Revelation 18 shows us what will become of Mystery Babylon—the mixture of every false religious system that has taken advantage of people for centuries.
In his attempt to deceive, Satan will construct something that seems religious, but in reality is devilish and demonic. Wrapped up in religious robes and self-righteous pomp, it will hide an evil beyond human comprehension.
But if you were to pull back the veil, you would see, “…a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!” (Revelation 18:2).
That’s what false religion is—a demonic prison that appears to be from God, but instead uses the guise of religion to profit off of the people it imprisons. For centuries, civil leaders have entered into a mixed marriage with false religion in an effort to rule over people. For centuries, merchants have seen false religion as a way to profit off of the religious fervor of the people. And Mystery Babylon includes all of these—government, economy, and false religion—mixed together to exploit people.
God will only endure all of this for so long because He wants our total loyalty. He wants us to be wholly given to Him, not to any other leader or movement or organization. So when any of these demand loyalty that’s due only to Jesus, it’s not a time to stay the course and stick it out. It’s a time to leave! Just like the voice from heaven said in Revelation 18:4—“And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.”
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light—for the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth—testing what is pleasing to the Lord. Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what is done by them in secret. Everything exposed by the light is made visible, for what makes everything visible is light.”
Think of the few times in the Gospels when Jesus was truly angry. You know, those times when He flipped over tables and swung a whip around.
Jesus never got angry in response to a personal insult. No, His righteous anger was aroused when He saw corrupt religious leadership profiting from religious roadblocks that prevented people from worshipping God. Roadblocks that were never commanded by God, but enforced by the religious rulers to extort loyalty and money from people who just wanted to worship.
And Jesus hated this! He got angry—angry enough to call out the religious leadership of the day (see Matthew 23:15 and Luke 11:46). Angry enough to do something about it (see Mark 11:15-17).
It still angers Jesus when religious corruption takes advantage of people and keeps them from worshipping God. And, as we read in Revelation 18, it will continue to anger Jesus in the future. He will someday flip over more than tables—He’ll flip over Mystery Babylon and put an end to this wicked religious system once and for all.
Listen to or watch the video replay of our study of Revelation 18 as we consider the future ultimate destruction of Mystery Babylon in vivid detail.
We might not be able to destroy false religious systems in spectacular fashion with fiery hail from heaven, but we can learn an important lesson from Revelation 17. As strange as it seems, there is a lesson we can live out in our lives today from this snapshot of things to come.
History, prophecy, and current events this morning show us that earthly empires use religion—not to worship, but to expand their rule and reign. Civic rulers will appear to submit to a religious system—not out of reverence, but to gain favor and power.
As that happens, heed this word of warning: be careful. Be very careful with aligning yourself with a movement that uses religion as a means to their end. It might be exciting for religious leaders to influence powerful political leaders, who might give the impression that they are submitted to the same Jesus you serve. But power corrupts. Once religion has served its purpose, those in power will turn on it and tear it to pieces.
So be careful! God cannot be confined to any political party or movement. He is not defined by the ever-increasing list of causes and chaos that cycle through the 24/7 news feed. His concern reaches beyond these moments and movements, beyond the heart of the issues to the issue of the heart—the Gospel.
The Gospel is central and must remain central. Politicians, political parties, and political movements will come and go, and one day be no more—but the Gospel, the everlasting Gospel, will always be God’s focus to fulfill the desperate need of sinners for the Savior.
“If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, he would have sent an economist. If he had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, he would have sent us a comedian or an artist. If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, he would have sent us a politician. If he had perceived that our greatest need was health, he would have sent us a doctor. But he perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death; and he sent us a Savior.”
–D. A. Carson
It’s been 15 long weeks since our last study in Revelation. In that study, we ended with thoughts from these verses from Psalm 13:
But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me. (Psalm 13:5-6)
If you remember, we were thinking about the tribulation saints singing after losing their lives and worshipping the Lord because they knew that no matter what happened to them on earth, God had already given them victory in heaven.
And so it can be said of saints today—no matter what might happen to believers here and now, we can be confident in the victory God has already given believers in heaven.
That is something to remember as we look back and reflect on the past 15 weeks. Little did we know how our lives would be upended. We have gone through just one wave of many waves to come. Waves that will increase with frequency and intensity. And yet, we can still sing and worship because we know that God has already given us victory in heaven.
So let’s not waste a single wave—with each crest and trough that comes, let’s cling to the Lord as we ask Him these questions: “What do you want me to learn during this time? Of what do you want me to let go? Of what do you want me to repent?”
Make no mistake—the waves will continue to come and we don’t know how our lives will be affected in the next 15 weeks. But this is what we do know—no matter what, God is good, God will be good, and God has been good.
But perhaps in your stubbornness, you still refuse to repent…even now before the day of God’s wrath. Maybe you think you can continue to enjoy the pleasures of sin and repent just before God tips the bowls of His wrath upon humanity. If anything, these past 15 weeks have taught us to ask God to number our days (Psalm 39:4). We are not guaranteed tomorrow. That is why today is the day of salvation! (2 Corinthians 6:2). “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” (Acts 3:19).
His Word is clear—if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. You can do that right now! Ask God for forgiveness. Believe that Jesus died for your sin and that God raised Him to life. Trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as Lord.
Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)
People can be stubborn. Perhaps you have noticed. Sometimes stubborn people need incentive to turn away from their sin, to repent, and to turn towards the Lord. And sometimes, the Lord (in His grace and His mercy) gives people this incentive.
One day, God will give humanity all the incentive we could ever ask for. He will pull out all the stops and pour out all of His wrath for the purpose of producing repentance so that humanity might receive the greatest gift of all: eternal salvation.
This time is described in great detail in Revelation 16. It is the final opportunity God gives people to repent from sin and to receive salvation. And we shouldn’t be surprised to read how intense this time will be when it happens. God, in His great mercy, endeavors to produce repentance because He loves those who will be left at the end of the tribulation. He doesn’t want any of them to perish, but all of them to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
Watch or listen to our study of Revelation 16 and hear how God will pull out all the stops to pour out His wrath for the purpose of producing repentance. Then read ahead in Revelation 17 for our study this Sunday, at the Regency or online.
When we sing to the Lord with willing and eager hearts, we accomplish so much—sometimes without even realizing it. But when we understand what is happening when we sing to Him, it is so wonderful!
The act of singing to God glorifies Him. That’s enough reason to sing! Think about that…we—flawed and broken, frail human beings—bring God glory.
Just consider what happens when we sing to the Lord:
We demonstrate obedience to God; we dig deep roots into the word of God; we build each other up in the Lord; we battle (knowing that the battle belongs to the Lord); we are spiritually strengthened for trials; and we follow a God-designed pathway for joy.
All of this glorifies our great God!
So the next time you shrink back from singing because you think that singing is just not your thing—think again! God wants to hear you. He wants to hear you singing His praises and worshipping Him—telling Him of the wonderful things He has done. Not because He is insecure, but because He loves you so much and wants you to know the great things He has done so that you can enjoy His fellowship forever!
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
– Colossians 3:16
“Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.”
– Revelation 15:1
In the Scriptures, we often see an overview of an event followed by a supplemental account to fill in specific details. As we start in Revelation 15, we take a step back to better understand what was just written in Revelation 14—which ended with a high overview of the Battle of Armageddon.
So far in the book of Revelation, we’ve seen the destruction that will occur with the Trumpet Judgments. We’ve witnessed the devastation of the Seal Judgements. And now, we will preview the deadly Bowl Judgements—seven plagues poured out on the earth.
But before that…there’s singing? In Heaven? Yes! But why? Listen to our study of Revelation 15 to find out!
Revelation 14 moves us closer…closer to heaven…closer to earth…closer to the end. The clock is ticking. Time is running out.
The eternal destiny of billions will be determined as they make the most important choice: will they worship the world or the One who made the world? Will they worship creation or the Creator?
In an act of mercy, God sends three angels to plead with people in hopes that they will turn to Him.
The first proclaims the everlasting gospel to everyone on earth: “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” (14:7).
The second warns about worshipping the world system: “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” (14:8)
The third adds even more incentive to worship God with a warning about the eternal consequences of receiving the mark of the beast: “He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.” (14:10)
Wrath mixed with mercy. God doesn’t have to plead with hard-hearted people. But He does…again and again and again.
Ultimately, you must make a choice—who or what will you worship: creation or the Creator? The Lord will not delay His coming. There will be eternal consequences for rejecting Him. This world and all of the world’s systems that stand opposed to God will fall…but He will stand in the end.
“For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)
The wrath of God has come up many times during our study of Revelation. Our study of chapter 14 was no exception. In it, we read of the promised judgement, the coming fire and brimstone, and by the end of the chapter, the harvest for the winepress of the wrath of God.
Yes, the wrath of God is real and serious. But so is His mercy. In this same chapter, we read of God mixing His wrath with mercy in one last effort to plead with mankind to turn away from their sin—one final chance to turn toward Him before imminent judgement.
Will mankind repent and relent from the pursuit of sin? More importantly—have you repented? Have you relented from your pursuit of sin? God is extending Him mercy to you right now! Do not wait until it is too late! Turn to Him now and enjoy the peace and security of His mercy.
Listen to our study of Revelation 14 and learn how you can receive the great mercy of our great God.
Then, read ahead in Revelation 15 and join us this Sunday at 10am in the Regency Ballroom as we continue our study in the book of Revelation.
We know that we do not live on bread alone, “but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). We need God’s Word to give us spiritual nourishment so that we have the spiritual strength to discern lies from the truth. So that begs the question…do you have an appetite for God’s Word?
Think about a well-balanced and healthy meal. You know it is good for you—it will give you the strength to make it through the day. But how hungry would you be for healthy food if you had four candy bars right before sitting down to eat? Although good and healthy food is before you, you would have no desire for it.
Do you crave God’s Word like good and healthy food? If you don’t, could it be that you’re stuffed full with what the world is offering you, but isn’t good for you? When you become a believer, you are given a new nature. Your old nature and your new nature constantly war against each other. They fight like dogs all the time. The one that you feed will win. The one that you starve will lose.
Take a look at your life. Consider your decisions. Think about your spiritual diet. Ask yourself daily, “am I feeding the flesh? Is that why I have no appetite for God’s Word?” It’s time to refrain from the things that feed your flesh and commit to feeding upon God’s Word.
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.
In Revelation 13, we find prophecies concerning a coming one world ruler, one world government, one world religion, and one world currency. While these things are yet to come, they seem plausible right now. With each new world crisis, we’re moving toward these 4 realities as individual rights and liberties erode.
But we aren’t looking for these signs or waiting for the beast (the antichrist). We are looking and waiting for Jesus Christ! He is on the throne and nothing can thwart His plan or His return. While we look up and wait for His glorious appearing, we need to look around and invite others into the same spiritual security we enjoy through a living relationship with Jesus Christ.
Listen to our study of Revelation 13 as we unpack these 4 prophecies and provide the answer to the question, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?” (Revelation 13:4).
Revelation 12 begins with a great sign in heaven, involving a woman, a dragon, and a child. It might seem like a science-fiction story—but it is not fantasy! This is a true account of thousands of years of Biblical history.
So what on earth (or in heaven) is going on?
The Old Testament helps us understand what we read in Revelation 12. The woman is Israel (see Genesis 37:1-11), and the dragon is Satan (see Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28). From these Old Testament passages, we see that Satan’s fate is sealed. He is a defeated foe…but he is also a deceived foe. He first deceived himself into thinking that he could thwart the plan of God. Since then, he seeks to deceive and devour as many as possible.
He tried to devour the child born to the woman (Jesus), but failed. So, Satan tried to devour the children of Israel to stop the first coming of Jesus—but he still failed! Though the devil is still deceived (and will fail again), he is still trying to devour the children of Israel to stop Jesus’ second coming. Why? Because the collective repentance of the nation of Israel will trigger the second coming of Jesus!
But God has a way of protecting His people and preserving a remnant for His purposes. Don’t wait until times of tribulation to call out to Him—TODAY is the day of salvation! God’s word is clear—if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. You can do that right now! Ask God for forgiveness. Believe that Jesus died for your sin and that God raised Him to life. Trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as Lord!
It’s been said that the story of the Bible can be summarize in 6 words: Kill the dragon. Get the girl.
But who kills the dragon? Who saves the girl? And who is the hero of this true story?
As we peer ahead into the future as described in Revelation, we also look back to fully appreciate what is being written about. Even though Revelation is the last book of the New Testament, it is a very Old Testament book in the imagery described and references made.
This past Sunday, we flipped through many pages of our Bibles in our study of Revelation 12 to understand this description of a dragon and a woman…and what it means for us today.
Listen to our study of Revelation 12 and hear the echoes of God’s powerful promise and witness His inevitable victory from creation through ancient prophecies and to the end of this age.
The Word of God is not just a little book. As we’ve learned throughout our studies, it’s a collection 66 books. 1,189 chapters. 31,102 verses. And it’s all for you! All for us! All interwoven in an undeniable way to paint a vivid portrait of the central figure of all time—Jesus Christ.
But the Bible is also full of bitter-sweet timeless truths and promises.
It’s sweet when we put God’s word in our mouths by speaking it & proclaiming it out loud. The Gospel is pleasantly good as we take it into our hearts. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” God’s plan to redeem the lost so that we can be with Him forever is the sweetest!
However, there’s a bitter truth that settles in our gut shortly after we enjoy that sweetness. With the good news, there is also bad news. There’s a bitter truth for those who reject Jesus Christ. They will spend eternity apart from Him in never-ending torment.
Have you tasted and seen that the Lord is good? Enjoy the sweetness—then allow the bitterness that those who have yet to hear the Gospel and yield to God motivate you to action.
Do you have family, friends, neighbors, coworkers who don’t know the Lord? Does the bitterness of them being separated from God in eternal torment make you sick to your stomach? Like John, that bitterness comes with a command—“You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.” (Revelation 10:11)
The Great Commission wasn’t just given to a small enthusiastic group—but to all who believe. So tell everyone about the Good News of Jesus Christ so that others might enjoy the sweetness He freely gives!
The book of Revelation is truly unique. It’s the only book in the New Testament that focuses primarily on prophetic events–things yet to come to pass. We are able to read it because the Apostle John was faithful to the Lord’s command: “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.” (Revelation 1:19)
And so, John recorded what he saw so we can see it too (at least, in our mind’s eye). We see the events which will take place as they transpire…on earth and in heaven—and sometimes the lines between these places blur. Like in Revelation 10, as an angel stands on earth. And in chapter 11, we begin with an introduction to two faithful witnesses who will stand for the Lord in Jerusalem, and we end with the seventh trumpet sounding from heaven. Through it all, we see how God has been, is, and will be supreme over all of creation.
Listen to our study of Revelation 10 & 11 and marvel at God’s marvelous and mysterious plan for the end of this age.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.
As we continue our study through Revelation and learn about the future time of transition and tribulation, we get a glimpse of just how terrible that time will be. The trumpet judgements in Revelation 8 and 9 are truly terrifying, yet the outpouring of God’s wrath is not complete.
But we do know that at the end of the book of Revelation, Jesus says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” In response, John says, “Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus!” Knowing what he knew—knowing what would have to happen in order for Jesus to come again—he still said, “Even so, come Lord Jesus!”
And until He returns, until His kingdom comes—a kingdom that will not be shaken—let us have grace. Let us have grace so that we can turn away from sin and run towards a loving God who uses wrath for the purposes of repentance.
Let us have grace that motivates us to reach the lost and rescue them from the future tribulation.
And let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
An earthquake is a terrible event. When the first tremor strikes, there’s nothing you can do but drop, cover, and hold on until it’s over. And when the ground is finally done shaking, you quickly discover what structures still have integrity and which ones had a poor foundation.
In Revelation 8 and 9, we discover what material and philosophical foundations will remain as God shakes what can be shaken in the trumpet judgements. This shaking isn’t just limited to the earth. As we read in Hebrews 12, heaven will also be shook, giving mankind an even greater incentive to repent. Unfortunately, some will still refuse. But what remains after this shaking will be a kingdom which can never be shaken.
Listen to our study of Revelation 8 and 9 and wonder at God’s ability to shake what can be shaken.
This great multitude of people from every nation, tribe, people, and language will stand before the throne of God. Unfortunately, the only way they made it out of the tribulation was by being martyred—killed for their faith in Jesus.
There will be terrible temptations during the tribulation to turn away from God and give your allegiance to the Antichrist. That allegiance will be an irreversible, irrevocable, and eternal decision. Please do not think, “I’ll just wait until it’s obvious and this so-called ‘rapture’ takes place.” If you find it difficult to live for Jesus now, what makes you think that you’ll have to courage to die for Jesus then?
Make your decision today for Jesus and be sealed by Him for all of eternity (see 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 and Ephesians 1:13, 4:30). Because soon and very soon Jesus will return to pick up those He purchased with His blood—those who are sealed and genuinely His. He wants you to be His. He wants to be with you forever. He has gone to the most incredible lengths to save you so that He could be with you.
The way to be saved hasn’t changed since last week! God’s plan for salvation is the same. His Word is clear—if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. You can do that right now! Ask God for forgiveness. Believe that Jesus died for your sin and that God raised Him to life. Trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as Lord.
As we continue our study in Revelation, we’ve been considering the wrath of God—its power, purpose, and place in history and the future. The prophet Habakkuk asked God to remember mercy when He poured out wrath (Habakkuk 3:2). We see both the wrath of God and the mercy of God in the book of Revelation—sometimes in ways we wouldn’t have imagined. In His infinite wisdom, God administers His wrath with the included purpose of bringing people to eternal repentance.
Last week, we discussed the question asked in Revelation 6:17: who is able to stand on the great day of God’s wrath? This past Sunday, we were introduced to two groups who will be able to stand on that great day—a numbered multitude and an innumerable multitude.
Listen to Sunday’s study of Revelation 7 as we discovered the identities of these two groups and how they will be able to stand.
Make no mistake about it—the period known as the Tribulation will be the worst time in human history…in every category. When the Restrainer—the Holy Spirit—is removed, sin will flood in and saturate everything in society on a path of death and destruction.
Things will be so bad, so rotten, and so despondent, that the world leaders will cry out—but not to God. Hidden in their mountain bunkers, they will cry out to the rocks that surround them to fall on them to hide from the wrath of God—“For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
It’s a great question to ask—sooner rather than later. It’s the question we all need to answer—better to answer it now in advance of that great day. For there will be a day when God finally says, “Enough is enough!”
Will you be able to stand on that day?
God’s word says that there is a way to be delivered from God’s wrath. There is a way to be able to stand before God. Jesus—The Way, The Truth, The Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him.
If you haven’t already done so, receive Jesus today. God’s Word says if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. You can do that right now! Ask God for forgiveness. Believe that Jesus died for your sin and that God raised Him to life. Trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as Lord.
On Sunday, we restarted our study in the book of Revelation. Picking up where we left off in chapter 6, we considered what will happen when the Holy Spirit is removed and sin is allowed to fully saturate society. We looked into the future with John as the next two seals were opened—and it isn’t pretty. As bad as things are today, it pales in comparison with a world saturated with sin. It will be the worst time in human history—even Jesus warned about how dark this time would be (see Matthew 24).
But take heart! There is a way to be delivered from God’s wrath. Listen to our study from Revelation 6:9-17 and learn how to be able to stand before God.
We have a sin nature that craves sin. It makes us think we can enjoy the benefits of sinning without experiencing the consequences of sin. But make no mistake—sin always has consequences. Sure, it might feel like freedom at first…but the hangover from indulging in sin is fierce.
In His wrath, God sometimes releases a person over to unrestrained sin so that they would experience the full consequences of their sin in order to lead them to repentance. But His wrath can also include soul-crushing, life-ending judgment. We see examples of this throughout Scripture when God releases rebellious people over to their sin—and all of sin’s consequences (see Numbers 11).
Here’s the truth…though God’s wrath may seem extreme, it is ultimately what we all deserve. He has every right to pour out His wrath upon all mankind. And yet, in His great mercy, He has provided a way to escape the wrath to come. That’s the whole truth. This truth is about God’s Son, who came to save us by willingly becoming one of us to receive God’s FULL wrath for us—the full judgement that we deserve. As awful as it is going to be during the time of the tribulation, it pales in comparison to the horrors that Jesus endured in order to set us free from sin, death, and the judgement to come.
So if you haven’t already done so…receive Jesus today. Receive Him as Savior and the Lord of your life. God’s Word says if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. You can do that right now! Ask God for forgiveness. Believe that Jesus died for your sin and that God raised Him to life. Trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as Lord.
Guilty, vile, and helpless, we,
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
Full redemption—can it be?
Hallelujah! what a Savior!
What is wrath? What is the wrath of God? And what does it look like when God pours out His wrath? These were all questions we asked and sought to answer in our study of Revelation 6:1-8 this past Sunday.
Wrath—extreme anger—is something that God uses at times for the purpose of repentance. Sometimes, we can think that God is hindering us from enjoying sin because He is some kind of cosmic control freak. And so we try to shake off His “shackles” in order to enjoy sin unhindered, undiluted, and unrestrained. But sin always takes more than it gives—sin steals, kills, and destroys. In His wrath and in His wisdom, God sometimes simply lets stubborn unrepentant sinners experience sin without hindrance so that they might come to a realization that sin does indeed steal, kill, and destroy.
Contrary to today’s headlines and breaking news, we have never fully seen an unrestrained sin saturated society. But one day, mankind will—the Day of God’s Wrath (also called the Time of Tribulation). On that day, The Restrainer—who is currently holding sin back from fully saturating a society—will be removed and the world will plunge into a rotten awful darkness.
So who is this Restrainer? And what does His removal have to do with the first 4 seals on the scroll in Heaven we first saw last week? Listen to our study of Revelation 6:1-8 and learn about this Restrainer and the results of His removal.
From Pastor Dom...
When I first gave my life to Jesus, there were friends in my life who helped me to grow in my understanding of God, through His word, and for those friends