On February 17, 1976, I left home on a typical day as a Criminal Investigator for the District Attorney. I was due in court in Springfield, Tennessee where I was participating in the hearing to bind over to Criminal Court several drug offenders, that I had built cases against and testified against before the Grand Jury. The court adjourned around 1 p.m. and I walked out in the lobby and saw an old friend, Bob Cook. I knew he had recently graduated from seminary and was pastoring a church in Springfield, originally started by his father, Loy. What he did not know was that during my undercover campaign in that Judicial District of Robertson, Sumner, and Montgomery Counties, many was the night after leaving drug buys I would drive to that church, Tabernacle Baptist Church and enter through a side door and walk down the center isle of the sanctuary and pray at the altar. I always prayed the same prayer. God if you find anything salvageable in me, please reveal yourself to me. I asked Bob if he had a few minutes. He said he was trying to meet with an attorney and I told him Joe, the attorney, wasn’t around while I had been there that day. He said well let’s go into one of the counseling rooms attached to the courtroom. This was a devine appointment. We got alone there and I told him I had been having questions about God and I asked him if he could answer some questions for me , without giving me his preacher pitch (my words). He asked, do you believe the Bible is God’s Word? I answered yes, that’s what I have always believed from my parents teaching and Sunday school when I was a kid. He wisely took his Bible in hand and responded to every question I had by locating the defining Scripture and turning the Bible around to me and having me read the Scripture out loud. In a matter of 10 minutes, I was in a very different frame of mind. Remember, I was an experienced interrogator and very skeptical of slick presentations, but as I read those Scriptures, something began to happen and he asked me if I wanted to surrender my life to God by receiving His son Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I began to tear up and affirmed that I did and he led me through the sinner’s prayer in which I confessed my sins and sinful condition to God and received Jesus as my Lord and Savior with all the faith I had. I thanked God for accepting me and saving me, as He promised he would in Scripture. I had just been down the Romans Road and didn’t know it, but I came to Christ as every Christian does by facing who and what I was and the fact I could not save myself and needed a Savior. I then, threw myself upon His mercy and believing who He is and that He died for me. I really trusted that He paid the price of my salvation by shedding His blood for me.
Bob told me to not be ashamed of Christ and begin to tell people what He had done in my heart. My sincerity would soon be tested many times over the following days.
I went across the hall to the office of the Court Clerk, who was Ann Stroud in those days. The office was buzzing after court closed and filled with friends of mine, the sheriff, the criminal court judge, and others. I spoke up to the people in the room and told them “Hey guys, you’ll never guess what just happened to me, I just got saved”. They went back to talking and no big deal. I then spoke up again and said, “No you don’t understand, I just received Jesus Christ as my Savior”. You could have heard a pin drop. The judge, a friend of mine, said ” Well hell Jim, that’s great, come on back to my office.” I responded, “Later, I have go home right now and tell Jean.”
We lived in White House just across the county line in Sumner County. I pulled up behind our house and could see Jean sitting in a rocker with our son, Jimbo. She was looking out the sliding door at me. “Wow, this was going to be a shocker”, I thought to myself. Jean had had a rough day and I think she was in shock when I told her what had happened. Jean was already a Christian and she soon gathered herself and recognized something real had happened. She was soon celebrating with me.
Bob had told me there would be things that would come up that would hinder me from being obedient to Scriptural guidelines. It was Tuesday and I was not going to miss going to church Wednesday night. It certainly did prove true that several things came up to sidetrack me. Jean was encouraging and we put everything aside and went to church at that same church where Bob was the Pastor and I had been visiting in the wee hours of morning, while there was no chance of running into anyone. We were welcomed with open arms by everyone. I made a commitment that night that we would be there Sunday and get baptized.
The next day, I called a district attorney in another judicial district, of the six counties where I was currently running an undercover operation. I had made 15 or so drug cases there over the past few weeks for him. I was being loaned to the FBI and ATF in Chattanooga that coming Sunday to buy several off the road construction vehicles that had been stolen in GA. I told the DA I would reschedule the buy, but I had received Christ and was scheduled to be baptized that Sunday. He went ballistic and told me the feds had already set up their surveillance equipment in the adjacent room to the one I was meeting the sellers in and I would not change the meeting. I was standing in a phone booth in Millersville, TN, making the call and I could see my wife and 2-year-old son Jimbo in the car as I considered if I could make it unemployed. I couldn’t get him to budge, even when I reminded him I knew these crooks and they wouldn’t turn me down. I was the guy they believed to be with some serious Chicago ties and flush with cash, but he gave me an ultimatum and I resigned on the phone. That was it. A brilliant career just ended.
As I walked to the car, I was praying the Lord give me a sign that “it will be ok”. Just then, a flatbed trailer truck passed on 31 W and it was hauling a gigantic sign, probably 30 feet long, that simply said “God Loves You!” I pointed to it and Jean turned and saw it. We both smiled. I was baptized that Sunday. So began my new life in Christ. I knew the water wasn’t needed to save me. I was already saved when I prayed in the courthouse, I was sure of my salvation. I simply wasn’t going to back out on the first commitment I made to God.
The Holy Spirit began to work all around me. Several of my friends and some of my family members who weren’t already saved received Christ as their Savior. I was just telling everybody who would listen, that if Christ saved me, anybody could be saved. Knowing me, they believed that to be true. Not that I was any special sinner, but people who know me well saw an undeniable difference in me, it was a God thing.
That was 44 years ago and I’m still riding that wave God put me on and I have no control over its direction or speed. It is powered by Him and He allows me to hang ten and flip around on top of His wave while He does amazing things all around me.
If you would like to talk about Christ and your salvation please contact me. Jim@savley.com