I was born in a small village in south Buckinghamshire. At the age of two months I was christened in the local parish church just across the road. It was here I went to Sunday school.
Three things from then stand out in my memory. When speaking about David and Goliath, the vicar demonstrated a slingshot and broke one of the window panes! I remember learning about ‘Mr I’ finding it impossible to cross a chasm to heaven on a tightrope. And I learned the children’s hymn ‘There is a green hill’.
As with many children, starting secondary school saw all church attendance cease. After moving to the south coast, I attended confirmation classes. My only memory is that they were useful in catching up on sleep. I was confirmed by the Bishop of Portsmouth at the age of 15. It meant nothing to me.
I went to Imperial College to study chemistry and became very friendly with some Christians. One of them lent me a New Testament, which I read, but didn’t understand.
During my first summer term, I attended church on Sunday mornings, more in an effort to get God’s help in passing the exams, for which I had done little work.
At the start of my second year, these friends introduced me to a student evangelistic group. My reaction was, ‘These people are enthusiasts. Avoid them!’
Towards the end of the autumn term I was invited to attend a Bible study on the book of Romans. It made me feel uncomfortable; my conscience pricked me. When I returned home for Christmas, my conscience became very loud. I was acutely aware that God was angry with me because of all the things I had thought and done.
I began trying to make bargains with God to appease my conscience. I went through many things that I would give up and things that I would do for God. It made no difference at all. Over a week I became more and more distressed. Nothing worked.
Eventually I could think of nothing else to give up or things to do. In my despair I cried out to God just to forgive me. At that moment I remembered the hymn ‘There is a green hill’, especially the verse, ‘He died that we might be forgiven, He died to make us good, That we might go at last to heaven, Saved by his precious blood’.
The next morning I received a wonderful shock. At the top of the stairs, on my way to breakfast, I stopped and said to myself, ‘God has forgiven me! No, that’s impossible’. But all my guilt had gone and I knew the love of God flooding my soul.
I could not understand how this could have happened. All the way down the stairs, I argued with myself and tried to recover my sense of guilt. It proved impossible.
After 15 minutes I reached the bottom of the stairs and said to myself, ‘God has forgiven me, and all I’ve done is trust in Jesus Christ!’
After Christmas, I returned to college. A couple of weeks later, my best friend said that people had been asking him why I was so different, why I had changed. At the time I told him not to be silly. In retrospect, I can see that there was a dramatic change and I was full of peace and joy.
Upon graduation I decided that the message of forgiveness in Jesus Christ was so wonderful that I had to do all that I could to spread it far and wide. I worked with the evangelistic group I had considered enthusiasts and spent two years speaking to students at Birmingham University about Christ.
I am thankful that they asked me to do the same at Liverpool University, as that is where I met my wife! Since then, I have become the minister of an independent church and seek to continue to spread the good news about Jesus Christ, through preaching there and spreading Christian literature.
I look back at my life and see how God has worked upon me through those years. I am far from perfect, but know that God accepts me. It is not on the basis of what I have done — that would only condemn me — but on the basis of what God has done in Jesus Christ.
I know from my own experience and the experience of others, that, no matter how bad we are (if we are honest, we know we’re not good enough for God), God will receive us if we confess our guilt and surrender our lives to Jesus Christ.
As well as knowing the forgiveness of sins and peace with God now, there is a glorious future awaiting all who believe.
Digby L. James