come to pass.
Since then I have tried to share my faith in hope, knowing that the Holy Spirit is at work in the world, blowing wherever He wishes, drawing people to Himself in all places and at all times, working through whatever means He chooses.