November 12, 1971, was the first time I responded to an altar call. It was only the second time I had been in a real church service, and I went forward only because I knew it would mean a lot to those sincere “Christian” people who had been praying for me. After all, I knew what they thought of me and how I looked in their eyes. I was the worst of sinners! In fact, when I first visited the church in August of 1971-with the express purpose of pulling my two best friends out of there-one of the young ladies wrote in her diary “Antichrist comes to church tonight.” My reputation preceded me!
But on this night in November something happened, and it was as big a surprise to me as anybody. You see, when I went forward, I had no intention of changing or really believing. I was actually thinking to myself, “These dear old folks will really be happy that I’m doing this, and it will mean a lot to the church.” But as I prayed out loud with the pastor, faith began to rise in my Jewish heart, and I actually believed that Jesus died for me and rose from the dead. There was only one problem: I wasn’t ready to give up my sin! Although I said the words, “God, I promise to live for You the rest of my life,” I knew that I didn’t really mean it.
So I had a talk with the Father. “God,” I said silently, “You know that I believe Jesus died for me. But I’m not ready to give up my drugs.” To this day, I believe it’s good to be totally honest with the Lord in prayer. After all, He knows what’s in your heart anyway! Then I prayed a really stupid prayer. (Remember, I was just a stupid kid, so you need to give me some slack.) “God,” I prayed, “You know when I go home I’m going to shoot cocaine.” This was the new drug on the scene for me in 1971, and I had just purchased enough to use for a few weeks, as well as to sell to some friends. “So, if You don’t want to me to shoot it into my veins when I go home, don’t let anything happen when I try to get high. Don’t let me feel a thing.” (I told you it was a stupid prayer!)
As I was leaving the church, ready to go home and test out my prayer, there were two wonderful Christian brothers standing in my way, each about sixty years old. One was known as Brother Trixie, a nickname he got as a little boy because he used to round up alley and throw them into the local church building during services. The other was Brother Nick. He was in trouble with the Mafia before he was saved. He had also been arrested and worked on a chain gang. Both of them were incredibly zealous, saintly brothers.
These men were so excited that I had gone forward to receive the Lord that night, and they were overflowing with encouragement for me. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I wasn’t ready to repent of my sins just yet, and that I was about to go home and smoke some “angel dust” (a.k.a. PCP) and then shoot a large dose of cocaine. One of them said to me, “No matter how near the devil is, Jesus is always nearer.” I had no idea what he meant. I would understand soon enough!
Anyway, I went home from church with my two friends, and we smoked angel dust together. My friends were gradually “getting serious” with God, so they wouldn’t shoot cocaine with me. But they figured it couldn’t hurt to just “taste” the angel dust-a psychedelic drug substantially stronger than marijuana or hashish-so they took a few tokes. What patience the Lord had with us in those days of ignorance!
Then came my moment. I was just getting used to cocaine, and my previous two times, I hardly got high when I used it. So this time, I smoked a pretty potent drug first and then shot a very ample dose of “coke” into my arm-all the while wondering what God would do. (Let me urge you never to do things the way I did It’s like putting a gun to your head and saying, “Lord, if You don’t want me to kill myself, when I pull the trigger, don’t let anything happen to me.” I really didn’t know any better back then. All of us certainly know better now.)
I remember experiencing great anticipation as I heated up the cocaine and prepared to mainline it. You see, I thrived on moments such as these, when I would pump hard drugs into my system. There was nothing like that initial “rush,” and now it was time. I pumped the syringe once or twice, my heart began to pound as the drug started to take effect…. I waited for the expected sensations … but nothing happened! A few rapid beats of my heart and that was it. In a moment, everything was back to normal. I felt no different than I had before, and there was no evidence that I had just taken a big hit of cocaine or even smoked angel dust. None!
At that moment, I knew that God was real and that He didn’t want me to continue using drugs anymore. Still, my will was weak and my resolve somewhat uncertain, and for six weeks I wavered, attending church one night and shooting heroin or smoking pot the next. I was completely double-minded.
But God was totally single-minded about bringing me to Himself, and that’s when I began to see the reality of the words that were spoken to me the night I first believed: “No matter how near the devil is, Jesus is always nearer.”
First He was there to counteract the effects of a powerful drug called cocaine. A few weeks later, He was there to deal with me about drinking, convicting me deeply the morning after I downed a ridiculous quantity of hard liquor. Then on the night of December 17, 1991, He was there to make His love so real to me at church that I cried out, “Lord, I will never put a needle into my arm again!” Immediately I was free! I went home, gathered all my needles and cocaine, and threw everything off a nearby bridge. Then and there, an enslaving habit that had seemed like a mountain too tall to climb was now completely under my feet. God’s grace had triumphed over my stubbornness, and His ability to save triumphed over my propensity to stray. How faithful He is! From that day forward, l never put a needle in my arms again.
Over those six formative weeks from November 12 to December 17, I watched Him convict me of sin, leading me to repentance. I watched Him deliver me from my own foolishness, putting His fear within me. I watched Him send me a word of encouragement when I needed it, lifting me above the temptations. I watched Him make a way of escape!
Then, on December 19, 1971, two days after I had sworn off shooting drugs for life, I told the Lord I would never get high again in any way. Then the test came.
About two weeks later, I found myself in a jealous depression because a girl in the church that I liked a little started to like one of my best friends. (Remember the one who wrote, “Antichrist comes to church tonight”? That was her!) I got really angry and decided I couldn’t take the pressure of living for God anymore. (As you can see, I was not totally sanctified yet, and in those days, I still had a terrible temper.)
So I called a junkie friend named Mike and asked him if he could help me score some heroin from another junkie “friend” named Richie. Richie had previously stolen money from me while claiming to work out a drug deal on my behalf, and I was never able to get the money back. Mike told me that this was the night I could get paid back-in the form of heroin.
I was really down and dejected, and I was bent on giving in to the flesh. Still, I couldn’t believe what I was doing, and there was an inner cry within me to get me out of the mess. But Richie was loaded with heroin, and I heard through the grapevine that this batch was unbelievably potent.
“God, please help me,” I prayed, even as I made my way to meet up with Mike. He did help me-but not in the way I expected. Feeling completely miserable, I found Mike and then Richie, knowing that in a little while, I might well have a needle in my arm. What was I doing? This was crazy, and I knew it. Then God did something awesome. He let the bottom fall out!
As we went into a store to get some food, we met a young lady known as “Foxy.” She had no morals whatsoever, and she was so base that most men did not even consider her attractive. Even in my most worldly days, I thought this poor gal was vulgar, a total lowlife. But now, I was in a taxi with her and two junkies headed for her apartment, and I was beginning to recoil from the ugliness of the situation. Immediately, she and the other two guys began to make plans for the night. I was getting completely grossed out. “God, this is not me! This is not who I am anymore!”
Soon we arrived at her apartment, and I can hardly describe the scene. There was another young lady there, along with two men and a number of little babies. Whose babies were they anyway? Were they white babies or black babies or mixed? Who were the parents? Were there a few infants and some toddlers? Or were there some twins or triplets? The whole scene was very weird, and minute by minute, everything was sinking lower and lower. Some marijuana Was being passed around, but the moment I went to smoke it, I knew I had to stop.
My mind was racing: “God! What I am doing here? This place is a cesspool. These girls are shameless sluts, the men in the apartment seem like spineless slaves, the guys who brought me here are lawless junkies-I’m in a pit!” (I’m sure I didn’t pray with such poetic alliteration, but I assure you, those were my very sentiments.)
I felt as if the walls were closing in and I had to get out in a hurry. There I saw sin for what it really was. I was in a den of iniquity, and it was as repulsive to my eyes as a puss-filled wound, as nauseating to my senses as a pool of vomit. (Forgive the graphic imagery, but that’s how disgusting sin is.) Somehow, I managed to get out of the apartment without creating a stir.
By now, my pockets were filled with some pills I had just been given. I got to a phone booth, called a friend and asked him to pick me up in a hurry. When he arrived, l got rid of the pills, heaved a sigh of relief, and turned my back on that whole filthy world. From that moment on, I never looked back again. No more drugs or alcohol for life!
The Lord made a way of escape for me, and He has been making them for me ever since-although, thank God, they have been a whole lot less dramatic than the terribly debased scene in that apartment that night. The fact is, there’s always a way of escape for God’s people. None of us have to fall-ever. The Word is clear: “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall” (Ps. 55:22). And never means never, as surely as God is God.
And what if we stagger a little when hit hard by temptation and trial? Even then, we have a promise:
If the Lord delights in a man’s way, He makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand (Ps. 37:23,24).
We don’t have to hit the deck, no matter how viciously the enemy attacks. If you “put on the full armor of God,” then, “when the day of evil comes” you can “stand your ground, and after you have done everything,” you can stand (Eph. 6:13). You may stumble. You may stagger. But you need never go down.’
Excerpt taken from Michael L. Brown’s book, entitled Go and Sin No More, p. 181-186, published by Regal Books and available through ICN Ministries www.icnministries.org .