Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Saved by a Basic Instinct

This past week, writer Joe Eszterhas was a featured speaker at the Biola Media Conference.

It was just a few months ago that Eszterhas, the writer who is best known for the controversial book (and later film) Basic Instinct released a book detailing his radical conversion to Christianity. In the book Crossbearer: A Memoir of Faith, Eszterhas, who also penned the scripts for dark and controversial films including the X-rated Showgirls, explains how his life was radically altered one afternoon; he described the day as an “absolutely overwhelming experience.”

According to an interview with ToledoBlade.com, Eszerhas said he had just undergone treatment for throat cancer which required him to quit drinking and smoking. Having lived the fast, Hollywood lifestyle, quitting alcohol and cigarettes left him with painful withdraws that nearly brought him to the edge. In a moment of desperation, he whispered the prayer, “Please God, help me.”

He said in the interview, “I couldn't believe I'd said it. I didn't know why I'd said it. I'd never said it before.” Suddenly a “shimmering, dazzling, nearly blinding brightness that made me cover my eyes with my hands” appeared, and Eszterhas was overwhelmed by peace. He knew that God was answering his simple prayer. He has since joined the Catholic Church and become a committed Christian.

The story reminded me of another testimony I had once heard. Growing up, I was a huge fan of ‘90s alternative rock, and my favorite band was a relatively obscure group called Superdrag. The band was fronted by a notoriously hard-living singer named John Davis, who epitomized rock ‘n roll style. He was a heavy drinker and a bigtime indie-rock star.

A few years ago, he too had a radical conversion. While going out to run an errand one day, God grabbed a hold of him. In an interview with Magnet music magazine he described the experience:

“I definitely didn’t get in the car planning on becoming a Christian in the next 15 minutes,” he said in the interview. “But I was driving down I-40, like I’d been doing every day, and little by little, I started to feel this sense of distress or duress. It got worse and worse ... It dawned on me that God was dealing with me … Before I had a chance to think about doing anything, I started to pray … All at once, this floodgate of emotion opened, and I was able to admit to myself that I was worn out and worn down. I remember specifically asking for peace. I was tired of fighting, tired of running. In that moment, it came over me. It was a Spiritualized song waiting to happen. It just washed over me.”

The powerful experience led Davis to give his life to Christ, and, thanks to family members who were also Christians, he was able to get plugged in to a church. Davis is still a rocker, but now his music serves as vehicle for him to express his faith and testimony of salvation.

One of my favorite stories in the New Testament is when Paul (who was actually named Saul at the time) converted to Christianity. For those unfamiliar with the story, it’s a pretty radical account of someone coming to Christ. Here’s a what happpened:

Saul, a strict follower of Old Testament law, spent his days persecuting the early Church and the followers of Christ because he believe they were violating religious laws. Saul was on his way to the town of Damascus with a group of like-minded leaders to hunt down Christians and imprison them. On the way there, a blinding light hit Saul and the voice of the Lord told him, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." Blinded and terrified, Saul followed the instructions of the voice and ended up meeting with leaders of the Christian church.

After meeting the fellow Christians, his sight was restored, and Saul converted to Christianity and changed his name to Paul. He later went on to write the letters that became the majority of the New Testament and was a major figure in the early Church. It’s an amazing story. (You can go to Acts 9 to read the story in its entirety.) One of the things that makes the testimony so compelling is the instant transformation that takes place in the life of Paul. One moment he’s out to capture Christians, the next, he is a leader among them.

Sometimes, for Christians who have never experienced that radical, instant transformation, these stories can feel distant. It’s awesome to hear about how a worldly person suddenly came to Christ, but what about the people whose stories aren’t as spectacular?

I think the real reason that these types of testimonies are so powerful isn’t just because of the life transformations (although that is also amazing), it’s because they show us something about the character of God.

Just because you may already be a Christian and are facing everyday struggles, doesn’t mean that God can’t intervene and turn things around. That same power and grace that turned Saul to Paul is available to meet our needs.

Christians tend to use the word “saved” a lot to describe salvation. But why let it stop there? Why not make "getting saved" part of our everyday mindset, even after we become Christians? Every day God “saves” Christians who are facing tough situations—whether it be everyday issues, problems at work, family issues, money problems, health concerns, or whatever troubles you may be facing. In the book of Psalms, David was fond of the term “rescue.” The entire book is filled with pleas to God to come to his rescue, to save him from his enemies.

Those same prayers are available to us—and so is God’s saving power. The same power that turned a writer of dark murder stories into a sold-out believer, a rock ‘n roll rebel into a Gospel-singing follower of Christ and changed a church persecutor into a church leader, is still there. All we have to do is make a simple request, “Please God, help me.”

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